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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi concludes, "For White America, It's 'Happy Days' Again."

Uri Avnery puts on, "The Tunic Of Nessus."

Glen Ford in an interview, "US Has Interfered in More Elections Than Any Other Nation."

Norman Solomon says, "Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump To Attack Syria-And Increases The Risks Of Nuclear Annihilation."

Jim Hightower tells the, "Sad Saga Of John Stumpf."

Ralph Nader investigates, "The Savings And Stability Of Public Banking."

David Suzuki finds, "Marine Protected Areas Are One Piece Of A Complex Puzzle."

John Nichols watches as, "A Berniecrat Takes On Trump And The Koch Brothers In Kansas."

Chris Hedges Trump opens, "The Pandora's Box Of War."

Jane Stillwater explores, "AIPAC & America's "Christian" Right: Legitimizing Bigotry."

Robert Parry wonders, "Where Was CIA's Pompeo On Syria?"

David Swanson warns, "Don't Be a United Airlines Passenger."

Michael Winship reveals, "Trump's White House ATM Has Rich People Lining Up To Get Even Wealthier."

Senator Mitch McConnell wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich considers, "Bannon, Kushner, And Trump's Upside-Down Populism."

William Rivers Pitt examines, "The Bombs Of April."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst reports, "Breaking News: America is Living in 'Interesting Times'" but first Uncle Ernie sez "It's The Missiles Of April."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of J.D. Crowe, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bollings, Tom Tomorrow, John Murphy, Pete Souza, Alaa Alyousef, Bo Rader, Robert S. Price, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Michael B. Thomas, Cem Ozdel, US Navy, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, V for Vendetta, AP, Flickr, NBC News, 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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It's The Missiles Of April
I'm having a deja vu, all over again!
By Ernest Stewart

"Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind." ~~~ John F. Kennedy

"The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans' economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that's not settled yet to me is just nonsense." ~~~ Rick Parry ~ US Secretary of Energy

"I don't want people to get hurt. What I think should happen, and will happen, is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating. Schumer should be calling me up and begging me to help him save Obamacare. He should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare, along with Nancy Pelosi." ~~~ Donald Trump

"I don't think you ever stop giving. I really don't. I think it's an on-going process.
And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life." ~~~ Oprah Winfrey

There has been much ado about nothing throughout the internet and MSM about Trumps attack on a Syrian air force base. Some people comparing our current situation with the Missiles of October which was a docudrama in 1974 showing what went on with Bobby, Jack & Nikita when Russian missiles were found being assembled in Cuba in October of 1962. Jack and Nikita were staring down each other with the possible of a nuclear launch at any moment. Americans was glued to their TV sets or moving all their food down below into the fallout shelter in the basement.

Fortunately Nikita blinked and pulled the missiles out of Cuba. That's the blessing of facing Russians as they are Atheists. They know there is nothing but darkness after you die and so aren't in a hurry to get there. This is all there is, so let's not waste it! Where our "god fearing" people (think Pence) are going to heaven, and the sooner, the better. Say, aren't we, after all, in the "end times?" So pass the Lord and praise the ammunition!

As I said, much ado about nothing. $30,000,000.00 down the tubes for a show of rocket streaks in the night, meals on wheels could have used that money! There were no aircraft destroyed, not a single runway hit, no military casualties, no Russians hit either! Why, are we that incompetent? No, because the fix was in! Long before anything was launched Trump got hold of Putin and told him they were going to attack that base in a "wag of the old dog" trick and promise not to do any real damage. So could he get the Syrians, Russians and their planes out of there? And he would launch just as soon as they did! And they did and he did and several hours after the strike they were all back and launching sortees and strikes, no real damage done. An hour tv blurb, some blue-dog Democrats fawning all over you, gave them a doubt or two about you and Putin colluding on the election. Money well spent, huh?

Have no fear, corpo-rat America won't allow World War Three to happen, but "third world" wars are where the profit margin lies, so, look out world, here we come!

In Other News

Reuters reported Monday that "Nations attending the G7 conference in Italy were unable to put out a joint statement on climate change this week because of the Trump administration's foot-dragging on environmental policies, particularly its commitment to the Paris agreement." Not surprised after Trump appointed ole Rick "good hair" Parry. You may recall that under his governorship Texas became the most polluted state in America making their cities resemble Beijing on a bad air day.

You may recall that Trump signed an order last month undoing climate regulations drawn up under President Obama, particularly the Clean Power Plan, which required states to lower their carbon emissions and was a key policy in helping the U.S. meet its goals under the Paris climate change agreement.

Hence, during the conference in Rome on Monday, Italian industry and energy minister Carlo Calenda confirmed that had caused the G7's delay in releasing a statement.
"While this is under way the United States reserves its position on these key priorities. It was not possible to sign a joint declaration since it would not cover the whole range of topics in the agenda."
A source close to the G7 talks also told Reuters that "Energy Secretary Rick Perry had pushed for fossil fuel interests to be included in the statement-and that his inability to commit showed the U.S.'s increasing isolation as global nations step up the fight against climate change."

Miguel Arias Canete, the European Union's energy and climate commissioner, tweeted Monday that "while some review their climate and clean energy policies, most of us move forward and implement them in line with [the] Paris agreement." Meanwhile, down in foggy bottom Trump wants to increase pollution by burning more coal and transhipping Canada's dirty oil to market. Something the Canadians won't allow themselves to do is to tranship that tar sands goo across their own country to port. Much easier to pay off some American billionaires like the Koch brothers and Trump, to do it for you!

And Finally

I see where on Wednesday, Trump announced that he plans to use the powers of his office to jeopardize health-care access for millions of low-income people, while destabilizing America's insurance markets. That's because der Fuhrer believes that voters will blame the ensuing chaos on the Democratic Party, leaving Chuck Schumer desperate to negotiate with the White House over Obamacare repeal. As you can plainly see, Trumps grasp of reality is very fragile indeed! He said he didn't want people to get hurt but unless the Democrats become his mindless Zombies, he sees no problem un-insuring tens of millions of poor and elderly Americans, which is his stated goal!

Ever since his plan to finance a tax cut for the rich by throwing millions off Medicaid died without a vote, Trump has repeatedly assured the American people that their health-care system will collapse under his watch. One way or the other, whether it collapses under it's own weight, which is of course preposterous, or failing that, he has ways of destroying it by his own sabatage! Can I get a heil, Trump?

You may remember when back in 2014, the House GOP sued the Obama White House over payments that the federal government was making to insurers, in order to compensate them for the cost of providing discounted deductibles to low-income Obamacare enrollees. Without these cost-sharing reductions, fewer insurers would participate in Obamacare and its markets would likely collapse and millions of people who count on it for their medications will surely die. I don't recall that Trump, on the stump, mentioned his hatred of the poor and elderly, or his desire to murder them all, in order to make the rich, richer, do you? If he gets his way I foresee a lot of people robbing drug stores to stay alive. Is this the America that you want, America?

Keepin' On

Guess who sent it a couple of nice donations? Was it some newbies? Nope! Perhaps some of the "I've been meaning to send you in a nice donation for quite sometime now," crowd? Guess again! No, let's not always see the same hands... That's right, two members of "The Usual Suspects" stood up and were counted. David from New York and Gerald from Ontario both sent in righteous donations that put us just that much closer to being able to pay off the bills once again. Thanks, gentlemen!

"The Usual Suspects," have become over the years, the heart and soul of Issues and Alibis Magazine and without whom we'd have gone the way of the Dinosaurs, Dodo bird, and compassionate Republicans, years ago. Without them you'd all be on your own in these United Snakes, which are currently circling the drain. And unlike being caught in an "event horizon," this will not be quick!

If you've been a reader for years and haven't sent in a donation because the Internet is free, let me assure you that it isn't. While we charge nothing to read the magazine as we want to assure that anyone, no matter how poor, can access the truth and information on the site, we still have bills to pay and not enough advertising to pay them. But if you have your head above water, then you should send something in if you believe in the cause we espouse. Unlike all the fascist sites, we have no sugar daddy or mama to pay the freight, no Koch brothers here, nor do we want any! As this is a magazine for the people, shouldn't it be paid for by the people? You wouldn't expect a newspaper or magazine delivered to your door for free would you? That's going to be one confused and pissed off paperboy if you do! If not, why treat us that way? Help us if you can, as often as you can, by going here and following the instructions and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours!


05-13-1946 ~ 04-07-2017
Thanks for the film!

05-25-1931 ~ 04-08-2017
Thanks for the adventure!

12-05-1921 ~ 04-09-2017
Thanks for the film!

02-20-1946 ~ 04-11-2017
Thanks for the music!

07-12-1959 ~ 04-12-2017
Thanks for the laughs!


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

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

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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2017 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

"[I]t is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies," Jeff Sessions wrote in a memo last week.

For White America, It's 'Happy Days' Again
Jeff Sessions rolls the clock back on civil rights enforcement
By Matt Taibbi

Two recent news stories crossed like ships in the night, without much public discussion of how they were related.

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all agreements between the Justice Department and local police departments around the country. Sessions wrote that "it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies," and said the DOJ might "pull back" on federal oversight responsibilities under Donald Trump.

The news came after the revelation by the New York Daily News that Daniel Pantaleo - the officer who used a chokehold in the killing of Eric Garner - had repeatedly been disciplined by the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) prior to the Garner case. New York City had fought like a tiger to keep this information out of the public eye, and when it finally was released, it was only through an anonymous leak.

The story about Pantaleo shows why the Sessions story is so unsettling.

People laughed when Donald Trump had to get Scott Baio to serve as an opening-day speaker at the Republican National Convention. But the Happy Days symbolism officially takes a darker turn with this Sessions news. What Sessions is suggesting means literally going back to a Fifties-era conception of the Justice Department's role in preventing local police abuse.

If Sessions has his way, he will holster the most powerful weapon the government has in addressing tragedies like the Garner incident: federal civil rights laws.

The key statute is 18 USC 242, which gives the federal government the right to intervene if a person has been harmed by a "deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution."

An example of when this law comes into play would be a police murder in which the officer is acquitted in a sham trial by an unabashedly corrupt local government. The federal government is supposed to then use its powers to step in and file charges for civil rights violations, correcting the local wrong.

