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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reveals, "Yikes! New Behind-the-Scenes Book Brutalizes the Clinton Campaign."

Uri Avnery introduces, "Palestine's Nelson Mandela."

Glen Ford says, "Maxine Waters Loses Her Mind to "Anti-Russia Dementia" - Like the Rest of the Black Caucus."

Naomi Klein returns with, "'Fear City' Explores How Donald Trump Exploited The New York Debt Crisis To Boost His Own Fortune."

Jim Hightower explains, "To Have A People's Government, We The People Must Build It ."

Norman Solomon concludes, "The Democratic Party's Anti-Bernie Elites Have A Huge Stake In Blaming Russia."

Chris Hedges sees Trump, "Terrorizing The Vulnerable."

John Nichols recalls, "The First 100 Days Of Resistance."

William Rivers Pitt forsees, "The Looming Neocon Invasion Of Trumplan."

Jane Stillwater considers, "'War' And The Next American Generation."

Pepe Escobar examines, "Emmanuel Clinton vs Marine LeTrump."

David Swanson orates about, "The F-35 And The Incinerating Ski Slope."

Michael Winship says what we're all thinking, "At Sea With Capt. 'Wrong Way' Trump."

Spokes-weasal Sean Spicer wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich watches, "First 100 Days: Trump And The Degradation Of The Presidency."

Lee Fang spills the beans, "Koch Industries And Other Corporations Lobbied For Donald Trump's Cabinet Picks, Filings Show."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst considers a, "Covey Of Political Caucuses" but first Uncle Ernie sez it's, "Trumph's First 100 Daze."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Jay Ward, Justin Sullivan, Jewel Samad, Aaron P. Bernstein, Sipa, Carlos Castaneda, Themis Itojyuku, Cheriss May, C. Dane, Doug Mills, Pascal Rossignol, Reuters, The New York Times, AP, Flickr, HBO, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Vidkun Quisling Award...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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Trump's First 100 Daze
By Ernest Stewart

"No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!" ~~~ Donald Trump

"This study tells us there's already a lot more melting going on than we thought. When you turn up the temperature, it's only going to increase." ~~~ Robin Bell ~ a Lamont-Doherty polar scientist

"It is profitable to let the world go to hell. I believe that the tyranny of the short term will prevail over the decades to come. As a result, a number of long-term problems will not be solved, even if they could have been, and even as they cause gradually increasing difficulties for all voters." ~~~ Jorgen Randers

"...tiptoe into your parents' bedrooms and remove those funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents from their pants and pocketbooks. Then put them in an envelope and mail them to me, and I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!" ~~~ Soupy Sales

A week or so before the election, Donald Trump spoke in Gettysburg, Pa., and released a plan for his first 100 days in office. The 100th day is Saturday so let's look at what he promised and what has actually been done during this "honeymoon" period!

Trump's plan has three main areas of focus: cleaning up Washington, (Fat chance of that happening) including by imposing term limits (Not going to happen) on Congress; protecting American workers; (He's already taken steps to do just the oposite) and restoring rule of law (I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the to happen either). He also laid out his plan for working with Congress to introduce 10 pieces of legislation that would repeal Obamacare, fund the construction of a wall at the Southern border (with a provision that Mexico would reimburse the U.S.), encourage infrastructure investment, rebuild military bases, promote school choice and more. (None of which, of course will ever happen!)

On Wednesday, the axe fell when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot down or expressed little enthusiasm in some of his plans. On Trump's proposal to impose term limits on Congress, McConnell said, "It will not be on the agenda in the Senate." McConnell has been a long-standing opponent of term limits, as NPR's Susan Davis reports. "I would say we have term limits now - they're called elections."

McConnell also threw some cold water on Trump's infrastructure plans, saying it's not a top priority.

McConnell did say repealing Obamacare is a "pretty high item on our agenda" along with comprehensive tax reform and achieving border security "in whatever way is the most effective." But he also declined to discuss the Senate's immigration agenda further.

McConnell said, "We look forward to working with him. I think most of the things that he's likely to advocate we're going to be enthusiastically for."

Below is the 100-day plan Trump's campaign released in October, called "Donald Trump's Contract With The American Voter." Methinks it should have been called, "Donald Trump's Contract On The American Voter."
What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between myself and the American voter - and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington.

Therefore, on the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:

* FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;

* SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);

* THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;

* FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;

* FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;

* SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.

On the same day, I will begin taking the following 7 actions to protect American workers:

* FIRST, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205

* SECOND, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

* THIRD, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator

* FOURTH, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately

* FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars' worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.

* SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward

* SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure

Additionally, on the first day, I will take the following five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law:

* FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama

* SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States

* THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities

* FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take them back

* FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my Administration:

Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.

End The Offshoring Act. Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.

American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.

School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.

Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.

Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-side childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.

End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.

Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values

Clean up Corruption in Washington Act. Enacts new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.

On November 8th, Americans will be voting for this 100-day plan to restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities, and honesty to our government.

This is my pledge to you.

And if we follow these steps, we will once more have a government of, by and for the people.
According to a recent poll Trump's popularity has dropped to 35% and continues to free fall making him the least popular president at first 100 days mark in recent memory. As for his first 100 days goal as stated above, so far the only things he accomplished is to pull us out of the TPP, which was pretty much dead in the water to begin with, and illegally placing another Nazi on the Extreme Court, oh, and erasing most all of Obamas executive orders. The other 28 things he swore to accomplished have fallen by the way-side and if the Senate and the House have their ways will never be accomplished. So much for his promises, huh, Trump voters?

In Other News

I see where huge swaths of Antarctica are awash in draining meltwater during the summer months, the first-ever continent-wide survey of meltwater shows.

Although past studies revealed that portions of Antarctica's Western Peninsula were melting at an alarming rate, most scientists believed the rest of the continent did not face extensive melting during Antarctica's ephemeral summer months. They were wrong!

"This is not in the future - this is widespread now, and has been for decades," lead author Jonathan Kingslake, a glaciologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said in a statement. "I think most polar scientists have considered water moving across the surface of Antarctica to be extremely rare. But we found a lot of it, over very large areas."

This new evidence of continent-wide meltwater during summer, our winter, suggests that the entire continent could be more vulnerable to small rises in temperature that are likely to be seen in the coming decades due to global warming.

For the new survey, Kingslake and his colleagues went through historical catalogs of photos taken from military aircraft from 1947 onward, and from satellite imagery going as far back as 1973. The team found that a threaded network of 700 pools, ponds, channels, rivers and streams flowing across the ice fed outflows on all sides of the continent. Some of those flows are occurring at latitudes so far south that many scientists thought it was impossible for liquid water to flow there, the researchers reported today (April 19) in the journal Nature. And the water network, in some cases, has existed for decades, they said. For instance, meltwater lakes emerged on East Antarctica's Roi Baudouin Ice Shelf in 1947. What's not clear from the data is whether icebound meltwater rivers have been growing since the photos were first taken.

"Right now, most of the melting is occurring at Antarctica's fringes. Floating ice shelves surrounding the continent lock inland glaciers in place, preventing them from sliding into the sea. As temperatures warm, more meltwater will pool beneath those floating ice shelves, which will also be constantly bathed in warmer ocean waters," the researchers said. "Between 1995 and 2002, the Larsen Ice Shelf collapsed in part due to pooling water," Bell said. Once ice shelves disintegrate, inland glaciers will begin moving toward the ocean more rapidly as well, which, in turn, will cause dramatic sea-level rise. Now might be a good time to get rid of that beach front property, America!

And Finally

We knew it was coming and it wasn't going to be pretty but Trump unveiled his latest gift to corporations and the uber rich on Wednesday, with a tax plan that would give Trump and his 1% fellow travelers multi-million dollar tax breaks. It comes down to this, if you're a billion dollar investment banker happy days are here again, if you're not, you're screwed! Anyone surprised?

The proposal would cut tax rates for businesses from seldom paid 35 % to 15 %, a plan described this week by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich as "truly dumb." This brilliant idea will cost the economy some $2,000,000,000,000 dollars! Yes there's some left over chump change for the middle class and working poor but damn little of that and with this deficient guess who is going to make it up? If you said, the poor, the elderly and the ill, you may stay after class and clean the erasers, there will be tea and graham crackers!

Trump's package would also involve a "pass-through" tax cut on business income that is currently taxed at the business owners' individual income tax rates rather than the corporate rate. Such a tax cut is also a centerpiece of House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) "Better Way" plan, and as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, "this would overwhelmingly benefit high-income people and create a costly loophole." Not surprisingly Trump is said to have 500 pass-through arrangements. Imagine that!

As Eileen Applebaum, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research puts it:
During the campaign, President Trump proposed reducing the top tax rate on pass-through income to 15 percent—a tax break that would benefit him tremendously. Speaker Paul Ryan's proposed tax plan would reduce the top rate to 25 percent. Both have claimed this reduction would benefit small business owners and grow the economy. However, these proposed cuts in the pass-through tax rate benefit only a small number of wealthy households; the majority of business owners and partners are already taxed at rates lower than Ryan's or Trump's proposed top rates.
As you can imagine the Democrats are strongly opposed. For his part, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) denounced the plan, as he wrote on Twitter it's, "Voodoo economics on steroids. If you believe in magic, unicorns, or Batman, this plan is for you." Well, do you believe America?

Keepin' On

They say be careful what you wish for, so I am, and I got it, a nice check from a first-time contributor; beyond that, she's a newbie to the magazine, too; it's Carolyn, from my old stomping grounds around Asheville. Thank you so much for your help, Carolyn! By any chance do I know you from Mars Hill?

We got to talking about dead Presidents in group the other day; and I said my favorite was the only President of the United States, who was never the President of the United States. I'm talking about my favorite revolutionary, old, Ben Jamin' Franklin. If I could just get a bunch of you to send me all the pictures of old Ben that you might be carrying in your wallet or purse or in your husband's or wife's wallet or purse or your mommy or daddy's wallet or purse and send them to me, I could stop begging for the rest of the year!

Seriously, if you think what we do for you week after week, year and after year, should be supported and encouraged, then please go to the donation's page and follow the simple directions; and thanks! Remember, we do all of this for you and yours, so you can know what the truth is, so you can figure out what to do about it! Is the truth important to you, America? It's very important to us!


10-18-1960 ~ 04-22-2017
Thanks for the film!

09-06-1928 ~ 04-24-2017
Thanks for the read!

02-22-1944 ~ 04-26-2017
Thanks for the direction!


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 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.

A new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes examines what went wrong during Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

Yikes! New Behind-the-Scenes Book Brutalizes the Clinton Campaign
'Shattered,' a campaign tell-all fueled by anonymous sources, outlines a generational political disaster.
By Matt Taibbi

There is a critical scene in Shattered, the new behind-the-scenes campaign diary by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, in which staffers in the Hillary Clinton campaign begin to bicker with one another.

At the end of Chapter One, which is entirely about that campaign's exhausting and fruitless search for a plausible explanation for why Hillary was running, writers Allen and Parnes talk about the infighting problem.

"All of the jockeying might have been all right, but for a root problem that confounded everyone on the campaign and outside it," they wrote. "Hillary had been running for president for almost a decade and still didn't really have a rationale."

Allen and Parnes here quoted a Clinton aide who jokingly summed up Clinton's real motivation:

"I would have had a reason for running," one of her top aides said, "or I wouldn't have run."

The beleaguered Clinton staff spent the better part of two years trying to roll this insane tautology - "I have a reason for running because no one runs without a reason" - into the White House. It was a Beltway take on the classic Descartes formulation: "I seek re-election, therefore I am... seeking re-election."

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign; Hardcover; Author - Jonathan Allen

Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?

If you're wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.

What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters' need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how "Because it's her turn" might fly as a public rallying cry.

This passage describes the mood inside the campaign early in the Iowa race (emphasis mine):

"There wasn't a real clear sense of why she was in it. Minus that, people want to assign their own motivations - at the very best, a politician who thinks it's her turn," one campaign staffer said. "It was true and earnest, but also received well. We were talking to Democrats, who largely didn't think she was evil."

Hillary Clinton

Our own voters "largely" don't think your real reason for running for president is evil qualified as good news in this book. The book is filled with similar scenes of brutal unintentional comedy.

In May of 2015, as Hillary was planning her first major TV interview - an address the campaign hoped would put to rest criticism Hillary was avoiding the press over the burgeoning email scandal - communications chief Jennifer Palmieri asked Huma Abedin to ask Hillary who she wanted to conduct the interview. (There are a lot of these games of "telephone" in the book, as only a tiny group of people had access to the increasingly secretive candidate.)

The answer that came back was that Hillary wanted to do the interview with "Brianna." Palmieri took this to mean CNN's Brianna Keilar, and worked to set up the interview, which aired on July 7th of that year.

Unfortunately, Keilar was not particularly gentle in her conduct of the interview. Among other things, she asked Hillary questions like, "Would you vote for someone you didn't trust?" An aide describes Hillary as "staring daggers" at Keilar. Internally, the interview was viewed as a disaster.

It turns out now it was all a mistake. Hillary had not wanted Brianna Keilar as an interviewer, but Bianna Golodryga of Yahoo! News, an excellent interviewer in her own right, but also one who happens to be the spouse of longtime Clinton administration aide Peter Orszag.

This "I said lunch, not launch!" slapstick mishap underscored for the Clinton campaign the hazards of venturing one millimeter outside the circle of trust. In one early conference call with speechwriters, Clinton sounded reserved:

"Though she was speaking with a small group made up mostly of intimates, she sounded like she was addressing a roomful of supporters - inhibited by the concern that whatever she said might be leaked to the press."

This traced back to 2008, a failed run that the Clintons had concluded was due to the disloyalty and treachery of staff and other Democrats. After that race, Hillary had aides create "loyalty scores" (from one for most loyal, to seven for most treacherous) for members of Congress. Bill Clinton since 2008 had "campaigned against some of the sevens to help knock them out of office," apparently to purify the Dem ranks heading into 2016.

Beyond that, Hillary after 2008 conducted a unique autopsy of her failed campaign. This reportedly included personally going back and reading through the email messages of her staffers:

"She instructed a trusted aide to access the campaign's server and download the messages sent and received by top staffers. ... She believed her campaign had failed her - not the other way around - and she wanted 'to see who was talking to who, who was leaking to who,' said a source familiar with the operation."
Some will say this Nixonesque prying into her staff's communications will make complaints about leaked emails ring a little hollow. Who knows about that. Reading your employees' emails isn't nearly the same as having an outsider leak them all over the world. Still, such a criticism would miss the point, which is that Hillary was looking in the wrong place for a reason for her 2008 loss. That she was convinced her staff was at fault makes sense, as Washington politicians tend to view everything through an insider lens.

