Bully Donald's Firings: Why Do They Slink Away & Stay Silent?
They have serious fears about Trump's impulsiveness, his indifference to pressing realities, his weaknesses for flatterers and Donald Trump's dangerous agenda for our country
By Ralph Nader
Snarling Donald Trump, after being selected as President by the Electoral College, brought one undeniable quality to the office - a lifetime of bullying people below him. During his career as a failed gambling czar and corporate welfare king, deceitful Donald bullied his employees, (many of whom are undocumented), consumers, and creditors (profitably jumping ship before he bankrupted his shareholders).
He honed his bullying skills through his television program - The Apprentice - where he dramatically kicked participants off the show each week using his catchphrase, "You're fired!"
Donald has fired many of the officials he appointed. He was, however, too cowardly and discourteous to fire his appointees directly or privately. He would fire them by tweets or have someone on his staff perform the deed, while he would publicly degrade and humiliate the same people he had often flattered.
Past Presidents have privately expressed unhappiness with a subordinate official and let officials resign "to spend more time with the family" or use some other face-saving explanation.
Not vengeful, ego-maniac Donald. He needs to blame everyone but himself for all his blunders, stupidity, and misjudgments. All the time!
Most recently, he fired his Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, holding her responsible for the increase in southern border crossings. But it was loudmouth Trump himself who induced the latest surge of immigration. Desperate immigrant families fled countries (often U.S. backed dictatorships) upon hearing Trump's threat to completely close the border and stop permitting entry for asylum-seekers escaping violence, chaos and persecution.
After naming Jeff Sessions, his first 2016 campaign supporter in the Senate, Attorney General Trump went berserk when Sessions did the right thing and recused himself in March 2017 from supervising the Mueller probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Time and time again, Trump would publicly unleash invectives about Sessions-whom he initially showered with praise. Right after the 2018 elections, Trump sent his Chief of Staff, former General John F. Kelly, to order Session' resignation. Trump couldn't muster the minimal courage to do it himself. But then what can you expect of a gung-ho war promoter who evaded the draft after he graduated from a military academy.
Soon it was Kelly's turn. Trump harangued Kelly privately and publicly for months - Kelly told associates that he had never been treated so crudely. Trump pushed Kelly out. Before that he pushed out his once praised Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, whom he later called "dumb as a rock."
Soon Trump started letting it be known that he was displeased with former General Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis, the Secretary of Defense. It seems that Mattis, who is loved by his soldiers, was trying to restrain the true "mad dog outlaws" - John Bolton, Trump's national security advisor, and Mike Pompeo, Trump's second Secretary of State. Both of these militant warmongers didn't like Mattis' restraint, as is often the case with men who have never seen bloody combat. Flatterers of Trump, these two lawless lawyers (Bolton of Yale Law School and Pompeo of Harvard Law School) may yet embroil the U.S. in an unlawful, undeclared war. Their first preference is Iran.
After Mattis departed, Trump kept verbally going after him. He tried to camouflage Mattis' resignation, under pressure, as a "retirement." When that didn't work he exclaimed "What's he done for me?" It wasn't enough that Mattis reluctantly went along with Trump's grandstanding order by sending soldiers to the Mexican border where, under federal law, they could do no fighting, only housekeeping tasks.
Trump had David Shulkin, the head of the Veteran's Affairs, fired because he tried to persuade Trump not to move veteran's health care into the hands of avaricious corporate vendors.
Trump has fired many other high ranking officials as well. James Comey, the former head of the FBI, and just last week the head of the Secret Service Randolph Alles, are examples. And after officials leave, he keeps blasting them. Psychologically unstable, he even continues his assault on deceased Senator John McCain. Donald's replacements, such as the immensely cruel corporatist, Mick Mulvaney, acting White House Chief of Staff, almost invariably, have to meet the test of unctuous flatterers.
What is remarkable is that after most of these people are "unceremoniously expelled" and their reputations damaged, they slink away without fighting back. (The fired VA chief did make the rounds of TV interviews for a week making his case).
The fired officials are not without their circles of significant influence. They have serious fears about Trump's impulsiveness, his indifference to pressing realities, his weaknesses for flatterers and Donald Trump's dangerous agenda for our country. James Comey has been writing op-eds critical of Trump, but not urging any mobilization of his establishment colleagues against Trump's re-election.
It has been argued that the people Trump has thrown out cannot get real traction to resist, Trump because he flatters the armed forces and cunningly lavishes them with larger budgets than they even request. He takes on the Federal Reserve - the bastion of the big banks - but he gives banks special tax escapes and pushes for dangerously weaker regulation of Wall Street.
None of this should diminish the declared patriotic aversion of former Trump administration officials to what Trump is doing to the country on many fronts. What they can do is start a third party Republican-style challenge to Trump and give more than a few million, reasonable, and troubled Republicans a place to go in 2020.
(c) 2019 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).
A Reckoning For Al Sharpton And The Black Misleadership Class
By Glen Ford
With support for "socialism" rising, the political fate of Al Sharpton and the rest of the Democratic party's Black corporate minions is in doubt -- and they know it.
Big Capital's darker denizens made their voices heard at Al Sharpton's annual National Action Network showcase, last week, blasting "democratic" socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her role in chasing Amazon away from New York City. "The people campaigning against the Amazon campus are financially illiterate," said Tracy Maitland, CEO of Advent Capital Management, which handles $9 billion in other people's money. Maitland claimed that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's offer to set up a corporate headquarters in Queens in return for $3 billion in tax breaks and other subsidies was a good trade for 25,000 new jobs, and that activists misinformed the public. "This was a disgrace," exclaimed the irate Black money manipulator. "I partially blame AOC for the loss of Amazon. She doesn't know what she doesn't know. That's scary. We have to make sure she's better educated or vote her out of office."
Joining the chorus of capitalist indignation was Bill Thompson, a perennial Black mouthpiece for Wall Street and current chairman of the City University system. "We were at the table talking to Amazon on how students could get jobs ... those opportunities were snatched away," said Thompson, who spoke on Maitland's aptly named panel, "The Black Economic Agenda: Driving Capital into the Hands of Black Asset managers and Housing Developers."
Harold Ford Jr., once the most rightwing member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a supporter of George W. Bush's bid to privatize Social Security, said there was nothing wrong with paying billions to the world's richest man for the pleasure of his presence. "Creating 25,000 jobs is always a positive thing," said Ford. "There's a multiplier effect."
Certainly, Amazon anticipated that the deal would have a multiplier effect on its own profits, since the public would bear the social costs of Bezos' private enterprise. This capitalist model of "development" has its own, peculiar arithmetic, by which the human, social and ecological costs of production are borne by everyone except the owners of capital, who grow richer and richer until the inevitable crash -- after which they are bailed out at great additional cost to the larger society and placed back in the pinnacles of power. If these are the rules, and if there is no alternative, then "creating 25,000 jobs is," indeed, "always a positive thing," no matter the social consequences, or the nature of the jobs, or the damage to the planet.
Thus, capitalism is the best path for human progress -- as long as all the other paths are outlawed. Those who don't accept such logic are deemed "illiterate."
