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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reports, "Man Trump Named To Fix Mortgage Markets Figured In Infamous Financial Crisis Episode."

Uri Avnery introduces, "The Israeli Macron."

Glen Ford explains, "Obama's New Job: Guardian Of Official Lies."

Robert Parry asks, "The Existential Question of Whom to Trust."

Jim Hightower differentiates, "Real News, Fake News... And BS News."

Norman Solomon examines, "How The Russia Spin Got So Much Torque."

Chris Hedges exposes a, "Reign of Idiots."

John Nichols warns, "Trump's FCC Has Begun Its Attack On Net Neutrality."

William Rivers Pitt explores, "Trump, the GOP and the 100-Day Dump Truck Wreck."

Brian Kahn discovers, "The Larsen C Ice Shelf Crack Just Sprouted A New Branch."

Greg Palast calculates, "Trump's Tax Cut Flunks The Napkin Test."

David Swanson tells, "What I Said At The Peace Hub Of The Climate March."

Michael Winship sings for Trump, "Don't Know Much About History."

Ajit Pai wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich observes, "The Authoritarian President."

Glenn Greenwald concludes, "Trump's Support And Praise Of Despots Is Central To The U.S. Tradition, Not A Deviation From It."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Betsy DeVos Says Media Shouldn't Emphasize First Hundred Days Because 'It's So Hard to Count to a Hundred,'" but first Uncle Ernie sez we're all going, "Over The Edge."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Deering, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Jabin Botsford, Bill Clark, Gage Skidmore, Stefan Falke, Mikhail Pochuyev, Chesley Bonestell, Gabriella Demczuk, Project MIDAS, Wikipedia, US State Department, Colliers, White House, New York Times, TASS, Redux, Flickr, AP, The Washington Post, 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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Over The Edge
By Ernest Stewart

"One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don't go into government." ~~~ Donald Trump

In fact, the thickness of the Earth's atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That's the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth, that protects us from deadly ultraviolet light from the sun, that through the greenhouse effect brings the surface temperature above the freezing point. (Without the greenhouse effect, the entire Earth would plunge below the freezing point of water and we'd all be dead.) Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology. We are pumping all kinds of stuff into it. You know about the concern that chlorofluorocarbons are depleting the ozone layer; and that carbon dioxide and methane and other greenhouse gases are producing global warming, a steady trend amidst fluctuations produced by volcanic eruptions and other sources. Who knows what other challenges we are posing to this vulnerable layer of air that we haven't been wise enough to foresee? ~~~ Carl Sagan

"Just days into his new job as Secretary of USDA, Secretary Perdue has decided to put special interests ahead of the health of America's children. School meal nutrition standards were enacted, on a bipartisan basis, to bring school meals up to date with the latest nutrition science - ensuring that our children have healthy options on their plates. However, the USDA and President Trump have now decided to roll back much of the progress we have made in the fight against rates of childhood obesity and malnutrition." ~~~ Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

"Round up the usual suspects." ~~~ Captain Renault

Do you ever, after listening to Trump, look around for a man dressed in a black suit, smoking a cigarrette? Are you fervently wishing that this is an episode of the Twilight Zone and not reality? How many times after listening to derr Fuhrer have you found yourself slowly shaking your head and muttering, WTF?

So far, I haven't heard on the the TV one of the many Holy Joes talking about the end times are here with Trump! Mighty Zeus only knows I've been treated to such malarky about a dozen times over the years with one end timer saying, as he was going to heaven, I could have his new Mercedes, as he wouldn't be needing it after a certain date. When the date came and passed he said rather sheepishly that he needed it after all. It seems to me if there was ever a time to be talking about the end of daze, this would certainly be it!

After living through a group of would be genocidal maniacs aka Johnson, Nixon, Ray-Guns, Bush the elder, Slick Willie, Bush the lessor and Barry. it's been one hell of a ride. While their blood lust was brutal and beyond imagination, it was also very calculated, and not likely to lead to WWIII.

However, the Donald, on the other hand, hasn't a clue about strategic planning and neither do the people around him. While Bush the lessor was a brain dead monkey the people around him weren't. Speaking of which, you may recall that under Bush the lessor this magazine ran articles on how to prepare for the worst. A large list of how to do things for yourself with experts in every field teaching you how to grow food, what foods to grow and where to get the right seed, etc.. How to create electricity, how make clean water, everything that you and your family would need to survive when this moving paper fantasy falls apart. All of this, and more, could be done on a shoestring budget, so almost everyone could afford to do it.

Now would be a good time to look into those things. Even if Trump manages to avoid WWIII his neglect and opposition to global warming will push us all over the edge and into the abbiss, as Mother Earth shakes us off like the bad case of fleas and lice that we are.

In Other News

It's bad enough that global warming in the oceans is wreking havoc on the various reef systems, for example, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is now dying by the square miles on a daily basis and taking all the wild life that depends upon it for survival with it. In a just published study they found that greenhouse gas emissions are going to fundamentally affect ecosystems in ways that we are just beginning to understand, a team of researchers has shown that bacteria in the ocean are losing their ability to fix nitrogen.

This study, published in the journal Science, took a close look at a type of cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium, which through nitrogen fixation, Trichodesmium converts nitrogen gas into ammonia and other molecules that organisms need for survival.

"This is one of the major sources of nitrogen for other organisms in the open ocean," said Sven Kranz, assistant professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Florida State University and a co-author of this study. "If Trichodesmium responds negatively to the environmental changes forced upon the ocean by fossil fuel burning, it could have a large effect on our food web." Trichodesmium is responsible for about 50 percent of marine nitrogen fixation, so a decline in its ability could have a major ripple effect on marine ecosystems. Between warming oceans, mercurey poisoning, Monsanto runoff, and Japanese radiation, you can pretty much kiss that fish sandwich goodbye!

For this study, Kranz focused on the "...preliminary data collections and how the cyanobacteria reacted to changing concentrations of iron and carbon dioxide." Another group in China conducted further studies including protein analysis and replicated this work in the field, conducting experiments in the South China Sea in May 2016.

Meanwhile Trump's EPA continues to remove web pages with climate change information from it's website. If Trump, trying to start WWIII doesn't kill us all, his denial of Global Warming certainly will!

And Finally

I see where former Georgia Governor, now Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue said Monday that he would roll back First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative: stricter nutritional standards for school lunches. That's right, Sonny and Donald have been properly bribed by the makers of junk food so little Aiden and Ava had better start packing a lunch!

Perdue, who became head of the agency last week, announced he would be relaxing guidelines and providing greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for schools' meal programs. Instead of nutrition, he'd use extra salt to make that hot fried pink slime taste better. Yum yum!

"This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," (and the ones we're facing from our junk food masters) Perdue said during a visit to Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va.

"If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition - thus undermining the intent of the program," said Perdue, who was accompanied by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) another bought and paid for Rethuglican stooge. I wonder if the folks wearing those nifty red hats who voted for the Trumpster did it because they hoped he would cut out nutritious meals at school and give the kids more of the same junk food that they're fed back at home, are happy with Sonny's bright ideas? How about you, America, are you happy?

Keepin' On

Every now and again, I feel myself wondering why I'm still doing this after all these years. I flash back on school and why I dropped out and became a DJ. The truth about our plight had become crystal clear, and reality, was a bitch! What LBJ didn't teach me, the "Trick" did, and where in the hell was Walt Disney now that I really needed him, and his load of bullshit? Someday my princess will come, my ass!

Then I flash back to reality and remember that nothing has changed, except it's gotten a whole lot worse; and unlike the radical daze of my youth, there seems to be no revolt in the populace, just a wholesale acceptance of our coming doom. C'est la guerre, mes amis!

Or, you can get mad as hell and swear that you're not going to take it anymore. Come and join us in our righteous fight to restore the old Republic. Please send us whatever you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep exposing the new-told lies, and fight the good fight, for you, the people!


07-26-1917 ~ 04-30-2017
Thanks for the film!

02-09-1934 ~ 04-30-2017
Thanks for the read!

04-30-1947 ~ 05-01-2017
Thanks for the music!


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

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

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


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

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

Craig S. Phillips, a former top executive on Morgan Stanley's trading desk, is the man Donald Trump put in charge of reviewing Wall Street rules.

Man Trump Named To Fix Mortgage Markets Figured In Infamous Financial Crisis Episode
Former Morgan Stanley banker once dumped "shitbag" CDOs on clients
By Matt Taibbi

In early 2007, a group of Morgan Stanley bankers bundled a group of subprime mortgage instruments into a package they hoped to sell to investors. The only problem was, they couldn't come up with a name for the package of mortgage-backed derivatives, which they all knew were doomed.

The bankers decided to play around with potential names. In a series of emails back and forth, they suggested possibilities. "Jon is voting for 'Hitman,'" wrote one. "How about 'Nuclear Holocaust 2007-1?'" wrote another, adding a few more possible names: Shitbag, Mike Tyson's Punchout and Fludderfish.