Most don't see elections as organic movements within populations of millions, but as dueling contests of "whip-smart" organizers who know how to get the cattle to vote the right way. If someone wins an election, the inevitable Beltway conclusion is that the winner had better puppeteers.

Clinton accepting the Democratic nomination.

The Clinton campaign in 2016, for instance, never saw the Bernie Sanders campaign as being driven by millions of people who over the course of decades had become dissatisfied with the party. They instead saw one cheap stunt pulled by an illegitimate back-bencher, foolishness that would be ended if Sanders himself could somehow be removed.

"Bill and Hillary had wanted to put [Sanders] down like a junkyard dog early on," Allen and Parnes wrote. The only reason they didn't, they explained, was an irritating chance problem: Sanders "was liked," which meant going negative would backfire.

Hillary had had the same problem with Barack Obama, with whom she and her husband had elected to go heavily negative in 2008, only to see that strategy go very wrong. "It boomeranged," as it's put in Shattered.

The Clinton campaign was convinced that Obama won in 2008 not because he was a better candidate, or buoyed by an electorate that was disgusted with the Iraq War. Obama won, they believed, because he had a better campaign operation - i.e., better Washingtonian puppeteers. In The Right Stuff terms, Obama's Germans were better than Hillary's Germans.

They were determined not to make the same mistake in 2016. Here, the thought process of campaign chief Robby Mook is described:

"Mook knew that Hillary viewed almost every early decision through a 2008 lens: she thought almost everything her own campaign had done was flawed and everything Obama's had done was pristine."
Since Obama had spent efficiently and Hillary in 2008 had not, this led to spending cutbacks in the 2016 race in crucial areas, including the hiring of outreach staff in states like Michigan. This led to a string of similarly insane self-defeating decisions. As the book puts it, the "obsession with efficiency had come at the cost of broad voter contact in states that would become important battlegrounds."

If the ending to this story were anything other than Donald Trump being elected president, Shattered would be an awesome comedy, like a Kafka novel - a lunatic bureaucracy devouring itself. But since the ending is the opposite of funny, it will likely be consumed as a cautionary tale.

Shattered is what happens when political parties become too disconnected from their voters. Even if you think the election was stolen, any Democrat who reads this book will come away believing he or she belongs to a party stuck in a profound identity crisis. Trump or no Trump, the Democrats need therapy - and soon.
(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.

Palestine's Nelson Mandela
By Uri Avnery

I HAVE a confession to make: I like Marwan Barghouti.

I have visited him at his modest Ramallah home several times. During our conversations, we discussed Israeli-Palestinian peace. Our ideas were the same: to create the State of Palestine next to the State of Israel, and to establish peace between the two states, based on the 1967 lines (with minor adjustments), with open borders and cooperation.

This was not a secret agreement: Barghouti has repeated this proposal many times, both in prison and outside.

I also like his wife, Fadwa, who was educated as a lawyer but devotes her time to fight for the release of her husband. At the crowded funeral of Yasser Arafat, I happened to stand next to her and saw her tear-streaked face.

This week, Barghouti, together with about a thousand other Palestinian prisoners in Israel, started an unlimited hunger strike. I have just signed a petition for his release.

MARWAN BARGHOUTI is a born leader. In spite of his small physical stature, he stands out in any gathering. Within the Fatah movement he became the leader of the youth division. (The word "Fatah" is the initials of "Palestinian Liberation Movement, in reverse).

The Barghoutis are a widespread clan, dominating several villages near Ramallah. Marwan himself was born in 1959 in Kobar village. An ancestor, Abd-al-Jabir al-Barghouti, led an Arab revolt in 1834. I have met Mustafa Barghouti, an activist for democracy, in many demonstrations and shared the tear gas with him. Omar Barghouti is a leader of the international anti-Israel boycott movement.

Perhaps my sympathy for Marwan is influenced by some similarities in our youth. He joined the Palestinian resistance movement at the age of 15, the same age as I was when I joined the Hebrew underground some 35 years earlier. My friends and I considered ourselves freedom fighters, but were branded by the British authorities as "terrorists". The same has now happened to Marwan - a freedom fighter in his own eyes and in the eyes of the vast majority of the Palestinian people, a "terrorist" in the eyes of the Israeli authorities.

When he was put on trial in the Tel Aviv District Court, my friends and I, members of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), tried to demonstrate our solidarity with him in the courtroom. We were expelled by armed guards. One of my friends lost a toenail in this glorious fight.

YEARS AGO I called Barghouti the "Palestinian Mandela". Despite their difference in height and skin color, there was a basic similarity between the two: both were men of peace, but justified the use of violence against their oppressors. However, while the Apartheid regime was satisfied with one life term, Barghouti was sentenced to a ridiculous five life terms and another 40 years - for acts of violence executed by his Tanzim organization.

(Gush Shalom published a statement this week suggesting that by the same logic, Menachem Begin should have been sentenced by the British to 91 life terms for the bombing of the King David hotel, in which 91 people - many of them Jews - lost their lives.)

There is another similarity between Mandela and Barghouti: when the apartheid regime was destroyed by a combination of "terrorism", violent strikes and a world-wide boycott, Mandela emerged as the natural leader of the new South Africa. Many people expect that when a Palestinian state is set up, Barghouti will become its president, after Mahmoud Abbas.

There is something in his personality that inspires confidence, turning him into the natural arbiter of internal conflicts. Hamas people, who are the opponents of Fatah, are inclined to listen to Marwan. He is the ideal conciliator between the two movements.

Some years ago, under the leadership of Marwan, a large number of prisoners belonging to the two organizations signed a joint appeal for national unity, setting out concrete terms. Nothing came of this.

That, by the way, may be an additional reason for the Israeli government's rejection of any suggestion of freeing Barghouti, even when a prisoner exchange provided a convenient opportunity. A free Barghouti could become a powerful agent for Palestinian unity, the last thing the Israeli overlords want.

Divide et impera - "divide and rule" - since Roman times this has been a guiding principle of every regime that suppresses another people. In this the Israeli authorities have been incredibly successful. Political geography provided an ideal setting: The West Bank (of the Jordan river) is cut off from the Gaza Strip by some 50 km of Israeli territory.

Hamas got hold of the Gaza Strip by elections and violence, and refuses to accept the leadership of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), a union of the more secular organizations which rules the West Bank.

This is not an unusual situation in national liberation organizations. They often split into more and less extreme wings, to the great delight of the oppressor. The last thing the Israeli authorities are willing to do is release Barghouti and allow him to restore Palestinian national unity. God forbid.

THE HUNGER strikers do not demand their own release, but demand better prison conditions. They demand, inter alia, more frequent and longer visits by wives and family, an end to torture, decent food, and such. They also remind us that under international law an "occupying power" is forbidden to move prisoners from an occupied territory to the home country of the occupier. Exactly this happens to almost all Palestinian "security prisoners."

Last week Barghouti set out these demands in an op-ed article published by the New York Times, an act that shows the newspaper's better side. The editorial note described the author as a Palestinian politician and Member of Parliament. It was a courageous act by the paper (which somewhat restored its standing in my eyes after it condemned Bashar al-Assad for using poison gas, without a sliver of evidence.)

But courage has its limits. The very next day the NYT published an editor's note stating that Barghouti was convicted for murder. It was an abject surrender to Zionist pressure.

The man who claimed this victory was an individual I find particularly obnoxious. He calls himself Michael Oren and is now a deputy minister in Israel, but he was born in the USA and belongs to the subgroup of American Jews who are super-super-patriots of Israel. He adopted Israeli citizenship and an Israeli name in order to serve as Israel's ambassador to the USA. In this capacity he attracted attention by using particularly virulent anti-Arab rhetoric, so extreme as to make even Binyamin Netanyahu look moderate.

I doubt that this person has ever sacrificed anything for his patriotism, indeed, he has made quite a career of it. Yet he speaks with contempt about Barghouti, who has spent much of his life in prison and exile. He describes Barghouti's article in the New York Times as a "journalistic terror act." Look who's talking.

A HUNGER STRIKE is a very courageous act. It is the last weapon of the least protected people on earth - the prisoners. The abominable Margaret Thatcher let the Irish hunger strikers starve to death.

The Israeli authorities wanted to force-feed Palestinian hunger strikers. The Israeli Physicians Association, much to its credit, refused to cooperate, since such acts have led in the past to the deaths of the victims. That put an end to this kind of torture.

Barghouti demands that Palestinian political prisoners be treated as prisoners-of-war. No chance of that.

However, one should demand that prisoners of any kind be treated humanely. This means that deprivation of liberty is the only punishment imposed, and that within the prisons the maximum of decent conditions should be accorded.

In some Israeli prisons, a kind of modus vivendi between the prison authorities and the Palestinian prisoners seems to have been established. Not so in others. One gets the impression that the prison service is the enemy of the prisoners, making their life as miserable as possible. This has worsened now, in response to the strike.

This policy is cruel, illegal and counter-productive. There is no way to win against a hunger-strike. The prisoners are bound to win, especially when decent people all over the world are watching. Perhaps even the NYT.

I am waiting for the day when I can visit Marwan again as a free man in his home in Ramallah. Even more so if Ramallah is, by that time, a town in the free State of Palestine.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Maxine Waters Loses Her Mind to "Anti-Russia Dementia" - Like the Rest of the Black Caucus
By Glen Ford

Not one Black member of Congress seems prepared to challenge the fraudulent U.S. pretext for bombing Syria - or the war, itself. Maxine Waters is the saddest case. "Who knows how Maxine Waters would vote on Trump's air strike on Syria, since she is under the crazed delusion that Trump and Putin are in cahoots on the gassing and the retaliation?" Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad -- with Anti-Russia Dementia.

When Maxine Waters goes gung-ho crazy for the War Party, it tells us that the Black political class -- overwhelmingly Democrats -- are utterly useless to any movement for peace and social justice. In the throes of a terminal case of "Anti-Russia Dementia," otherwise known as "Putin Derangement Syndrome," the California congresswoman told a Tax March crowd in front of the U.S. Capitol that President Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin somehow conspired to arrange both the chemical event that killed dozens in northern Syria and the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian military airfield that followed. In a interview with a Huffington Post reporter, Waters said:

"I don't believe there's any real tension" between Trump and Putin. "I think they're putting on a show. And I think Putin is gonna come back and make it look as if he's gonna hold the line somewhat on Syria now, and then want something in exchange for that -- and that exchange is, lift the sanctions."
Waters has clearly lost her mind, her brain operating at the cartoon level. But, her mental and moral disintegration differs only in degree from that of the Congressional Black Caucus as a body, which has been drifting to the dark side on war ever since the First Black President got his hands on the nuclear button. Even Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, appears to accept the manifestly false allegation that the Syrian military used chemical weapons in al-Qaida controlled Idlib province. She demands only that the U.S. Congress be allowed to play its part in the aggression.

"There is no question that Syrian President Bashar Assad must be held accountable for his heinous crimes against humanity. And the world community must do more to prevent the use of chemical weapons and barbaric attacks on innocent men, women and children," Rep. Lee wrote in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle. She wants the Congress called back into session to "debate the costs and the consequences of war in Syria," warning, "if Congress does not act to rein in the president, he will pursue unsanctioned military action without our input." Rep. Lee deplored Trump's "turning away vulnerable families fleeing conflict and violence."

Rep. Keith Ellison and other leaders of the Progressive Congressional Caucus issued a similar statement, declaring that President Trump "is not empowered to commit our troops to a new war on a whim, however brutal the actions of President Assad." However, Ellison simply wants the chance to cast his vote for more and deeper war against Syria. He described the 2011 U.S.-NATO attack on Libya as a "good example" of "international community intervention to protect civilians" and, in 2012, called for a similar approach in Syria. "I think that if we set up a safe zone now and the international community stood together, that alone would cause [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad to be very reluctant to attack an internationally supported safe zone designed to protect civilians." The next year, in 2013, when the U.S. falsely accused the Syrian government of a sarin attack on civilians -- an attack staged at the precise moment when UN observers, summoned at the request of the Syrian government, were checking into a Damascus hotel only a few miles away -- Ellison assumed Syrian guilt and backed Obama's threatened bombing raid:

"If the facts warrant it," he said, "if the facts show that it was a gas attack authorized by the Assad regime, and if it's true that there were 1,500 people killed, I just don't think the world can stand by and say that's ok, that's not our business, we don't have to worry about it."
In the summer of 2011, after allowing Libya's infrastructure to be destroyed by months of non-stop bombing, the Congress got its chance to vote on Obama's unprovoked war against an African country. Only six members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted both to stop the bombing and to withhold further funding for the war: John Conyers, Jr. (MI); Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL); Barbara Lee (CA); Laura Richardson (CA); Bobby Scott (VA); Maxine Waters (CA).

Who knows how Maxine Waters would vote on Trump's air strike on Syria, when Congress returns from recess, since she is under the crazed delusion that Trump and Putin are in cahoots on the gassing and the retaliation?

Congress didn't have an opportunity to vote on President Obama's threatened air strike against Syria in 2013, because Obama backed off, reportedly after hearing from National Security director James Clapper that the evidence of Syria's guilt wasn't "a slam dunk." Polls showed that nearly six out of ten Americans opposed bombing Syria at that time. However, more Blacks than whites -- 40 percent vs. 38 percent -- favored an air strike, the first time in polling history that Black public opinion was more warlike than whites. There is no doubt that the sea change in the Black stance on war had everything to do with newfound Black identification with U.S. power (imperialism), in the person of the commander-in-chief.

The current Washington Post-ABC poll shows 54 percent of the public supports Trump's bombing of Syria, with the results dramatically skewed by party. Only 37 percent of Democrats approve of the air strike, while Republicans seem jubilant, at 86 percent. However, there is no racial breakdown in any of the major polls -- and, no wonder, since there is little organized Black fight-back against Washington's (formerly) proxy war against Syria, and virtually no principled opposition among the Black Misleadership Class and its denizens on Capitol Hill. The corporate media perceive no Black peace opinion worth measuring.

Only 14 years ago, a Zogby poll, conducted only weeks before the start of the Iraq war, showed that just 7 percent of Black Americans favored an invasion "that would result in the death of thousands of Iraqi civilians," compared with supermajorities of white males and a bare majority of white females. Has the Black worldview been so dramatically mangled by war, in such a short span of time? That's highly unlikely, but there has surely been a whip-lash effect in experiencing, first, a Black Democratic warmonger in the White House, followed by the orange personification of white supremacy. The Black Radical Tradition in pursuit of peace and global social justice has taken more than a few hits since Dr. Martin Luther King's break with President Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War, in 1967. "Putin Derangement Syndrome" - a mind-corroding epidemic in Democratic - and, therefore Black, precincts -- is just the latest deformity.