It took decades of hard-fought legal battles to get the government to actually use this tool.

Back in 1959, during the days that Donald Trump once recalled fondly to Michele Bachmann as the time when "even my Jews would say Merry Christmas," a deputy attorney general named William Rogers wrote a memo very similar in tone to the one Sessions just wrote. He declared that the federal government should not intervene in local controversies and file civil rights charges absent "compelling circumstances."

In practice, the Rogers memo meant that, provided there had been some kind of local due process, no matter how flawed, the feds wouldn't step in and take a second whack at an offender in a race killing or a police brutality case.

This prohibition against "dual prosecutions" was the law of the land for nearly 20 years. It didn't change until after an egregious incident involving an unarmed African-American man named Carnell Russ. In 1971, Russ was shot in the head by a policeman named Charles Lee Ratliff at point-blank range in Star City, Arkansas, after being pulled over for speeding.

Ratliff was acquitted in a joke of a trial in which an all-white jury in Star City took less than 15 minutes to deliberate. Years later, the NAACP sued the federal government - specifically the attorney general under Gerald Ford, Edward Levi - for failing to use its civil rights authority to investigate the obvious problems in the Russ case.

The case went before a Nixon-appointed judge named Barrington Parker, who would later become famous as the judge in the trial of would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley. Parker was African-American. He ruled in the NAACP's favor. Although the federal government appealed, a deal was later struck between the NAACP and Jimmy Carter's attorney general, Griffin Bell, whereupon the federal government would look at "each and every allegation of a violation of the civil rights laws ... on its own merits."

The 1977 Bell memo gave birth to the modern civil rights investigation. That means it took until the late Seventies, over 110 years after the Civil War, for the government to finally accept its responsibility to police local police. That the federal government still needs to use those powers is self-evident. Just look at the Garner case and countless others like it, where local governments routinely fail to investigate and/or secure indictments against brutal cops.

After the Garner case, three out of four Americans believed there should be charges for Pantaleo. There were protests around the country, and the onslaught of high-profile brutality cases that followed - from Michael Brown in Ferguson to Tamir Rice in Cleveland to Walter Scott in North Charleston to Freddie Gray in Baltimore to Sandra Bland to Dajerria Becton, the 15 year-old girl in a bathing suit thrown to the ground by police in McKinney, Texas - led some people to hope that there would finally be some kind of national discussion on the issue that would result in positive changes.

With the Sessions news of last week, things have officially gone the other way. The Trump administration is pushing for steep cuts to the Justice Department budget, including the outright elimination of funding for the Legal Services Corporation and Violence Against Women grants, as well as slashing up to a third of the Civil Rights Division's budget.

Sessions has already hinted that he will stop investigating local police departments. Coupled with the budget cuts, we can probably expect the feds to get out of the business of policing cops entirely. Add cuts to legal services, and what we get is a clear message from the people who elected Trump: Their response to all of these awful films of local police beating or strangling or shooting unarmed black people is to worry that there's too much federal oversight of police, and too much advocacy for people who come in contact with police.

The facile conclusion to all of this is that white America wants to go back to the Fifties. But it's worse, and weirder, than that.

Seventy years ago, affluent white people could huddle in the suburbs, watch Leave It to Beaver, and pretend that cops weren't beating the crap out of people in East St. Louis or Watts or wherever the nearest black neighborhood was. But these days, the whole country regularly gawks at brutal cases of police violence on the Internet. Nobody can pretend it's not going on, but millions of people clearly don't want to do anything about it - just the opposite, in fact. They want more. Is this a twisted country, or what?
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire. .

The Tunic Of Nessus
By Uri Avnery

IN A few weeks, Israel will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.

Millions of words, most of them hollow, will be poured out. As usual.

But the event deserves better. It is a drama unique in human history. Only a biblical writer could do it justice. William Shakespeare could have turned his hand to it.

I suppose that most readers were not yet alive at the time, and certainly not yet able to understand what was happening.

So let me try to recount the drama as I saw it unfolding.

IT STARTED on Independence Day, 1967, the annual celebration of the official founding of the State of Israel. It was only the 19th anniversary.

The Prime Minister, Levy Eshkol, was standing on the tribune reviewing a march-past of the armed forces. Eshkol was as far removed from military ceremonial as one can imagine. He was a civilian through and through, the leader of a group of party elders who had drummed the authoritarian David Ben-Gurion out of the ruling Labor Party four years earlier.

At the height of the ceremonies, somebody handed Eshkol a piece of paper. Eshkol glanced at it and continued as if nothing had happened.

It was a short message: The Egyptian army is entering the Sinai peninsula.

THE FIRST public reaction was disbelief. What? The Egyptian army? Everybody knew that the Egyptian army was busy in far-away Yemen. There, a civil war was raging, and the Egyptians had intervened, not very successfully.

But the following days confirmed the unbelievable: Gamal Abd-al-Nasser, the Egyptian president, was indeed sending military units into the Sinai desert. It was a clear provocation of Israel.

The Sinai peninsula belongs to Egypt. In 1956 Israel had occupied it, in collusion with two declining colonial empires, France and Britain. Ben-Gurion, then the Prime Minister, had declared the "Third Israeli Empire" (following David and the Hasmoneans more than two thousand years before), but had to retract mournfully.

US President Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet President Nikolai Bulganin had both sent ultimatums, and Israel had no choice but to obey. So Israel gave back everything it had conquered, but got two consolation prizes: the Sinai was demilitarized. UN troops occupied key positions. Also, the Egyptians had to open the Strait of Tiran, the exit from the Gulf of Aqaba, on which Israel's (small) exports to the East depended.

What had induced Nasser, a great orator but sober statesman, to start another adventure?

IT STARTED in Syria, a competitor of Egypt for the leadership of the Arab world. Yasser Arafat's guerrillas were raiding Israel from the Syrian border, and the Israeli Chief-of-Staff had declared that the Israeli army would march on Damascus if this nuisance did not stop.

Nasser saw an opportunity to reassert his leadership of the Arab world. He warned Israel to leave Syria alone, and in order to underline his message he sent his army into Sinai. Also, he told the UN troops in Sinai to evacuate several of their positions.

This angered the UN Secretary-General, the Burmese U Thant, who was not a very wise leader either. He answered that if Nasser insisted, all UN troops would leave. Since Nasser could not back down without losing face, all the UN troops left.

A mood of panic swept Israel. All the army reserves were called up. Men disappeared from the streets, Israel's manhood was concentrated on the Egyptian border, doing nothing and getting more impatient from day to day.

As if by design, the fear in Israel became worse from day to day. The civilian Eshkol inspired no confidence as a military leader. To make matters much worse, something curious happened. To quieten the panic, Eshkol decided to address the nation. He made a speech on the radio (no TV yet) which he had written down in advance. Before reading it out, he gave it to his main advisor, who made some small corrections, but at one place this man forgot to strike out the corrected word.

When Eshkol reached this place, he hesitated. Which version was the right one? It was as if the Prime Minister (who was also the Minister of Defense) was stuttering when the fate of the nation was hanging in the balance.

BUT WAS it? While the panic grew all around me, I was walking around like a bridegroom at a funeral. Even my wife thought that I had become a bit crazy.

But I had good reason. Some months before the start of the crisis I had been invited to give a talk in a kibbutz. As usual, after I was done I was invited to coffee with some of the veteran members. There, a member told me in confidence that a week earlier the army commander of the northern front had also given a talk and been invited to coffee, and confided to the veterans: "Every night, before going to bed, I pray to God that Nasser will send his army into the Sinai. There we shall annihilate them."

At the time I was the editor of a mass-circulation magazine, as well as a member of the Knesset and the Chairman of the party that had sent me there. I wrote an article called "Nasser has Fallen into a Trap", which only reinforced the impression that I was off my rocker.

But Nasser soon realized that he had indeed fallen into a trap. He frantically tried to get out - but the wrong way. He issued blood-curdling threats, declared the closure of the Straits of Tiran (but also quietly sent a trusted colleague to Washington, urging the President to restrain Israel. Like all Arab leaders at the time, he sincerely believed that Israel was just an American puppet.)

In fact, the straits were never really closed. But the announcement made war inevitable. Under immense public pressure, Eshkol had to give up the Ministry of Defense and turn it over to Moshe Dayan. Several of the most respected generals demanded a meeting with Eshkol and threatened to resign if the army was not immediately ordered to attack. The order was given.

ON THE second day of the war I was called to the Knesset. I was sick with influenza, but got up and drove to Jerusalem. My shining white car shone like a meteor among the mass of tanks also hastening to Jerusalem, but the soldiers let me through, showering me with jocular comments.

The Knesset was under fire from Jordanian artillery. We hurriedly voted on the war budget (I voted for it and do not repent it, as I repented two other votes, but that is another subject). Then we were rushed to the shelter.

There, a high-ranking friend whispered in my ear: "It's all over. We have destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground." And so we had. The real founder of the Israeli Air Force, Ezer Weitzman, had been planning this day for years and had created a force specifically shaped for this one job.

The following is history. In six incredible days the Israeli army easily destroyed three Arab armies, and elements of some more, which were left without air cover. The country was in a delirium of joy. Victory songs and victory parties abounded. All reason was sent to the devil.

ON THE fifth day of the war I published an "open letter" to the Prime Minister, calling on him to order an immediate plebiscite among the Palestinians in the territories we had just conquered, allowing them to choose between return to the Kingdom of Jordan, or Egypt in the case of Gaza, annexation by Israel, or a national state of their own.

A few days after the end of the war Eshkol invited me to a private meeting, and after listening to my ideas about a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, asked me good-naturedly: "Uri, what kind of merchant are you? If one wants to make a deal, one starts by asking the maximum and offering the minimum, and slowly nears a compromise. You want us to offer them everything in advance?"

So nothing was offered the Palestinians. 50 years later we are stuck with the occupation. Israel has changed completely, the despised Right-wing has assumed almost absolute power, settlers roam the West Bank, and Gaza has been turned into an isolated ghetto. Israel has turned into a colonial apartheid state. IF I were religious, I would describe it this way: many years ago God sent his chosen people, Israel, into exile from the Holy Land as punishment for their sins. 130 years ago a part of the people of Israel decided to return to the Holy Land without God's permission. Now God has punished the people of Israel again by giving them a miraculous victory, and turning that same victory into a curse that is leading to disaster.