Eventually they stopped with the comedy jokes, gave the pile of "nuclear" assets a more respectable name -"Stack" -and sold the $500 million Collateralized Debt Obligation with a straight face to the China Development Industrial Bank. Within three years, the bank was suing a series of parties, including Morgan Stanley, to recover losses from the toxic fund.

The name on the original registration document for Stack? Craig S. Phillips, then president of Morgan Stanley's ABS (Asset-Backed Securities) division. Phillips may not have written the emails in question, but he was the boss of this sordid episode, and it was his name on the comedy-free document that was presented to Chinese investors.

This is just another detail in the emerging absurd narrative that is Donald Trump naming Phillips, of all people, to head up the effort to reform the Government-Sponsored Entities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

As ace investigative reporter Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times noted in a piece back on April 7th, Phillips headed a division that sold billions of dollars of mortgage-backed investments to Fannie and Freddie. Many of those investments were as bad as the ones his unit sold to the Chinese. In fact, as Morgenson noted, Phillips became a named defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA), which essentially charged, as the Chinese did, that Morgan Stanley knowingly sold Fannie and Freddie a pile of crap.

Morgan Stanley ended up having to pay $625 million apiece to Fannie and Freddie to settle securities fraud charges in that case.

Phillips worked in an area of investment banking that was highly lucrative and highly predatory. The basic scam in the subprime world in particular was buying up mortgages from people who couldn't possibly afford them, making those bad mortgages into securities, and then turning around and hawking those same mortgages to unsuspecting institutional dopes like the Chinese and Fannie and Freddie.

Phillips had a critical role in this activity. As Morgan Stanley's ABS chief, he was among other things responsible for liaising with fly-by-night subprime mortgage lenders like New Century, who fanned into low-income neighborhoods and handed out subprime mortgages to anyone with a pulse.

In a 2012 suit, a group of Detroit-based borrowers accused Morgan Stanley of discriminatory practices, claiming the bank helped New Century target minority areas with predatory loans. One Morgan Stanley due diligence officer, Pamela Barrow, joked in an email about how to go after borrowers.

"We should call all their mommas," Barrow wrote. "Betcha that would get some of them good old boys to pay that house bill."

Phillips was named in the suit and quoted in the complaint. He said that New Century was "extremely open to our advice and involvement in all elements of their operation."

The worst actors in the financial crisis worked in this shady world involving the creation of subprime-backed securities.

Of those bad actors, there is a subset of still-worse actors, who not only sold these toxic investments to institutional investors like pension funds and Fannie and Freddie, but helped get a generation of home borrowers -often minorities and the poor -into deadly mortgages that ended up wiping out their equity.

Phillips, who helped Fannie and Freddie into substantial losses and worked with predatory firms like New Century, belongs in this second category. As Beavis and Butthead would put it, Phillips comes from the "ass of the ass." Donald Trump, then, has essentially picked one of the last people on earth who should be allowed to help reshape the mortgage markets. This is like putting a guy who sold thousand-dollar magazine subscriptions to your grandmother on the telephone in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the A.A.R.P.

More foxes for more henhouses. Welcome to the Trump era.
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

The Israeli Macron
By Uri Avnery

A DEEP sigh of relief, coming straight from the heart.

When I was 10 years old, my family fled from Nazi Germany. We were fearful that the Gestapo was after us. When we approached the French border, our fear was acute. Then our train crossed the bridge that separated Germany from France, and we heaved a deep sigh of relief.

It was almost the same sigh. France has again sent a message of freedom.

Emmanuel Macron (Emmanuel is a Hebrew name, meaning "God is with us") has won the first round, and there is a strong possibility that he will win the second round, too.

This is not just a French affair. It concerns all mankind.

FIRST OF all, it has broken a spell.

After the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, there arose the myth that a dark, ultra right-wing, fascist or near-fascist wave is bound to submerge the democratic world. It's a decree of fate. Force majeure.

First Marine Le Pen. Then that obnoxious Dutchman. Then Eastern European rightists. They will crush democracy everywhere. Nothing to be done about it.

And here comes somebody that nobody has ever heard of, and breaks the spell. He has shown that decent people can come together and change the course of history.

That is a message significant not just for France, but for everybody. Even for us in Israel.

IT IS not yet finished. The second round is still before us.

Looking at the map of the first round, the picture is disturbing enough. Le Pen has conquered a large part of France, the north and almost all the east. The disaster may still be looming.

Facing this possibility, almost all the other candidates have thrown their weight behind Macron. It is the decent thing to do. Especially noble for competing candidates, who cannot be expected to like him.

The one exception is the far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was supported by the Communists. For him, Le Pen and Macron are the same. For people with a memory for history, this sounds ominous.

In 1933, the German Communists attacked the Socialists more than they attacked Hitler. In some large strikes, the communist "Red Front" even cooperated with Hitler's storm-troopers. Their theory was that both Hitler and the Socialists were capitalist stooges. Also, they were sure that the ridiculous Hitler would disappear after some months in power, freeing the way for the World Revolution.

They had ample time to repent their folly, when they sat together with the socialists in the Nazi concentration camps.

The French communists of that time learned the lesson. Three years later they formed a united front with the French socialists, and the Jewish socialist Leon Blum was elected Prime Minister.

By now, this lesson seems to have been forgotten.

However, at this moment, the victory of Macron seems fairly assured. Inshallah, as our Arab friends say.

THE MOST interesting aspect of the French election, like the American one and even the British referendum, is the end of the parties.

For centuries, political parties have dominated the public arena. The political party was the essential component of political life. Likeminded people set up a political association, published a program, elected a leader and took part in elections.

Alas, no more.

Television has changed all this.

TV is a very powerful, but also very limited, medium. It shows people. Actually, it shows mostly heads. It is most effective when it shows a head talking to the viewer.

TV does not show parties. It can talk about parties, but not really show them.

It is even worse at presenting party programs. Somebody can read them out on television, but that is boring. Few viewers really listen to them.

The practical upshot is that in modern politics, the leader becomes more and more important, and the party and its program less and less. I am not saying anything new, all this has been said many times before. But this year the process dominated the results.

The brexit result crossed party lines. The Labor party, a powerful presence for generations, seems to be breaking up.

Donald Trump officially represented the Republican Party, but did he? Seems the party loathes him, his hold on it is in practice a hostile takeover. It was Trump that was elected, not the party or a non-existent program.

These were extraordinary events. But the French elections took place in an ordinary, traditional framework. The result was that all traditional parties were destroyed, that all programs were blown away by the wind. What emerged was a person, practically without a party and without a program, with almost no political experience. He looks good on TV, he sounds good on TV, he was a good receptacle for votes that were primarily cast to stop the fascists.

That is a lesson not only for France, but for all democratic countries.

IT IS a lesson for Israel, too. A very important one.

We have already seen the beginning of this process. We now have a number of non-parties, with non-programs, which have gained a firm foothold in the Knesset.

For example, the party of the present Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman. An immigrant from Moldova, he set up a "party" which appealed to immigrants from the Soviet Union. A party without internal elections, where all candidates are chosen by the leader and changed at (his) whim, without a real program, only a strong fascistic whiff. He is his sole spokesman on TV. He started with a strong anti-religious message, aimed at "Russian" voters, but is slowly turning around. No one among his people dares to raise questions.

Much the same situation prevails in the "party" of Ya'ir Lapid. The son of a TV personality with near-fascist views, he is a good-looking, smooth-talking fellow, totally devoid of ideas, who is now beating Netanyahu in the polls. No program, just a party that is his personal instrument. He alone appoints all candidates. He alone appears on TV. He, too, started as anti-religious and is turning around. (You cannot attain power in Israel without the religious parties, unless you are ready - God forbid - to cooperate with the Arab parties.)

Moshe Kahlon, a former Likudnik of North African descent, has lately set up a personal outfit, no real party, no real program. He, too, appoints all candidates on his list. He is now Minister of Finance.

The Labor party, which was once an all-powerful force that dominated the political scene for 44 consecutive years - before the state was born and after - is now a pitiful ruin, much like its French counterpart. Its leader, Yitzhak Herzog, is interchangeable with Francois Hollande.

And then there is the supreme master of TV, Binyamin Netanyahu, intellectually hollow, with ever changing hair-color, for and against the two-state solution, for and against everything else.

WHAT CAN we learn from the French?

Not to despair, when it looks as though we are on the way to disaster. To escape from fatalism and into optimism. Optimism and action.

Out of nowhere a new person can appear. On the ruins of the established parties, a new political force can arise, discarding the old language of left and right, speaking a new language of peace and social justice.