Al Sharpton is a true believer in the rich man's logic, and still hopes to become one himself some day by dint of his untiring service to the Lords of Capital. Sharpton assured the corporate media that he supports capitalism -- as long as there is a level playing field and "access to capital" for minorities. The fact that such a "level field "has never existed - and cannot exist under capitalism - does not phase Sharpton. He and his fellow crumb-snatchers are playing the only roles that are allotted to them under the system as it actually exists, as political operatives of an oligarchy whose three richest men -- including Jeff Bezos -- possess more wealth than the whole bottom half of the U.S. population.
Sharpton's antennae are alert to the challenge presented to Big Capital's control of the Democratic Party, the half of the governing corporate duopoly where virtually all Black electoral activity is confined. Sharpton knows which side he'll be on in the looming confrontation between the bosses and the party's base, supermajorities of which support Bernie Sanders' signature measures on health care, free public college and higher minimum wages. Sharpton is as "literate" as the task requires: he can read the numbers on a check, and knows which side has the deepest pockets.
Black America has always been socialist-friendly. However, a half century ago the aspiring Black bourgeoisie sought to find their niche in the power structure through a pact with the real corporate bourgeoisie and the Democratic Party. This Black Misleadership Class has dominated Black politics since the assassination of "democratic socialist" Dr. Martin Luther King and the U.S. government's murderous assault on Black radicals. It is this class that oversaw the imposition of Black mass incarceration in the nation's "chocolate cites," and then collaborated with Big Capital in whitening these cities through gentrification. Although this class's venality is intimately understood by the Black masses, it has maintained a political headlock by linking its own narrow agenda with the larger aspirations of the Black community. Over the course of two generations, a succession of hustlers masquerading as liberationists sold out Black America, grafting "movement" language onto capitalist projects for the benefit of themselves and their rich white sponsors. The Black business class long ago lost whatever political independence it possessed under Jim Crow. Today, Black businesses are mainly vendors, annexes or franchises of white multinational corporations and banks. Their overarching imperative is to find a place for themselves in the corporate order. They seek to profit from every urban scheme put forward by the Lords of Capital, and value the Black community only to the extent that its political clout can be enlisted in the service of their own ambitions.
Their grasp on Black politics is finally slipping among all age cohorts, especially Black youth, who are "woke" enough to know that the Black political class has bequeathed them less upward mobility and power to shape their own destinies than was wielded by their parents and grandparents. Most Black people share the general goal of Black community empowerment, and have come to realize thatthe Black Misleadership Class seeks only to further embed themselves in the corporate matrix.The youth see police and corporations as the enemy and regard Black officeholders as collaborators or minions of cops and corporations -- and therefore, favor "socialism." And that freaks out Al Sharpton and his bourgeois buddies, whose hall-passes through the corridors of power are predicated on their ability to maintain docility in Black America. Sharpton's failure to quickly defuse the Black Lives Matter phenomenon shriveled his stature in the corporate Democratic world. The fact that he and his cohorts could not convince the richest man in the world that New York City was a compliant enough place for his new headquarters, threatens to make Sharpton wholly obsolete.
The pace of political change quickens. New world views are being shaped. Real socialists must make the most of it.
(c) 2019 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
By David Swanson
The U.S. government gets little credit for it, doesn't even like to brag about it, but as of 2017 provided military "aid" to 73% of the world's dictatorships. Ocassionally, the U.S. turns against one of its dictators and chooses that moment to tell everyone about him: Hussein, Noriega, Gadaffi, Assad. Sometimes it loses a dictator for other reasons: the Shah of Iran, Hosni Mubarak.
Sometimes the U.S. imposes a U.S. dictator on a foreign colony: as historically in the Philippines, or Haiti, Chile, or post-"liberation" Iraq. More often it selects and trains, imposes and props up a dictator from within the population of "natives" or "savages." And sometimes such a dictator spends many years in the United States preparing and awaiting opportunity.
When I heard that Juan Guaido, a graduate of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., had proclaimed himself president of Venezuela, I was reminded that his fellow GW (and Harvard and Princeton) graduate Syngman Rhee was flown to South Korea by the United States government and put in charge of the place, and given the power to commit massive atrocities - the greatest of which was pushing the Korean peninsula into war. Does George Washington University recruit students with promises of small distant countries in which to have life-and-death power over the primitives?
Then Khalifa Haftar hit the news again. This guy lived in Falls Church, Virginia, from around 1990 to 2007, and Vienna, Virginia, until 2011. If you're not from Fairfax County, Virginia, you should know that you could practically topple over a pyramid of naked Muslim prisoners on the roof of the CIA in Langley, Virginia, and land some of them in Falls Church or Vienna. Haftar was exported to Libya multiple times during those years in failed attempts to take the place over. His latest attempt has been ongoing since the United States exported him in 2011. Maybe there is an area of U.S. exports other than weaponry that is increasing.
Haftar is not unique. The D.C. area harbors a number of dictators in waiting less well known than Mike Pence. There's Crown Prince Ahmad Shah Khan and various other members of the Afghan royal family. There's Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last dictator whom the United States imposed on Iran from 1953 to 1979. Pahlavi lives in Potomac, Maryland, (across the river from Langley) and openly advocates for an overthrow of the Iranian government (because 1953 has worked out so well?) or, as the Washington Post puts it, "runs an advocacy association that is outspoken about the need for democracy in his home country."
Now, call me crazy, but I'd like to leave it up to the people of Iran to run their own country, free of sanctions, lies, and threats. But the dictator-export industry does not seem to me to be completely without value. Surely there must be some place to which - despite his troubled apprenticeship - we can now export Donald Trump.
(c) 2019 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on April 10, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Ocasio-Cortez Is Winning The Battle Against GOP Sexists
By William Rivers Pitt
There are a variety of ways to describe the Republican reaction to the political rise of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York). There is even some science to help explain their sudden and viciously vociferous interest in her. We can bandy about armchair psychoanalyses and political explanations for this behavior all day long, but in the end, the answer is straightforward: The image of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has become a Rorschach Test for assholes. "What do you see in this Ocasio-Cortez ink blot, Senator Rightdude?"
Nothing good, apparently. That's a tall compliment all by itself.
Admirers and detractors alike call her "AOC" now, mostly because her full name with title is big enough to merit its own congressional representative and takes a long time to say or type out. That's how it goes sometimes. Nicknames, however, have a way of breeding an oft-unmerited sense of familiarity, and her new GOP enemies have not shied away from talking about AOC in disgustingly personal terms.
You can know people by their friends, but you can also know people by their enemies. One good measure of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is the manner in which she is pissing off all the right people (pun intended). She is also clapping back in a precise and damaging way her foes have never quite encountered before, further underscoring her character and intelligence.
One example of this comes courtesy of the singularly useless Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), who goes out of his way to call her "attractive" and "adorable" at every opportunity. With this sprinkling of his magic sexist dust, Rep. Gaetz seeks to simultaneously diminish her standing as an elected official while objectifying her as nothing more than a vessel for sexual fantasies.
AOC is having none of it. "Just like catcalling, I don't owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions," she tweeted regarding another detractor. "And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one."
Boom. AOC's online counterpunching skills are already the stuff of legend. "She has 2.4 million followers on Twitter and another 1.8 million on Instagram," writes Paul Waldman for The American Prospect, "where she mixes politics, policy, and humor in an appealing combination that few politicians can match." She offered to teach the House Democratic Caucus how to most effectively use Twitter only days after arriving in Washington, D.C.