For this purpose, God borrowed an idea from his Greek colleagues. He has turned the occupied territories into the Tunic of Nessus.

Nessus, the centaur, was killed by the hero Hercules. Before he died, Nessus covered his tunic with his tainted blood, which was a deadly poison. When Hercules put it on, it adhered to his skin and he could not take it off again. When he tried, it killed him.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

US Has Interfered in More Elections Than Any Other Nation
An interview By Glen Ford

DHARNA NOOR: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Dharna Noor, joining you from Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of, "The Ford Report."

This Monday, the House Intelligence Committee held it's hearing on the alleged Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 Presidential Election. In the opening remarks to this much-awaited hearing, the Democratic Congressman from California, Adam Schiff, set the tone; establishing the case for why Russia is America's adversary, and how they're interfering in American democracy, and democracies across the world. He laid out the case for Russian interference in the election. Let's hear a bit of that.

ADAM SCHIFF: Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested, and hugely controversial presidential campaign, a foreign adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate, and against the other.

That foreign adversary was, of course, Russia; and it acted through its intelligence agencies and upon the direct instructions of its autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin. In order to help Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the United States.

The Russian active measures campaign, may have begun as early as 2015, when Russian intelligence services launched a series of spear-phishing attacks designed to penetrate the computers of a broad array of Washington-based Democratic, and Republican Party organizations, think tanks and other entities. This continued at least through the winter of 2016.

While at first the hacking may have been intended solely for the collection of foreign intelligence, in mid-2016 the Russians weaponized the stolen data; and used platforms established by the intel services, such as DC Leaks, and existing third-party channels, like WikiLeaks, to dump the documents.

DHARNA NOOR: With us to discuss all this is Glen Ford. Glen is joining us from Plainfield, New Jersey. He's the co-founder, and Executive Editor, of the Black Agenda Report. And he's also the author of the book, "The Big Lie: An Analysis of the U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion."

He's also a regular contributor to The Real News Network. Thank you so much for joining me, Glen.

GLEN FORD: Thanks for having me.

DHARNA NOOR: Glen, can we get your response to that clip from Adam Schiff?

GLEN FORD: Well, my response is that there's no proof of any of that. And even the statement that came from the U.S. intelligence agencies, basically in intel-speak, amounted to saying that -- well, that's a plausible theory, it hangs together -- but there is no proof.

So this, what Mr. Schiff is spouting off, is propaganda, a fantasy that has no basis in provable fact. And if we're going to have hearings that are based on fantasies, I don't know which committee really ought to be holding these hearings. Do we have a committee on fantasy?

DHARNA NOOR: Let's take another look at what Adam Schiff continues to say.

ADAM SCHIFF: Ours is not the first democracy to be attacked by the Russians in this way. Russian intelligence has been similarly interfering in the internal and political affairs of our European, and other allies, for decades. What is striking here is the degree to which the Russians were willing to undertake such an audacious, and risky, action against the most powerful nation on Earth.

That ought to be a warning to us. That if we thought that the Russians would not dare to so blatantly interfere in our affairs, we were wrong. And if we do not do our very best to understand how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy, and what we need to do to protect ourselves in the future, we will only have ourselves to blame.

The stakes are nothing less than the future of our democracy, and liberal democracy, because we're engaged in a new war of ideas. Not communism versus capitalism, but authoritarianism versus democracy, and representative government.

DHARNA NOOR: What's your response to this? Are these so-called interferences unprecedented? And what do you make of his accusation that Russia is working against democracy with its support for authoritarianism?

GLEN FORD: Well, they're not just unprecedented, they're non-existent, at least as far as the evidence goes. But there is a great precedent in the world for interfering in other people's governments, and other people's right to order their own internal affairs as they see fit. And the biggest example of that interference -- the great interferer -- is the United States of America.

Nobody holds a candle to the United States, when it comes to interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. Nobody even comes close. And we only get a sense of the scope, and sheer size, and the unique character of U.S. interference in the rest of the world, by taking in the totality of history, and the whole wide range of meddling in other people's rights to self-determination that the United States is guilty of.

The U.S. has absolutely no respect for anybody else's right to self-determination, except its own. It overthrows governments. It overthrew most of the governments of Latin America, and still threatens to do so. It has participated in the overthrow of emerging governments in Africa, and now, basically is an occupier of Africa, through its Africom.

It annexes whole countries, and that begins with the beginnings of the United States, the annexing of all the original people, the original nations of the United States into the United States. And goes on to include, oh, about half or more of Mexico, and all of Puerto Rico and the Philippines. And they damned near took Cuba several times, including at the turn of the 20th Century.

The United States blackmails and coerces nations to form governments that will go along with the United States' wishes. And they use the threat of force to do that. They fund political parties all over the world. They do that covertly, and they do that overtly. And they do it to people, to governments, that are supposed to be their friends.

Most notably, right after World War II, they subverted and tried to guide the course of politics in France and Italy, when communist parties were very strong in those countries. It arms opposition groups -- that is, wages proxy wars. And it's been doing that in the Muslim world for some time, going on 40 years now. Starting with Afghanistan, and most recently with Libya, and with Syria, and with the cumulative loss of millions and millions of lives.

It imposes sanctions at the drop of a hat on countries all over the world. And sanctions are, and are meant to be, interference in the internal affairs of other countries. And it wages ceaseless propaganda wars for the purposes of regime change. And in this regard, it's certainly not just the U.S. government; the U.S. corporate media is not a junior partner, a full partner in these propaganda wars.

And they start off when you hear a government being referred to as a, "regime," rather than a government. That's when you know that the crosshairs are on that government's neck.

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah, the hypocrisy here is kind of dumbfounding. But even, supposing that Russia did interfere with the election, how does that interference compare with say, the interference of the DNC, in the Democratic Primary in 2016?

GLEN FORD: Well, you know, that is an internal U.S. affair, one that Americans should be righteously upset about, instead of being upset at the Russians. And the Russians certainly don't have the capability to create the kind of corruption that WikiLeaks revealed inside the Democratic Party. Where are the Russian operatives creating the corruption itself? And I think, if we're going to make comparisons, the real comparison is between what the United States does in Russia, and what Russia does here. In terms of what Russia is alleged to have done during the past election, there is no proof of it whatsoever. But the United States has spread money around, offered scholarships, distributed computers -- blatantly interfered in elections in Russia, in 1996, in order to prop up the drunken U.S. stooge Yeltsin, and in two elections, in which Vladimir Putin was involved in the 21st century, in Russia.

Are there any Russians roaming around New York City, or Washington D.C., with millions of dollars, and with all kinds of computers and other incentives for dissident groups in the United States? I'm a dissident, and most of my friends are dissidents, so if there were such incentives being offered by Russians, I think I'd know about it.

They don't exist, and yet, they certainly have existed in abundance -- that is, U.S. monetary incentives for dissidents in Russia.

DHARNA NOOR: And what the Russians are actually being accused of is leaking some official Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks. So, why is it that so little is being made of the actual content of the leaked emails in this hearing?

GLEN FORD: It's a great diversion, and you know, Americans are super nationalist people. You know if you just watched American television, and you superimposed the words, German over American, you'd be scared of the United States, and its super nationalism.

And so, Americans can be quickly diverted in their attentions, by pointing out a foreign threat, even if it doesn't exist. It used to be that the Democrats were the least hawkish of the two duopoly parties. But now surveys show that when it comes to the Russians, a majority of Democrats now are treating the Russians as some kind of existential threat. While only a minority of Republicans feel that way.

So, this propaganda coming from the Democratic Party, related of course to the election, has been quite effective.

DHARNA NOOR: Before you go, Glen, I'd like to have us listen to another clip from the hearing. This is from Andre Carson, a Representative from Indiana.

ANDRE CARSON: There's a lot at stake here for Russia. This is big money, big strategic implications. If they can legitimate their annexation of Crimea, what's next? Are we looking at a new Iron Curtain descending across Eastern Europe? You know, most in our country recognize what is at stake in how the United States, as the leader of the free world, is the only check on Russian expansion.

DHARNA NOOR: So, he says, "Are we looking at a new Iron Curtain descending across Eastern Europe?" Speaking of Crimea. What's your response to this, Glen?

GLEN FORD: The Iron Curtain has been erected within the American bubble. It's only visible to Americans. It only reflects the internal developments in American politics. It does not really exist in the real world.

You know, back in 2015, when the Russians intervened in Syria, and did the world a favor by tipping the scales against the American-financed, and trained and armed jihadists, Vladimir Putin was still referring to the United States as, "our partners."

If there is one thing about the current government in Russia that should be obvious, it's that it tries to create less tensions, and open up avenues of cooperation at every opportunity -- despite the hostility, and imperial attitude of the United States. This Iron Curtain has been erected by U.S. administration.

DHARNA NOOR: Glen Ford, Executive Editor of the Black Agenda Report. Thank you so much for joining us again today.

GLEN FORD: Thanks for having me.

DHARNA NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump To Attack Syria-And Increases The Risks Of Nuclear Annihilation
By Norman Solomon

Vast efforts to portray Donald Trump as Vladimir Putin's flunky have given Trump huge incentives to prove otherwise. Last Thursday, he began the process in a big way by ordering a missile attack on Russia's close ally Syria. In the aftermath of the attack, the cheerleading from U.S. mass media was close to unanimous, and the assault won lots of praise on Capitol Hill. Finally, the protracted and fervent depictions of Trump as a Kremlin tool were getting some tangible results.

At this point, the anti-Russia bandwagon has gained so much momentum that a national frenzy is boosting the odds of unfathomable catastrophe. The world's two nuclear superpowers are in confrontation mode.

It's urgent to tell ourselves and each other: Wake up!

The dangers of a direct U.S.-Russian military conflict are spiking upward. After the missile attack, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the United States to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria. And Russia's prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, issued a statement referring to "our now completely ruined relations" and declaring that the United States was "on the verge of a military clash with Russia."