Hey you, out there! What are you waiting for? The country is waiting for you!
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama's New Job: Guardian Of Official Lies
By Glen Ford

The ruling class is seriously rattled over its loss of control over the national political narrative -- a consequence of capitalism's terminal decay and U.S. imperialism's slipping grip on global hegemony. When the Lords of Capital get rattled, their servants in the political class are tasked with rearranging the picture and reframing the national conversation. In other words, Papa Imperialism needs a new set of lies, or renewed respect for the old ones. Former president Barack Obama, the cool operator who put the U.S. back on the multiple wars track after a forced lull in the wake of George Bush's defeat in Iraq, has eagerly accepted his new assignment as Esteemed Guardian of Official Lies.

At this stage of his career, Obama must dedicate much of his time to the maintenance of Official Lies, since they are central to his own "legacy." With the frenzied assistance of his first secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, Obama launched a massive military offensive - a rush job to put the New American Century back on schedule. Pivoting to all corners of the planet, and with the general aim of isolating and intimidating Russia and China, the salient feature of Obama's offensive was the naked deployment of Islamic jihadists as foot soldiers of U.S. imperialism in Libya and Syria. It is a strategy that is morally and politically indefensible -- unspeakable! -- the truth of which would shatter the prevailing order in the imperial heartland, itself.

Thus, from 2011 to when he left the White House for a Tahiti yachting vacation with music mogul David Geffen and assorted movie and media celebrities, Obama orchestrated what the late Saddam Hussein would have called "The Mother of All Lies": that the U.S. was not locked in an alliance with al-Qaida and its terrorist offshoots in Syria, a relationship begun almost 40 years earlier in Afghanistan.

He had all the help he needed from a compliant corporate media, whose loyalty to U.S. foreign policy can always be counted on in times of war. Since the U.S. is constantly in a (self-proclaimed) state of war, corporate media collaboration is guaranteed. Outside the U.S. and European corporate media bubble, the whole world was aware that al Qaida and the U.S. were comrades in arms. (According to a 2015 poll, 82 percent of Syrians and 85 percent of Iraqis believe the U.S. created ISIS.) When Vladimir Putin told a session of the United Nations General Assembly that satellites showed lines of ISIS tankers stretching from captured Syrian oil fields "to the horizon," bound for U.S.-allied Turkey, yet untouched by American bombers, the Obama administration had no retort. Russian jets destroyed 1,000 of the tankers, forcing the Americans to mount their own, smaller raids. But, the moment soon passed into the corporate media's amnesia hole -- another fact that must be shed in order to avoid unspeakable conclusions.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump's flirtation with the idea of ending U.S. "regime change" policy in Syria -- and, thereby, scuttling the alliance with Islamic jihadists -- struck panic in ruling class and in the imperial political structures that are called the Deep State, which includes the corporate media. When Trump won the general election, the imperial political class went into meltdown, blaming "The Russians" -- first, for warlord Hillary Clinton's loss, and soon later for everything under the sun. The latest lie is that Moscow is sending weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the country where the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan spent billions of dollars to create the international jihadist network. Which shows that imperialists have no sense of irony, or shame. (See BAR: "The U.S., Not Russia, Arms Jihadists Worldwide.")

After the election, lame duck President Obama was so consumed by the need to expunge all narratives that ran counter to "The Russians Did It," he twice yammered about "fake news" at a press conference in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama was upset, he said, "Because in an age where there's so much active misinformation and its packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won't know what to protect."

Although now an ex-president, it is still Obama's job to protect the ruling class, and the Empire, and his role in maintaining the Empire: his legacy. To do that, one must control the narrative - the subject uppermost in his mind when he used Chicago area students as props, this week, for his first public speech since leaving the White House.

"It used to be that everybody kind of had the same information," said Obama, at the University of Chicago affair. "We had different opinions about it, but there was a common base line of facts. The internet has in some ways accelerated this sense of people having entirely separate conversations, and this generation is getting its information through its phones. That you really don't have to confront people who have different opinions or have a different experience or a different outlook."

Obama continued:

"If you're liberal, you're on MSNBC, or conservative, you're on Fox News. You're reading the Wall Street Journal or you're reading the New York Times, or whatever your choices are. Or, maybe you're just looking at cat videos [laughter].

"So, one question I have for all of you is, How do you guys get your information about the news and what's happening out there, and are there ways in which you think we could do a better job of creating a common conversation now that you've got 600 cable stations and you've got all these different news opinions -- and, if there are two sets of opinions, then they're just yelling at each other, so you don't get a sense that there's an actual conversation going on. And the internet is worse. It's become more polarized."

Obama's core concern is that there should be a "common base line of facts," which he claims used to exist "20 or 30 years ago." The internet, unregulated and cheaply accessed, is the villain, and the main source of "fake news" (from publications like BAR and the 12 other leftwing sites smeared by the Washington Post, back in November, not long after Obama complained to Merkel about "fake news."

However, Obama tries to dress up his anti-internet "fake news" whine with a phony pitch for diversity of opinions. Is he suggesting that MSNBC viewers also watch Fox News, and that New York Times readers also peruse the Wall Street Journal? Is he saying that most people read a variety of daily newspapers "back in the day"? It is true that, generations ago, there were far more newspapers available to read, reflecting a somewhat wider ideological range of views. But most people read the ones that were closest to their own politics, just as now. Obama is playing his usual game of diversion. Non-corporate news is his target: "...the internet is worse. It's become more and more polarized."

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and Fox News all share the "common base line of facts" that Obama cherishes. By this, he means a common narrative, with American "exceptionalism" and intrinsic goodness at the center, capitalism and democracy as synonymous, and unity in opposition to the "common" enemy: Soviet Russians; then terrorists; now non-Soviet Russians, again.

Ayanna Watkins, a senior at Chicago's Kenwood Academy High School, clearly understood Obama's emphasis, and eagerly agreed with his thrust. "When it comes to getting information about what's going on in the world, it's way faster on social media than it is on newscasts," she said.

"But, on the other hand, it can be a downfall because, what if you're passing the wrong information, or the information isn't presented the way it should be? So, that causes a clash in our generation, and I think it should go back to the old school. I mean, phones, social media should be eliminated," Ms. Watkins blurted out, provoking laughter from the audience and causing the 18 year-old to "rephrase myself."

What she really meant, she said, was that politicians should "go out to the community" so that "the community will feel more welcome."

If she was trying to agree with Obama, Ms. Watkins had it right the first time: political counter-narratives on the internet have to go, so that Americans can share a "common base line" of information. All of it lies.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Existential Question of Whom to Trust
By Robert Parry

The looming threat of World War III, a potential extermination event for the human species, is made more likely because the world's public can't count on supposedly objective experts to ascertain and evaluate facts. Instead, careerism is the order of the day among journalists, intelligence analysts and international monitors - meaning that almost no one who might normally be relied on to tell the truth can be trusted.

Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations on Feb. 5. 2003, citing satellite photos which
supposedly proved that Iraq had WMD, but the evidence proved bogus. CIA Director George Tenet is behind Powell to the left.

The dangerous reality is that this careerism, which often is expressed by a smug certainty about whatever the prevailing groupthink is, pervades not just the political world, where lies seem to be the common currency, but also the worlds of journalism, intelligence and international oversight, including United Nations agencies that are often granted greater credibility because they are perceived as less beholden to specific governments but in reality have become deeply corrupted, too.

In other words, many professionals who are counted on for digging out the facts and speaking truth to power have sold themselves to those same powerful interests in order to keep high-paying jobs and to not get tossed out onto the street. Many of these self-aggrandizing professionals - caught up in the many accouterments of success - don't even seem to recognize how far they've drifted from principled professionalism.

A good example was Saturday night's spectacle of national journalists preening in their tuxedos and gowns at the White House Correspondents Dinner, sporting First Amendment pins as if they were some brave victims of persecution. They seemed oblivious to how removed they are from Middle America and how unlikely any of them would risk their careers by challenging one of the Establishment's favored groupthinks. Instead, these national journalists take easy shots at President Trump's buffoonish behavior and his serial falsehoods - and count themselves as endangered heroes for the effort.

Foils for Trump

Ironically, though, these pompous journalists gave Trump what was arguably his best moment in his first 100 days by serving as foils for the President as he traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday and basked in the adulation of blue-collar Americans who view the mainstream media as just one more appendage of a corrupt ruling elite..

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

Breaking with tradition by snubbing the annual press gala, Trump delighted the Harrisburg crowd by saying: "A large group of Hollywood celebrities and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom" and adding: "I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from [the] Washington swamp ...with much, much better people." The crowd booed references to the elites and cheered Trump's choice to be with the common folk.

Trump's rejection of the dinner and his frequent criticism of the mainstream media brought a defensive response from Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, who complained: "We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people." That brought the black-tie-and-gown gathering to its feet in a standing ovation.