Any members who missed her class are the worse for it; AOC knows how to use the medium to lethal effect and rope-a-dopes trolls like she was born to the talent. Those abilities have served to twist her newfound adversaries into ever-higher states of agitation and rage. One cable network in particular has taken on the mantle of AOC-Opposer-in-Chief and pursues that role with frenzied, all-encompassing gusto.
Outside of the fetid swamps of 8chan and message boards of its ilk, there is no place in the US more frantically furious about the rise of AOC than 1211 Avenue of the Americas, headquarters for Fox News. Boy, do they hate them some Ocasio-Cortez, by the minute and the hour and the day and the week. One highly representative instance came by way of the intellectual vacancy known as Fox & Friends.
Speaking to guest Mike Huckabee, co-host Brian Kilmeade ominously intoned, "Somebody's writing her questions. I saw the questions at Michael Cohen and saw the questions at Wilbur Ross. And there is some forces behind her." (Pro tip, Bri: Someone is writing her questions, as is true of all lawmakers. They're called congressional staffers, and AOC has some of the best.) Not to be outdone, The Huckster replied, "Well, there very well could be. I know there has been some allegations she that was almost like the Manchurian Candidate, recruited, prepared."
Nice use of passive voice there, Huck. There have also been allegations that you couldn't think your way out of a paper sack with a flashlight and a detailed map. Even the grammar in that exchange is a catastrophe: "there is some forces behind her," "has been some allegations"? Plural-singular agreement rules is important, fellas. "It's weird. Why are so many grown men just obsessed with this 29-year-old?" Ocasio-Cortez asked Late Night host Seth Meyers after the Huckabee segment aired. "No, but I think it's really funny, and the conspiracy theories are great."
Great, perhaps, but not entirely good. The ceaseless, fact-free assault on AOC and her signature Green New Deal proposal has caused her national poll numbers to suffer, which matters not one bit in her home district but could become cause for concern if she seeks higher office. This is the sort of treatment the right heaped upon Hillary Clinton from the beginning; they started in on her almost 30 years ago with a daily drumbeat of lies and distortions that were brutally effective in the end. AOC is the new Hillary at Trump's rallies, with crowds now chanting "AOC sucks!" instead of "Lock her up!"
The tenor of the vitriol directed at AOC, spurred on by a loutish president and a wildly sexist corporate media that apparently learned nothing from its coverage debacle in 2016, has rapidly escalated from a condescending "Aw, ain't she cute" to SHE IS A THREAT TO AMERICA AND MUST BE DESTROYED. "An email sent on Tuesday by Tom Ferrall, chairman of the Ohio Federation of College Republicans, bore the subject line 'AOC is a domestic terrorist' and asked recipients to donate to his group," reported the Guardian on Wednesday.
"This puts me in danger every time," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response. "Almost every time this uncalled for rhetoric gets blasted by conserv. grps, we get a spike in death threats to refer to Capitol Police."
Indeed, AOC is not alone in this perilous boat. Her fellow freshman, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) got the full Fox treatment after another integrity-free House member, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) deliberately misrepresented remarks Rep. Omar made about September 11. The New York Post followed suit with a bombastic and equally disingenuous cover story.
"Omar's response to fellow congressman Dan Crenshaw correctly accused him of 'dangerous incitement,'" writes Katherine Krueger for Splinter. "Just last weekend, a New York man was charged with threatening to assault and kill her. Omar has been an outspoken progressive during her brief tenure in Congress, along with her colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and as a result, they've received a torrent of death threats. Couple that with the disdain her critics also feel for a Muslim woman speaking out, and you have a noxious, combustible gas. This needs to stop, right now, before someone gets hurt."
We will soon mark the centennial for women's suffrage in the United States, which is nice until you realize half the country's population has only enjoyed the right to vote for about a third of the country's existence. The fight for such elemental rights has been a slow but constant burn with progress made every day, evidenced today by the vivid presence in Congress of women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. Before them came women like Barbara Lee and Nita Lowey.
Those who cling to the idea of ornamental baby-making women existing in silence to please and flatter men are proving the point of the old saying: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." They are well into the fighting portion of the process regarding Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and all her compatriots.
The menace is acute, and the danger is real. I have no doubt, however, that AOC will emerge the winner in the end while thoroughly and hilariously owning conservatives on social media along the way.
(c) 2019 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.
Beto Talks About The Costs Of War
Presidential contender O'Rourke says we have "completely forgotten" our constitutional responsibility to lawfully declare and end wars.
By John Nichols
Vanderbilt University professor Dana Nelson wrote an important book some years ago: Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People. In it, she warned about a process of constitutional unbalancing that has steered the United States toward "presidentialism," whereby the unitary executive becomes ever more powerful and ever more definitive when it comes to decision-making about fundamental issues. Nowhere is presidentialism more troubling than in the exercise of war powers. The role of Congress has been severely diminished as successive presidents have claimed ever-greater authority to order bombing raids and drone strikes, dispatch ground troops to distant lands, and spend billions of dollars without clear declarations of war or meaningful oversight.
There are many possible and necessary correctives for presidentialism when it comes to war powers. Congress needs to check and balance presidents regardless of their party. The people need to be brought back into discussions about interventions abroad and the many costs and dangers of the military-industrial complex, which President Dwight Eisenhower warned about six decades ago. These issues should be front and center in all our debates, but especially in our consideration of who should occupy the Oval Office. We need to hear from presidential candidates on issues of war and peace. We need some sense of whether the many Democrats and perhaps several Republicans who will bid for their party's nomination in 2020 will be prepared to join in a process of dialing back the excesses of the imperial presidency when it comes to the exercise of war powers.
Unfortunately, presidential debates and forums tend to focus on domestic issues or the flash-point international concern of the moment. So I have begun to ask the current roster of declared presidential candidates, during the course of broader interviews, to ruminate on some basic questions about the exercise of war powers. Before the 2020 race is finished, I hope to get all of the major contenders on the record, and to come back to the front-runners as the race evolves. The point here is not to download talking points, but rather to begin conversations that explore the extent to which candidates have thought about untangling the United States from what Congresswoman Barbara Lee refers to as "our forever wars." And about whether they recognize the dangers that extend from presidential presumptions regarding what Lee describes as a "blank check for war."
I started with Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman from Texas, who spoke in some detail about militarism during his 2018 Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. During his six years in the House, O'Rourke voted with the anti-war group Peace Action 85 percent of the time. That's better than the lifetime ratings for top-ranking Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and majority leader Steny Hoyer, but not quite as good as the records maintained by Lee and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan.
On a Sunday morning in mid-March, as part of an extended interview, I asked O'Rourke for his thoughts. Here's how he responded.
On where he begins when considering issues of war and peace: I'll try to relate it to something I was just asked yesterday in Independence, Iowa. A gentleman stood up and said, "I'm really anxious that we're going to use military force in Venezuela. What do you think about that?" I said, "Well, first of all, I would oppose, and as president of the United States would not lead, forces in Venezuela." But if you look at our involvement in the Western Hemisphere, if you go back to Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in the 1950s, we, through the CIA, literally overthrew a democratically elected government. Those refugees and asylum seekers coming from Guatemala today, you can trace some of that back to our actions in the 1950s. Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s, the way in which we used Honduras to pursue a military-first foreign policy in the region—the consequences of those actions are being felt and will be felt going forward.