These ominous developments are a longtime dream come true for ultra-hawks like Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who've gained leverage in an alliance with numerous congressional Democrats. The neocons and the "liberal interventionists" really have something going now, after propagating the meme that Trump is a Putin puppet.

At this perilous moment in human history, the quality of the Democratic Party leadership was embodied in a tweet last month from the Democratic National Committee's new chair, Tom Perez, who sent out this message about a weekly address by President Trump:

"Translated from the original Russian and everything."

Such tactics aren't just McCarthyite. They are baiting, goading and pressurizing Trump to prove that he's willing to clash with Russia after all.

Those tactics are a far cry from what's actually needed -- truly independent investigations -- in order to address the charges that Russia interfered with the U.S. election last year. We most definitely do not need the kind of baiting and goading that creates enormous pressure on Trump to show he's willing and able to go to the brink of war with Russia.

Make no mistake. With 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons at the ready in the United States and Russia, pushing to heighten tensions between the two countries is playing with thermonuclear fire.

Early this year, citing the escalation of those tensions, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its "Doomsday Clock" even closer to midnight. "In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent," the Bulletin declared. "It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms. Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way."

People at the grassroots must lead, pushing and pulling the official leaders to follow. To stop the current war train -- and to quite possibly rescue the fate of the earth -- we must get a grip. If we depend on the "leadership" in Congress, all that we hold dear will drift into still-greater jeopardy.

With Congress now in recess, most legislators are back home -- and they should hear from us. Pick up the phone, make an appointment to visit their district offices, or show up without an appointment.

Right now, in one minute, you can send an email to your senators and representative with your own message or with this one: "As a constituent, I urge you to make a public statement that you support a complete cutoff of funds for U.S. military actions in Syria. This step is vital to prevent our country from adding to the deadly violence in Syria -- and to halt the momentum toward a military confrontation with Russia that could end with escalation into a horrific nuclear exchange."

Detente between the United States and Russia will be necessary for bringing peace to Syria. The same goes for reducing -- instead of increasing -- the chances that nuclear weapons will destroy us all.

What passes for leadership on these matters in Congress will not save us. On the contrary, right now the congressional leaders are serving as enablers for what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism."

Even the better statements from Capitol Hill about the April 6 missile attack have been grimly inadequate. So, Senator Chris Murphy warned of "the potential quagmire of Syria," while Senator Bernie Sanders said: "I'm deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East."

Expressing concern about a "quagmire" is all well and good, but falls far short of acknowledging what's at stake.

On Sunday, the Washington Post published a sobering -- and frightening -- article by the person who was the national security adviser for Joe Biden during his last two years as vice president. "If the Trump administration and the Kremlin are not able to come to a meeting of the minds on Syria," wrote Colin Kahl, "it could set the two nuclear powers on a dangerous collision course."

Kahl, now an associate professor in security studies at Georgetown University, sketched out a plausible scenario: "The Syrian dictator (perhaps prodded by Russia or Iran) may attempt to test Trump again, hoping to prove the president is a 'paper tiger.' And Trump, having invested his personal credibility in standing firm, may find himself psychologically or politically compelled to respond, despite the very real risks that it could result in a direct military clash with Russia."

And, Kahl added, "Given Russia's vital interests in Syria, Moscow is not likely to respond positively to U.S. ultimatums and maximalist positions. If the administration does not find a way to give the Kremlin a face-saving way out, conflict is much more likely than accommodation."

Kahl's article concluded: "Sinking into a Syrian quagmire would be bad enough. World War III would be far worse."
(c) 2017 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Sad Saga Of John Stumpf
By Jim Hightower

Poor John Stumpf. The preening, silver-haired CEO of Wells Fargo sat self-assuredly atop the pecking order of the financial establishment, and he was hailed as a paragon of big-banker virtue... until he suddenly fell off his lofty perch.

It turns out that being "a paragon of big-banker virtue" is not at all the same as being a virtuous human being. Banker elites don't get paid the big bucks by "doing what's right," but by doing what's most profitable - and that means cutting corners on ethics, common decency, and the golden rule. Stumpf didn't just cut corners, he crashed through them, devising a business plan that effectively encouraged Wells Fargo branches to steal from millions of their poorest and most easily deceived customers.

The courtly chief executive coldly fostered a high-pressure sales culture, pushing elderly pensioners, non-English-speaking workers, and other vulnerable depositors into accounts they didn't understand or need, extracting high fees for the bank. One shameful (and illegal) profit-boosting ploy was having bank employees secretly set up fake, high-fee accounts for some two million customers without their knowledge, much less their consent.

Running such rackets for more than a decade, Wells Fargo prospered and the chief amassed a fabulous personal fortune. Then, as the scandal went public last year, the "paragon of virtue" tried to save himself by firing 5,300 lower-level employees. But, it wasn't enough - Stumpf was shoved out and forced to surrender $41 million in stock awards he had stashed away.

But don't weep for Poor John - he grabbed $83 million in stock payments on his way out last year, and he still holds another $147 million in Wells Fargo stock he was awarded by the board. It's said that virtue is its own reward, but big banker virtue is rewarded in cash.
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Legislation for public banks is being pursued in the states of Washington,
Michigan, Arizona and New Jersey, as well as the cities of Philadelphia and Santa Fe.

The Savings And Stability Of Public Banking
By Ralph Nader

As a society obsessed by money, we pay a gigantic price for not educating high school and college students about money and banking. The ways of the giant global banks - both commercial and investment operations - are as mysterious as they are damaging to the people. Big banks use the Federal Reserve to maximize their influence and profits. The federal Freedom of Information Act provides an exemption for matters that are "contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions." This exemption allows financial institutions to wallow in secrecy. Financial institutions are so influential in Congress that Senator Durbin (D, IL) says "[The banks] frankly own this place."

Although anti-union, giant financial institutions have significant influence over the investments of worker pension funds. Their certainty of being bailed out because they are seen as "too big to fail" harms the competitiveness of smaller, community banks and allows the big bankers to take bigger risks with "other people's money," as Justice Brandeis put it.

These big banks are so pervasive in their reach that even unions and progressive media, such as The Nation magazine and Democracy Now have their accounts with JP Morgan Chase.

Look for county commissioners and state treasurers to come on board when they see the enormous safeguards and savings that can be secured through "public banks" in contrast to the convoluted casino run by unaccountable Wall Street gamblers and speculators.

The government allows banks to have concentrated power. Taxpayers and Consumers are charged excessive fees and paid paltry interest rates on savings. The bonds of municipalities are are also hit with staggering fees and public assets like highways and public drinking water systems are corporatized by Goldman Sachs and other privatizers with sweetheart multi-decade leases.

Then there are the immense taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street, such as those in 2008-2009 after the financial industry's recklessness and crimes brought down the economy, cost workers 8 million jobs, and shredded the pension and mutual fund savings of the American people.

Standing like a beacon of stability, responsiveness and profitability is the 98 year-old, state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND). As reported by Ellen Brown, prolific author and founder of the Public Banking Institute (Santa Clarita, California), "The BND has had record profits for the last 12 years" (avoiding the Wall Street crash) "each year outperforming the last. In 2015 it reported $130.7 million in earnings, total assets of $7.4 billion, capital of $749 million, and a return on investment of a whopping 18.1 percent. Its lending portfolio grew by $486 million, a 12.7 percent increase, with growth in all four of its areas of concentration: agriculture, business, residential and student loans..."

North Dakota's economy is depressed because of the sharp drop in oil prices. So the BND moved to help. Again, Ellen Brown:

"In 2015, it introduced new infrastructure programs to improve access to medical facilities, remodel or construct new schools, and build new road and water infrastructure. The Farm Financial Stability Loan was introduced to assist farmers affected by low commodity prices or below-average crop production. The BND also helped fund 300 new businesses."
All this is in a state with half the population of Phoenix or Philadelphia.

A California coalition is forming to establish a state-owned bank for California. Coalition organizers say a California State Bank will cut the state's long-term financing costs in half, compared to what avaricious Wall Street is charging. The nation's largest state (equivalent to the world's sixth largest economy) can free itself from massive debt accumulation, bid-rigging, deceptive interest-rate swaps and capital appreciation bonds at 300% interest over time.

What assets does the state have to make this bank fully operational? California has surplus funds which total about $600 billion, including those in a Pooled Money Investment account managed by the State Treasurer that contains $54 billion earning less than 1 percent interest.

Money in these funds is earmarked for specific expenditure purposes, but they can be invested - in a new state bank. To escape from a Wall Street that is, in Brown's words "sucking massive sums in interest, fees and interest rate swap payments out of California and into offshore tax havens," a state bank can use its impressive credit power to develop infrastructure in California.

Huge state pension funds and other state funds can provide the deposits. Each one billion dollar capital investment can lend $10 billion for projects less expensively and under open stable banking control by California. Presently, California and other states routinely deposit hundreds of billions of dollars in Wall Street banks at minimal interest, turn around and borrow for infrastructure construction and repair from the Wall Street bond market at much higher interest and fees.

This is a ridiculous form of debt peonage, a lesson Governor Jerry Brown has yet to learn. He and other officials similarly uninformed about how the state of California can be its own banker should visit and read Ellen Brown's book, The Public Bank Solution.

Legislation for public banks is being pursued in the states of Washington, Michigan, Arizona and New Jersey, as well as the cities of Philadelphia and Santa Fe. Look for county commissioners and state treasurers to come on board when they see the enormous safeguards and savings that can be secured through "public banks" in contrast to the convoluted casino run by unaccountable Wall Street gamblers and speculators.

A longtime backer of public banking, retired entrepreneur Richard Mazess, hopes that national civic groups like Public Citizen, Common Cause, People for the American Way and Consumer Watchdog can get behind the proposal. "Public, not private, infrastructure is essential for an equitable economy," he says.

California already has a public infrastructure bank called the IBank. Mr. Mazess and others believe that expanding the existing IBank into a depository institution would be more likely to pass through the California legislature. The deposits would come from public institutions, and NGOs (not from private persons). These pension funds and other public deposits would become reserves and serve as the basis for safely leveraged loans to public projects at a conservative tenfold multiplier. No derivatives or other shenanigans allowed.