Perhaps the assembled media elite had forgotten that it was the mainstream U.S. media - particularly The Washington Post and The New York Times - that popularized the phrase "fake news" and directed it blunderbuss-style not only at the few Web sites that intentionally invent stories to increase their clicks but at independent-minded journalism outlets that have dared question the elite's groupthinks on issues of war, peace and globalization.

The Black List

Professional journalistic skepticism toward official claims by the U.S. government - what you should expect from reporters - became conflated with "fake news." The Post even gave front-page attention to an anonymous group called PropOrNot that published a black list of 200 Internet sites, including and other independent-minded journalism sites, to be shunned.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C.

But the mainstream media stars didn't like it when Trump began throwing the "fake news" slur back at them. Thus, the First Amendment lapel pins and the standing ovation for Jeff Mason's repudiation of the "fake news" label.

Yet, as the glitzy White House Correspondents Dinner demonstrated, mainstream journalists get the goodies of prestige and money while the real truth-tellers are almost always outspent, outgunned and cast out of the mainstream. Indeed, this dwindling band of honest people who are both knowledgeable and in position to expose unpleasant truths is often under mainstream attack, sometimes for unrelated personal failings and other times just for rubbing the powers-that-be the wrong way.

Perhaps, the clearest case study of this up-is-down rewards-and-punishments reality was the Iraq War's WMD rationale. Nearly across the board, the American political/media system - from U.S. intelligence analysts to the deliberative body of the U.S. Senate to the major U.S. news organizations - failed to ascertain the truth and indeed actively helped disseminate the falsehoods about Iraq hiding WMDs and even suggested nuclear weapons development. (Arguably, the "most trusted" U.S. government official at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, played a key role in selling the false allegations as "truth.")

Not only did the supposed American "gold standard" for assessing information - the U.S. political, media and intelligence structure - fail miserably in the face of fraudulent claims often from self-interested Iraqi opposition figures and their neoconservative American backers, but there was minimal accountability afterwards for the "professionals" who failed to protect the public from lies and deceptions.

Profiting from Failure

Indeed, many of the main culprits remain "respected" members of the journalistic establishment. For instance, The New York Times' Pentagon correspondent Michael R. Gordon, who was the lead writer on the infamous "aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges" story which got the ball rolling for the Bush administration's rollout of its invade-Iraq advertising campaign in September 2002, still covers national security for the Times - and still serves as a conveyor belt for U.S. government propaganda.

New York Times building in New York City.

The Washington Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly informed the Post's readers that Iraq's secret possession of WMD was a "flat-fact," is still the Post's editorial page editor, one of the most influential positions in American journalism.

Hiatt's editorial page led a years-long assault on the character of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson for the offense of debunking one of President George W. Bush's claims about Iraq seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger. Wilson had alerted the CIA to the bogus claim before the invasion of Iraq and went public with the news afterwards, but the Post treated Wilson as the real culprit, dismissing him as "a blowhard" and trivializing the Bush administration's destruction of his wife's CIA career by outing her (Valerie Plame) in order to discredit Wilson's Niger investigation.

At the end of the Post's savaging of Wilson's reputation and in the wake of the newspaper's accessory role in destroying Plame's career, Wilson and Plame decamped from Washington to New Mexico. Meanwhile, Hiatt never suffered a whit - and remains a "respected" Washington media figure to this day.

Careerist Lesson

The lesson that any careerist would draw from the Iraq case is that there is almost no downside risk in running with the pack on a national security issue. Even if you're horrifically wrong - even if you contribute to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - your paycheck is almost surely safe.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office
briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right).

The same holds true if you work for an international agency that is responsible for monitoring issues like chemical weapons. Again, the Iraq example offers a good case study. In April 2002, as President Bush was clearing away the few obstacles to his Iraq invasion plans, Jose Mauricio Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW], sought to persuade Iraq to join the Chemical Weapons Convention so inspectors could verify Iraq's claims that it had destroyed its stockpiles.

The Bush administration called that idea an "ill-considered initiative" - after all, it could have stripped away the preferred propaganda rationale for the invasion if the OPCW verified that Iraq had destroyed its chemical weapons. So, Bush's Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, a neocon advocate for the invasion of Iraq, pushed to have Bustani deposed. The Bush administration threatened to withhold dues to the OPCW if Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, remained.

It now appears obvious that Bush and Bolton viewed Bustani's real offense as interfering with their invasion scheme, but Bustani was ultimately taken down over accusations of mismanagement, although he was only a year into a new five-year term after having been reelected unanimously. The OPCW member states chose to sacrifice Bustani to save the organization from the loss of U.S. funds, but - in so doing - they compromised its integrity, making it just another agency that would bend to big-power pressure.

"By dismissing me," Bustani said, "an international precedent will have been established whereby any duly elected head of any international organization would at any point during his or her tenure remain vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors." He added that if the United States succeeded in removing him, "genuine multilateralism" would succumb to "unilateralism in a multilateral disguise."

The Iran Nuclear Scam

Something similar happened regarding the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2009 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the neocons were lusting for another confrontation with Iran over its alleged plans to build a nuclear bomb.

Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat and
director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

According to U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA's headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering the prospect that Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano would advance U.S. interests in ways that outgoing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wouldn't; Amano credited his election to U.S. government support; Amano signaled he would side with the United States in its confrontation with Iran; and he stuck out his hand for more U.S. money.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American charge Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. "Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive," the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director-general, he would take a different "approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei" and he "saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council] Board resolutions," i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also discussed how to restructure the senior ranks of the IAEA, including elimination of one top official and the retention of another. "We wholly agree with Amano's assessment of these two advisors and see these decisions as positive first signs," Pyatt commented.

In return, Pyatt made clear that Amano could expect strong U.S. financial assistance, stating that "the United States would do everything possible to support his successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming. Amano offered that a 'reasonable increase' in the regular budget would be helpful."

What Pyatt made clear in his cable was that one IAEA official who was not onboard with U.S. demands had been fired while another who was onboard kept his job.

Pandering to Israel

Pyatt learned, too, that Amano had consulted with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli "immediately after his appointment" and that Michaeli "was fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues." Michaeli added that he discounted some of Amano's public remarks about there being "no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability" as just words that Amano felt he had to say "to persuade those who did not support him about his 'impartiality.'"

U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

In private, Amano agreed to "consultations" with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. (It is ironic indeed that Amano would have secret contacts with Israeli officials about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, which never yielded a single bomb, when Israel possesses a large and undeclared nuclear arsenal.)

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano "took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

"More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain 'constructive ambiguity' about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December" 2009.

In other words, Amano was a bureaucrat eager to bend in directions favored by the United States and Israel regarding Iran's nuclear program. Amano's behavior surely contrasted with how the more independent-minded ElBaradei resisted some of Bush's key claims about Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program, correctly denouncing some documents as forgeries.

The world's public got its insight into the Amano scam only because the U.S. embassy cables were among those given to WikiLeaks by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, for which Manning received a 35-year prison sentence (which was finally commuted by President Obama before leaving office, with Manning now scheduled to be released in May - having served nearly seven years in prison).

It also is significant that Geoffrey Pyatt was rewarded for his work lining up the IAEA behind the anti-Iranian propaganda campaign by being made U.S. ambassador to Ukraine where he helped engineer the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Pyatt was on the infamous "fuck the E.U." call with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland weeks before the coup as Nuland handpicked Ukraine's new leaders and Pyatt pondered how "to midwife this thing."

Rewards and Punishments

The existing rewards-and-punishments system, which punishes truth-tellers and rewards those who deceive the public, has left behind a thoroughly corrupted information structure in the United States and in the West, in general.

Colliers Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt as U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin in Kiev, Ukraine, on July 7, 2016.

Across the mainstream of politics and media, there are no longer the checks and balances that have protected democracy for generations. Those safeguards have been washed away by the flood of careerism.

The situation is made even more dangerous because there also exists a rapidly expanding cadre of skilled propagandists and psychological operations practitioners, sometimes operating under the umbrella of "strategic communications." Under trendy theories of "smart power," information has become simply another weapon in the geopolitical arsenal, with "strategic communications" sometimes praised as the preferable option to "hard power," i.e. military force.

The thinking goes that if the United States can overthrow a troublesome government by exploiting media/propaganda assets, deploying trained activists and spreading selective stories about "corruption" or other misconduct, isn't that better than sending in the Marines?

While that argument has the superficial appeal of humanitarianism - i.e., the avoidance of armed conflict - it ignores the corrosiveness of lies and smears, hollowing out the foundations of democracy, a structure that rests ultimately on an informed electorate. Plus, the clever use of propaganda to oust disfavored governments often leads to violence and war, as we have seen in targeted countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

Wider War

Regional conflicts also carry the risk of wider war, a danger compounded by the fact that the American public is fed a steady diet of dubious narratives designed to rile up the population and to give politicians an incentive to "do something." Since these American narratives often deviate far from a reality that is well known to the people in the targeted countries, the contrasting storylines make the finding of common ground almost impossible.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

If, for instance, you buy into the Western narrative that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gleefully gases "beautiful babies," you would tend to support the "regime change" plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists. If, however, you reject that mainstream narrative - and believe that Al Qaeda and its friendly regional powers may be staging chemical attacks to bring the U.S. military in on their "regime change" project - you might favor a political settlement that leaves Assad's fate to the later judgment of the Syrian people.