A renewed Black peace movement is the only antidote to the corruption of Black Democratic office holders, who are joined at the bank account to a party that is now positioned to the right of Donald Trump on war with Russia and its allies. "Most of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have moved public opinion closer to the position that conflict with Russia is not only inevitable, but justified," says Ajamu Baraka, the veteran human rights activist and 2016 vice presidential candidate for the Green Party (and an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report). Baraka is spearheading the Black Alliance for Peace, "a people-centered human rights project against war, repression and imperialism" that seeks to "build a Black anti-war presence, and then connect to attempts to revive the anti-war movement in general in the U.S."

Among the most visible signs that a peace movement still exists, is UNAC, the United National Anti-War movement, which is expecting the largest Black presence in its history at its national conference in Richmond, Virginia, June 16-18. The Black Is Black Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations immediately responded to the U.S. air strike on Syria with a large demonstration in St. Petersburg, Florida. Ajamu Baraka views Black Lives Matter as providing a basis for renewal of the Black Radical Tradition. "One of the things that has to happen is a more explicit politics," he says. Activists need to "make the connection between the national security state and the war agenda."

There is little hope, however, for a Black political class that, "by their silence on the militarism of the U.S. state, are creating the conditions for the Trump proposals" on boosting military spending "to be implemented," said Baraka. "These folks have to be called out and made accountable for their collaboration with the U.S. State. You've got to either step with the people, or align yourself openly with the power of white supremacy and imperialism."
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

People stand outside the People's Firehouse, Engine Co. 212 in North Williamsburg, which was threatened with closure during the
fiscal crisis. A neighborhood mobilization which included occupying and sleeping in the fire station for 16 months saved the fire service.

'Fear City' Explores How Donald Trump Exploited The New York Debt Crisis To Boost His Own Fortune
By Naomi Klein

When I published "The Shock Doctrine" a decade ago, a few people told me that it was missing a key chapter in the evolution of the tactic I was reporting on. That tactic involved using periods of crisis to impose a radical pro-corporate agenda. They said that in the United States that story doesn't start with Reagan in the 1980s, as I had told it, but rather in New York City in the mid-1970s. That's when the city's very near brush with all-out bankruptcy was used to dramatically remake the metropolis. Massive and brutal austerity, sweetheart deals for the rich, privatizations. In classic Shock Doctrine style, under cover of crisis, New York changed from being a place with some of the most generous public services in the country, engaged in some cutting-edge attempts at racial and economic integration, to the temple of nonstop commerce and gentrification that we all know and still love today.

Listen to Naomi Klein's interview with Kim Phillips-Fein.

New York's debt crisis is an incredibly important and little understood chapter in the evolution of what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz calls market fundamentalism, a process the Trump administration is in the process of rapidly accelerating, which is why I was so happy to receive Kim Phillips-Fein's remarkable new book "Fear City." In it, she meticulously documents how the remaking of New York City in the '70s was a prelude to what would become a global ideological tidal wave, one that has left the world brutally divided between the one percent and the rest. She helps us to understand many of the forces that Trump exploited to win the White House, from economic insecurity to crumbling public infrastructure to fear-mongering about black crime, all amidst previously unimaginable private wealth.

But one of the things that really stood out for me in the book is what it reveals about Trump himself. "Fear City" tells the story of how a brash 29-year-old real estate developer seized on the city's misfortune to boost his own fortune, extracting predatory terms from a community in crisis.

Reading this, it struck me how Trump's entire career has been shaped by the exploitation of crisis. And that's relevant stuff for what it tells us about what we can expect from his administration in the months and years to come. So I'm very happy to be joined by Kim Phillips-Fein, a historian of the first order.

Naomi Klein: Before we get into Trump and what he was doing in the mid-1970s, can you set the scene for just how bad New York's debt crisis was in this period? What did it look like? What was happening in the city?

Kim Philipps-Fein: For the context of the fiscal crisis, and for Trump's emergence, I think the first thing that's important to understand is that New York City in the post-war years was really an outlier in terms of what the city government did and was trying to do and was trying to provide to its citizens. New York City takes some of the elements of New Deal liberalism and pushes them further than they've been pushed anywhere else in the country. The city has a network of more than 20, at its peak, municipal hospitals, and many more primary care centers, child centers. It has a vast range of libraries and a free public university system, which is growing over the post-war years.

This is in addition to the kind of basic urban amenities that are far more developed in New York, such as mass transit, than in really any other American city. This network, this public sector, in certain ways becomes even more ambitious during the 1960s, during the War on Poverty years, when a lot of new federal money comes into the city to expand social services in a variety of different ways. In the early 1970s, the entire public sector enters into a period of crisis because - because of a slowed increase in the amount of money that's coming from the federal and state governments, and also because of the recession of the early '70s, which throws the city's economy into a spiral.

And the result is a growing gap between revenues and expenses, so that the city really isn't bringing in the amount of money that it needs any longer to pay for these public services.

NK: It wasn't just that New York was overspending. I mean, this was a global debt crisis. And there was this sense, reading your book, that there was a desire to really teach New York a lesson. And to set an example. Because if you're willing to let the biggest city in the United States go bankrupt, you're really willing to do anything. And there's this famous headline in the Daily News, Ford - that being President Ford - "Ford to City: Drop Dead." Can you talk about this sense of setting an example?

KPF: The fiscal crisis was both real and ideological, and there were a variety of ways that it could have been approached. One example that I bring up in the book is that of Medicaid spending. New York City bore a quarter of its bill for Medicaid, which is higher than anywhere else in the country. That's because of the way that New York State divides spending on Medicaid, and on welfare as well, and Aid for Families with Dependent Children, as it was then. Had that split been changed, the city's financial picture would have looked very different. There were a variety of ways that the city's fiscal crisis could have been approached.

However, President Gerald Ford, who counted among his advisers people like Alan Greenspan, the chair of his Council of Economic Advisers, and William Simon, his Secretary of Treasury, who came out of the world of municipal bond trading in New York. These people were fiercely opposed to providing any kind of federal aid for the city that would have enabled it to ride out the crisis and get back on its feet.

Two New York City dailies and the New York Times are seen with headlines on President Ford's refusal to aid the city during its fiscal crisis, Oct. 30, 1975.

NK: In this period, Alan Greenspan would have been at the height of his Ayn Randian obsession.

KPF: Yes, he was kind of moving into public life. This is obviously before he's at the Federal Reserve. And he had just recently moved out of her real inner circle and into a broader public role.

And yeah, they have been opposed for a long time to the kind of public sector New York has. And they feel that there was nothing positive, nothing important, nothing to be respected or admired in what the city was trying to do.

NK: Were they worried about the model spreading beyond the city?

KPF: I'm not sure they were exactly worried about that at that moment, but certainly they feel that this kind of system is the problem that the entire Western world faces - this broader public sector and a kind of mixed economy, which you might say New York embodied was a threat to freedom and prosperity the world over.

Whether or not they actually were worried about other cities or it moving out of New York in some immediate way, I think they thought the approach was fundamentally flawed. They were not surprised that New York was in crisis, and they thought that the only real solution was to force a set of cuts. And that would really prevent any other city from again going down the path New York had followed.

NK: But at the last minute, New York doesn't go into full bankruptcy. The way this structure is set up reminds me of the emergency managers that in recent years have been imposed on Flint and Detroit, where a lot of power, local democracy, is lost. Can you talk about that structure?

KPF: Right. The city ultimately did not go bankrupt because the banks and the unions - and the city's unions were very important here - were willing to buy enough of the city's debt that it didn't actually have to go bankrupt. And the federal government also did eventually come forward with the set of short-term loans. In return, they created this agency called the Emergency Financial Control Board, which I think is the model for the kinds of city managers that we see today, or what we see in Puerto Rico. And the Emergency Financial Control Board was a state agency that was granted final control over the city's budget.

And this was important both because the Emergency Financial Control Board did occasionally come in to actually turn back contracts that it thought were too generous, but it also provided - and I think this is very important for thinking about Trump - a way for the mayor to say, listen, I have no choice but to make these cuts because the Emergency Financial Control Board is enforcing this plan that mandates the cuts. And the federal aid in turn was contingent upon the city making a set of cuts within a certain period of time, arriving at a balanced budget in a certain - in a three-year timeframe.

NK: So it's 1976. Donald Trump is just 29 years old. This is not the Trump that we know from The Apprentice. He's not even the Trump of the '80s when he was in the tabloids with his soap opera of Ivana versus Marla Maples. Who is he at this stage in his career?

KPF: Well, he's really emerging out of the shadow of his father, who was a developer and landlord in the outer boroughs. He's emerging out of a milieu of a kind of embittered lower middle class white ethnic population in the city's outer boroughs. Not that Trump himself was lower middle class. He wasn't. But those were the people who lived in his father's buildings, and those were the people who I think really shaped his worldview.

And they're also the people who really blame - this is obviously not universally true of the city's white working class at this time - African Americans and Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans, for bringing the city to the edge of bankruptcy; a sense that they were the people who were using the public services, and that they were the ones who kind of pushed things too far and brought it into the fiscal crisis.

NK: And that, by the way, is incredibly important in terms of understanding the intersection of racism, of racial politics, creating the justification for a tax on the public's fear, which I think we're seeing more and more of. That's really key in this period. So how does Trump take advantage of the city's desperation in this period? Tell me about the Commodore Hotel.

KPF: Well, so Trump is very ambitious, and he wants very much to break out of the outer boroughs and come into Manhattan and make it big there. A lot of people have observed this about Trump at this moment, but I think he views Manhattan as this aspirational space, and he is eager to transcend his Brooklyn-Queens past and get into what he sees as the big-time. And his idea is to redevelop the Commodore Hotel. So the Commodore Hotel was a previously very fancy hotel from the early 20th century. I think it opens in 1919 at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. And it's owned by the Penn Central Railroad. And the Hotel kind of falls into disrepair and near collapse after Penn Central itself goes bankrupt in 1970. Its management has stopped paying property taxes and is very eager to unload the property. Trump sees this as an opportunity at the same time as the city government sees it as a potential disaster. The city is terrified that if the Commodore Hotel goes into collapse, the blight of Times Square will spread east and to the area around Grand Central Terminal. And so, the plan that they hatch is that Trump can purchase the Commodore Hotel.

What he actually wants to do is buy it and sell it to a state agency, the Urban Development Corporation, which has its own interesting story. And then the UDC will lease it back to Trump, working with the Hyatt organization. And I think it's also important to remember, it's not Trump acting alone. He's actually working with this hotel chain.

NK: And this is before he has started splashing his name in gold on the fronts of buildings. But this is his first Manhattan jewel.

KPF: This is his first big Manhattan deal. They'll lease it back to Trump and Hyatt. And this arrangement where they're not actually owning the property will enable them to pay property taxes that are lower than the normal rate for many years to come. The New York Times reported that as of 2016, this tax arrangement with the Hyatt had cost New York City about $360 million in uncollected taxes in the years since the development.

NK: So I just want to pause there, because what you're saying is Trump put down - or Trump and the Hyatt put down $9.5 million for this incredible property. They come up with this elaborate arrangement, that sweetheart deal, a tax dodge. And that 9.5 million outlay translates back into roughly $360 million in tax savings and money deprived from the city.

KPF: It was a very lucrative deal for them. You can make whatever arguments about how much revenue the economy activity associated with the Hyatt generated. But it is also the case that that is what the value of the tax is, had they developed it in some other way, that would have gone to the city and did not.

NK: So it's a sweetheart deal, but the city has no choice. Beggars can't be choosers, is the argument that's being made. Is that true? I mean, was it necessary to give it away on this scale?

KPF: Well, who knows whether there would have been a different purchaser for the Commodore? The Railroad was very eager to sell it. Perhaps they would have done so on different terms had those been made available. I would just underscore that Trump viewed himself as a great genius for making this arrangement. And city government viewed this as a very positive development and an important one, and one that they wanted to make clear was a kind of way to the future for the business community.

I think it's potentially the case that you could have found another way to develop the property. But this is not just a one-time thing for the city. The city government views this as a model for the future, and as a signal to the broader business community that there has been a change in the city government's relationship to business. It's not just Trump acting alone. There actually is a context in which this kind of development is promoted and a sort of enabling community that allows it to happen.

NK: So it sets the stage for the Helmsleys, and for a whole change in the city.

KPF: It sets the stage for the city's new receptiveness to certain kinds of luxury developments, to using different kinds of tax breaks to stimulate the development of properties that are really dedicated to the very rich. And more generally, I think, the various different kinds of corporate subsidies that went to Disney around Times Square.

NK: And I think when we look at Trump's career in the '80s, we see a continuation of him really enjoying this role as the guy who saves the city. And that very high profile battle he had with Koch, with Mayor Koch, over the Central Park skating rink. That was really the moment when he solidified his celebrity. But I think you can see the straight line, really, from the Commodore to this skating rink to the presidential bid, right? You know, I'm not a politician. Washington is corrupt. I know how to do this better, right?

KPF: I think that's very important. These were the people who would be able to transcend the Democratic pressures that were pushing for more public services, a sense of businesspeople as the saviors of the city and of the country as a whole, ultimately. I think there, too, Trump really embodies that and takes that worldview and runs with it, and celebrates it, and exploits it in every possible way, but he's far from the only person who has that sensibility. And in fact, many of the people within the city's mainstream Democratic political establishment also share that perspective, to some extent.

A sense that the city has been too responsive to public pressure, and now has to buck up and ignore the protests that grow in response to the cutbacks of the era. And that ignoring protest is really a sign of your own integrity and courage. I think Trump also takes that a bit from the fiscal crisis momen - even the rhetoric about the paid protestors after the inauguration. I think that feeling owes much to the moment of the fiscal crisis and to the sense that even if people are angry, the only thing that anyone with any courage can do is ignore them.

NK: All right. Well, Kim, it's been great to talk. Is there anything else you want to share about what you learned about studying this chapter and Donald Trump's starring role in it?

KPF: I guess the last thing I would say is that the atmosphere of fear is incredibly important for understanding what happens in New York at this moment - that there's this deep level of fear about bankruptcy, fear of the future. And it's that kind of fear that really makes possible the cutbacks of the time, and also the sense that, you know, the city needs a savior in the first place. And I think that I've thought about that a lot over the past month and since November - the way that fear can make things that seem politically impossible suddenly feel as though they're the only alternative. And so I think that is one of the things that we need to fight at this moment, and to find ways to resist that sense of overwhelming fear and chaos, and to find forms of solidarity that can counter it.

Because it really is that context that makes it possible to wreak havoc, and the kinds of cuts that happened in New York in the '70s, and the kind of broader reshaping of our country that we see taking place now.