Before that proposal can be enacted, however, there needs to be much more education of state legislators and the public at large.

Such enlightenment would illuminate the enormous savings, along with the restoration of state sovereignty from the absentee, exploitative grip of an unrepentant, speculating, profiteering Wall Street that believes it can always go to Washington, DC for its taxpayer bailouts.
(c) 2017 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is Unstoppable, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Marine Protected Areas Are One Piece Of A Complex Puzzle
By David Suzuki

The federal government recently created two marine protected areas in the Pacific region and has committed to increase ocean protection from one per cent to 10 by 2020. But will this be enough?

Canada has the longest coastline of any nation, but our country doesn't end at its ocean shores. With a 200-nautical-mile economic zone and international obligations, Canada is responsible for almost three million square kilometres of ocean, an area roughly the size of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.

Although that's a big area, thinking of the ocean in square kilometres is just skimming the surface. The ocean isn't just a cold, wet seascape blanketed by howling winds. Below the surface, life thrives throughout the water column, top to bottom, warm or cold, winter or summer.

Northern aquatic food webs are rich with creatures of all shapes and sizes, from tiny plankton, urchins and sea stars to fish, orcas and sea lions. That the world's largest living creature ever, the blue whale, feeds on some of the smallest, plankton, is astonishing in itself. Yet the plankton thread in the food web doesn't end in the whale's stomach; whale poop is also a critical part of the marine food web, cycling nutrients from the surface to creatures at the bottom.

The way otters keep kelp forests healthy by eating sea urchins is one of myriad interconnected relationships in Canadian coastal waters. Although barnacles and clams live in a single location, some whales and fish travel thousands of kilometres within a single season. Salmon don't even have the ocean as a boundary, swimming far inland to spawn.

How can we understand and manage such complex systems? Natural cycles in Canada's coastal waters include currents, tides, upwellings, migrations and seasons. Trying to predict how multiple factors like pollution, industrial fishing, climate change, ocean acidification, glass sponge reefs, ships, rights and title claims, kayakers, recreational fishing lodges and renewable energy sites will interact with these cycles is becoming increasingly more complicated, and important, than ever. With all these uncertainties and complexities, how can we know if marine protected areas are effective?

To understand how creating a refuge works, let's go back to a simple 1936 study of an "ecosystem." It was a test tube with two microscopic single cell species, prey and predator. In that oversimplified ecosystem, the predatory species ate the prey, and then died because, without prey, they could not survive.

Putting material in the test tube so the prey could hide and multiply changed everything, creating a variety of unpredictable outcomes. However, one pattern emerged: It was far more likely that both prey and predator would survive.

Expanding the concept to marine protected areas, this simple experiment bodes well for one top predator (humans) and prey (fish). Even though science can't predict whether protected areas will help specific stocks increase, evidence suggests they show promise as "nurseries" for fish and other ocean wildlife and can provide a buffer against our lack of understanding.

Canada's two new Pacific marine protected areas shield magnificent, fragile glass sponge reefs near Haida Gwaii and important seabird nesting sites on the Scott Islands. Safeguards are in place to protect the glass sponge reefs and the countless species that use them for refuge. However, current protections for the area surrounding the Scott Islands are too vague to reduce threats to the millions of seabirds that depend on the forage area to breed and feed.

The federal government deserves credit for beginning to develop a network of marine protected areas. They're an essential part of keeping ocean ecosystems healthy, but they must have meaningful safeguards. Protected areas are just one aspect of keeping coastal ecosystems healthy. Responsible stewardship also requires effective fisheries management, strong penalties for polluters and a global carbon emissions reduction.

With pollution, climate change and increased shipping and development along Canada's coast, it's more important than ever to reduce the risks to ecosystems that provide us with the fish we eat, the air we breathe and the bounty of nature we love. Marine protected areas on their own won't be enough to do all that, but with strong regulations and safeguards, they're one piece of the intricate, multidimensional puzzle.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

James Thompson speaks during a debate in Wichita, Kansas on March 23, 2017.

A Berniecrat Takes On Trump And The Koch Brothers In Kansas
Republicans are pouring money into the race in an attempt to save a GOP seat.
By John Nichols

"I'm totally new to politics-I was inspired to run by Bernie. After the election, I decided to get out from behind my Facebook keyboard and try to make a difference, so I decided to run for office," says James Thompson, a Kansas civil-rights attorney whose Bernie Sanders-style bid for an open Kansas House seat has spooked Republicans in Washington.

As Tuesday's special-election vote approached, the National Republican Congressional Committee poured money into a last-minute media blitz to prevent Thompson from taking the seat vacated by Donald Trump's CIA director, former congressman Mike Pompeo. House Speaker Paul Ryan even issued a "personal request" that donors open their checkbooks for the Republican candidate, Ron Estes, in "one of the most important House races in the country."

Mike Pompeo was known as the "Koch Brothers' Congressman" and "the congressman from Koch" because of his steady subservience to the right-wing agenda of billionaire campaign donors Charles and David Koch. Koch Industries is headquartered in Wichita, the largest city in the Fourth Congressional District that Thompson hopes to grab from the Republicans-and their wealthy patrons.

Thompson is running a campaign that proudly embraces the "not the billionaires" ethic of Sanders's 2016 presidential bid. Raised in poverty-he quit high school to support his family at a time when they were living in a van-Thompson says he is running to preserve public education, health-care protections, and the social safety net that helped him make it from the streets to law school, and that Koch-backed candidates propose to shred.

"It's in the first sentence of the Constitution-promote the general welfare," says Thompson. "We must provide a certain level of safety for everybody... make sure it's accessible."

That's not a message that billionaires and their networks of Republican campaign donors embrace. As The Topeka Capital-Journal reported last week, big money is being spent to save Estes, the Republican who wants to be the next "congressman from Koch." "Among the political action committees contributing more than $93,000 to Estes' campaign are groups tied to Koch Industries and to various conservative political organizations," noted the paper. "Also funneling money into his campaign were the political action committees for industry groups such as the American Bankers Association, National Association of Home Builders, National Business Aviation Association, and National Cattlemen's Beef Association, among others."

In contrast, Thompson is following the Sanders campaign model of relying on small donations. More than 95 percent of the Democrat's donations come from individuals, and he has gotten little help from DC Democrats who have not, for the most part, taken the Kansas contest seriously. Mimicking the Sanders campaign in 2016, the Thompson average donation is $25, and his campaign says the money's coming mostly from Kansas.

Estes has all the advantages: He's the elected state treasurer of Kansas, he's a career politician with strong ties to special-interest groups in Kansas and Washington, and he's a Republican running in a district that has sent Republicans to Congress for decades. His wife, Susan, is a longtime Republican operative who until last year was the Kansas-based field director for the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity.

But Thompson has mounted a muscular campaign that emphasizes his military service, his gun ownership, his economic populism, and his respect for immigrants, civil rights, and women's rights. While Estes, a Trump elector last year, defends the president and unpopular Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback, Thompson calls the special election "a referendum on Trump's policies and Brownback's policies." That full-spectrum opposition to right-wing policies at the national and state levels reflects the understanding of progressives who argue that conservative donors have put their stamp on every level of politics.

"It is not just our district or state that needs to be concerned about this election. This election is literally about a man who wants to take the failed policies of the Brownback administration and nationalize them," says Thompson. "We have shown why trickle-down economics don't work, we have shown his policies have failed. They have been disastrous for our state."

Sanders reinforced that message when he came to Kansas in February and addressed 1,500 Kansas Democrats and their allies. The senator described Kansas as "ground zero for trickle-down economics." He also told Kansans that, despite the odds in what has been an overwhelmingly Republican state in recent years, "We can defeat the Trump agenda. We can create a progressive America if millions of people stand up and fight back."

Thompson, who introduced Sanders at the February gathering, wears his endorsement from Our Revolution, the group Sanders backers formed last year, as a badge of honor. Along with a growing number of first-time candidates this year, he says: "Bernie Sanders' message spoke to me. He talked about progressive values. He talked about health care for all. He talked about returning the working class to prominence in this country." Thompson is running an uphill race in 2017. But like Sanders in 2016, he has gained traction by proposing a new politics that's "good for everyone instead of just the rich and powerful."
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Victims of this week's chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria.

The Pandora's Box Of War
By Chris Hedges

War opens a Pandora's box of evils that once unleashed are beyond anyone's control. The invasion of Afghanistan set out to defeat al-Qaida, and nearly 16 years later, we are embroiled in a losing fight with the Taliban. We believed we could invade Iraq and create a Western-style democracy and weaken Iran's power in the region. The fragmentation of Iraq among warring factions has left Iran the dominant Muslim nation in the Middle East and Iraq destroyed as a unified nation. We set out to topple President Bashar Assad in Syria but then began to bomb the Islamic insurgents trying to overthrow him. We spread the "war on terror" to Yemen, Libya and Syria in a desperate effort to crush regional resistance. Instead, we created new failed states and lawless enclaves where vacuums were filled by the jihadist forces we sought to defeat. We have wasted a staggering $4.79 trillion on death, destruction and folly as our nation is increasingly impoverished and climate change threatens us with extinction. The arms manufacturers, who have a vested interest in perpetuating these debacles, will work to make a few trillion more before this act of collective imperial suicide comes to a humiliating end.

In war, when you attack one force you implicitly aid another. And the forces we assist by striking the Assad regime are the forces we ironically are determined to eradicate-Nusra Front, al-Qaida and other Islamic radical groups. These are the same Islamic forces we, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait, largely created, armed and funded at the inception of the civil war in Syria. They are the forces that have responded to the chaos caused by our misguided military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. They are the forces that execute Western captives, slaughter religious minorities, carry out terrorism in Europe and the United States and collect billions of dollars from smuggling refugees into Europe. They are our sometime enemies and our sometime allies.

READ: Trump Intervenes in the Civil War in Syria

The jihadists' savagery mirrors our own. The jihadists respond to our airstrikes and aerial drone attacks by using suicide vests and improvised explosive devices. They respond to our black sites and prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo with basement cells that torture kidnapped captives. They respond to the ideology of Western secularism with an Islamic state. They respond to violence with violence.