Similarly, if you accept the West's storyline about Russia invading Ukraine and subjugating the people of Crimea by force - while also shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 for no particular reason - you might support aggressive countermoves against "Russian aggression," even if that means risking nuclear war.

If, on the other hand, you know about the Nuland-Pyatt scheme for ousting Ukraine's elected president in 2014 and realize that much of the other anti-Russian narrative is propaganda or disinformation - and that MH-17 might well have been shot down by some element of Ukrainian government forces and then blamed on the Russians [see here and here] - you might look for ways to avoid a new and dangerous Cold War.

Who to Trust?

But the question is: whom to trust? And this is no longer some rhetorical or philosophical point about whether one can ever know the complete truth. It is now a very practical question of life or death, not just for us as individuals but as a species and as a planet.

Illustration by Chesley Bonestell of nuclear bombs detonating
over New York City, entitled "Hiroshima U.S.A." Colliers, Aug. 5, 1950.

The existential issue before us is whether - blinded by propaganda and disinformation - we will stumble into a nuclear conflict between superpowers that could exterminate all life on earth or perhaps leave behind a radiated hulk of a planet suitable only for cockroaches and other hardy life forms.

You might think that with the stakes so high, the people in positions to head off such a catastrophe would behave more responsibly and professionally. But then there are events like Saturday night's White House Correspondents Dinner with self-important media stars puffing about with their First Amendment pins. And there's President Trump's realization that by launching missiles and talking tough he can buy himself some political space from the Establishment (even as he sells out average Americans and kills some innocent foreigners). Those realities show that seriousness is the farthest thing from the minds of Washington's insiders.

It's just too much fun - and too profitable in the short-term - to keep playing the game and hauling in the goodies. If and when the mushroom clouds appear, these careerists can turn to the cameras and blame someone else.
(c) 2017 Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Real News, Fake News... And BS News
By Jim Hightower

How can journalism help people make sense of our turbulent world if it can't make sense of itself?

In addition to "news" (which involves reporting on real stuff), there's now "fake news" (stuff that's completely made up). But wait, the barons of corporate news are also adding to today's tumultuous state of journalism by putting out "BS news" (stuff they know is untrue, but is reported because it advances their owners political agenda).

For example, the Washington Post (owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who's a laissez-fairyland promoter of privatizing government functions) keeps publishing a load of BS to denigrate our Post Offices. In an alarmist editorial, the paper declared: "The US Postal Service continues to hemorrhage red ink." Embracing Bezos' privatization ideology, the editors grumped that postal unions have made our mail service outmoded and insolvent, running up "a net loss of $5.6 billion last year."

That is pure bovine excrement - and the editors know it. In fact, thanks to innovative and efficient postal workers, the mail agency racked up a $610 million operating profit last year, and a $1.2 billion profit the year before.

The $5 billion in red-ink that the paper's propagandists pointed to is nothing but a bookkeeping hoax created by Congress to make people believe our Post Office is a hopeless money loser that must be privatized. In 2006, Congress manufactured an artificial "loss" for the Postal Service by decreeing that it pre-fund the healthcare costs of future retirees, 75 years in advance. That includes retirees who're not even born yet! No other agency and no corporation (including Amazon) could survive if Congress added a $5-billion-a-year fictitious loss to their books.

Yet, in a shameful piece of BS journalism, the Washington Post intentionally ignored the true story.
(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.

"Tone deaf, hardly describes the severe political impairment of those who insist that
denouncing Russia will be key to the Democratic Party's political fortunes in 2018 and 2020."

How The Russia Spin Got So Much Torque

By Norman Solomon

A new book about Hillary Clinton's last campaign for president - "Shattered," by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes-has gotten a lot of publicity since it appeared two weeks ago. But major media have ignored a revealing passage near the end of the book.

Soon after Clinton's defeat, top strategists decided where to place the blame. "Within 24 hours of her concession speech," the authors report, campaign manager Robby Mook and campaign chair John Podesta "assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn't entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument."

"Imagine sitting at a kitchen table with average-income voters who are worried sick about their financial futures-and explaining to them that the biggest threat they face is from the Kremlin rather than from U.S. government policies that benefit the rich and corporate America at their expense."

Six months later, that centerpiece of the argument is rampant-with claims often lurching from unsubstantiated overreach to outright demagoguery. A lavishly-funded example is the "Moscow Project," a mega-spin effort that surfaced in midwinter as a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It's led by Neera Tanden, a self-described "loyal soldier" for Clinton who also runs the Center for American Progress (where she succeeded Podesta as president). The Center's board includes several billionaires.

The "Moscow Project" is expressly inclined to go over the top, aiming to help normalize ultra-partisan conjectures as supposedly factual. And so, the homepage of the "Moscow Project" prominently declares: "Given Trump's obedience to Vladimir Putin and the deep ties between his advisers and the Kremlin, Russia's actions are a significant and ongoing cause for concern."

Let's freeze-frame how that sentence begins: "Given Trump's obedience to Vladimir Putin." It's a jaw-dropping claim; a preposterous smear.

Echoes of such tactics can be heard from many Democrats in Congress and from allied media. Along the way, no outlet has been more in sync than MSNBC, and no one on the network has been more promotional of the Russia-runs-Trump meme than Rachel Maddow, tirelessly promoting the line and sometimes connecting dots in Glenn Beck fashion to the point of journalistic malpractice.

Yet last year, notably without success, the Clinton campaign devoted plenty of its messaging to the Trump-Russia theme. As the "Shattered" book notes, "Hillary would raise the issue herself repeatedly in debates" with Trump. For example, in one of those debates she said: "We have seventeen-seventeen-intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election."

After Trump's election triumph, the top tier of Clinton strategists quickly moved to seize as much of the narrative as they could, surely mindful of what George Orwell observed: "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." After all, they hardly wanted the public discourse to dwell on Clinton's lack of voter appeal because of her deep ties to Wall Street. Political recriminations would be much better focused on the Russian government.

In early spring, the former communications director of the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign, Jennifer Palmieri, summed up the post-election approach neatly in a Washington Post opinion article: "If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they'll be with us."

The inability of top Clinton operatives to identify with the non-wealthy is so tenacious that they still want to assume "the public will be with us" the more they talk about Russia Russia Russia. Imagine sitting at a kitchen table with average-income voters who are worried sick about their financial futures-and explaining to them that the biggest threat they face is from the Kremlin rather than from U.S. government policies that benefit the rich and corporate America at their expense. Tone deaf hardly describes the severe political impairment of those who insist that denouncing Russia will be key to the Democratic Party's political fortunes in 2018 and 2020. But the top-down pressure for conformity among elected Democrats is enormous and effective.

One of the most promising progressives to arrive in Congress this year, Rep. Jamie Raskin from the Maryland suburbs of D.C., promptly drank what might be called the "Klinton Kremlin Kool-Aid." His official website features an article about a town-hall meeting that quotes him describing Trump as a "hoax perpetrated by the Russians on the United States of America."

Like hundreds of other Democrats on Capitol Hill, Raskin is on message with talking points from the party leadership. That came across in an email that he recently sent to supporters for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser. It said: "We pull the curtain back further each day on the Russian Connection, forcing National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to resign, Attorney General Sessions to recuse, and America to reflect on who's calling the shots in Washington."

You might think that Wall Street, big banks, hugely funded lobbyists, fat-check campaign contributors, the fossil fuel industry, insurance companies, military contractors and the like are calling the shots in Washington. Maybe you didn't get the memo.
(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."

Reign of Idiots
By Chris Hedges

The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, "experts" and "specialists" busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.

There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.

The idiots know only one word-"more." They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.

Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality-a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his "beautiful" Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending seances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.

This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet's wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.

The more the warning signs are palpable-rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class-the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state.

Walter Benjamin wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism-personal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us.

All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as "Make America great again." Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.

Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world's largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored. Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.
(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

Ajit Pai testifies during a senate hearing on September 15, 2016.

Trump's FCC Has Begun Its Attack On Net Neutrality
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for every American.
By John Nichols

No act of the recklessly authoritarian Trump administration poses a greater threat to the democratic discourse than the now-announced plan to gut net-neutrality rules. With newspapers dying, radio syndicated, broadcast television commercialized beyond relevance, and cable television mired in scandal and dead-end punditry, the Internet is the essential tool for the communication of ideas and the mobilization of those who choose to resist the autocratic impulses of Trump and his crony-capitalist cabal.