NK: Thank you so much for that, Kim. I think it is a really important message to leave people with, because we know these are pretty bad managers. I think we can expect all kinds of shocks and crises in the years to come, which will then be used as the rationale for breaking election promises like protecting Social Security and so on. So we have to be very, very wary of the exploitation of fear, of an atmosphere of crisis. We know from your book that Donald Trump's career and his fortune was really forged in a moment of exploiting economic crisis.

We know that he's surrounded by men who have done the same, including Steven Mnuchin using the crisis of the 2008 financial collapse to launch a bank that would specialize in throwing people out of their homes. So thanks for this little lesson in shock resistance.

(c) 2017 Naomi Klein is an award"winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." To read all her latest writing visit You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.


To Have A People's Government, We The People Must Build It
By Jim Hightower

In high school, I had a girlfriend who was involved in student government and all sorts of good works. While she paid attention to all that was happening in those years of the early '60s, she essentially was a moderate - certainly not some movement rebel. Or so we thought... until one lazy, Sunday afternoon. As we aimlessly "cruised the drag" of our small town in a '54 Chevy, we were paused at a red light across from a root beer stand where some teens were hanging out. Suddenly, my "moderate" girlfriend lunged halfway out of the backseat window and shouted "Wake up and piss, kids, the world's on fire!"

I stared at her wide-eyed and whopperjawed, wondering where that came from.

I've thought of that moment recently as I've seen instance after instance of the innate rebelliousness of the American people erupting across the country in surprising ways, unexpected numbers, and with astonishing intensity. No need to wonder where this comes from, however. The outbursts are a spontaneous, rapidly expanding mass rejection of Trumpism.

Our Twitter-president plays to his most frenzied partisans with his daily rata-tat-tat of executive orders and public fulminations - firing at refugees, federal judges, Chuck Schumer, the media, Nordstrom, the EPA, Mexico's president, Elizabeth Warren, laws that protect consumers from Wall Street greed, Sweden, Arnold Schwarzenegger and... no telling who's next. But while some delightedly squeal at his wild moves, many more see Trump as not merely unpresidential, but bull goose bonkers! And dangerous - recklessly using the enormous power of the presidency as a personal cudgel to attack, stigmatize and seriously harm individuals, entire religions and races, the Bill of Rights and our nation's basic values of tolerance, fairness and opportunity for all. In a twist of ironic justice, The Donald's deep darkness has sparked a prairie fire of mass opposition, raging political activism and movement organizing for the long haul.

Many of us are activists already, ranging from occasional campaigners to us warped gluttons for full-time, full-tilt punishment. No matter your past involvement, with our ship of state entering dire straits, each of us must do a bit extra. And we can help focus the anger roiling the countryside by sharing some how-to-make-a-difference tips to friends, co-workers, et al. "Traump-atized" by Washington's new extremist kakistocracy (government by the worst).

After all, millions of our neighbors have long been disengaged, viewing the political scrum as somewhere between irrelevant and repugnant. But, suddenly they're back - alert not only to Trump, but to their congress critters and to that menagerie of freaky, rightwing corporate mutants that Trump-Pence has put in charge of our government. In January, one red-district Texan told a reporter: "I think of politics the way I think of my car. I just want it to run [without my spending] a lot of time." Only a few weeks into the Trump-Does-Washington spectacle, he learned a fundamental lesson: "You get the politics you work for."

So, it's time to get to work. This is not just a one-time, resist-and-dump Trump campaign we're undertaking, but the mobilization of a long-term grassroots movement to reject the systemic corporate takeover of our elections and government at every level, from our local school boards to our White House. Simply ousting Trump won't do that. The job, then, is as simple as it is difficult: To have a People's government, we must build it. Democracy requires us common folk to join together, with each of us doing as much as we can, as strategically as we can, for as long as we can. Indivisible and Our Revolution are just two organizations you can check out to help you get active and start building a more democratic way of governing.
(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.

The Democratic Party's Anti-Bernie Elites Have A Huge Stake In Blaming Russia

By Norman Solomon

After Hillary Clinton's devastating loss nearly six months ago, her most powerful Democratic allies feared losing control of the party. Efforts to lip-synch economic populism while remaining closely tied to Wall Street had led to a catastrophic defeat. In the aftermath, the party's progressive base -- personified by Bernie Sanders -- was in position to start flipping over the corporate game board.

Aligned with Clinton, the elites of the Democratic Party needed to change the subject. Clear assessments of the national ticket's failures were hazardous to the status quo within the party. So were the groundswells of opposition to unfair economic privilege. So were the grassroots pressures for the party to become a genuine force for challenging big banks, Wall Street and overall corporate power.

In short, the Democratic Party's anti-Bernie establishment needed to reframe the discourse in a hurry. And -- in tandem with mass media -- it did.

The reframing could be summed up in two words: Blame Russia.

By early winter, the public discourse was going sideways -- much to the benefit of party elites. The meme of blaming Russia and Vladimir Putin for the election of Donald Trump effectively functioned to let the Wall Street-friendly leadership of the national Democratic Party off the hook. Meanwhile, serious attempts to focus on the ways that wounds to democracy in the United States have been self-inflicted -- whether via the campaign finance system or the purging of minorities from voter rolls or any number of other systemic injustices -- were largely set aside.

Fading from scrutiny was the establishment that continued to dominate the Democratic Party's superstructure. At the same time, its devotion to economic elites was undiminished. As Bernie told a reporter on the last day of February: "Certainly there are some people in the Democratic Party who want to maintain the status quo. They would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats."

Amid great luxury and looming catastrophe, the party's current hierarchy has invested enormous political capital in depicting Vladimir Putin as an unmitigated arch villain. Relevant history was irrelevant, to be ignored or denied.

With dutiful conformity from most Democrats in Congress, the party elites doubled, tripled and quadrupled down on the emphatic claim that Moscow is the capital of, by any other name, an evil empire. Rather than just calling for what's needed -- a truly independent investigation into allegations that the Russian government interfered with the U.S. election -- the party line became hyperbolic and unmoored from the available evidence.

Given their vehement political investment in demonizing Russia's President Putin, Democratic leaders are oriented to seeing the potential of detente with Russia as counterproductive in terms of their electoral strategy for 2018 and 2020. It's a calculus that boosts the risks of nuclear annihilation, given the very real dangers of escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Along the way, top party officials seem bent on returning to a kind of pre-Bernie-campaign doldrums. The new chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, can't bring himself to say that the power of Wall Street is antithetical to the interests of working people. That reality came to painful light this week during a live appearance on national television.

During a 10-minute joint interview along with Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night, Perez was a font of exactly the kind of trite empty slogans and worn-out platitudes that oiled the engines of the dismal Clinton campaign.

While Sanders was forthright, Perez was evasive. While Sanders talked about systemic injustice, Perez fixated on Trump. While Sanders pointed to a way forward for realistic and far-reaching progressive change, Perez hung onto a rhetorical formula that expressed support for victims of the economic order without acknowledging the existence of victimizers.

In an incisive article published by The Nation magazine, Robert Borosage wrote last week: "For all the urgent pleas for unity in the face of Trump, the party establishment has always made it clear that they mean unity under their banner. That's why they mobilized to keep the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representative Keith Ellison, from becoming head of the DNC. It's why the knives are still out for Sanders and those who supported him."

While Bernie is hardly a reliable opponent of U.S. war policies, he is significantly more critical of U.S. military intervention than the Democratic Party leaders who often champion it. Borosage noted that the party establishment is locked into militaristic orthodoxies that favor continuing to inflict the kind of disasters that the United States has brought to Iraq, Libya and other countries: "Democrats are in the midst of a major struggle to decide what they stand for and who they represent. Part of that is the debate over a bipartisan interventionist foreign policy that has so abjectly failed."

For the Democratic Party's most hawkish wing -- dominant from the top down and allied with Clinton's de facto neocon approach to foreign policy -- the U.S. government's April 6 cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield was an indication of real leverage for more war. That attack on a close ally of Russia showed that incessant Russia-baiting of Trump can get gratifying military results for the Democratic elites who are undaunted in their advocacy of regime change in Syria and elsewhere.

The politically motivated missile attack on Syria showed just how dangerous it is to keep Russia-baiting Trump, giving him political incentive to prove how tough he is on Russia after all. What's at stake includes the imperative of preventing a military clash between the world's two nuclear superpowers. But the corporate hawks at the top of the national Democratic Party have other priorities.
(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."

In Elizabeth, N.J., earlier this year, Make the Road New Jersey-an organization that advocates for immigrant
and working-class communities-protests against a crackdown on immigrants by federal agents and local police.

Terrorizing The Vulnerable
By Chris Hedges

ELIZABETH, N.J.-Edison, 50, an undocumented man from Uruguay, wraps his knuckles against the basement wall of the row house as if it is a front door.

"Who is it?" a 44-year-old Salvadoran immigrant named Antonio asks in Spanish.

"La migra," Edison says, using the Spanish slang for the Border Patrol and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "Is Antonio inside?"

"What do you want?" Antonio asks.

"We want to speak with you," says Edison, who like everyone else in the basement asked me not to use his or her last name. "Open the door."

"Did I commit a crime?" Antonio asks.

"We have a warrant for your arrest," Edison says.

"Slide it under the door," Antonio says.

Sara Cullinane, a lawyer with Make the Road New Jersey, an organization that assists the undocumented, interrupts the skit. She looks around at the 16 undocumented people, including children, seated on folding chairs. Dangling from the basement ceiling are blue streamers left over from a child's birthday party.

"What are the three things you look for?" she asks the group.

"Is the document signed by a judge," several people say.

"How do you spell 'judge' in English," she asks.

The group dutifully spells out "j-u-d-g-e" in Spanish.

"If it is not signed by a judge do you open the door?" she asks.

"No," the group answers.

"What next?" she asks.

"See if it is a judicial warrant," a woman says.

"See if the name on the paper is correct," Carlos, 30, says.

"What should Antonio do?" the lawyer asks.

"Keep the door closed," the group says. "And don't sign anything."

"You have no obligation to tell them what country you are from," the lawyer adds in Spanish. "Tell them you will not speak to them until you contact a lawyer. They may try and use tricks to get inside. They may ask to see your passport. They may ask to look in the house to see if it is secure. They may ask who else lives there. They may ask if you are legal or illegal. If they do not have a search warrant or an arrest warrant signed by a judge, do not let them in. And don't answer their questions."

"If Antonio is arrested does he lose his rights?" she asks.

"No!" the group says.

"Even if you have DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] you don't have to say anything," the lawyer says. "They are taking DACA kids too."

The acceleration of arrests by the Trump administration among the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States is spreading panic throughout communities such as Elizabeth, where at least half of the population is foreign-born. Elizabeth police officers in February joined ICE agents in raiding a popular small business in an unsuccessful attempt to arrest a woman, who at the time was there with her two small children. The February raid, especially because of the participation by the police, along with the call by the Trump administration for widespread deportations, has radically reconfigured life in this depressed New Jersey city outside of New York City, as it has in many other immigrant communities.

Undocumented parents of U.S. citizens are signing power-of-attorney papers so that if they are seized by ICE agents someone will have the legal authority to care for the children they leave behind. Businesses in immigrant communities have seen a precipitous drop in sales as families hoard what little money they have so they will have some resources if they are deported. Employers who hire the undocumented often abuse workers, including through wage theft, knowing that their employees will not report them. Undocumented people who witness criminal activity or are victims of crime usually refuse to go to the police. Those who drive do so without insurance, a driver's license or registration, and no one carries foreign passports or papers that can identify them as noncitizens. Landlords are extorting higher rents. And some parents, fearful of taking their children to school or of having undocumented children in school, are keeping their sons and daughters home. Day care centers have experienced a drop in enrollment. Police, in open acts of racial profiling, randomly pull over drivers who appear to be Latino. And ICE raids routinely sweep up people whose names never appeared on deportation orders. ICE, for example, arrested a young woman last week with no criminal record in a sweep of Elizabeth's busiest immigrant business district.

"People are being picked up when they show up to criminal court or municipal court in New York City," said Cullinane. "They are being picked up in front of their homes when they leave for work. When ICE has administrative warrants, not judicial warrants, they know they cannot go inside. They use subterfuge. They wear plain clothes and drive in unmarked cars and carry a picture of the person they want. ICE agents under Donald Trump can arrest people if they are only suspected of having engaged in criminal activity, no matter how minor. I have never seen this level of fear." [Editor's note: An administrative warrant in an immigration case, signed by an ICE agent, names a person as a target for possible arrest and deportation. A judicial warrant in an immigration case, signed by a judge, is a court document that indicates due process has been followed. Click here to read more about the differences.]

Groups of the undocumented have formed Los Comites de Defensa del Barrio-Committees for the Defense of the Community-such as this one in Elizabeth. These committees hold underground meetings to teach people how to protect themselves, attempt to film ICE raids with phones, raise funds for legal services, perform skits to prepare people for encounters with ICE and the police, appeal to churches and cities to sign on to the sanctuary movement, hold demonstrations, use social media to monitor ICE movements and send out alerts about the latest raids, arrests and deportations.

Rosana, 53, is from Mexico and has lived in the United States for 27 years. She has two children. She works as a cleaner at banks.

"I am afraid to go outside," Rosana says. "I go to work. I buy food. But, otherwise, I stay in the house. My husband is the same. He works as a night dispatcher for a taxi company in New York City. He sees ICE agents on the train. My children are terrified they will come home from school and one or both of us will not be here. This campaign is going to have huge economic and social consequences across the country. It will lead to the breakdown of the rule of law in many communities. No one will go to court. No one will go to the police. No one will buy anything. People are going underground. Parents won't even show up for their children's soccer games."

"Trump can't do anything he wants," Rosana says to the group. "There are laws here. There is the Congress and the courts. They will defend us. Just because you do not have papers does not mean you do not have rights. In this country everyone has rights."

"Still, people are afraid to come to these meetings," Antonio says. "They fear that la migra will raid the meeting and take everyone. This is why a lot of people will not go to protests."

"If we do not overcome our fear we will not be able to exert any pressure," says Carlos. "We need to be educated. We need to have faith we can do something."

The group members discuss a petition drive calling for Elizabeth to be a "sanctuary city." They discuss joining May Day protests. They talk about mounting a campaign to obtain driver's licenses.

"What will we do in June?" asks Rosana.

"If we survive May we can talk about June," Carlos answers.

The meeting closes with the group singing the protest song "No Nos Moveran" [We Shall Not Be Moved].

No, no, no, no nos moveran!
No, no, no nos moveran!