The Islamic militants in Syria, after Russia intervened against them in September 2015, were losing territory, financial revenue and support in the six-year war. And they were the ones who rejoiced this week when the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria's Shayrat airfield, reportedly the launching site for a chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people, including at least 30 children, on Tuesday in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. The Syrian government says six people died in the U.S. missile attack.

The selective moral outrage of the United States, among both Democrats and Republicans, over the alleged chemical attack-I know from two decades of covering war that the truth is very murky and easily manipulated in wartime-ignores America's primary responsibility for the wholesale carnage that has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions as refugees, including 4 million from Iraq and 5 million from Syria. It ignores the 12,197 bombs we dropped on Syria last year. It ignores our role in creating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and our role in arming and funding these jihadists in Syria. We have made sure that the Syrians-400,000 of whom have died and half of whom have been forced from their homes during the war-have many options when it comes to dying.

Syria had, and may still have, chemical weapons. It appeared to use them in 2013 in the Damascus suburb Ghouta, leaving anywhere from 281 to 1,729 dead. But the Syrians, in an international accord brokered by then-Secretary of State John Kerry with the Russian government, agreed to turn over their chemical stockpiles to the Russians following the attack. And one has to ask why Syria, which is finally winning the war, would use chemical agents now and risk U.S. retaliation. Syria says the deadly nerve agent sarin and possibly chlorine gas were released when a rebel depot holding the chemicals was hit in an airstrike.

WATCH Does U.S. Attack Against Syria Violate International Law?

Why the moral outrage now among Americans? Why have we stood by as Syrians died daily from barrel bombs, bullets, famine, disease and drowning off the shores of Greece? Why have we been mute as schools, apartment blocks, mosques and hospitals have been bombed into rubble? Where is the outrage about the deaths of the thousands of other children, including those we killed recently in Mosul when a March 17 coalition airstrike took the lives of as many as 200 civilians? Why are we not enraged by the Trump administration's flagrant violation of domestic law by carrying out an act of war without approval from Congress or the United Nations? Why do we lament these deaths yet bar Syrian war refugees from entering the United States? Is American foreign policy to be dictated by the fickle emotions of Donald Trump, whose perception of reality appears to be obtained exclusively from a television screen?

The radical Islamists can always count on the West to intervene and resurrect them. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian radical, founded al-Tawhid al-Jihad in Iraq with about 100 former fighters from al-Qaidi in Afghanistan. His goal was a sectarian conflict with the Shiites. A unified Shiite and Sunni state in Iraq was an anathema to the Sunni jihadists. Zarqawi's group became al-Qaida in Iraq in 2004. It declared its loyalty to Osama bin Laden, who had initially opposed Zarqawi's call for a war with Shiites. Zarqawi was killed in 2006.

By 2010 al-Qaida in Iraq was a spent force. Then came the civil war in Syria. The United States, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey pumped weapons, money and resources to various rebel factions in Syria to overthrow the Syrian regime. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who took over the leadership of Zarqawi's organization, changed the name of the group to the Islamic State of Iraq. He soon decamped to Syria. His group, like all jihadist organizations in Syria, was showered with weapons and resources. Baghdadi devoted his energy to attacking other jihadist and rebel groups. He gradually took control of an area the size of Texas in Syria and Iraq. Al-Nusra, the al-Qaida-affiliated group in Syria, merged with the Islamic State of Iraq. The new group became the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. It attracted an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters-some 4,000 of whom held European passports. The group was estimated by The Wall Street Journal to earn $2 million a day in oil exports alone. As a trafficker of humans, it has made billions from the desperate refugees attempting to flee to Europe. It has executed religious minority members or forced them out of its territory. The newly formed self-described caliphate has also terrorized the Sunnis in the name of religious purity, as Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton point out in the AlterNet article "Is Trump Rescuing Al-Qaeda's 'Heartland' in Syria?"

The rise of Islamic State has instilled pride and self-empowerment for many Sunnis, humiliated by the U.S. occupation. It has exposed the weak and corrupt ruling elites who have sold themselves to Washington. It is proof that the Western military forces are not invincible. These groups will suffer reverses, but they will not go away.

There is no clean or easy way to exit from the morass we created in the region. None of the insurgents in the region will willingly lay down their weapons until the U.S. occupation of the Middle East ends. The wars we started are complicated. There is a myriad of proxy wars being fought beneath the surface, including our war with Russia, Turkey's war with the Kurds, and Saudi Arabia's war with Iran. The civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are the human fodder. This slaughter has already lasted nearly 16 years. It will not cease until the United States is exhausted and withdraws its forces from the region. And before that happens, many, many more innocents will die. So save your tears. We are morally no different from the jihadists or the Syrians we fight. They reflect back to us our own repugnant visage. If we wanted this to stop, we could make it happen.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

AIPAC & America's "Christian" Right: Legitimizing Bigotry
By Jane Stillwater

There are laws in Israel, Europe and America right now that make "antisemitism" a crime. Here's how it works. Israelis, Europeans and Americans can now pretty much say any sleazy lowlife thing that they want against Palestinians -- even call them two-legged animals and baby-killers. But if anyone, even a journalist or a congressperson, objects to this unchecked and bigoted bad-mouthing of said Palestinians, then too bad for them.

That person is immediately labeled "antisemitic" and is in Big Trouble.

This one-sided and jankety semantic ploy is a cheap shot and worse than Catch 22. It's tainted. It's manipulative propaganda. It's a hammer that smashes free speech. It's brilliantly effective. And the "Christian" Right in America loves it.

I just attended a conference in Washington DC entitled "The Israel Lobby and American Policy," which focused on the role of AIPAC in American decision-making. It was an interesting conference with dynamic speakers -- plus I got a blue tote bag and a free lunch.

"But what is AIPAC?" you might ask. It is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and, surprisingly, it has more influence in Washington DC than even the weapons lobby or Big Pharma. AIPAC pretty much owns us.

"We get at least one AIPAC lobbyist in our office every single day," one congressman told me. "Their campaign contributions can make or break us. And if we vote against AIPAC's interests, then we don't get re-elected. Period. Plus we are then labeled antisemitic."

Israeli professor Ilan Pappe was the keynote speaker at the conference that I attended and he pointed out that blatant bigotry here in America is now being justified by the Israeli neo-colonialists' rabidly bigoted approach to Muslim (and Christian) Palestinians. And as a result, many members of the so-called Christian Right in America now feel free to be as hateful and bigoted as they want to be. "If Israel's Chosen People can do it," they rationalize to themselves, "then let's go for it too."

If anyone makes a sign that says "Muslims are baby killers" then that's okay because AIPAC says so. But if anyone makes a sign that says "Israelis are baby killers," then that's "antisemitism" and off you go to jail. But, come on. Who kills the most babies in the Middle East? Besides the Americans and Saudis that is? We all know the answer to that one. We're just not allowed to say it. Thank you, AIPAC.

PS: And if you really want to shut someone up, just call them pro-Russian. And there's a reason for that too. According to Pravda, "For many in the west, Russia has always been a pariah, the danger from the East, enshrined today in political diatribes and sheer, barefaced lies in the media as a powerful 'them' is created to justify the 'us': NATO."

America and Europe have to justify spending 1.2 trillion dollars a year on NATO somehow -- so various and sundry enemies are created. First it was Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria -- and now it's Russia. "It's kind of like a house full of tablets, laptops and the latest wizzy gadgets with the fastest broadband internet connection -- and inhabited by a 96-year-old spinster who hates the Net and whose electricity is supplied by a mule walking round in a circle out in the yard." With NATO being that spinster.
(c) 2017 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago
on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.

Where Was CIA's Pompeo On Syria?

By Robert Parry

There is a dark mystery behind the White House-released photo showing President Trump and more than a dozen advisers meeting at his estate in Mar-a-Lago after his decision to strike Syria with Tomahawk missiles: Where are CIA Director Mike Pompeo and other top intelligence officials?

Before the photo was released on Friday, a source told me that Pompeo had personally briefed Trump on April 6 about the CIA's belief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was likely not responsible for the lethal poison-gas incident in northern Syria two days earlier - and thus Pompeo was excluded from the larger meeting as Trump reached a contrary decision.

At the time, I found the information dubious since Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior U.S. officials were declaring quite confidently that Assad was at fault. Given that apparent confidence, I assumed that Pompeo and the CIA must have signed off on the conclusion of Assad's guilt even though I knew that some U.S. intelligence analysts had contrary opinions, that they viewed the incident as either an accidental release of chemicals or an intentional ploy by Al Qaeda rebels to sucker the U.S. into attacking Syria.

As strange as the Trump administration has been in its early months, it was hard for me to believe that Trump would have listened to the CIA's views and then shooed the director away from the larger meeting before launching a military strike against a country not threatening America.

After the strike against Syria by 59 Tomahawk missiles, which Syrian officials said killed seven people including four children, Trump gave a speech to the American people declaring flatly:

"On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror."
As much as Trump stood to benefit politically by acting aggressively in attacking Syria - and thus winning praise even from his harshest critics - the idea that he would ignore the views of the U.S. intelligence community on an issue of war or peace was something that I found hard to believe.

So, I put aside what I had heard from the source about the discordant Pompeo-Trump meeting as the sort of tidbit that may come from someone who lacks first-hand knowledge and doesn't get all the details right.

After all, in almost every similar situation that I had covered over decades, the CIA Director or the Director of National Intelligence has played a prominent role in decisions that depend heavily on the intelligence community's assessments and actions.

President Barack Obama and his national security team monitor the Special Operations raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden.

For instance, in the famous photo of President Obama and his team waiting out the results of the 2011 raid to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, CIA Director Leon Panetta is the one on the conference screen that everyone is looking at.

Even when the U.S. government is presenting false information, such as Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2003 speech laying out the bogus evidence of Iraq hiding WMDs, CIA Director George Tenet was seated behind Powell to lend credibility to the falsehoods.

At the Table

But in the photo of Trump and his advisers, no one from the intelligence community is in the frame. You see Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, strategic adviser Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a variety of other officials, including some economic advisers who were at Mar-a-Lago in Florida for the meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

However, you don't see Pompeo or Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats or any other intelligence official. Even The New York Times noted the oddity in its Saturday editions, writing: "If there were C.I.A. and other intelligence briefers around, ... they are not in the picture."