Look at [the 1953 CIA-orchestrated overthrow of Mohammad] Mosaddegh in Iran. Coming on 19 years in Afghanistan. Twenty-seven years in Iraq, [five] successive presidential administrations. Tell me that any of those wars or covert actions or interventions have made those countries, the world, or our foreign-policy prospects any better. They haven't.
On alternatives to military action: I think the much tougher but far more important work to do is to lead with diplomacy, holding the card of military involvement as the last resort. Unfortunately, for far too long, we've led militarily and then tried belatedly to follow that up with diplomacy. When you look at the $22 trillion of debt that we have right now, so much of that [extends from] these wars that we've sustained, these countries that we've rebuilt after we've invaded them. And, at the same time, we fail to pay the full cost for those women and men who served in those wars. We're losing 20 veterans a day by their own hand in this country; [most] of those 20 have been unable or, for whatever reason, unwilling to go into a VA [Veterans Affairs facility] and get the care that might have saved their lives.
We need to bring these wars to a close. We need to follow the lead of [Representatives] Mark Pocan and Ro Khanna, who are trying to prevent us from going into new wars or continuing the wars that we are effectively in, in places like Yemen.
On blank checks for war: This country has completely forgotten its constitutional responsibility to lawfully declare and end these wars, as prescribed in the first article of the US Constitution. I don't think there's been a meaningful vote on the wars since 9/11, since the ones we had in 2001 and 2002, and I think that's desperately needed right now. If we want to have the backs of our service members, there's no better way to do it than to define victory in the wars that we wage, describe the strategy to achieve that, and have an open-eyed understanding of what the cost is that we will bear to achieve that. If we are unwilling to do that, then we have no business being there, sacrificing American lives and taking the lives of others in this country's name.
(c) 2019 John Nichols John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.
The Fungi And Bacterium In Space
By James Donahue
Mir was a successful Soviet modular space station that preceded anything NASA accomplished by the time it went into low Earth orbit in 1986. The station was assembled in space and it remained in orbit until it was purposefully brought down in March, 2001.
At the time Mir was the largest man-made object hoovering over the Earth. When news of its loomed falling somewhere in the South Pacific caused people in the Southern Hemisphere to worry about having fiery pieces accidently crash land in their yards, or on their homes. We reported, however, that another serious potential danger also was dropping that month.
The story we filed read as follows:
True, the 140-ton piece of falling space junk had the ability to raise a lot of havoc if it had struck land. One report suggested that just a piece of the station, hitting with the collective force of 13,000 tons of dynamite, might have caused a blast nearly as big as one of our early atomic bombs.
The possibility of that kind of destruction alone was serious enough for the Russian and U. S. governments to collectively consider blasting the space station with a nuclear missile long before it fell to Earth. But there was another factor that most people were never told about.
The real danger was not the falling space station, but the living organisms riding to Earth inside of it. Indeed, Mir proved that alien life forms appear to exist in space and they had a way of moving into Mir during the years it remained in orbit.
The station was full of mutated mold, either brought there from Earth, or from space spore riding on the backs of astronauts returning from their space walks. Whatever the source, the fungi spent 15 years living in that environment and mutating from constant exposure to a bombardment of ultra violet rays from the Sun.
Russian microbiologist Natalia Novikova studied the molds on Mir and identified them as "aggressive space fungus." She said it came in many forms, varieties and colors. It generally appeared in dark colors, ranging between green and black. What was strange about the mold is that it fed on the ship. The stuff was literally eating the metal, plastic and glass parts of Mir. It was the reason the Russian and U. S. astronauts had so much trouble with the space station in the last years it was in service. The station was plagued by fires, constant equipment failure, and was even in a collision with an approaching shuttle. The equipment failure was caused by the attacking mold that was eating its way through wires, insulators and protective coverings. The astronauts had a constant fight against the stuff that seemed to be growing everywhere. The older the space station got, the worse the fungal problem became.
Astronauts also complained about the smell they endured while living on Mir. The odor was caused by the mold that shared the space station with the humans who visited there. The stuff emitted toxins, including corrosive agents like acetic acid.
Some scientists worry that the constant exposure to the Sun's radiation caused the mold to mutate into more virulent forms of fungus than exist on Earth.
Yuri Karash, a Russian space expert, recently expressed his concerns. "I don't want to be a pessimist," he said, "but the problem is there and it is a serious one. The mutant fungi do exist and in the future they could do serious damage to humanity. We can only draw the final conclusions after we have completed our research."
By allowing Mir to crash land in pieces on Earth, did we risk the possibility that the mutated fungi survived the ordeal and has begun growing on the planet. Some specialists say they worry that the fungi could be especially virulent if it mixes with the earth varieties. Could it be that we have introduced a mold with the capabilities of destroying the monuments man has built?
Russian space officials played down the threat, but remote viewers say that when they looked into the not too distant future, they drew pictures of a frightening world.
There is no trace of humans or any other animals. The only living things are flies and other insects that feed on rotting flesh and vegetation. Also there is mold growing everywhere, including a new, very large fungus that stands several feet tall.
Other than that, everything is gone. There are no trees, no roads, no buildings.
The air is putrid from the smell of decay and noxious gasses. The only sound is a roar from billions of buzzing flies. The planet is no longer a habitable place. Was this caused by a deadly cargo that rode Mir to Earth?
The Hopi people in Arizona have a strange prophecy. They say they are living in their fourth world and believe the time is coming when they must move on to a fifth world.
The Hopi Bear Clan story is that "you will hear of a dwelling-place in the heavens, above the earth, that shall fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star. Very soon after this, the ceremonies of the Hopi people will cease."
The space station Mir met that description. Or will it be the eventual collapse of the larger International Space Station that came after Mir?
And if you are wondering . . . yes, the ISS is also being ravaged by the same fungi and bacterium that brought MIR down. This is only recently been reported in the news.
(c) 2019 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.
Why Aren't Top Democrats Coming To Ilhan Omar's Defense?
By Juan Cole
Nancy Pelosi's response to Donald Trump's tweet lying about Ilhan Omar and maliciously twisting her words to make her seem virtually an al-Qaeda sympathizer was so anodyne that Pelosi didn't even mention Omar's name.
The leadership of the Democratic Party is not coming to the defense of Rep. Omar because Ilhan Omar is a liberal. And let me tell you, the leadership of the Democratic Party has kept liberals twisting in the wind since forever.
Gallup polling shows that only about half of Democrats identify as "liberal," whereas 36 percent say they are "moderate," and 13 percent actually say they are "conservative."
Democrats, however, usually cannot win elections without independents, since only 31% of Americans say they are Democrats, whereas 42% are independents. And 45% of independents say they are moderate, while 28% say they are conservative, and only 22 percent are liberal.
The Democratic Party leadership has Mondale syndrome. They still think it is dangerous for the party to have an out and out liberal as its face and they are still afraid of Reagan Republicans.