Como un arbol firme junto al rio
No nos moveran

Unidos en la lucha, no nos moveran
Unidos en la lucha, no nos moveran
Como un arbol firme junto al rio
No nos moveran.

[Click here to hear Joan Baez perform the song in concert. To see a translation of one version of the song, click here; "No Nos Moveran" is the 10th song from the top.]

I walk outside and sit on the front steps afterward with a father who because he has a pending asylum case asked that I not use even his first name. With us are his 9-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. His own father, like thousands of other Salvadorans, disappeared during the civil war in the 1980s. His wife and daughter, after paying $6,000 to smugglers, were brought over the Mexican border. The man and his son, after being robbed of $6,000 by a smuggler, paid another one the same amount and crossed into the United States. The family was captured by the Border Patrol. They are free pending applications for asylum; the mother was forced to wear an electronic ankle monitor for several months.

"We had a food stall in the market [back in El Salvador]," he said. "The gangs demanded we pay $3,000. I did not pay this money. They threatened to kill me and rape my daughter. We sold all we had and fled."

He takes out his phone and shows me a picture of his former food stall.

"We only want to live in peace," he said, "work, have a home, be a family."
(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

The First 100 Days Of Resistance
But progressives must continue to take to the streets-and push Democrats to offer a real alternative.
By John Nichols

The awful irony of Donald Trump's first 100 days as president is that a man who is still frequently described as "erratic" has governed as an entirely predictable corporate conservative-as everyone paying attention knew he would. Trump was always going to choose billionaire-ism over 
economic populism. The outsider who promised to "drain the swamp" was always going to pack his administration with Goldman Sachs cronies and corporate lobbyists pushing privatization, deregulation, and austerity. The fabulist who inflated claims about his opposition to the Iraq War was always going to drop bombs and escalate conflicts. A political newcomer, Trump was always going to revert to xenophobic bombast and a permanent campaign of fear and bigotry in order to hold on to a base of supporters who will never get the security and prosperity that he promised.

Yes, of course, Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller drafted an inaugural address that reflected their dystopian vision of "American carnage." Yes, of course, White House press secretary Sean Spicer shredded his credibility on his first full day on the job, and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway shredded her credibility on her second full day as whatever it is she does. Yes, of course, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos turned out to be incapable of discussing the basics of the system she was nominated to oversee. Yes, of course, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell put partisanship above principle in order to secure the confirmation of DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, as well as equally unsettling figures like his own deregulation-obsessed wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and conservative judicial activist Neil Gorsuch, who will prove that there is space to the right of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. And yes, of course, Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan bumbled the task of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act because, it turned out, "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

The error made by casual observers of Trump has been a refusal to accept him for who he is: a self-absorbed and largely uninformed man entirely unprepared to assume the responsibilities of the presidency, yet entirely certain that he could gut it out. America finally has the "CEO president" that dim-witted business-channel commentators have argued that we needed for years. Like George W. Bush, the "MBA president" who screwed up everything he touched, Trump brings nothing to the White House but a certainty born of his silver-spoon upbringing and an unaccountable business career.

The open questions on January 20 had little to do with Trump and much to do with the rest of us: Would Americans resist Trump from the start? Would they shout "No!" in the streets and in Congress, on courthouse steps and at airport terminals? The answers came quickly-and gloriously. The epic Women's March on Washington restored the faith that many of us had lost on Election Day. Trump's Muslim ban was thwarted not just by judges, but by immediate and massive opposition across the country. His attempt to overturn the ACA was tripped up, at least in part, by overwhelming opposition from an "Indivisible" movement that packed town halls with Americans who proudly declared that they wanted not just Obamacare, but health care as a right. Trump's initial pick for labor secretary, Andy Puzder, withdrew because, as Puzder admitted, "the left and the Democrats really didn't want [me]." But in a fight like this, success is only meaningful if it's followed by more of the same. To continue to derail the Trump train, Americans must stay in the streets for events like the April 29 People's Climate March. Democrats must answer the call of their base and run hard in red states like Kansas, Georgia, Nebraska, and Montana-putting in place a full-scale 50-state strategy for the 2018 midterms. These are the basics. No one should be distracted or deluded by "palace intrigue" gossip about the cabal of Goldman Sachs executives wrestling for influence with the cabal of Breitbart alumni. They have shared agendas: Bannon's talk about the "deconstruction of the administrative state" was music to Wall Street's ears. Democrats must press harder for investigations and oversight of those agendas-not just of ties between Trump aides and the Russian government, but of ties between Trump appointees and the corporate powers they are supposed to regulate.

Trump's first 100 days extended from a campaign in which he won only 46 percent of the vote. By governing from the right, Trump managed to get his approval rating as low as 35 percent in an April Quinnipiac poll. It is said that Trump has nowhere to go but up. Not true. The great lesson of these first 100 days is that, even when Republicans control Washington, resistance is possible. Now is the time to turn resistance into something more: a coherent opposition that is capable of saying "no" to Trump and holding him to account while at the same time organizing, marching, campaigning, and voting for a whole new politics that will consign crony capitalism, militarism, fearmongering, and the cruel chimera of the "CEO president" to the dustbin of history.
(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.

President Donald Trump during a joint news conference with Prime Minister
Paolo Gentiloni of Italy, at the White House in Washington, April 20, 2017.

The Looming Neocon Invasion Of Trumpland

By William Rivers Pitt

I can't dance
I can't talk
Only thing about me
Is the way I walk
I can't dance
I can't sing
I'm just standing here
Selling everything
Genesis ~~~ "I Can't Dance"

Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin and Kid Rock dined with Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday night. No, really. Nugent and Trump likely revisited their shared birther/terrorist obsession with Obama, while Palin and Rock explored the higher sociological meanings to be derived from the song "American Bad Ass." Palin later tweeted a photograph of the four of them in the Oval Office, stooped over the Resolute Desk like a murder of crows. The desk, a true piece of history itself, is said to have wept through the night and far into the following morning.

Nugent may be an oaf, Palin a fool and Rock a beer commercial footnote, but all three combined did not hold a candle to their host, the president of the United States, who somehow managed to lose a whole aircraft carrier. The USS Carl Vinson -- more than three football fields long, launch platform for dozens of military aircraft, floating home to more than 6,000 sailors and service members, a weapon so large and lethal that it is known as "God's Machine" to those who serve aboard it -- was part of an "armada" Trump was sending to the hostile waters off North Korea. The Vinson, in fact, was some 3,500 miles to the south, steaming sedately for Australia and some joint naval exercises ... but no one quite knew what the orders really were and where the aircraft carrier was supposed to be. The Vinson eventually turned around and began steaming north, its captain announcing the crew would now be operating "in the Western Pacific." This is the nautical version of saying they would be somewhere on Planet Earth.

It's been almost 100 days, and these people still can't find the car keys. They've managed to enflame a fairly routine dust-up with North Korea to the point that even China's military is going on high alert, all so Trump can look tough and distract everyone from the numerous, burgeoning scandals tied to his presidency and his business relationships. Mike Pence is running around yelling about swords at a country that can't feed itself. North Korea is a struggling country with a stout paint job; its government pulls these attention-grabbing stunts every so often to raise its visibility in the world, and to broker a back-room deal to get food on the sly so the population doesn't starve to death. It's been like this for decades, but leave it to Trump to turn it into the potential strikepad for World War Whatever while losing track of the largest flotation device in maritime history. These guys could screw up the recipe for tap water.

From a foreign policy perspective, this is all certainly nerve-wracking and undeniably perilous. No one enjoys contemplating the seeming fact that the chain of command for the most dangerous fighting force in history has collapsed and gone completely sideways.

However, the way in which this administration's foibles -- and its potentially catastrophic decisions -- have been portrayed in much of the media is worrisome, to say the least. The pundits all agree what a shame it is that this White House lacks focus and discipline, not to mention experience. "We" all want this president to "succeed," we are told, because if he "succeeds," the country succeeds. These people control the entire federal government; if they could only get organized, they could really get some stuff done.

Nope, sorry. The only thing we've had going for us since this whole nightmare began is the fact that these people have been falling down open elevator shafts almost every time they try to accomplish one of their sordid goals. "Ban all Muslims! (falls down shaft)" followed by "Repeal Obamacare! (falls down shaft)" followed by "Ban all Muslims again! (falls down shaft)." They got a Supreme Court Justice they were going to get anyway. Bully for them; McConnell still had to break the Senate to get it done.

Thank you, no, I don't want this administration to succeed, because "success" on their terms would transmogrify this nation -- and, potentially, the rest of the world -- into a dystopian wasteland that makes The Grapes of Wrath seem like a spring break movie by comparison.

The ultimate nightmare scenario is still in the offing, however, but could come to pass any day. The ragged remnants of the neo-conservative cabal that came together under George W. Bush is still out there, plotting and scheming, concocting novel new ways to light the world on fire for power and profit. The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), think-tank mothership for every bad neocon idea that led us into Iraq and a wider conflict in the Middle East, never died; it just got new offices down the block. Unlike their counterparts in the current administration, the neocons know how the gears of government work, where the levers are, and how to actually get things done. Combine the wild fervor of Trump's band of wreckers with the ice-eyed competence of the neocon assassins, and the result could be horrific beyond any known measure.

It is already in the works, if you listen with the right kind of ears. Neocon dean Robert Kagan, thrilled by Trump's decision to bomb a parking lot in Syria, publicly offered a series of murderous suggestions earlier this month that sounded for all the world like a job interview. As co-founder of PNAC and a long-time advocate for the violent overthrow of virtually every Middle Eastern government, Kagan would make a dynamic -- and terrifying -- addition to the Trump administration. Elliot Abrams, another PNAC alum with two convictions under his belt from the Iran-Contra scandal, came within an eyelash of becoming the No. 2 man at the State Department last February. The fact that either of these men is being taken seriously by anyone in power today, after we have spent so many years digging out from under their catastrophic policy imperatives, is unsettling in the extreme.

So we're clear on what it is we're talking about when we talk about a neocon investment into the Trump administration, here is a bite of some reporting I did on PNAC from February of 2003: "The Project for the New American Century seeks to establish what they call "Pax Americana" across the globe. Essentially, their goal is to transform America, the sole remaining superpower, into a planetary empire by force of arms. A report released by PNAC in September of 2000 entitled 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' codifies this plan, which requires a massive increase in defense spending and the fighting of several major theater wars in order to establish American dominance.

The first step towards the establishment of this Pax Americana is, and has always been, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of an American protectorate in Iraq. The purpose of this is threefold: 1) To acquire control of the oilheads so as to fund the entire enterprise; 2) To fire a warning shot across the bows of every leader in the Middle East; 3) To establish in Iraq a military staging area for the eventual invasion and overthrow of several Middle Eastern regimes, including some that are allies of the United States. Kagan and Abrams are not the only neocons scratching at Trump's backdoor. Bill Kristol, former PNAC director and editor of the Weekly Standard, has been making positive noises in the direction of the new administration. None other than former Bush Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has also taken to the op-ed pages to gently chide Trump & Co. toward the neocon dark side regarding the Middle East.

Mark my words: One of these days, Reince Priebus or someone of equal status will finally get fed up with looking like The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, pick up the phone, and say, "Get me Donald Rumsfeld, now." The temptation in the end, will simply be too great.

Donald Trump wants victories so he can look good on television. These neocons want victories so they can establish permanent US hegemony over the world via military might, and get nice and rich in the process. A combining of forces gives both sides everything they ever wanted.

Someone in Trump's crew is going to make that phone call, I think. After that, it's hats over the windmill, and God have mercy on us all.
(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.

"War" And The Next American Generations
By Jane Stillwater

At a conference in Washington DC recently, military analyst John Mearsheimer spoke about the future of Israel and Palestine. He told us that Israel's future funding by America is secure because AIPAC, Israel's all-powerful lobby, focuses "on the elites in America, not the rank and file. The elites here are still afraid of the Israel lobby and so the lobby is still as powerful as ever...because it focuses its attention on keeping our country's elites in line."

But Mearsheimer also said that there are dark times ahead for both Israel and its lobby, due to Israel's neo-colonialist leaders who are strongly pushing a rightist policy of apartheid. "Israel is not likely to ever become a liberal democracy," said Mearsheimer, "and it could take 20 or 30 years to resolve this conflict [between Israelis and Palestinians]. The decades ahead will be miserable and will also harm America's politics."

So much for Israel's future. But what about the future of America? What lies ahead for us in the next decades? What happens next here -- aside of course from Trump's constant rude slouching toward World War 3?

Generation Z, the post-2001 generation, will come of age -- that's what happens next. Generation Z is apparently different from the Millennials in several ways. They are even more tech-savvy than Millennials for one thing (none of them are techo-dunces like me). Apparently they are also better focused, more avid consumers and more worried about finding a job. But what worries me most about this next generation is their name. "Generation Z," end of the alphabet. Are they really gonna be our last generation -- as their name implies? That could actually be the case.

"But why would you be thinking that?" you might ask. Why? Because America just dropped the "Mother of All Bombs" on Afghanistan and just turned Syria into Ground Zero as well -- which means a whole bunch more air pollution has just been created, that's why. Climate-change deniers aren't just huge corporations hoping to pollute our air and water for fun and profit. The biggest polluter in the world is the American military. So climate-change denial really benefits weapons manufacturers and "war" profiteers the most. And it benefits Generation Z the least.

Through its mega-scale worldwide pollution operations, proponents of endless "war" stand a very good chance of ending Generation Z as well. Yikes!

But there is still hope yet in this tired old world -- and it comes from a rather unexpected source: Babies! Have you noticed how many parents have been winning the Baby Lottery bigtime lately? Giving birth to little Jesus-type babies, little Buddhas? Here is our hope. Not in a stronger military, not in dropping bombs all over the world, not in Israel's sleazy apartheid system or the invasion of Syria or Iraq or Libya or Ukraine by the power-crazed madmen inside Washington's Beltway -- but in our babies.

Let's not let Generation Z be our last generation. Forget about all this endless cheering for "war". Let's cheer for our babies instead.

PS: Why does Trump keep bombing the shite out of the world? One reason might be that he's bored. When one has as much money as The Donald is rolling around in daily, there just aren't many challenges left. So making things go "Boom!" might liven up his day. Mr. President, isn't golf enough? Apparently not. PPS: As for all this talk about eliminating birth control, does America's Alt-Right really want to go there? I always thought they were just racist fascist-wannabes but maybe they aren't racist after all if they are all excited and pleased about producing more minority babies. Maybe I judged them wrong. But hell, the more minority babies the better. Jesus was once a minority baby. So was Buddha.
(c) 2017 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

A woman walks past official French presidential election posters for Marine Le Pen (L) and Emmanuel Macron in a local market in Bethune, France April 24, 2017.