That made me wonder whether perhaps my original source did know something. The claim was that CIA Director Pompeo had briefed Trump personally on the analysts' assessment that Assad's forces were not responsible, but - then with Pompeo sidelined - Trump conveyed his own version of the intelligence to his senior staff.

In other words, the other officials didn't get the direct word from Pompeo but rather received a second-hand account from the President, the source said. Did Trump choose to rely on the smug certainty from the TV shows and the mainstream news media that Assad was guilty, rather than the contrary view of U.S. intelligence analysts?

After the attack, Secretary of State Tillerson, who is not an institutional intelligence official and has little experience with the subtleties of intelligence, was the one to claim that the U.S. intelligence community assessed with a "high degree of confidence" that the Syrian government had dropped a poison gas bomb on civilians in Idlib province.

While Tillerson's comment meshed with Official Washington's hastily formed groupthink of Assad's guilt, it is hard to believe that CIA analysts would have settled on such a firm conclusion so quickly, especially given the remote location of the incident and the fact that the initial information was coming from pro-rebel (or Al Qaeda) sources.

Thus, a serious question arises whether President Trump did receive that "high degree of confidence" assessment from the intelligence community or whether he shunted Pompeo aside to eliminate an obstacle to his desire to launch the April 6 rocket attack.

If so, such a dangerous deception more than anything else we've seen in the first two-plus months of the Trump administration would be grounds for impeachment - ignoring the opinion of the U.S. intelligence community so the President could carry out a politically popular (albeit illegal) missile strike that killed Syrians.
(c) 2017 Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

The Quotable Quote...