Both Democratic presidents during the past 40 years were centrists, which is one reason the country has in its policies and its judicial rulings ratcheted so far to the right. The Republicans are often captured by the far right, a witches brew of petulant plutocracy and lower middle class white grievance. They pass laws reducing taxes on the superwealthy, making them more superwealthy, and gutting environmental and consumer protections, and taking services and aid away from the person in the street. They then defend these far right wing laws and measures while they are in the minority, keeping enough seats in the Senate to block any Left counter-legislation, or using the GOP president's veto. Since even when they get in, the Democrats are only centrists, they don't even try very hard to shift things left. So US politics is like a crab walking, always as much to the right as forward.
The Democratic leadership believes that a centrist Clinton or Obama is the best we can do, and running one might occasionally allow the Dems to take the White House or a chamber of Congress.
They are happy to have the 26% of votes belonging to liberal voters. But they hold that that isn't a national program. They need the moderates, and even conservatives (as I remember, 10% of the votes for Obama in 2008 were conservative, and on many issues they weren't wrong to vote for Obama.)
What the Democratic leadership does not realize is that politics in the swing states- Michigan, Ohio, Florida, etc.- has gone sideways. Bernie Sanders could almost certainly win them all against Trump. A milquetoast centrist probably cannot. Dems can take California, New York and Massachusetts for granted. But they cannot take the Rust Belt for granted, and the Rust Belt is tired of politics as usual.
The Republicans are attempting to tag the Democratic Party as the party of Muslims and to imply that it makes the party unpatriotic and anti-Semitic. The prominence of Ilhan Omar and her searing leftwing critiques of the miserable status quo are seen by Trump and Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell as an opportunity to Mondale-ize the Democrats.
I think both the Democratic leadership and the GOP are wrong, and that they are misreading 2016. Americans are tired of the forever wars, tired of plutocracy, tired of not being able to make ends meet, tired of not having affordable health insurance. That is the real message of 2016 and 2018. These issues grip them beyond the liberal, moderate and conservative labels. McConnell is alleged now to be urging Republicans to run on their own rather than tying themselves to Trump, smelling blood in the water.
If the Democratic leadership were smart, they'd come out vocally in Omar's defense and do a photo op with her at one of her events for the working class or for the 9/11 first responders. She cares about those people, she is from poverty and displacement. She is authentic. The Democratic leadership is tied to corporations and big banks and big money. If they run on that, as they did in 2016, Trump will have them for lunch.
(c) 2019 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.
Death Tax On Democracy
By Heather Digby Parton
This op-ed by Michael Tomasky in the New York Times about the problem obscene concentration of wealth presents for democracy is important:
There is, or should be, a democratic element to capitalism - and an economic element to how we define democracy.
I've often wondered why Democrats don't evoke the revolutionary opposition to patrimony and inheritance as part of a retort to the right's constant evocation of the revolution for their own ends. The experience of European aristocracy had taught all the American Enlightenment thinkers about the dangers of such a system and it was a major factor in their thinking about how to organize the new country. The times still dictated a system that privileged white men, of course, and all the horrors of slavery and native American genocide. It goes without saying that the ideals of America were hardly met by the founders.
After all, oligarchy does have an economic element to it; in fact, it is explicitly economic. Oligarchy is the rule of the few, and these few have been understood since Aristotle's time to be men of wealth, property, nobility, what have you.
But somehow, as the definition of democracy has been handed down to us over the years, the word has come to mean the existence and exercise of a few basic rights and principles. The people - the "demos" - are imbued with no particular economic characteristic. This is wrong. Our definition of democracy needs to change.
Democracy can't flourish in a context of grotesque concentration of wealth. This idea is neither new nor radical nor alien. It is old, mainstream and as American as Thomas Jefferson.
I invoke Jefferson for a reason. Everyone knows how he was occupying his time in the summer of 1776; he was writing the Declaration of Independence. But what was he up to that fall? He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and he was taking the lead in writing and sponsoring legislation to abolish the commonwealth's laws upholding "entail" (which kept large estates within families across generations) and primogeniture.
Mere coincidence that he moved so quickly from writing the founding document of democracy to writing a bill abolishing inheritance laws brought over from England? Hardly. He believed, as the founders did generally, that excess inherited wealth was fundamentally incompatible with democracy.
They were most concerned with inherited wealth, as was the Scottish economist Adam Smith, whom conservatives invoke constantly today but who would in fact be appalled by the propagandistic phrase "death tax" - in their time, inherited wealth was the oppressive economic problem.
But their economic concerns weren't limited to that. They saw clearly the link between democratic health and general economic prosperity. Here is John Adams, not exactly Jefferson's best friend: All elements of society, he once wrote, must "cooperate in this one democratical principle, that the end of all government is the happiness of the People: and in this other, that the greatest happiness of the greatest Number is the point to be obtained." "Happiness" to the founders meant economic well-being, and note that Adams called it "democratical."
So, yes, democracy and the kind of economic inequality we've seen in this country in recent decades don't mix. Some will rejoin that many nations even more unequal than ours are still democracies - South Africa, Brazil, India. But are those the models to which the United States of America should aspire?
A number of scholars have made these arguments in recent years, notably Ganesh Sitaraman in his book "The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution." All that work has been vitally important. But now that some politicians are saying it, we can finally have the broad national conversation we've desperately needed for years.
Bernie Sanders has proposed an inheritance tax that the founders would love, and Elizabeth Warren has proposed a wealth tax of which they'd surely approve. But you don't have to be a supporter of either of those candidates or their plans to get behind the general idea that great concentration of wealth is undemocratic.
Policies built around this idea will not turn America into the Soviet Union or, in the au courant formulation, Venezuela. They will make it the nation the founders intended.
But at least the foundation for evolution on this issue of class and economic inequality was laid in the very beginning. We used to think it was important that we didn't have kings and nobles. We should remind ourselves of that. If ideas matter, and they do, this was one of the important ones.
(c) 2019 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.
Canada's climate is warming at roughly twice the global average rate largely due to Arctic ice melt.
Arctic ice is what keeps Earth's temperatures cool enough for human life to thrive and survive.
Rapid Warming Deserves More Than A Lukewarm Response
By David Suzuki
Another week, another dramatic warning from scientists - met with shrugs all around. This time, a report commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, "Canada's Changing Climate Report," warned that this country is warming at roughly twice the global average rate, even more in the North and on the Prairies. Some of that is from natural factors, but the report concludes most is from human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels and destroying carbon sinks like forests and wetlands.
Much of this rapid warming is due to our proximity to the Arctic, where sea ice melt is affecting and affected by global atmospheric and oceanic systems that regulate temperatures. Snow and ice reflect solar radiation back into the atmosphere, whereas darker open seas and land absorb heat. As Arctic researcher Stephen Smith recently told David Suzuki Foundation staff, "Arctic sea ice is quite literally our deflector shield." Arctic ice is what keeps Earth's temperatures cool enough for human and other life to thrive and survive.
You'd think this would elicit a response at least on the scale of a global threat like we saw with the Second World War. Instead, a number of federal and provincial parties are doing all they can to scuttle the inadequate solutions being proposed and implemented, with parties from across the political spectrum promoting increased oil and gas development.