So it should come as no surprise that Trump and his Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to throttle net neutrality-the first amendment of the Internet that guarantees equal protection for all voices in the digital universe where we now live. At a closed-door meeting in Washington Wednesday, Pai outlined what The New York Times described as "a sweeping plan to loosen the government's oversight of high-speed internet providers, a rebuke of a landmark policy approved two years ago to ensure that all online content is treated the same by the companies that deliver broadband service to Americans."

Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps warned that, "By reopening the FCC's historic 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC is jeopardizing core protections for online free speech and competition. Chairman Pai appears more interested in currying favor with cable and telecom industry lobbyists than in serving the millions of Americans who wrote and called to urge the commission, during the original rule-making, to provide strong protections against online blocking, throttling, or censorship."

"Chairman Pai is kissing the ring of the Big Money lobbyists who too often call the shots in the Trump Administration," declared Copps, who now works with Common Cause and other groups seeking to defend an open Internet. "Ending net neutrality would be a body blow to the open dialogue upon which successful self-government depends. It would be a red light for democracy and a green light for cable and telecom giants to control where we go and what we do on the internet."

Gutting net neutrality hurts an American experiment that cannot function without the free flow of ideas.

Yet there can be no question the Trump administration is preparing to deliver that body blow. Experts and activists agree what the change Trump's man at the FCC proposes would "dismantle the legal framework essential to maintaining Net Neutrality...[and] try to replace the FCC's rules with voluntary agreements by internet service providers [that] have a long history of undermining the open internet." Under the Pai plan, the Times explains, "high-speed internet service should no longer be treated like a public utility with strict rules, as it is now. Instead, he said, the industry should largely be left to police itself." That may be good for the bottom lines of old-fashioned telecommunications corporations. But that's no good for 21st-century discourse or democracy.

"FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is determined to give control of the internet to companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, no matter the cost to our economy and democracy," says Craig Aaron, the president of the media reform group Free Press. "He's continuing to ignore the mountains of evidence showing that the agency's Net Neutrality rules are protecting internet users while spurring on investment and innovation."

There has been no serious or sincere popular outcry for eliminating net neutrality from consumers or from honest advocates for innovation. Indeed, since the FCC has issued its historic 2015 Open Internet Order-which used Title II of the federal Communications Act as a basis for outlining obligations for carriers that provide Internet access. Nor has the Open Internet Order stifled innovation or investment. "According to publicly available Securities and Exchange Commission filings, overall investment by the nation's publicly traded internet service providers is up 5 percent in the two-year period since the FCC ruling, compared to their investment over the two years prior to the vote. Individual ISPs like Comcast spent 26 percent more on capital expenditures in that time period than in the two years prior. Cable company core network investments are up almost 50 percent in that two-year period. This figure includes new deployment and upgrades to networks but doesn't count additional expenditures on infrastructure like cable boxes, cable modems, service trucks and buildings," notes a Free Press assessment of the digital landscape.

"The industry's actual investments and deployments, as well as its executives' own statements to investors on how the rules haven't harmed their businesses in the slightest, are more informative than Pai's ideology-driven fantasies," argues Matt Wood, the group's policy director.

"Chairman Pai's plan to gut the FCC's net neutrality rules will devastate Black communities."-Rashad Robinson

Unfortunately, the fantasies that motivate the Trump administration in general, and Pai in particular, are those of essentially unlimited profiteering by politically connected corporations.

Gutting net neutrality, as Pai proposes, opens the way for telecommunications giants to colonize the Internet in the same way that they have done to broadcast and cable platforms-replacing civic and democratic values with commercial and entertainment dictates. Despite claims made to the contrary, if Trump and Pai succeed, the United States will end up with an "information superhighway" for messages favored by corporate elites who can pay the tolls and a dirt road for messages from citizens who hold to the quaint American faith that human beings should have rights and corporations should have regulations.

"It makes no sense," says Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a longtime advocate for an open Internet. "We cannot keep the promise of net neutrality openness and freedom without the rules that ensure it."

Markey is right. An assault on net neutrality is an assault on an American experiment that does not function without the free flow of ideas, and without easy access to those ideas for people of every class and of every background. Undermining net neutrality poses an even greater threat to those who have historically faced social, economic, and political barriers.

"Chairman Pai's plan to gut the FCC's net neutrality rules will devastate Black communities," says Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color Of Change, the civil-rights group that played a vital role in securing the FCC's embrace of genuine net neutrality in 2015. "Net neutrality is essential to protecting our free and open Internet, which has been crucial to today's fights for civil rights and equality. Our ability to have our voices heard in this democracy depends on an open Internet because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on substance, rather than financial backing. Net neutrality helps to ensure that the Internet is a place for innovation and opportunity for all, rather than just the wealthy few."

The crony-capitalist scheming of Trump, Pai, and their corporate compatriots is so transparent that Vice's Motherboard site is already anticipating an "epic fight" over the plan to kill net neutrality. Gene Kimmelman, the president of the Public Knowledge policy group, says: "We're in for a big fight here."

It had better be. Pai plans to move quickly, with essential deliberations on his plan coming perhaps as soon May 18. So this is an all-hands-on-deck moment for every American who recognizes that the defense of net neutrality is an essential struggle for First Amendment rights in the 21st century.

"Chairman Pai has now joined the chorus of Republicans in Washington who have signed onto Donald Trump's corporate attack on our freedoms. But we won't go down without a fight," says Color of Change's Robinson. "Heading into the FCC's May 18 meeting, we're going to demand that our communities' access to the Internet is protected. This is an attack on 21st century civil rights, and we are committed to defending them."
(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.

Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 24, 2017.

Trump, the GOP and the 100-Day Dump Truck Wreck

By William Rivers Pitt

Growing up in New England, you see some wild stuff in wintertime. A flock of chubby cedar waxwings, 50 strong at least, swarming into a withered cherry tree to strip every last old berry off the branches. A pair of bobcats like oiled smoke disappearing into the woods with the snow hissing down. An old upright piano standing sentinel in a shoveled-out Brighton parking spot announcing a defiant mine. One memory stands out above all, however: A huge dump truck filled with gravel gone sideways on an icy hill, sliding slowly, almost gracefully toward its inevitable crunching doom as its engine howls in futility.

I think of that truck today, and feel like I have a good understanding of what it must be like to be a Republican in 2017.

Sarah Palin made famous the "How's that Hope and Change thing working out for ya?" line during the Obama administration. One hundred days into the Trump phenomenon, and one is forced to wonder how that "winning" thing is working out for rank-and-file Republicans. Despite controlling the White House, Senate and House, they've barely won anything, and the Democrats have had very little to do with the string of disasters and fiascos the GOP has unleashed on itself. It isn't just Trump, either. These clowns own the whole federal government from soup to nuts, and their response to laying hold of such a rare prize has been to light their own neckties on fire every time they get near the furnace.

Take this last week as a prime example. The first and most important issue on the table was passing a continuing resolution before the weekend to keep the government open and functioning. In the time it took for Trump to fire up his Twitter account on Monday, the bill was suddenly in mortal peril because the president appeared all too willing to hold the process hostage until he got funding for his Mexico wall. Nervous breakdowns began popping off all over Capitol Hill and in the Treasury Department until someone sat The Donald down and said, "Hey, buddy, you keep up with this and the government will shut down exactly on your 100th day. We call that a bad look, boss. Put this back in the crackerjack box it came from, K?" Amazingly enough, common sense prevailed.

Then, in an eruption of loose-cannonism that makes the Blue Man Group look like a Nebraska prayer circle by comparison, Trump abruptly went in 17 directions at once, and at the top of his voice: THIS 100 DAYS THING IS SO SILLY I MUST HAVE VICTORIES FOR MY 100 DAYS EVEN THOUGH IT'S MEANINGLESS WE MUST WIN BIGLY AT EVERYTHING OR MAYBE JUST ONE THING SO LET'S BLOW UP HEALTH CARE AGAIN. Paul Ryan once again tried to cobble together a bill that would be acceptable to the Freedom Caucus even as it became even more radioactive to the rest of the House, managed to do so, and watched the thing die on his doorstep like a worm on a hot sidewalk. The bill never made it out of the kitchen, and a second Trump campaign promise -- the wall and repealing Obamacare -- collapsed like so much dandelion fluff.

Finally, there was the Trump tax "plan" that was unveiled in the middle of the week. It consisted of 19 bullet points that explained nothing beyond, "Here's a bunch of money for rich people, let's explode the deficit." The GOP's deficit hawks must have felt like the Catholics after Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to their door. "You're gonna do what now? Remove the deduction for real estate taxes? I mean, I don't like New Jersey much either, but this is goofy. How are you paying for this? Oh, you're not." Add another dead letter to the pile.