"Politics is more difficult than physics!"
~~~ Albert Einstein

Don't Be a United Airlines Passenger

By David Swanson

Do not sit still like a United Airlines passenger in a video when an injustice is happening. If the other passengers had simply blocked the aisles, corporate thugs could not have dragged their fellow passenger away. If everyone on board had demanded that the airline offer higher compensation until someone volunteered to take a later flight, rather than being violently "reaccommodated," then it would have done so.

Passivity in the face of injustice is the greatest danger we face. This fact does not mean I'm "blaming the victims." Of course United Airlines should be shamed, sued, boycotted, and compelled to reform or "reaccommodate" itself out of our lives entirely. So should the government that has deregulated the industry. So should every police department that has come to view the public as an enemy in a war.

But one should expect corporations and their thugs to behave barbarically. They are designed to do so. One should expect corrupt governments that lack popular influence or control to abuse power. The question is whether people will sit back and take it, resist with some nonviolent skills, or disastrously resort to violence themselves. (I've not searched yet for proposals to arm airline passengers, because I really don't look forward to reading them.)

The one nonviolent skill that seems to be advancing most encouragingly is videotaping and livestreaming. People have got that down. When police blatantly lie, such as by claiming to have carried a passenger who fell, rather than dragging a passenger whom they assaulted, video sets the record straight. But we often lack video of events far away that the U.S. military blatantly lies about, events locked out of sight that prison guards blatantly lie about, and events that happen over long periods -- such as the willful destruction of the earth's climate.

When it comes to those injustices that can't be videotaped or sued in court, too often people fail to act entirely. This is extremely dangerous behavior. We're collectively being dragged down an airplane aisle, and we're failing to act. A U.S.-Saudi war is threatening millions with starvation in Yemen. In Syria, the U.S. is risking a nuclear confrontation with Russia. The Pentagon is considering attacking North Korea. Baby steps toward slowing down the destruction if the earth's climate are being reversed. Warrantless spying, lawless imprisonment, and presidential drone murder have been normalized.

What can we do?

We can educate and organize. We can confront Congress members while they're home. We can pass local resolutions. We can divest from horrible businesses. We can build global alliances. We can go and stand in the way of deportations, of weapons shipments, or of the broadcasting of corporate "news." We can put a stop to injustice wherever we see it and require diplomatic negotiation and resolution from dying domestic industries and killing foreign service officials alike.

Civil disobedience is not something we should shy away from.

Civil obedience should horrify us. There is an epidemic.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Trump's White House ATM Has Rich People Lining Up To Get Even Wealthier
The wealthiest administration in American history is primed to make even more money for already well-to-do staff
By Michael Winship

Some of the latest hooey uttered by White House press secretary Sean Spicer - the man from whom a seemingly bottomless wellspring of hooey flows - was his pronouncement the other day that having so many fabulously wealthy men and women working in the White House is a good and wondrous thing.

"The president has brought a lot of people into this administration, and this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful by this country, and have given up a lot to come into government by setting aside a lot of assets," Spicer said.

"... People are often told they have to sell an asset or get rid of something to come serve in the government. And there's a lot of people that have done a lot to come into this administration to give back, that have been inspired by the president's victory and the president's agenda to move the country forward."

You bet, Sean. In a world of haughty ideals and self-professed high purpose, some would call this notion noblesse oblige - that with wealth and power comes social responsibility; to whom much is given, much is expected, etc. And so it should be. But in Donald Trump's world, snagging a White House job doubtless will be a solid gold vehicle for using wealth and power to generate more wealth and power for yourself and others, taking optimal advantage of an opportunity handed you by the rich guy who, thanks to the deficiencies of the Electoral College, has landed in the most lucrative pot of jam ever.

And while the new hires may have to hew closer to the conflict-of-interest rules than the boss - did you see the latest about how Trump can keep siphoning profits from his businesses even though he's supposed to be hands off? - there will be plenty of opportunities to take advantage.

In other words, high-ranking White House employee, those assets that you may or may not have set aside for the duration are likely to be worth a lot more when you and this president are done, even though you will have left behind quite a trail of broken dreams and shattered lives among the less favored of us.

The financial disclosure forms from about 180 staffers that begrudgingly were released by the White House late last week - a Friday night news dump designed to be as cumbersome for the press as possible - revealed, as The Washington Post reported, that Trump, "who campaigned as a champion of the working class, has surrounded himself with a circle of wealthy advisers.

"The disclosures showed that Trump's top aides have generated millions of dollars from Wall Street, Hollywood, real estate and the media, holding a slew of investments that intensify the administration's challenge in navigating potential intersections between officials' personal finances and their policymaking roles."

Just 27 of these folks have a combined worth of $2.3 billion, and that is a sum, according to a different Washington Post article, greater than what all the households in each of 80 percent of America's counties make in a year - 86 percent when it comes to the counties that voted for Trump. Per the Post, in a classic bit of understatement, "... This reinforces the disconnect between the Trump team and the voters Trump likes to highlight."

That would include such team players as chief economic adviser and Goldman Sachs alum Gary Cohn, worth between $253 million and $611 million; Reed Cordish, the Maryland real estate guy now in charge of technology initiatives, worth at least $197 million; and of course, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, the person known around these parts as The Son-in-Law Also Rises.

Ivanka and Jared, a man whose burgeoning portfolio of responsibilities now covers everything from the opioid epidemic and peace in the Middle East to possibly, I pray, throwing himself between his father-in-law and the nuclear football, are worth as much as $740 million. Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker at The New York Times write:

"Mr. Kushner did resign from more than 200 positions in the partnerships and limited liability companies that make up the family-run multibillion-dollar real estate business. But the financial disclosure report shows that Mr. Kushner will remain a beneficiary of most of those same entities."
And that's a big problem, "perilous legal and ethical ground," according to experts interviewed by the Times. As real estate investors, the Kushner family attracts money from China, Russia, the Middle East and other places where American foreign policy has an interest. What's more, the banks with which the Kushners deal are regulated by governments here and abroad and stand to gain from Trump pledges to roll back the Dodd-Frank reforms, among others. Some, such as Israel's Bank Hapoalim, are under federal investigation. The tax code reform that Trump claims to be a high priority will impact the Kushners and their financial interests, too.

One other thing. Looking at the disclosure forms, what's also striking is how many of the fortunate now staking their claims at the executive mansion made much of their money not via inheritance or banks or industry but in the world of political consulting, a field that has exploded with the infusion of millions now made possible by Citizens United and other court decisions. Those rulings have helped open a fire hose of dark money, much of it from the right - especially the Koch brothers and the Mercers, father and daughter - and it floods the electoral landscape with a deluge of cant and propaganda.

Presidential adviser and mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and consultant, has assets valued at between $11 million and more than $44 million. Last year she made $842,614 from a reported 75 sources of income, including Tea Party Patriots and the Judicial Crisis Network, which has been bankrolling a big media campaign in support of Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch.

And while Steve Bannon made his initial fortune in international investment banking (including Goldman Sachs), an irony given his current anti-globalist nationalism and economic populism, in recent years he has made a lot of his cash from ventures in right-wing publishing (Breitbart), filmmaking, analysis and consulting. His assets are now listed as between $13 million and $56 million.

At AlterNet, Steven Rosenfeld writes:

"While most press reports have focused on the potential for financial conflicts of interest posed by the multibillions in holdings by numerous White House officials, the personal financial statements show how key political advisers became rich via their extreme anti-government activism."
The profit opportunities are rife, deeply tempting and not just for Trump's nearest and dearest. This wealthiest administration in American history is going to make for its selected few a bundle of a size unimaginable to the rest of us - yet we're the ones who will be paying the bill. And when this gang leaves their government jobs, they'll be making even more, spinning through the revolving door back into the private sector, their worth enhanced by the time they've spent working for this mudslide of a president.

Welcome to the plutocracy.
(c) 2017 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers' Journal and is senior writer of

The Dead Letter Office...

Mitch says he so mean because it's only this big!

Heil Trump,

Dear Uberfuhrer McConnell,

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 willingness to commit treason to steal the supreme court, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-27-2017. We salute you Herr McConnell, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Bannon, Kushner, And Trump's Upside-Down Populism
By Robert Reich

The White House war between Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner wouldn't matter in a normal administration with a normal president. But there's nothing normal about the Trump White House, whose major occupant exists in a giant narcissistic bubble impenetrable by anyone but close relatives and a few strong personalities.

Which makes this brawl especially important.

Kushner is his trusted son-in-law, a 36-year-old scion of New Jersey and New York real estate who knows nothing about government but a great deal about Trump, and whose portfolio of responsibilities keeps growing by the day. Bannon is the rumpled hero of the anti-establishment populist base that drove Trump's Electoral College victory, but who appears to be losing clout.

The fundamental difference between Kushner and Bannon is over populism. Kushner is a politically moderate multi-millionaire with business interests all over the world - some of which pose considerable conflicts of interest with his current duties - and who's quite comfortable with all the CEOs, billionaires and Wall Street moguls Trump has lured into his administration.

Bannon hates the establishment. "There is a growing global anti-establishment revolt against the permanent political class at home, and the global elites that influence them, which impacts everyone from Lubbock, Tex., to London, England," he told the New York Times when he took the helm at Breitbart News in 2014.

These opposing views could coexist for a time. For example, Bannon explained to the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February that one of his major goals is the "deconstruction of the administrative state."

If Bannon meant trimming back regulations emanating from administrative agencies, it's an idea that Wall Street and CEOs love. Trump has wholeheartedly embraced it. "We are absolutely destroying these horrible regulations that have been placed on your heads," Trump declared last Tuesday to a group of enthusiastic chief executives from big companies like Citigroup, MasterCard, and Jet Blue.

But Bannon actually meant something quite different. To Bannon, "deconstructing the administrative state" means destroying the "state" - that is, our system of government.

"I'm a Leninist," Bannon told a reporter for the Daily Beast a few years back (he now says now he doesn't recall the conversation). "Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."

Under Bannon's tutelage, Trump has attacked the core institutions of American democracy. He's lashed out at judges who disagree with him; called the press the "enemy of the American people;" denigrated fact-finding groups such as the intelligence agencies, the Congressional Budget Office, and government scientists; alleged without evidence that his predecessor wiretapped him; and repeatedly lied about his electoral victory.

And rather than support a full and independent inquiry into whether anyone in his campaign might have conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, Trump has done everything he can to subvert it.

Does Bannon's recent demotion and Kushner's promotion mean we've seen the end of these sorts of attacks? I doubt it. After all, Trump originally embraced Bannon because Bannon gave Trump exactly what Trump has sought for decades - controversy, screaming headlines, and, above all, the appearance of being an irreverent outsider who rejects politics as usual and rattles Washington to the core.

So it's doubtful that either Bannon or Kushner will emerge the winner. They'll both continue to advance their own views and agendas in Trump's chaotic White House.

Which means we're likely to be left with - and Trump is already on the way to adopting - the worst of both worlds: Bannon's brand of anti-establishment populism that seeks to undermine the core democratic institutions of government, and Kushner's oligarchical Republicanism that empowers and enriches CEOs, Wall Street, and billionaires.

This is exactly the reverse of what most Americans want.

Americans hate big money in politics, but have deep reverence for the institutions of government - the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, an independent judiciary, the office of the president (regardless of who inhabits it), freedom of the press, the right to vote, and the truth.

Americans are rightfully incensed that the system is rigged against them. But they're angry at the riggers - not at the system.

Yet Kushner will protect the riggers and Bannon is out to destroy the system. And Trump is quite happy to do both.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

In an image provided by the US Navy, a Tomahawk cruise missile is launched from the USS Ross in a strike on a Syrian air base on April 7, 2017.

The Bombs Of April
The Media Are Giddy for Airstrikes
By William Rivers Pitt

In hindsight, it's amazing it took President Trump this long to figure it out. As he hedges the mythical 100-day threshold, his approval numbers are slightly to the south of shingles, his first-pick people are getting chased from their desks when not deploying food tasters to make sure their pea soup isn't poisoned, Congress has become a gear-grinding calamity where legislation goes to die and despite all efforts to tweet it away, the question of Russian influence over the election continues to loom like a bird of prey riding the thermals of the high noon sun. Trump got one Supreme Court Justice approved, but even with the GOP in full control of both chambers, Mitch McConnell still had to break the Senate to get it done. What to do, what to do?

Of course! Let's blow some shit up! That always works! And so it came to pass on Thursday night that orders were given, transmitted and received, the doors to silos rolled open, and some 59 Tomahawk missiles leaped from the bowels of a pair of US destroyers into the Mediterranean night, bound for Syria. For the eleventy-millionth time, a US president sought to change the subject at home by firing an attack abroad.

The effect upon the media was immediate, dynamic and utterly disgusting. Fareed Zakaria of CNN went full Van Jones and declared the attack to be, at long last, the true beginning of Trump's presidency. Brian Williams of NBC upstaged Zakaria's enthusiasm by breathlessly describing the missile launches as "beautiful" three times in 30 seconds, dolefully misquoted Leonard Cohen, and then asked one of his guests as an afterthought, "What did they hit?"

Funny you should mention that, Brian, you feckless hack. The Tomahawks, allegedly serving as avatars of vengeance for a horrific chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week, found their way to Syria, where they rained down on a military airfield. The airfield itself is older than most of its peers, and houses later-model aircraft that, while still effective because you can drop things off their wings, don't hold a candle to the newer fighter models that grace the skies above Damascus. There was a symbolic aspect to the choice, as the airfield was where the fighters involved in the chemical attack came from, but all things being equal, Trump dumped hundreds of millions of dollars in ordnance on a used-car parking lot.

This is not to imply that it would have been better if the missiles had actually hit something of value or killed scores of people -- that would have been, of course, far worse. Syria and the rest of the region at large has seen quite enough of that already: Aleppo looks like the shattered jawbone of some ancient leviathan statue. In addition to the brutal attacks by their own government, Russia and ISIS, Syrians have absorbed a significant amount of violence from the US and other members of its coalition. In the 1,000 days since the anti-ISIS air campaign began, Syria has been bombed from the air almost 8,000 times. Attacks by US forces in Syria take place with chilling frequency. Put it this way: Because the default position in US politics is to start flipping missiles when the coverage gets cold, violence became our credo once again on Thursday night. The amount we spent on this attack could save Meals On Wheels. Instead, the only benefit goes to the networks -- a slew of talking heads going, "ZOMG THIS IS SO AWESOME YOU GUYS" -- and the politicians whose approval ratings tick up for the day.

As for Brian Williams, Fareed Zakaria and the rest of the anthropomorphic scum passing as journalists in today's "news" media, what is left to say? War news rang the dinner bell and they came drooling like proper lapdogs. Williams may as well have been the bad guy at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the one who screams "It's beautiful!" just before his face explodes. CNN's looped footage of these most recent missile launches may as well have been stock b-roll from 1991.

Remember that? The missile cruiser at dawn, coiled like a snake, with the sleeping shadow of Iraq in the distance. The cough of a microphone being activated, and a voice saying, "Good morning, Mr. Hussein, your 5 am wake-up call is here" and then the deck turns white with the pyrotechnic push of a missile taking flight, and then another, and another. That's 26 years of this and counting, for those of you watching at home. For Trump and much of the media, it is just another fireworks show.
(c) 2017 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 Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ J.D. Crowe ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

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Breaking News: America is Living in 'Interesting Times'
By Will Durst

It's not just we news junkies, the whole world is transfixed by 'breaking news.'

Supposedly, the Chinese or the Arabs or the Scientologists or one of those ancient inscrutable cultures, has a saying that goes, "May you live in interesting times." It is generally considered to be a curse. And America right now is living in the most interesting of times.

It's breathtaking how thrilling and frenetic the news has gotten. Every single day. Almost too exciting. Starting to look like one of those pre-opening credits sequences of a science-fiction movie that takes place in the ruins of a dystopian civilization. "And Then All Hell Broke Loose."

It's not just we news junkies; the whole world is transfixed. Unprecedented numbers of eyeballs troll the interwebs. Ratings for Fox News and MSNBC have shot past the outer orbits of the Moons of Mercury. Everybody is talking politics. Including people who can't spell it. News is constantly breaking. And nobody ever fixes it.

Olden-timey analogue formats such as newspapers and magazines are flying off shelves. Wouldn't be surprised to hear that kindling and blanket sales are way up for those who remain partial to smoke signals. Techies are holding Morse Code Bees on their Google buses.

Washington these days is like a soap opera with ugly people. Daze of Our Lives. The Not-So-Young and Extremely Reckless. There's danger, intrigue, romance, treachery, skullduggery, dirty tricks, double-dealing, skulking, lurking, burping, barking. No sex yet, but it's coming. As long as Bill Clinton, Bill O'Reilly and Fox News are near the mix.

The House Intelligence Committee, which is an oxymoron of biblical proportions, has a chairman, Devin Nunes, who is "breaking news" by playing cloak and dagger on the White House lawn with administration staffers passing him classified documents that he later relays to the President himself. Peter slipping Paul a note to give back to Pete's boss.

Revelations continue to pop up like gophers on a freshly seeded sod farm. Terrorism expert Clint Watts testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is only an oxymoron of comic book proportions, and told them "Follow the trail of dead Russians." And at the end you find a pot of gold and a cooler full of vodka.

This is "Homeland" meets "House of Cards," with Kevin Spacey playing all the parts, added to large parts James Bond, but not the cool elegant Daniel Craig version. More like one of Roger Moore's last appearances as the old and slow secret agent who would ask scantily-clad women to fetch him a glass of water for his teeth.

And speaking of "breaking news," White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer creeps closer and closer to an inevitable televised breakdown. Already his eyes are spinning like zero gravity, electro-magnetic Frisbees. Any day now, he'll show up at a press briefing wearing his tie as a bandana and a knife gripped between clenched teeth, taunting the assembled "who wants a piece of me?"

And now the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has announced he wants immunity to testify. Immunity for what? And testify about what? Nobody knows. But his lawyer claims he has a story to tell. And it's not "Goldilocks & the Three Bears." Although the administration already claims it is a Grimm Fairy Tale. All this, and we're only 10 weeks in. Stay tuned. This is going to make "Legion" look like "The Brady Bunch."
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former bus boy at Dante's Sea Catch on Pier 39 in San Francisco, California. Go to for info about his new one-man show "BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG," and the documentary "3 Still Standing." Follow Will Durst on Twitter:

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 13 (c) 04/14/2017

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