Emmanuel Clinton vs Marine LeTrump

What's supposed to be the shock of the new is not exactly so.

By Pepe Escobar

Here's the body count in the latest geopolitical earthquake afflicting the West: The Socialist Party in France is dead. The traditional Right is comatose. What used to be the Extreme Left is alive, and still kicking.

Yet what's supposed to be the shock of the new is not exactly a shock. The more things veer towards change (we can believe in), the more they stay the same. Enter the new normal: the recycled "system" -as in Emmanuel Macron - versus "the people" - as in the National Front's Marine Le Pen, battling for the French presidency on May 7.

Although that was the expected outcome, it's still significant. Le Pen, re-christened "Marine", reached the second round of voting despite a mediocre campaign.

She essentially reassembled - but did not expand - her voting base. I have argued on Asia Times that Macron is nothing but an artificial product, a meticulously packaged hologram designed to sell an illusion.

Only the terminally naive may believe Macron incarnates change when he's the candidate of the EU, NATO, the financial markets, the Clinton-Obama machine, the French establishment, assorted business oligarchs and the top six French media groups.

As for the stupidity of the Blairite Left, it's now in a class by itself.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the domesticated hard-left of Insubordinate France, managed to equal the Catholic Right Francois Fillon in the final stretch. Yet the vapid PS candidate, Benoit Hamon, stole Melenchon's shot at hitting the second round.

As for Marine, she lost almost four points in the final tally. With one extra week of campaigning Fillon, despite Penelopegate, could have been equal with Marine.

Marine has only one extremely long shot on May 7. She will be frantically touring "deep France" to turn the second round into a debate on French identity and a clash of nationalists, patriots and sovereignists against pro-EU globalists and urban "liquid modernity" practitioners.

So what do they want?

Frontists are ready to rip Emmanuel Clinton's neoliberal program to pieces, which will play very well in rural France and may even yield a few disgruntled Melenchon votes.

Unlike Fillon and Hamon, he has not gone public calling his supporters to vote Macron. Disgruntled Fillon voters may also be inclined to switch to Marine - considering Fillon was viscerally opposed to someone he described as "Emmanuel Hollande."

A quick look at the promises is in order. In a nutshell; Marine proffers a social model that "favors the French people;" Macron offers vague, "profound reforms."

Macron's plan to save 60 billion euros of public funds implies firing 120,000 functionaries; that is a certified recipe to a "see you in the barricades" scenario.

Marine only says she wants to reduce the public deficit - aiming at reducing state medical aid, the French contribution to the EU, and fiscal fraud.

Neither wants to raise the minimum wage and VAT. Both want to reduce the tax burden on companies and both want to fight the "Uberization" of work, favoring French companies (Marine) and European companies (Macron).

Marine's absolute priority is to reduce social aid to foreigners and restitute "buying power" especially to pensioners and low-income workers. She's vague about unemployment.

Macron's "profound reforms" are centered on unemployment insurance and pensions. He's keen on a universal unemployment protection managed by the state. Everyone would be covered, including in the case of being fired. Marine and Macron coincide on one point; better reimbursement of costly health benefits.

Europe is at the heart of the Marine vs Macron fight; that's Frexit against a "new European project."

Everyone in Brussels "voted" Macron as he proposes a budget for the eurozone, a dedicated Parliament, and a dedicated Minister of Finance. In short; Brussels on steroids.

Marine's Frexit should be decided via a referendum - a direct consequence of the frontist obsession with immigration. Marine wants to reduce legal admission of immigrants to 10,000 people a year (it's currently 200,000), tax employment of foreign workers, and suppress social aid. In contrast, pro-immigration Macron aims at what he calls an open France, "faithful to its values."

On foreign policy, it's all about Russia. Marine wants a "strategic realignment" with Moscow especially to fight Salafi-jihadi terror.

Macron - reflecting a French establishment as Russophobic as in the US - is against it, although he concedes that Europe must come to terms with Russia even as he defends the current sanctions.

About that Wall of Cash

If the coming, epic clash could be defined by just one issue that would be the unlimited power of the Wall of Cash.

Macron subscribes to the view that public debt and expenses on public service are the only factors responsible for French debt, so one must have "political courage" to promote reforms.

Sociologist Benjamin Lemoine is one of the few who's publicly debating what's really behind it - the interest of financiers to preserve the value of the debt they hold and their aversion to any negotiation.

Because they control the narrative, they are able to equate "political risk" - be it Marine or Melenchon - with the risk to their own privileged positions.

The real issue at stake in France - and across most of the West - revolves around the conflicting interests of financial masters and citizens attached to public service and social justice.

The coming clash between Emmanuel Clinton and Marine LeTrump won't even begin to scratch the surface.
(c) 2017 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

The Quotable Quote...