Rather than eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, as G20 governments including Canada have committed to, federal and provincial governments are ramping up tax breaks and subsidies, including buying pipelines and railcars and helping the mostly foreign-owned fracking industry. Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand says she finds it "disturbing" that "successive federal governments have failed to reach their targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, and the government is not ready to adapt to a changing climate."
Meanwhile, the media and federal government are distracted by a scandal that further illustrates the degree to which governments will support large corporations, no matter how corrupt, at the expense of integrity and human rights.
The consequences of our failure to address this crisis are already being felt and will worsen as emissions and temperatures rise: more precipitation, especially in winter, causing more flooding (although with some decreases in southern regions); heat waves increasing in frequency and intensity; melting glaciers, ice caps and ice shelves, which affects water supply and creates feedback loops that increase the warming rate; and warmer and more acidic oceans that produce less oxygen. This will affect everything from food security to human health to wildlife viability.
Most disturbing is that we've known about global warming with a great degree of certainty for decades, and there's no shortage of solutions. But because industry, politicians and many in the news media have convinced the public that "we can't get off fossil fuels overnight," we've failed to do much to get off them at all. We continue to increase fossil fuel exploitation and use along with emissions while paying lip service to industry-approved solutions, such as carbon pricing at levels too low to have the needed effect, and expensive and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
The report notes it's too late to prevent consequences from the enormous amounts of greenhouse gases we've already locked into the system, but we still have time - although not much - to prevent climate chaos. That will take action on a massive scale, from governments, industry, academia and citizens. We have to re-evaluate the thinking that got us into this mess, including outdated economic philosophies predicated on wasteful continuous growth, resource exploitation and consumerism.
We simply can't continue to rapidly burn coal, oil and gas and build infrastructure to support these wasteful, destructive energy technologies. We have to give nature a chance to regenerate as much as possible, as Earth's systems help rebalance carbon and other natural cycles. As an open letter I and many others signed points out, "Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same."
Even in the short term, there are benefits to addressing the climate crisis beyond saving our skins - although that should be enough! Reducing pollution, conserving resources and generating economic opportunities in cleaner energy are important goals in themselves.
It's time to quit stalling.
(c) 2019 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co_founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.
This Whole China-Mar-a-Lago Story Is Sketchy As Hell
The Secret Service did some things that can safely be called "not smart."
By Charles P. Pierce
This Whole China-Mar-a-Lago Story Is Sketchy As Hell
The Secret Service did some things that can safely be called "not smart."
So how do you prepare for a road trip? Make a checklist? Toothbrush. Razor. Whatever pills you've been taking. Phone and laptop chargers. Lee Child novel. And of course...
...Chinese passports and a flash drive containing malware late last month, had a signal detector, other electronic devices and thousands of dollars in cash in her hotel room...multiple electronic devices in her hotel room, including a signal detector that can seek out and detect hidden cameras, another cell phone, nine USB drives and five SIM cards. There were also several credit cards in her name in the room--at the upscale Colony Hotel a block from the beach. She also had more than $8,000 in US and Chinese currency, with $7,500 of it in $100 bills.
According to the Secret Service, via CNN, this was what a Chinese woman named Yujing Zhang carried into Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. Mar-a-Lago, of course, is the Winter Emolument of the President* of the United States. Zhang also was toting along an attitude and a couple of bullshit stories along with her own personal Best Buy outlet. From the AP:
Yujing Zhang, 32, approached a Secret Service agent at a checkpoint outside the Palm Beach club early Saturday afternoon and said she was a member who wanted to use the pool, court documents said. She showed the passports as identification. Agents say she wasn't on the membership list, but a club manager thought Zhang was the daughter of a member. Agents say that when they asked Zhang if the member was her father, she did not answer definitively but they thought it might be a language barrier and admitted her.
Zhang's story changed when she got inside, agents say, telling a front desk receptionist she was there to attend the United Nations Chinese American Association event scheduled for that evening. No such event was scheduled and agents were summoned.
A Secret Service agent looks on as Trump approaches Marine One ahead of a flight to Mar-a-Lago.
Agent Samuel Ivanovich wrote in court documents that Zhang told him that she was there for the Chinese American event and had come early to familiarize herself with the club and take photos, again contradicting what she had said at the checkpoint. She showed him an invitation in Chinese that he could not read. He said Zhang was taken off the grounds and told she could not be there. Ivanovich said she became argumentative, so she was taken to the local Secret Service office for questioning.
Rules For Gracious Living: while carrying a couple of pounds of spy gear and thousands of dollars of cash around a presidential* residence, don't mouth off to the Secret Service. Of course, the Secret Service seems to have been going walkabout on the whole business.
For instance, a Secret Service agent who spoke Mandarin was called in to help with translations hours into Zhang's questioning. Adler also had Ivanovich admit that the agency that protects the President largely relied on Mar-a-Lago staff to determine whether to admit Zhang, didn't see red flags in the devices she carried when they showed up at a metal detector checkpoint inside the club, and asked no further questions of Zhang when she first arrived once they believed she was related to another club member with the same last name. Adler pointed out her name was extremely common in China--one of the three most common last names in the country.
"Hey, Secret Service! Your shoe's untied!"
Zhang talked her way into the club, carrying a large number of electronic devices including malware on a thumbdrive. At first, she told a special agent at Mar-a-Lago she wanted to visit the pool at the beach club--even though she wore a long gray dress and had no bathing suit. The Mar-a-Lago beach club manager then noted her last name matched that of a club member, and the club waved her in, believing her to be the club member's daughter, and "due to a potential language barrier issue," authorities wrote in her criminal complaint. A golf cart shuttle driver then took her to the club's main reception area, where Zhang told a Secret Service agent she sought to attend a "United Nations Friendship Event" on the premises.
They also did a thing that can safely be called Not Smart.
Ivanovich, being questioned about the malware allegedly found on Zhang's thumb drive, said the agent examining the drive found a malicious "file" that began to install onto an agent's computer, and the agent looking at it said that had never happened before, and it was "very out of the ordinary" when conducting a criminal analysis. The agent looking at the drive had to stop the analysis and shut down his computer.
The whole story is hinky as hell, especially in the context of the parallel investigation into the alleged influence peddled by Cindy Yang, the founder of the now-famous chain of strip-mall massage parlors. Zhang herself seems alternately at sea with English and astute in her questioning about her own legal status. What we do know is that, in all things, Camp Runamuck's concept of security is a little less stringent that that provided by a pack of Shih-Tzus.
(c) 2019 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
Frederick Douglass: America's REAL Captain Marvel
Holocaust Museum vs. American Indian Museum
By Jane Stillwater
"You absolutely must go see Frederick Douglass's house while you're here," said a friend I was staying with in Washington DC recently. "They've turned it into a museum. It's totally amazing."
"Define amazing," I replied. "Amazing like a baby's first steps? Amazing like America's brutal and un-Christian foreign policy? Or amazing like Captain Marvel?"
"More like Captain Marvel," replied my friend Wow! Sign me up!
So I took the Metro to the Anacosta station, trudged through yet another of Washington's rapidly-gentrifying ghettos and finally found Frederick Douglass's old-fashioned home perched high up on a hill overlooking DC. "Douglass was born a slave," said our tour guide. "His mother had been sold down-river. He was whipped and beaten and starved; overburdened and overworked. His back was covered with deep scars from the lashes. He stole food scraps from the Big House's garbage just to stay alive, was given one gunny-sack a year for clothing. No one taught him to read." Huddled naked and alone.