Are Trump and the Republicans bereft of "accomplishments" as we reach this ceremonial centennial moment? Far from it. Neil Gorsuch will be haunting the Supreme Court for decades to come. Vital environmental protections are being erased on a seemingly daily basis. The State Department and the EPA have almost ceased to exist. Perhaps worst of all, Trump has seen with his own two eyes how the media become chickens lost in a glorious ecstasy of fluttering and flapping whenever missiles are fired from a US warship. It's been bad, all right, but damn. It could have been so very much worse if these people had figured out early on how the lights work in the meeting rooms.

One begins to get conspiratorial when confronted with such condensed incompetence. Are the congressional Republicans secretly running some kind of rear-guard action against Trump, blowing up bridges and cutting phone cables like the French Resistance in order to undo a president they wanted nothing to do with from the get-go? It wouldn't surprise me; Trump is going to kill that party. By 2018, most GOP House members will probably go out and vote against themselves, just so they can flee the town and the next two years.

That's a fun little mind movie, but in all probability Occam's Razor -- the simplest explanation is the correct one -- prevails again. When three full political generations are raised on "Government is the problem," you get people who think Donald Trump was actually a viable choice, and who haven't the faintest idea how government actually works. Republicans campaign like angry sharks, a talent that has been in their DNA since Lee Atwater's day, but they have very few people qualified to actually govern. Paul Ryan, the GOP's anointed Jedi, has turned out to be a menace to himself and others when handed a sharpened pencil. He's the best they've got, and at this point, he couldn't shepherd through a bill declaring water to be wet.

There's a truck coming down the hill. Stand aside and let it slide by. You don't see this kind of thing every day.
(c) 2017 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

The Larsen C Ice Shelf Crack Just Sprouted A New Branch
By Brian Kahn

Winter has descended on Antarctica. Even as cold and darkness blankets the bottom of the world, the region's most watched ice shelf is is continuing its epic breakdown.

A crack started spreading across the Larsen C ice shelf in 2010, reaching 100 miles in length in February. Researchers with Project MIDAS, a British group monitoring the ice shelf, have spotted the first major change to the rift since then. A roughly six mile crack branching off the main chasm recently formed, further altering the already unstable ice shelf.

The Larsen C ice crack has a new branch, which formed at the end of April.

The crack is expected to eventually cleave off 10 percent of Larsen C's ice, an area roughly the size of Delaware. That loss will alter ice shelf dynamics and could speed the demise of the rest of the ice shelf, similar to what happened to neighboring Larsen A and Larsen B.

The Larsen ice shelf complex is located on the Antarctic Peninsula, a roughly 800-mile stretch of land sticking out in the Southern Ocean like a tentacle. Temperatures there rose Five degrees F in the latter half of the 20th century before cooling a bit since then due largely to the ozone hole recovery.

The warmer air and water in the region is largely responsible for the astonishing changes to the region's ice. Larsen A crumbled into oblivion in 1995 and Larsen B followed suit in 2002.

Scientists don't have a timetable for when the huge piece of Larsen C could break off, but the branch represents another sign of growing instability. The new breach formed sometime in the past six days, showing how fast changes can occur even in the cold season.

The main crack, which is already 1,500 feet wide, is also spreading up to three feet per day even as its length remains stable.

Other ice shelves that ring Antarctica are also becoming less stable due largely to warmer air and water driven by carbon pollution. Ice shelves hold back the unimaginably huge cache of ice covering Antarctica. Losing them will speed the flow of that ice into the ocean and with it, crank up the rate of sea level rise.

Scientists have warned that melt in West Antarctica may be unstoppable. Losing all the land ice in that region would push sea levels up to 13 feet higher, a change that would take centuries to unfold.

Other new research points to widespread surface melt at multiple locations around Antarctica. That includes a raging seasonal 400-foot wide waterfall and nearly 700 drainage systems undercutting ice, both developments that have shocked scientists.

The Larsen C crack is only a symptom of a larger problem. Taken together, recent findings show troubling changes are happening almost everywhere across Antarctica's massive icy expanse.
(c) 2017 Brian Kahn is a Senior Science Writer at Climate Central. He previously worked at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and partnered with to produce multimedia stories, manage social media campaigns and develop version 2.0 of His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Grist, the Daily Kos, Justmeans and the Yale Forum on Climate Change in the Media. In previous lives, he led sleigh ride tours through a herd of 7,000 elk and guided tourists around the deepest lake in the U.S. He holds an M.A. in Climate and Society from Columbia University.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks under a portrait of Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, as
President Donald Trump visited his office to sign new executive directives on tax regulations, in Washington, April 21, 2017.

Trump's Tax Cut Flunks The Napkin Test
A "D" Student's Misreading of Economic Law
By Greg Palast

A napkin can be a dangerous thing in the hands of fools. Especially when the D students sit in the Oval Office.

President Donald Trump's mind-blowing $2 trillion tax cut, according to his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, "Will pay for itself with growth."

The storied economist John Maynard Keynes once said, "Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back."

The scribbler, in this case, is my old professor and mentor, Art Laffer. Famously, he did his scribblings on napkins, a corollary of his addiction to greasy cheeseburgers.

In 1974, over burgers at the University of Chicago student grill, he scribbled a curve on a napkin, illustrating a curiosity: the higher the tax rate, the lower the total tax collection. Or, turned around: a cut in taxes can pay for itself.

But, alas, Art told me, this economic magic trick only works at the tippy-top of the curve, "Maybe just in Sweden where rates are 98 percent or even 102 percent." But in the US, with 40 percent top rates? The magic is gone.

Unfortunately for the US, Art also showed his napkin trick to one Dick Cheney, very much not a professor of economics ... and from there the "Laffer Curve" made its way to Ronald Reagan.

Our first actor-president, not savvy to the subtle calculus of the curve, wrote about this miracle no-cost tax cut while running in 1976, "Warren Harding did it. John F. Kennedy did it ... cut the income tax. In both cases, federal income went up instead of down."

The Gipper's opponent, George H.W. Bush called it "voodoo economics." Indeed, when Reagan implemented this "miracle," it blew the doors off the national debt.

Laffer, today as in 1974, remains a conservative fan of shrinking government and tiny taxes. So, he and his colleague, Trump advisor Stephen Moore, still promote a "scientific" form of free-lunch tax cuts.

Scientific or not, our latest actor-president has swallowed napkin-omics whole.

The result will be anything but magical. Let's get into the nasty details.

First, Trump would cut the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax, to the rate of absolute zero. It may be just a coincidence, but the AMT is the only income tax that Trump is known to have paid.

Did the AMT really stop Trump and other real estate moguls from investing? There's no evidence the tax caused Trump to stuff his billions into a mattress. He boasts of his spending of $200 million to refurbish the Old Post Office in Washington. Moreover, $1.7 billion of his invested capital sits in high-tax New York. Paying the AMT clearly did not discourage investor Trump.

Even beyond the creepy conflict of Trump giving himself a tax cut, eliminating the AMT is truly bad policy. According to what my professors Laffer and Milton Friedman taught me, taxes should be designed to stop investors from making decisions based on how to avoid taxes. The AMT tells investors, "Forget avoiding taxes -- you'll pay them anyway." Now, with Trump eliminating the AMT, it's "Dive for the loopholes, gents."

And loopholes there are, still worth billions. The big one, which candidate Trump vowed to close, is called "carried interest." Candidate Trump promised, "We will eliminate the carried interest deduction and other special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and for people like me, but unfair to American workers."

But he didn't. In fact, Trump went the opposite way, killing a 3.8 percent surtax on speculation profits that Obama instituted to cut health insurance rates under Obamacare.

A billionaire most burdened by the Obamacare tax, and a beneficiary of the carried interest loophole, is Paul Singer. Singer, aka "The Vulture," was a secret visitor to the Oval Office in February -- until Trump let the secret out of the bag. Shortly after that meeting, via the Trumpcare bill, Trump nixed the Obamacare surtax on Singer and his speculator colleagues.

But Trumpcare flatlined, so Trump simply put the elimination of the speculation tax into this new bill. Total cost to the Treasury: $15.7 billion.

And who will make up for the lost billions and trillions? The answer is: you, me and the guys in the funny red Make-America-Great hats.

Trump boasted that he'd be the first candidate ever to turn a profit on a presidential campaign. And now, it looks like the profits will be tax-free.

Surprised? When power meets greed, you can bet, the schmucks in the red hats will pay.
(c) 2017 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Revie

The Quotable Quote...