"The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood."
~~~ Martin Luther King, Jr

The F-35 And The Incinerating Ski Slope

Remarks in Burlington, Vermont, April 22, 2017

By David Swanson

Thank you all for inviting me. There is no place I'd rather be on earth day. And that includes marching for science at the March for Science in Washington. Although I certainly support marching for honesty, and I'd even march for the cause of getting more scientists to march - and any other group that hasn't yet found the time to bother.

Unless resisting madness becomes mainstream, the madmen will decide our fate.

Thank you also for having started the first chapter of World Beyond War and for having given us the idea to have chapters. We now have people working on starting dozens of chapters in over a dozen countries. And we have staff to help them, and we have people in 151 countries who have signed the pledge that I'll pass around here, pledging to work to end all war. We're trying to get to 175 countries, because that's how many the U.S. military admits to having troops in. So, 24 more to go. If you know anybody in Venezuela, Cuba, Honduras, Mongolia, Algeria, Lithuania, Ethiopia, or Papua New Guinea, please point them to

And thank you for having set up such a terrific program of workshops today, and - I hope - of work that will follow the workshops.

I hope my comments fit into the program, because I'm going to take a round about way of speaking in support of peace and environmentalism by praising garbage incinerators.

In the United States a garbage incinerator is mostly used to get rid of vast quantities of stuff nobody ever needed in the first place - not including, I'm sorry to say, presidential twitter accounts.

And a typical U.S. garbage incinerator produces vast quantities of pollution, horrible smells, dioxin, mercury, nitric oxide, lead, and particulate matter. If you live near such an incinerator, your chances of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and respiratory problems shoot through the roof.

So, you want to locate such a thing as far as you can get it from any population that puts significant funding into election campaigns.

That's why in recent years the students at Benjamin Franklin High School and Curtis Bay Elementary School in a poor and already heavily polluted section of Baltimore, Maryland, had to organize and - thus far - block the construction near their schools and homes of what would have been the biggest and nastiest incinerator yet. Baltimore is already the leading U.S. city for deaths caused by air pollution. And air pollution, like the stairs in your house, like toddlers who find guns, like unsafe workplaces, like local police forces, and like fast-food meals, is more likely to kill you than is ISIS or Al Qaeda.

The Baltimore incinerator, the construction of which has been stopped thus far, would have burned 4,000 tons of trash per day and emitted 1,240 pounds of lead and mercury per year. That's not the kind of garbage incinerator that I want to praise.

There should be two pictures up on the screen. The one that's not an airplane is an incinerator, or waste-to-power plant, now nearing completion in Copenhagen, Denmark.

If you have to have incinerators, because you have not yet reached zero waste, you might want one like this one. It emits none, zero, not a speck of all those nasty poisons and smells that an American simply assumes an incinerator must produce, as illness must produce health insurance companies, as robberies must produce gun sales, and as cable television must produce Wolf Blitzer.

Because this incinerator is not dangerous to those near it, it can be placed near a city. This will allow it to heat 160,000 homes while providing electricity to 62,000 homes, and generating a byproduct of water while burning something over 1,000 tons of waste a day, or a quarter of what was planned for Baltimore.

And because it's placed safely near a city, this particular power plant has had ski slopes installed on the roof of it, with elevators used to bring skiers to the top. Trees will be planted along the ski slopes, as well as hiking trails, climbing walls, a restaurant and bar, etc. And when the incinerator is no longer needed, you'll still have the ski resort.

None of this means that the incinerator is not still a problem. It still produces carbon dioxide. However, it produces much less of it than do other plants. And the architects' goal is for it to publicly display exactly how much it is releasing in order to encourage reduction. It is supposed to do this by producing smoke rings rather than a stream of smoke. Each ring, if it works, will contain the same known amount of C02.

Donald Trump campaigned for president with something of a mixed message on wars. He named wars he opposed and wars he pretended that he had opposed, even while proposing more war spending, a bigger military, the stealing of oil, and the killing of families. But he campaigned very clearly on infrastructure, promising $1 trillion in new spending on infrastructure - his most popular promise according to Gallup polling. And if you believe that one, I've got a rapidly collapsing bridge I'd like to sell you, with an Amtrak train creeping across it at 10 miles per hour, full of passengers cursing at the internet that doesn't work and the food that could silence a lobbyist.

Trump's budget proposal would invest in only one bit of infrastructure: a wall. And it would move $54 billion from nearly every other government program to the military, boosting military spending to over 60% of the spending that Congress decides how to spend each year. Of the gazillion items to be cut in order to build more weapons, Trump is proposing to cut any tests to verify whether the water at U.S. beaches contains fecal matter. The world we live in is determined by specific human actions. Shit doesn't just happen.

Let's look at the two pictures on the screen again. The one that is not a ski-slope power plant overlooking a harbor you can safely swim in is an F-22, an earlier version of your beloved F-35. The smoke in the picture is not produced by a power plant, or even by war planes defending your way of life by making lots of foreign people want to kill you. Nope, that smoke is produced by a re-enactment of Pearl Harbor, meant to convince you that the most costly military in the history of the world, the military to which belong 97% of the bases not located on the soil of the nation they belong to, a military costing nearly as much as all others - allied and otherwise - combined, a military whose private weapons makers are the leading suppliers to the world with their weapons used on multiple sides of most wars, a military that can drop a single bomb to destroy a 2-mile-diameter area of tunnels that it dug decades earlier, a military that now routinely keeps a half dozen aggressive foreign wars going at once, a military that has killed at least 20 million people since World War II ended, a military that in that time has overthrown 36 governments, interfered in at least 30 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries - this military, with its billion dollar advertising budget and football teams on contract to publicly pretend to revere it - this military, according to that smoke, is an innocent victim reluctantly compelled to defend itself. That message is the purpose of that smoke.

But that smoke represents something else as well. The U.S. military is the top consumer of petroleum we have, the top air polluter, the third greatest polluter of U.S. waterways, the biggest creator of superfund sites, et cetera, and it does as much damage preparing to fight wars over fossil fuels with which to destroy the earth as it does actually fighting those wars.

The F-35, the updated U.S. war plane, is - in some ways - the U.S. version of the ski slope power plant. It's our (or our government's, our society's) dream, our investment, our vision of what the future should look like, the face we present to the rest of the world. And that rest of the world includes Denmark, where a corporation produces a few bits of the F-35, and the government can thus buy a couple dozen of them and, in good U.S. sociopathic form, depict that decision as a job-creation effort. At the same time, Denmark can, of course, please the U.S. State Department which is largely a marketing firm for U.S.-made weapons.

But Denmark spends about a half of one percent of what the U.S. does on war, and about 28% per capita of what the U.S. spends on war. (Denmark has slightly less money than the United States per capita, but a higher median income as a result of having done better in Kindergarten or otherwise somehow having learned how to share.) This means that, while Denmark gets fewer F-35s, it does get to be one of those countries that has fast clean trains, beautiful parks, top quality education preschool through college, healthcare, retirement, parental leave, vacation, higher life expectancy, greater happiness, and other things that Senator Bernie Sanders is far more likely to tell you about than he is to mention the difference in military spending. (And yes, Danish taxes are higher, if we pretend that what we shell out to fund our own healthcare and retirement and education and transportation and childcare and psychiatric therapy doesn't count. If those things count, then Danish taxes are lower. The big difference between U.S. taxes and those in other countries is how much goes into war.)

I'm not going to tell you much about the F-35, because many of you know it better than I do, and you've got some real experts here today. I did help put together a petition opposing it at that has over 30,000 signatures and can be used in lobbying efforts.

Let's look at the incinerating ski slope and the incinerating airplane from a few different angles. The one that incinerates garbage costs about $670 million or somewhere between three to six F-35s, if you were able to produce so few. If the local airport here hosts 18 F-35s, that's three to six ski slope power plants you could have had instead. A cost estimate for the United States alone for the whole F-35 program, a plane that incinerates human beings when it works and itself when it doesn't, is $1.4 trillion. Let's be generous and assume that either recent reductions in that cost are real or that this will be the first U.S. military project that does not go over budget. You still could have had 2,089 ski slope power plants instead of the F-35s. They could have heated 334 million households, although the United States only has about half that many households, and a growing number of them do not need heating. The same 2,089 ski slope power plants could have provided electricity to 130 million homes - again, more homes than exist in the U.S., though perhaps not if we gave homes to the homeless. Obviously I am not proposing we build that many ski slope power plants. For the majority of them we should substitute solar and wind production and efficiency standards, at likely a lower cost. And we should give such things to the whole world, not just to this one wealthy country. The point is just that you could essentially switch the residential United States over to sustainable energy for the cost of this airplane. And while that cost is spread over many years, the cost of the U.S. military as a whole approaches $1 trillion in a single year, each and every year, over and over again wasting on our most environmentally destructive, not to mention murderous, enterprise a pile of money that dwarfs what the billionaires have hoarded, which could only be taxed away from them once, and a pile of money that could save the world rather than toy with its destruction.

In fairness to the F-35 and its price tag, I should note that you can now get a helmet to wear while piloting an F-35 for a mere $400,000, more of course than the pilot will be paid in a year or anybody he or she is likely to kill would have made in a lifetime.

The ski slope power plant could be built by a defense department. It helps to defend against the real and deadly danger of climate chaos. The F-35 is not defensive. The F-35 is a first-strike stealth weapon designed to penetrate air space undetected. Its weapons can include nuclear bombs. Its likely missions will include massive bombing of poor nations, creating devastation, death, injury, trauma, starvation and homelessness, while endangering the United States through the hostility it generates. The F-35 lacks any capacity to protect against angry airline hijackers, killing sprees in public places, car bombs, nuclear missiles, non-nuclear missiles, cyber attacks, economic sanctions, or climate change.

Ski slope power plants are not only not designed to commit mass murder. They also have no established pattern of blowing up or otherwise harming those around them through the release of poisons or noise. The F-35, on the other hand, is more dangerous than the incinerator proposed for Baltimore. The F-35, as I've learned from Jimmy Leas and many others, has both a high crash risk and high crash consequences which I can perhaps sum up in one word, just one word, are you listening?


When this moronic, murderous monster crashes it sends all kinds of toxic chemicals into the air. And even when it doesn't, it makes levels of noise that it's unsafe to live near. I understand the F-35 requires thousands of people around here to leave their homes without even having to bomb them.

I don't think we should lump ski instruction and training for mass murder into a single amoral category called jobs. But if we do, the ski slope power plant wins. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts report that each billion dollars spent on military preparations costs the United States between 4 and 16 thousand jobs as compared with tax cuts for working people or identical spending on clean energy, healthcare, or education. The F-35 is a job destroyer as well as a life destroyer.

And then there's the democratic comparison. The U.S. public on average wants $41 billion cut from the military, while Trump wants $54 billion added. Trump wants environmental protection cut; the public doesn't. The U.S. public would oppose subsidies for fossil fuels and support moving them to clean energy, if a pollster were to ask that question. The ski slope power plant is not a foreign idea to the U.S. public. The architect works in New York and builds in the U.S. - including having designed a park to protect lower Manhattan from flooding until the flooding gets higher - a park that may or may not be built. The idea is simply foreign to the U.S. government.

The name of today's conference is "Building A World Beyond War: What Will It Take?" Let me try very briefly to sketch the state of war madness today and what I think is needed instead.

We have specific and systemic failures, and they interlock. A key specific failure was foreshadowed when H.L. Mencken wrote these words:

"On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
I've heard that Donald Trump has bombed people because his daughter asked him to, because he owns stock in Raytheon, because he was eating chocolate cake with the president of China, because the person he most recently spoke with advised him to, because it was the surest way to get the U.S. corporate media to praise him, because half the country wouldn't shut up about its unproven Russia theories until he risked World War III, because he does anything the Pentagon asks, and numerous other possible motivations, all of which have in common being decidedly stupid. I have yet to hear anybody suggest that Trump is bombing and threatening various countries because he has some sort of intelligent plan to solve some problem. The closest I've heard to that has been the Nixonian theory that it's good for foreign relations to make the world's governments believe you are a nuclear armed lunatic. But exactly how that is good has not been explained to my satisfaction.

Of course people did claim that Barack Obama had some sort of intelligent and even benevolent plan while he bombed the same countries. And he didn't. And he created or exacerbated ever worsening crises that landed in Trump's lap. But there was reason to believe that Obama might hesitate to start a nuclear holocaust because of what kind of cake he was eating. And that's gone, whisked off in a hurricane of dumbness and delusion that defies understanding. It shouldn't matter, except that one of the systemic problems we have is that we've allowed presidents greater powers than kings, while Congress seems to believe it's sworn an oath not to protect the Constitution but to refrain from impeaching anyone at all costs.

We also have the systemic problem of the nearly universal acceptance of war. A peace activist organization this week sent out an email with this headline: "Hate has no place in the Army."

The idea was to reject a racist, sexist bigot to lead the U.S. Army, because he might deny some people the opportunity to "serve." Similar thinking drives the Democrats' push to require that 18-year-old women register for the draft like their male counterparts, so as to end the discrimination that denies women the right to be forced against their will to participate in mass slaughter.

But imagine believing, not only that you can have an Army and no wars, but also that you can have an Army without hate. You can't properly condition members of the military to kill without hate. Here's a chant from U.S. military training:

We went to the market where all the hadji shop,
pulled out our machetes and we began to chop,
We went to the playground where all the hadji play,
pulled out our machine guns and we began to spray,
We went to the mosque where all the hadji pray,
threw in a hand grenade and blew them all away.

There are countless more just as hateful. You can, of course, make a military better or worse. You can put solar panels on a humvee or a pleasant face in a high office. And we're only going to get rid of militaries by gradual stages. But we shouldn't keep imagining that our ultimate goal is a better military.

According to Human Rights Watch this week, the United States failed to take "necessary precautions to avoid bombing a mosque." But there is nothing whatsoever legal or moral about bombing a town, and the only precaution you need in order to avoid bombing a mosque is to refrain from bombing.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposal advocates increased military spending throughout the next decade, only increased at a slower pace than in Trump's proposal.

This is the state of the normalization of war, as numerous wars are escalated and new ones threatened.

Sony, with input from the U.S. government, made a truly moronic movie called The Interview about the CIA murdering the president of North Korea. One of the actors in that movie, Seth Rogen, a proud new member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Vermont this week tweeted: "I think we did more research for our movie about killing Kim Jong Un than trump is in to actually killing him." Apparently we have standards. You shouldn't murder people without doing research first. I'd love to know what research went into a movie that North Korea called an act of war and viewers called things I won't repeat to a family audience.

I'd have recommended researching the origins of the term "brainwashing."

Did you know that people cannot actually be programed like the Manchurian candidate, which was a work of fiction? There was never the slightest evidence that China or North Korea had done any such thing. And the CIA spent decades trying to do such a thing, and finally gave up.

Do you know what it was that the U.S. government promoted the myth of "brainwashing" to cover up? During the Korean War, the United States bombed virtually all of North Korea and a good bit of the South, killing millions of people. It dropped massive quantities of Napalm. It bombed dams, bridges, villages, houses. This was all-out mass-slaughter. But there was something the U.S. government didn't want known, something deemed unethical in this genocidal killing spree.

It is well documented that the United States dropped on China and North Korea insects and feathers carrying anthrax, cholera, encephalitis, and bubonic plague. This was supposed to be a secret at the time, and the Chinese response of mass vaccinations and insect eradication probably contributed to the project's general failure (hundreds were killed, but not millions). But members of the U.S. military taken prisoner by the Chinese confessed to what they had been a part of, and confessed publicly when they got back to the United States.

Some of them had felt guilty to begin with. Some had been shocked at China's decent treatment of prisoners after U.S. depictions of the Chinese as savages. For whatever reasons, they confessed, and their confessions were highly credible, were borne out by independent scientific reviews, and have stood the test of time.

How to counter reports of the confessions? The answer for the CIA and the U.S. military and their allies in the corporate media was "brainwashing," which conveniently explained away whatever former prisoners said as false narratives implanted in their brains by brainwashers.

Did you know that the Korean war has never officially ended? That the U.S. military has never relinquished wartime command of the South Korean military? That the U.S. military has been building big new bases in South Korea opposed by serious popular protests? That people have been coming from around the world for years now to join those protests? That the U.S. and South Korea annually fly practice missions over North Korea practicing to bomb it? That the U.S. is building what it calls a missile defense system in South Korea that North Korea and China consider offensive and part of an offensive first-strike policy? That South Korean activists are seeking to stop this U.S. military madness and now have a chance following the successful impeachment of their president? Did you know that North Korea has abided by past agreements until the U.S. violated them? That North Korea is the only nuclear nation that supports the creation of a treaty banning nukes? That in testing missiles North Korea violates no law? That the U.S. tests missiles all the time? That in threatening war on North Korea the United States commits a grave violation of the law as well as risking getting us all killed?

Similar missing context can be given for each of several wars and threats we hear bits and snippets about. The United States has been attempting to overthrow Syrian governments since the 1950s, including an effort of at least the past decade, during which the United States has fended off various possibilities for peace. There are three answers we should make when presented with supposed causes for war, in the case of Syria as in any other. Our corporate media fails on the first, and we all fail on the other two.

First, we should seek out verifiable facts. Will the March For Science demand scientific investigations of claims made about chemical weapons attacks in Syria? Or will it demand more funding for military research? Either one is equally scientific, but the two are not morally equivalent.

Second, we should recognize that the first question is the wrong one, that no matter how it is answered, nothing can justify launching a war, not legally, morally, or practically. A crime must be prosecuted, not be followed by another crime.

Third, we should make ourselves aware that the war for which justification is sought has been long underway, and the specific response to the chosen atrocity is a very small piece of it. As Nicolas Davies has been diligently pointing out, during the week after the chemical weapons incident of April 4th, U.S.-led air strikes killed at least 296 civilians in Syria and Iraq, those being identified victims of a fraction of U.S.-led strikes, the actual total likely falling between 1,500 and 6,000 civilians, to which I would add an unknown number of other human beings on whom we don't bestow any value as they are not labeled civilians. That level of killing, Davies points out, drawing on the reporting of the British organization called Airwars, is typical of the past two-and-a-half years. President Obama dropped more bombs than President Bush the Lesser did. Trump seems unlikely to voluntarily leave Obama's record standing.

The idea that killing great numbers of people is all well and good unless it is done with chemical weapons, or that killing someone else's people is practically philanthropic whereas killing your own people is the work of Satan is all rather curious. Saddam Hussein famously killed his own people with chemical weapons. They might not have admitted to being his people. The weapons used may have come in great part from the United States. It doesn't matter. Chemical weapons have been so stigmatized that, even while lethal injections are considered the only progressive way to murder prisoners, chemical weapons are deemed the only unforgivable way to kill in war. Of course, Napalm is alright, and other fire bombs, and white phosphorous, and depleted uranium, and cluster bombs. It's not melting the flesh off children that's immoral, it's using a weapon that the United States has declared uncivilized that is immoral.

During World War I the United States was a big fan of chemical weapons. Winston Churchill is essentially a saint in U.S. war mythology, and he was a huge supporter of chemical weapons, presumably forgiven by those who don't manage to avoid knowing that by the fact that he lived some years back. I point this out because it suggests a certain recognition that time and morality change. In my home town people forgive Thomas Jefferson for enslaving more people even as the Quakers were freeing their enslaved Virginians, because he lived so many years ago.

But Adolf Hitler is not just the character who the White House press secretary thinks was above using chemical weapons or who somehow used them more humanely by locking people in a closed space first. Hitler is also the nearly universal U.S. excuse for the institution of war. Yet he lived in the same era as Churchill. We admit that times have dramatically changed since Churchill. Can we admit that times have dramatically changed since Hitler? That warfare has changed dramatically, that nukes have been invented, that global law has been developed, that colonialism has been in many ways defeated, that evil dictators foreign and domestic do not resemble Hitler, that Hitler himself does not resemble the Hitler threatening to invade the United States in so many nightmares, that the power of nonviolent resistance to tyranny and even occupation has been advanced in major new ways? Can we bring the troops home from Germany and Japan, declare peace, and scale back the permanent war footing?