And yet this poor abused and tortured slave child grew up to be one of the finest orators and statesmen in America. Sounds like a Marvel to me!
I looked at Douglass's original piano, his original writing desk, his parlor and his bedroom. I saw the exact spot where he suddenly collapsed of a heart attack and died at age 74. (Good grief how I hate it when people use that phony term "passed away" like somehow death doesn't really exist if you only stop using the "D' word. But everybody dies. Stop trying to sugar-coat it. When I die, I wanna be D.E.A.D. -- not just "passed")
Douglass died an honorable death after living an honorable life. "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong," he said.
Our little tour group tromped up Douglass's back stairs and back down his front ones. "How the freak did he do it?" I asked our guide with tears in my eyes. "How did he even survive being a slave -- let alone become an advisor to presidents, an ambassador to Haiti and one of the greatest men of the 19th Century?" The guy must really have possessed superpowers.
And Douglass was also the first Freedom Rider. For over 60 years he constantly fought against Jim Crow laws in the brutally-segregated and un-Christian South. "Dozens of times he would buy first-class tickets on railroads, attempt to take his seat and then be cruelly beaten, spit upon, handcuffed and/or jailed every single time."
Can Captain Marvel do that?
On the very day that he died, America's real Captain Marvel gave a young Black man some very good advice. "Wherever you see injustice happening, then agitate. Agitate. Agitate." And, boy howdy, do we have a hecka lot of injustice in America right now too. And Douglass's most prescient advice to those of us today who also love justice? "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." It's time that we too demand justice as well. Jesus did it. Nathan Hale did it. Crazy Horse did it. Douglass did it. Julian Assange did it. A.O.C. does it. We can too. "Agitate. Agitate. Agitate."
Right now America desperately needs heroic men and women who will stand up for justice like Douglass did in the past. We need them now more than ever. Will another Captain Marvel like our own Frederick Douglass please stand up? Yes, I am talking about you -- and, yes, I am even talking about me.
(c) 2019 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!
Free The Free Press From Wall Street Plunderers
By Jim Hightower
The core idea of the "civic commons" is that we can be a self-governing people. A noble aspiration!
But achieving it requires a basic level of community-wide communication - a reliable resource that digs out truths so people know enough about what's going on to be self-governing. This is the role long-played by newspapers - papers that are not merely in our communities, but of, by, and for them.
Of course, since they're mostly establishment, profit-seeking entities, papers have commonly (and often infamously) fallen far short of their noble democratic purpose. Overall, though, a town's daily makes for a more robust civic life by investing large and essential sums of journalistic resources in truthtelling.
However, who owns it matters, as some 1,500 of our towns have learned in recent years after Wall Street's corporate demigods of greed have swept in without warning to seize their paper, gut its journalistic mission, and devour its assets. For example, Digital First Media, a huge private-equity profiteer, snatched the St. Paul Pioneer Press and, demanding a ridiculous 25 percent profit margin from its purchase, stripped the newsroom staff from a high of 225 journalists to 25!
Robert Kuttner reported last December in The American Prospect that these tyrannical private equity firms are just paper constructs, producing nothing but profits for absentee speculators. The firms pull off their heist by exploiting three loopholes: (1) an exemption from disclosing their financing; (2) an unlimited tax deduction for the money they borrow to take over newspapers; and (3) a perversion of bankruptcy law that lets them escape the debt they rack up.
Our right to a free press is meaningless if Wall Street thieves can destroy our presses. For more information, go to dfmworkers.org.
(c) 2019 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates,"is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.
The Dead Letter Office-
Is so "prolife" he wants to kill women who have abortions and so "pro-family" he been marries 5 times."
Dear Texas Unterfuhrer Tinderholt,
Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, Donald J. Trump, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.
Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your bill "Abolition Of Abortion in Texas Act" makes getting an abortion for any reason punishable by death, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!
Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-18-2019. We salute you Herr Tinderholt, Sieg Heil!
Vice Fuhrer Pence
How McConnell Is Killing The Senate
By Robert Reich
Congress has recessed for two weeks without passing a desperately-needed disaster relief bill. Why not? Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't want to anger Donald Trump by adding money for Puerto Rico that Democrats have sought but Trump doesn't want.
America used to have a Senate. But under McConnell, what was once known as the worlds greatest deliberative body has become a partisan lap dog.
Recently McConnell used his Republican majority to cut the time for debating Trump's court appointees from 30 hours to two - thereby enabling Republicans to ram through even more Trump judges.
In truth, McConnell doesn't give a fig about the Senate, or about democracy. He cares only about partisan wins.
On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections he famously declared that his top priority was for Barack Obama "to be a one-term president."
Between 2009 and 2013, McConnell's Senate Republicans blocked 79 Obama nominees. In the entire history of the United States until that point, only 68 presidential nominees had been blocked.
This unprecedented use of the filibuster finally led Senate Democrats in 2013 to change the rules on some presidential nominees (but not the Supreme Court) to require simple majorities.
In response, McConnell fumed that "breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American." If so, McConnell is about as un-American as they come. Once back in control of the Senate he buried Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court by refusing even to hold hearings.
Then, in 2017, McConnell and his Republicans changed the rules again, ending the use of the filibuster even for Supreme Court nominees and clearing the way for Senate confirmation of Trump's Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Step by step, McConnell has sacrificed the Senate as an institution to partisan political victories.
There is a vast difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms of our democracy, and winning by subverting those norms.
To Abraham Lincoln, democracy was a covenant linking past and future. Political institutions, in his view, were "the legacy bequeathed to us."
On the eve of the Senate's final vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, the late John McCain returned to Washington from his home in Arizona, where he was being treated for brain cancer, to cast the deciding vote against repeal.
Knowing he would be criticized by other Republicans, McCain noted that over his career he had known senators who seriously disagreed with each other but nonetheless understood "they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively."
In words that have even greater relevance today, McCain added that "it is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than 'winning'."
In politics, success should never be measured solely by partisan victories. It must also be judged by the institutional legacy passed onward. The purpose of political leadership is not merely to win. It is to serve.
In any social or political system it's always possible to extract benefits by being among the first to break widely accepted norms. In a small town where people don't lock their doors or windows, the first thief can effortlessly get into anyone's house. But once broken, the system is never the same. Everyone has to buy locks. Trust deteriorates.
Those, like Mitch McConnell, who break institutional norms for selfish or partisan gains are bequeathing future generations a weakened democracy.
The difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms and rules of our democracy, and winning by subverting them, could not be greater. Political victories that undermine the integrity of our system are net losses for society.
Great athletes play by the rules because the rules make the game. Unprincipled athletes cheat or change the rules in order to win. Their victories ultimately destroy the game.
In terms of shaping the federal courts, McConnell has played "the long game", which, incidentally, is the title of his 2016 memoir. Decades from now, McConnell will still be shaping the nation through judges he rammed through the Senate
But McConnell's long game is destroying the Senate.
He is longest-serving leader of Senate Republicans in history but Mitch McConnell is no leader. He is the epitome of unprincipled power. History will not treat him kindly.