Of course the top Hitler today, and that's a name that Hillary Clinton called him, is Vladimir Putin. I don't know if the Russia obsession of the past five months is going to go away now that Trump's been persuaded to be properly hostile. That doesn't satisfy the other motivation, of showing that Hillary Clinton would have won the election if not for foreign interference. And that motivation is key to distracting us from the fact that the election system is totally broken, a popular vote winner can lose, the whole thing is bought and paid for, the communications system is unfair, people are blocked from voting by ID rules and by the purging of voter roles, Trump openly intimidated voters and opposed the counting of ballots in the few places they existed, and the Democratic Party is a miserable excuse for a political institution.

The wars, hot and cold, are also a great diversion, not only of resources, but also of attention from domestic devastation and resistance - a purpose war has served for centuries.

What we need instead are structures and habits that avoid and resolve conflicts without war. The architect of the ski slope power plant has designed a series of parks to protect lower Manhattan from some level of storms. Build that. But then make the changes needed actually to minimize the further exacerbation of climate change. Go to the climate march in Washington or locally on April 29. There will be a peace rally as part of it in DC. See

We also need to eliminate nuclear weapons, and to support the 132 nations working on the treaty to ban them. There's a Women's March to Ban the Bomb on June 17 in New York. Bring the scientists. Bring the climate defenders.

We need to organize locally and globally, not just nationally. We need to organize around principled policy demands, not political partisanship. We need to take on the entire institution of war and its replacement with reformed and reworked structures of government, including global government. We need to combine movements for peace, the environment, human rights, economic rights, sustainability, and an end to racism, sexism, mass incarceration, the death penalty, television advertising, and other forms of barbarism.

We need to develop the rule of law, the use of nonviolent civilian peaceworkers in danger zones, and the use of nonviolent activism in every zone. We need to protest Congress members until they quit, as a Congressman from Utah did earlier this week, as long as we can replace them with some that will be better. Congress members are home until the 24th. Make sure they hear from you.

We should go over to Hancock Air Base in New York State and help protest drone murders.

We should bring large numbers here to protest the F-35.

We should build up our fledgling institutions, such as World Beyond War chapters.

And at some point, if it becomes impossible for a state, as a member of the United States, to sever its ties to the military industrial complex or to create single payer healthcare or to invest in human and environmental needs, then that state should dissolve the political bands which have connected it with 49 others and assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of its own and the world's creation entitle it. I think a decent respect to the opinions of humankind renders it entirely unnecessary to declare the causes which impel such a state to the separation. Everybody gets it.

If at first you don't secede, try try again.

Thank you.

I'll take any questions, and then there's time for visiting exhibit tables, and I'll sign books at one of them, and then the workshops will begin.
(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.

President Trump at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, on April 20, 2017

At Sea With Capt. 'Wrong Way' Trump

A rudderless ship of state creates chaos and erratically steers us into a feckless foreign policy.
By Michael Winship

Baby boomers like me fondly remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of childhood (and adulthood, for that matter - in their grown-up jokes and cultural references they presaged The Simpsons by a good 25 years and are still pretty hilarious).

You may particularly recall one Rocky and Bullwinkle character, Capt. Peter "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz, an addled mariner so spectacular in his incompetence that even his toy boats sank in the bathtub.

At one point, Peachfuzz managed to steer his ship into New York's financial district - and I mean into, so much so that it was given the permanent address of 17 ½ Wall Street. Now at the helm of an investment firm, his board of directors wanted to get Capt. Peachfuzz as far away as possible and found him a job counting penguin eggs in Antarctica. But a secretary mistyped the form and Peachfuzz was made head of the nation's intelligence community.

You can see where I'm going with this. When life starts imitating cartoons you know you're in trouble, except that Donald "Wrong Way" Trump isn't accidentally head of central intelligence, he's the president of the United States and may God have mercy on our souls.

The nautical reference is especially appropriate, of course, with "Wrong Way" Trump's announcement last week that "an armada, very powerful" was headed toward North Korea in response to that nation's growing nuclear threat. In fact, that "armada," the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and a Navy strike group, was heading in the opposite direction, toward Australia - meaning, as my friend Jeremy said, that the ships were prepared, if North Korea made the wrong move, to attack Melbourne.

Apparently, the confusion began with an April 9 announcement from the US Pacific Command and was amplified by statements from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and other military officials before Trump spoke out. But as The Washington Post noted:

"...the perception of a carrier strike group steaming toward North Korea at a time of swiftly escalating tension also served the interests of Trump and his top advisers, who were keen to send a deterrent message to Pyongyang and illustrate its break with the policies of former president Barack Obama."
Having wrapped up maneuvers in the Indian Ocean, the ships now are turned around and finally heading toward the Korean peninsula. At least that's what White House press secretary Sean Spicer says, so you can take that to the bank! But the incident serves to illustrate the rudderless incoherence of the Trump administration and the lack of even the inkling of a cogent foreign or defense policy. "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz could have done no worse.

In recent days, we've heard inconsistent policy statements, and not just about where the hell our ships are. There have been flip-flops on China and Russia as well as conflicting declarations when it comes to President Bashar al-Assad's brutality in Syria and the contested referendum in Turkey that by a narrow margin gave President Recep Tayyip Erdogan increased dictatorial control over his government. Trump called to heartily congratulate Erdogan on his win, yet at the same time the State Department warned the Turkish leader against ignoring the "rule of law" and urged him to respect "a diverse and free media."

At The Post, David Nakamura and Karen DeYoung report:

"Although every administration experiences growing pains, the recent succession of mixed signals over key national security issues has stood out, painting a picture to some of an administration that has not fully developed its policies or a broader international agenda and whose key agencies are not communicating with one another - or the White House. It is a situation that has led foreign diplomats and congressional lawmakers to express uncertainty about the administration's goals and about who is speaking on its behalf."
That's putting it mildly. An Associated Press dispatch from Seoul this week about how nervous South Koreans felt about Trump led with three simple words: "Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous."

Former national security officials say that a large part of the problem is that Trump still has failed to make hundreds of appointments, including to many critical positions at both the State Department and Pentagon. It's a combination of ineptitude and a resistance to doing things the way they've been done in the past. The Post's Nakamura and De Young write:

"The result is that the normally meticulous care that goes into formulating and coordinating US government policy positions or even simple statements is often absent. Institutional memory is lacking, these former officials said, and mistakes and contradictions easily slip through the cracks."
But it's not just that; we're also dealing with an incurious president who appears to recite what little he knows about world history phonetically and whose attention span when it comes to international relations seems minimal and based on impulse with little attention to the potential blowback from his snap judgments. Having him face off against North Korea's willfully naive and equally impulsive Kim Jong-un is a ghastly prospect.

Chaos worked for Capt. Peter "Wrong Way" Peachfuzz - he always seemed to land on his sea legs. And in comparison to the cartoonish Trump, his fictional character was far more benign. At one point, when his ship's crew was contemplating mutiny, they decided instead to build a fake command deck and let Peachfuzz stand at the phony controls, thinking his orders were being obeyed.

Would that we could build a duplicate fake Oval Office and have Donald "Wrong Way" Trump bark orders and push all the buttons he wants, believing his every wish was our command. Then maybe the rest of us could move on with the business of the republic, reestablish America's place as a member of the world community and finally get a good night's sleep.
(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...

Sean tells a lie

Heil Trump,

Dear Propaganda Ansanger Spicer,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your ability to keep on lying even when facing evidence to the contrary, 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 Spicer, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

A replica of the Oval Office desk in the G. H. W. Bush Library.

First 100 Days: Trump And The Degradation Of The Presidency
By Robert Reich

Trump's failure to accomplish little or any of his agenda during his first 100 days is striking. But we should not forget the vast harm he has done in this comparatively short time - especially his degradation of the presidency.

From early in the Republic, we have looked at the office of the president as a focal point for the nation's values. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and his Teddy's fifth cousin, Franklin, are studied by school children as both exemplars of what it means to be president and of the moral authority of the office. It is not merely what these men accomplished, but how they did it; not just their policies but their positive effects on the institutions of democratic governance.

True, many of our presidents have fallen short of those ideals. But our disappointments in them largely reflect the high expectations we have of those who hold that office.

But not until Trump has the moral authority of the office disappeared.

I'm old enough to recall when John F. Kennedy invited the world's great artists, writers, and philosophers to dine at the White House. The nation felt ennobled. Donald Trump invites Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent, who once called President Obama a "mongrel," and we feel sullied.

But it has not just been Trump's vulgarity.

There have also been Trump's lies - blatant, continuous, and unsubstantiated even after the lack of evidence has been pointed out repeatedly. They are not just any lies, but lies that deepen Americans' suspicion of one another and undermine our confidence in our system of government - such as his repeated contention that "three to five million" people voted illegally in the last election, or that Obama spied on him during the campaign.

Prior presidents have embellished the truth and on occasion have lied about a particular important thing, such as the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But before Trump we have never had a president who chronically lies, whose lies have become an integral part of his presidency even in the first 100 days.

We have also been confronted with Trump's vast family business, from which he continues to benefit even though the decisions he makes in office affect the what he earns, and the almost certain decisions by foreign governments to curry favor with him by bestowing benefits on his business. He shrugs off such conflicts - even refusing to release his tax returns, even inviting his daughter and son-in-law, each with their own businesses and conflicts of interest, to join him at the highest reaches of the White House.

Some presidents have profited from their presidencies after they leave office through large speaking fees and book contracts. But never before Trump have we had a president for whom conflicts of financial interest during his presidency are flagrant yet ignored.

The first 100 days has also been marked by Trump's divisiveness - turning Americans against each other, legitimizing hatefulness toward Mexican-Americans and Muslim-Americans and African-Americans, fueling violence between his supporters and his opponents.

We have had divisive elections before. But after them, other presidents have sought to heal the wounds. Even after the horrors of the Civil War, Lincoln famously asked us to come together without malice. Trump, by contrast, encourages warring camps - calling his opponents "enemies" and suggesting that they are plotting against his administration, and staging rallies to encourage and fuel his bedrock supporters.

We have also seen Trump's necessary cruelty - toward refugees, undocumented immigrants, and the poor among us. He has issued a budget that would deeply harm the least advantaged Americans, and supported a repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would also hurt those most in need.

He has refused asylum to refugees at a time when the world faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II, and unleashed immigration enforcers on 11 million residents of the United States, many of whom have been productive members of their communities for years. He has even deported people who have been here since childhood and know know no other nation.

Other presidents have on occasion been cruel. But Trump's cruelty defies reason. It is utterly unnecessary.

There has also been Trump's affect on the rest of the world - legitimizing crude nationalism and hateful xenophobia. He has promoted France's Marine Le Pen and encouraged authoritarians such as Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan, while at the same time confusing our democratic allies and friends.

Finally, there is Donald Trump himself - who in the first 100 days as president has shown himself to be narcissistic, xenophobic, paranoid, vindictive, and thin-skinned; who takes credit for the work of others and blames others for his own failings; who lashes out at the press and journalists when they criticize him, and who demonizes judges who disagree with him.

We have before had presidents such as Richard Nixon whose personality defects harmed their presidencies and tainted the office of the president. But Donald Trump is in a different league altogether. He exhibits the opposite of every civic virtue ever encouraged in our school rooms, town halls, and churches.

The first 100 days is an artificial landmark for presidents. But it does offer an opportunity to pause and assess what they have done. Too often, though, we think in the narrow gauge of policies and legislation.

With Trump, it's important to think more broadly. Among the most significant legacies of his first 100 days is his degrading of the moral authority of the office of the president, and, thereby, of America.
(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

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at the U.S. Capitol in February.

Koch Industries And Other Corporations Lobbied For Donald Trump's Cabinet Picks, Filings Show
By Lee Fang

Many of Donald Trump's cabinet nominations faced vocal opposition from constituents and public interest groups. But well-connected corporate lobbyists stalked the halls of Congress to make sure Trump's team was confirmed by the Senate, new filings show.

Koch Industries, a fossil fuel conglomerate that owns a variety of business interests that have clashed with environmental regulators, directly lobbied to help confirm Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

The firm's latest disclosure form reports that its in-house corporate lobbying team spent $3.1 million to influence lawmakers over the first three months of the year on a variety of issues affecting its bottom line, including the EPA's Clean Power Rule on carbon emissions, carbon pricing, the Clean Air Act and "nominations for various positions at the Department of Energy."

Other groups with a vested stake in the administration's agenda also disclosed they had lobbied senators to confirm Trump's nominees.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association, a trade group that lobbies largely on trade and labor standard issues on behalf of clothing manufacturers and retailers, lobbied in support of Andrew Puzder, Trump's initial pick to lead the Labor Department - and, after Republican senators balked at the fast-food executive, in support of replacement nominee Alexander Acosta. The group's filing showed it spent $176,485 on advocacy in the beginning of the year, though it did not specify how much of the lobbying total was spent on the confirmation efforts.

"Mr. Puzder has seen, firsthand, the impact of burdensome regulations promulgated by the previous administration, and he has seen both the negative impacts and unintended consequences they can have on employers and employees alike," a group of business interests including the AAFA wrote in a letter to the Senate.

The National Roofing Contractors Association also lobbied in support of Trump's labor nominees. The NRCA is a major construction trade group that has opposed new Labor Department rules that require corporations to disclose consultants and law firms hired to influence efforts by workers to engage in labor organizing.

Nestle, the sprawling food and beverage firm, disclosed lobbying on food safety issues - and the nomination of Sonny Perdue, Trump's pick to lead the Department of Agriculture.

New York City's police sergeants union, in a filing listing many issues before legislators this year, noted that it had worked for the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Ed Mullins, the president of the union, wrote to Judiciary Committee members to endorse Sessions as a "man of unquestionable integrity devoted to the rule of law and the best interests of our nation." The filing shows the union also lobbied for bills to expedite the deportation of alleged gang members and to repeal President Barack Obama's order limiting the transfer of military equipment to local police departments.

Some groups playing a more subtle role. The Council of Institutional Investors, a trade group representing pension funds, disclosed that its lobbyists had drafted questions for senators to ask during the confirmation hearing of Jay Clayton, the nominee lead the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The confirmation of Pruitt, arguably the most controversial Trump nominee, attracted the most direct support from industry groups.

The American Energy Alliance, an advocacy group founded by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle, issued a letter in support of Pruitt along with other Koch-backed conservative nonprofits. America Rising Squared, a political research outfit that has harassed environmental activists, formed a special website - now deleted - to respond to criticism of Pruitt's record.

Koch Industries has a long and contentious relationship with the EPA. The company's pipelines were involved in over 300 oil spills between 1988 and 1996, leading to a $30 million fine in 2000, at that point the largest environmental fine in U.S. history. Other Koch subsidiaries have clashed with environmental regulators. Koch's Pine Bend oil refinery, a major revenue source for the company, spilled up to 60,000 gallons of jet fuel throughout the 1990s.

During the contentious confirmation process, Pruitt, a global warming denier and avowed critic of rules governing industrial polluters, largely dodged questions about his relationship with Koch Industries. Previous reporting revealed that as Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt joined several Koch-backed lawsuits against EPA rules and remained in close contact with groups financed by Koch's owners, Charles and David Koch. When asked about his support from the Koch brothers during the hearing, Pruitt largely demurred, telling Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., that he did not solicit Koch campaign donations to a group he helped lead. Meanwhile, Koch Industries lobbied to help confirm him as EPA administrator.
(c) 2017 Lee Fang is a journalist with a longstanding interest in how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups and money. He was the first to uncover and detail the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in financing the Tea Party movement. His interviews and research on the Koch brothers have been featured on HBO's "The Newsroom," the documentaries "Merchants of Doubt" and "Citizen Koch," as well as in multiple media outlets. He was an investigative blogger for ThinkProgress (2009-2011) and then a fellow at the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation.

In 2012, he co-founded, a blog to cover political corruption that syndicates content with, Salon, National Memo,, TruthOut, and other media outlets. His work has been published by VICE, The Baffler, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Progressive, NPR, In These Times, and The Huffington Post. His first book, "The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right," published by The New Press, explores how the conservative right rebuilt the Republican Party and its political clout in the aftermath of President Obama's 2008 election victory. He is based in San Francisco.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bill Day ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Covey Of Political Caucuses
By Will Durst

During the Trump Care Meltdown, when the same Republicans that chanted "Repeal & Replace" for seven years folded like a broken down lawn chair in a category 5 hurricane, we learned about a couple mysterious Republican Congressional Caucuses instrumental in torpedoing the AHCA. These two groups come from such opposite sides of the political spectrum they undoubtedly have dartboards with each other's pictures tacked to the middle.

The Freedom Caucus is made up of members that formerly self-identified as Tea Partiers but changed their name to interact with civilized people. Of course, we're referring to those unsung heroes of the democratic process: forced to trudge the minefields of ego and weather the storms of unconscionable incompetence, those brave patriots that soldier on in relative obscurity as Congressional staffers.

Way over on the other side is the Tuesday Group, moderate Republicans, which in the 1960s were known as the Wednesday Group. Seriously. You got to wonder if there's a "2nd Thursday in Months that Don't Have an R in Them Group" because if so, they haven't been much of a factor lately.

Most citizens aren't aware of these special interest caucuses flying under the radar like sparrows through cable ducts, plotting and lobbying and exerting influence and stiffing caterers all over the greater D.C. Area, complete with secret handshakes and hazing rituals. "Last one to raise 200 thousand by next Monday has to pay for the double tray of 'Dogs in a Blanket.'" One of the nearly 200 official groups is the Mental Health Caucus, ostensibly charged to study the multitude of mental health problems plaguing the country. The lucky part is the wealth of raw material available without ever leaving the Capitol grounds.

The bipartisan Heroin Taskforce doesn't actually use heroin, but they know where you can get it. The Congressional Asthma & Allergy Taskforce meets when pollen counts are low, or not. And the Electromagnetic Pulse Caucus is rigorous about backing up the minutes of their meetings onto multiple hard drives.

There's the Congressional Cannabis Caucus that one likes to think gets together every Friday at 4:20. And of course, the Friends of Kazakhstan Caucus. Or is it the Friends of Lanie Kazan Caucus? Always get those two mixed up.

Don't know if The Brotherhood of Liver Transplant Recipients, the 3rd Wives Elimination Group, Tiny Hands Union, The Elvis Caucus, a group of Southerners whose meetings feature a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich buffet or the Floss With Domestic Licorice Advancement Group exist, but they could.

The Blue Dog Coalition is a group of conservative Democrats and totally different than Yellow Dog Democrats, so enamored of their party they would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the Democrat ballot. No Purple Dog Democrats or Plaid Dog Democrats, yet, but the chroma- kennel is definitely growing.

The Congressional Values Action Team exists, but hasn't spread its sphere of influence very wide. Everyone get honorary membership in the Mirror Appreciation Society, and undoubtedly, there's a Beelzebub Friendship Network and Bipartisan Flunky & Bootlicker Support Group that operate under different names.

While the vast majority of caucuses are not much more than excuses to drink with friends in private, the most useless and ineffectual group that occasionally meets but accomplishes absolutely nothing is a group you may know as ... the Democrats.
(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 # 15 (c) 04/28/2017

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