(c) 2019 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is www.robertreich.org.
The Martyrdom Of Julian Assange
By Chris Hedges
The arrest Thursday of Julian Assange eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities, embraced by the Ecuadorian, British and U.S. governments, in the seizure of Assange are ominous. They presage a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by corporate states and the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. They presage a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power will be hunted down, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms in solitary confinement. They presage an Orwellian dystopia where news is replaced with propaganda, trivia and entertainment. The arrest of Assange, I fear, marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism that will define our lives.
Under what law did Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno capriciously terminate Julian Assange's rights of asylum as a political refugee? Under what law did Moreno authorize British police to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy-diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory-to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador? Under what law did Prime Minister Theresa May order the British police to grab Assange, who has never committed a crime? Under what law did President Donald Trump demand the extradition of Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen and whose news organization is not based in the United States?
I am sure government attorneys are skillfully doing what has become de rigueur for the corporate state, using specious legal arguments to eviscerate enshrined rights by judicial fiat. This is how we have the right to privacy with no privacy. This is how we have "free" elections funded by corporate money, covered by a compliant corporate media and under iron corporate control. This is how we have a legislative process in which corporate lobbyists write the legislation and corporate-indentured politicians vote it into law. This is how we have the right to due process with no due process. This is how we have a government-whose fundamental responsibility is to protect citizens-that orders and carries out the assassination of its own citizens such as the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son. This is how we have a press legally permitted to publish classified information and a publisher sitting in jail in Britain awaiting extradition to the United States and a whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, in a jail cell in the United States.
Britain will use as its legal cover for the arrest the extradition request from Washington based on conspiracy charges. This legal argument, in a functioning judiciary, would be thrown out of court. Unfortunately, we no longer have a functioning judiciary. We will soon know if Britain as well lacks one.
Assange was granted asylum in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer questions about sexual offense allegations that were eventually dropped. Assange and his lawyers always argued that if he was put in Swedish custody he would be extradited to the United States. Once he was granted asylum and Ecuadorian citizenship the British government refused to grant Assange safe passage to the London airport, trapping him in the embassy for seven years as his health steadily deteriorated.
The Trump administration will seek to try Assange on charges that he conspired with Manning in 2010 to steal the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs obtained by WikiLeaks. The half a million internal documents leaked by Manning from the Pentagon and the State Department, along with the 2007 video of U.S. helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down Iraqi civilians, including children, and two Reuters journalists, provided copious evidence of the hypocrisy, indiscriminate violence, and routine use of torture, lies, bribery and crude tactics of intimidation by the U.S. government in its foreign relations and wars in the Middle East. Assange and WikiLeaks allowed us to see the inner workings of empire-the most important role of a press-and for this they became empire's prey.
U.S. government lawyers will attempt to separate WikiLeaks and Assange from The New York Times and the British newspaper The Guardian, both of which also published the leaked material from Manning, by implicating Assange in the theft of the documents. Manning was repeatedly and often brutally pressured during her detention and trial to implicate Assange in the seizure of the material, something she steadfastly refused to do. She is currently in jail because of her refusal to testify, without her lawyer, in front of the grand jury assembled for the Assange case. President Barack Obama granted Manning, who was given a 35-year sentence, clemency after she served seven years in a military prison.
Once the documents and videos provided by Manning to Assange and WikiLeaks were published and disseminated by news organizations such as The New York Times and The Guardian, the press callously, and foolishly, turned on Assange. News organizations that had run WikiLeaks material over several days soon served as conduits in a black propaganda campaign to discredit Assange and WikiLeaks. This coordinated smear campaign was detailed in a leaked Pentagon document prepared by the Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch and dated March 8, 2008. The document called on the U.S. to eradicate the "feeling of trust" that is WikiLeaks' "center of gravity" and destroy Assange's reputation.
Assange, who with the Manning leaks had exposed the war crimes, lies and criminal manipulations of the George W. Bush administration, soon earned the ire of the Democratic Party establishment by publishing 70,000 hacked emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and senior Democratic officials. The emails were copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State, to the Clinton Foundation. It exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. It exposed Clinton's repeated mendacity. She was caught in the emails, for example, telling the financial elites that she wanted "open trade and open borders" and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy, a statement that contradicted her campaign statements. It exposed the Clinton campaign's efforts to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Trump was the Republican nominee. It exposed Clinton's advance knowledge of questions in a primary debate. It exposed Clinton as the primary architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate. Journalists can argue that this information, like the war logs, should have remained hidden, but they can't then call themselves journalists.
The Democratic leadership, intent on blaming Russia for its election loss, charges that the Podesta emails were obtained by Russian government hackers, although James Comey, the former FBI director, has conceded that the emails were probably delivered to WikiLeaks by an intermediary. Assange has said the emails were not provided by "state actors."
WikiLeaks has done more to expose the abuses of power and crimes of the American Empire than any other news organization. In addition to the war logs and the Podesta emails, it made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency and their interference in foreign elections, including in the French elections. It disclosed the internal conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. It intervened to save Edward Snowden, who made public the wholesale surveillance of the American public by our intelligence agencies, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow. The Snowden leaks also revealed that Assange was on a U.S. "manhunt target list."
A haggard-looking Assange, as he was dragged out of the embassy by British police, shook his finger and shouted: "The U.K. must resist this attempt by the Trump administration. ... The U.K. must resist!"
We all must resist. We must, in every way possible, put pressure on the British government to halt the judicial lynching of Assange. If Assange is extradited and tried, it will create a legal precedent that will terminate the ability of the press, which Trump repeatedly has called "the enemy of the people," to hold power accountable. The crimes of war and finance, the persecution of dissidents, minorities and immigrants, the pillaging by corporations of the nation and the ecosystem and the ruthless impoverishment of working men and women to swell the bank accounts of the rich and consolidate the global oligarchs' total grip on power will not only expand, but will no longer be part of public debate. First Assange. Then us.
(c) 2019 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges.
The Cartoon Corner-
This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Tim Dolighan ~~~
Parting Shots- |
Tucker Carlson Challenges Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez To A Date
'Date Me, Coward!' Demands Carlson
By The Onion
WASHINGTON-Inviting the young, outspoken Democrat to settle things once and for all, Tucker Carlson concluded a taping of Tucker Carlson Tonight Monday by challenging Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to a date.
"You talk a pretty big game on Twitter, but let's see how well your pie-in-the-sky ideas hold up when you finally have the guts to join me for a romantic dinner. Date me, coward!" said Carlson in a fiery rebuke of Ocasio-Cortez's far-left policy proposals, repeated attacks on the Trump administration, and overall refusal to meet him one-on-one for a spirited yet civil exchange of ideas while splitting a bottle of shiraz.
"Hey, little Sandy, I hope you're listening, because no one is going to take you seriously until you finally agree to date me. I'm not kidding. Any time, any place-maybe that new ramen place in Georgetown. If you want, we can even bring a camera crew and put it up on national television for everyone to see. But you're probably too scared, aren't you? Pathetic."
Tucker Carlson ended the broadcast by angrily listing his cell phone number in case Ocasio-Cortez decided to "grow a pair."
(c) 2019 The Onion
Issues & Alibis Vol 19 # 15 (c) 04/19/2019
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