"Five enemies of peace inhabit with us--avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride; if these were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace."
~~~ Petrarch

What I Said At The Peace Hub Of The Climate March

By David Swanson

Most countries on earth have the U.S. military in them.

Most countries on earth burn less fossil fuel than does the U.S. military.

And that's without even calculating how much worse for the climate jet fuel is than other fossil fuels.

And it's without even considering the fossil fuel consumption of the world's leading weapons makers, or the pollution caused by the use of those weapons all over the world.

The U.S. is the top weapons dealer to the world, and has weapons on multiple sides of most wars.

The U.S. military created 69% of super fund environmental disaster sites and is the third leading polluter of U.S. waterways.

When the British first developed an obsession with the Middle East, passed along to the United States, the desire was to fuel the British Navy.

What came first? The wars or the oil? It was the wars.

Wars and the preparations for more wars consume a huge amount of oil.

But the wars are indeed fought for control of oil. So-called foreign intervention in civil wars is, according to comprehensive studies, 100 times more likely -- not where there is suffering, not where there is cruelty, not where there is a threat to the world, but where the country at war has large reserves of oil or the intervener has a high demand for oil.

We need to learn to say

No More Wars for Oil
No More Oil for Wars

You know who agrees with that? Pre-presidential campaign Donald Trump. On December 6, 2009, on page 8 of the New York Times a letter to President Obama printed as an advertisement and signed by Trump called climate change an immediate challenge. "Please don't postpone the earth," it said. "If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet."

In fact, Trump is now acting to speed up those consequences, an action prosecutable as a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court -- at least if Trump were African.

It's also a crime impeachable by the United States Congress -- at least if there's some way to involve sex in it.

Holding this government accountable is up to us.

No More Wars For Oil
No More Oil for Wars

Say it with me.
(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.

A Civil War re-enactment at Neshaminy Park, Pennsylvania in 2011. In a recent
interview, President Trump said of the Civil War, "Why could that one not have been worked out?"

Don't Know Much About History

Donald Trump thinks his intuition is better than knowledge of the past. That's dangerous for him and all the rest of us.
By Michael Winship

Gene Tunney, the champion prizefighter of the 1920s, wanted to promote an image of himself as a great intellectual. Trying to prove it, he always carried in his pocket a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Many members of the press weren't buying it. When Tunney published a volume titled A Man Must Fight, one sportswriter began his story about it with this immortal line: "Gene Tunney, who has written one book and read several others..."

It's a line that would work for Donald Trump, too, but only if flipped: "Donald Trump, who has written several books and read one other..."

Of course, his various books have been written with the considerable help of long suffering ghosts. And yes, I know that on several occasions Trump has bragged to reporters about the many books he claims to have read. In 2011, for example, he told the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, "I've read hundreds of books about China over the decades."

If you believe that, I've got a Great Wall to sell you. A real one. In China, not Mexico.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, one of Trump's least appealing of many unappealing traits is his incuriosity, his total lack of interest in history or pretty much anything that somehow doesn't pump up his ego or profits. It's deeply dangerous for all of us.

On Monday, here he was again, the man who just claimed an unprecedented first 100 days (must have been a helluva shock to FDR), who may have thought Frederick Douglass was still alive ("somebody who's done an amazing job") and who seemed eager to spread the news that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican ("Does anyone know? A lot of people don't know that!"). Now he was sharing his thoughts on the Civil War:

"People don't realize, you know, the Civil War - if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"

When my eyes uncross and my head stops coming to a point, I'd like to read aloud to him from the Emancipation Proclamation.

Trump's remarks came as he discussed in a radio interview his oft-stated admiration for Andrew Jackson. But as Aaron Blake at The Washington Post notes, Trump pulled yet another groaner when, "Just last week, in an interview with Reuters, Trump suggested there was really no reason for the Israelis and the Palestinians to have been fighting for all these decades.

"'I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,' Trump said. 'There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians - none whatsoever. So we're looking at that, and we're also looking at the potential of going to Saudi Arabia.'"

No reason whatsoever! You know, besides the whole claim-to-the-very-same-holy-land thing. Minor details.

It boggles the mind. My former colleague, historian David McCullough, is no stranger to American presidents, having written Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams. He has been making the rounds promoting his new book, a collection of his speeches called The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For.

When he appeared on Leonard Lopate's talk show on New York public radio a couple of weeks ago, McCullough noted that in Donald Trump we had...

"put someone in the pilot seat who has never ever flown a plane before; who doesn't understand how our government works, who has no interest in the history of the country and has said so on more than one occasion, who has never read a book about the presidency or a biography of a president and claims... that he doesn't need to read books because he knows so much intuitively."

And yet when Trump declares that health care reform or pretty much anything else - in fact the entire job of being president - is much more complicated than he imagined it would be, it's precisely because he has no knowledge of history, the kind of knowledge that might at least from time to time buffer for him the shock of reality by offering the golden gift of precedence.

History, McCullough writes, is "an aid to navigation in such troubled uncertain times.

"... All problems have histories and the wisest route to a successful solution to nearly any problem begins with understanding its history. Indeed, almost any attempt to solve a problem without an understanding of its history is to court failure - an example our tragic plunge into Vietnam with hardly a notion of its past." Or our plunge into Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Iran. Or North Korea - especially when the sum total of Trump's knowledge of that country's fraught history seems to have been a 10-minute tutorial from the president of China.

History is that proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a tsunami in Malaysia. Which makes it all the more perilous when you have a president who uses "America First" as a campaign slogan, revealing little knowledge of the isolationist movement before World War II; whose press secretary makes ill-considered statements comparing Nazi Germany, Syria and the use of poison gas to massacre civilians; and who calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas," demonstrating a willful, repugnant ignorance of Native American history that goes all the way back to a time some 24 years ago when he claimed owners of tribal casinos "are not Indians" because they didn't conform to his stereotype of what Native Americans should look like.

But even worse than any of these is a lack of knowledge of history and government that puts our very existence as a free and democratic government in peril. Embracing other countries' dictators is one slippery slope. And then on Sunday there was Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus suggesting to Jonathan Karl of ABC News that his boss is contemplating amending or even eliminating the First Amendment to curb negative coverage of the president. And finally, there was Trump himself, complaining to Fox News about the difficulty of getting his program through Congress: "It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system... It's really a bad thing for the country."

In other words, history, the system of checks and balances and the Constitution itself are just getting in Trump's way, despite his prior claims to regard as inviolate the original language of the founders.

David McCullough has said that our past is an invaluable asset, but "if you've inherited some great work of art that is worth a fortune and you don't know that it's worth a fortune, you don't even know that it's a great work of art and you're not interested in it - you're going to lose it."

Trump and his minions seem determined to send the admittedly flawed masterwork that is our legacy to the trash. One of David's favorite quotes comes from Thomas Jefferson: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Sadly, those words are probably unfamiliar to Trump precisely because of what Jefferson suggested. Past presidents have embraced our past as prologue, read books, invited eminent historians to the White House for advice and consultation. But Trump takes his history, as little as it is, from the dark spoutings of pseudointellectuals like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, or in tweets and soundbites from Fox & Friends. When he tries to parrot the words back as public statements, they come out even more mangled and malevolent.

While he is so ignorant we cannot be free.
(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...

Ajit gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Kommissar Pai,

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 work to overturn the peoples rights to a neutral internet, 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 Pai, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Authoritarian President
By Robert Reich

After more than 100 days into his presidency, it seems fair to ask: What is Donald Trump's governing philosophy?

He isn't really a Republican (he didn't join the GOP until 2012). He's hardly a free-market conservative (he's eager to block trade and immigration). No one would mistake him for a libertarian (he's okay with preventing abortions and gay marriage).

So what is he? An authoritarian.

Political scientists use this term to describe a way of governing that values order and control over personal freedom, and seeks to concentrate power in the hands of a single "strongman."

Viewed through the lens of authoritarianism, Trump's approach to governing is logical and coherent.

For example, an authoritarian wouldn't follow the normal process in a constitutional democracy for disputing a judicial decision he dislikes - which is to appeal it to a higher court.

An authoritarian would instead assail judges who rule against him, as Trump has done repeatedly. He'd also threaten to hobble the offending courts, as Trump did last week in urging that the 9th Circuit (where many of these decisions have originated) be broken up.

Likewise, an authoritarian has no patience for normal legislative rules - designed, as they are in a democracy, to create opportunities for deliberation.

Which is why Trump told Mitch McConnell to use the "nuclear option" against the time-honored Senate filibuster, in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Last week, Trump called House and Senate rules "archaic," and urged they be abandoned. "We don't have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why: It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system," he said.

Through the eyes of an authoritarian, rules that block what the authoritarian wants to do are always "bad for the country," as Trump said of them.

Trump would like to get rid of the filibuster altogether. "The filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with."

An authoritarian also seeks to intimidate the press, in order to avoid criticism and consolidate his power.

Trump still doesn't miss an opportunity to assail the media for publishing "fake news." His chief of staff has revived Trump's campaign proposal to widen libel laws so that he can sue the press for stories he doesn't like.

Authoritarians do not tolerate other levels of government with their own powers and responsibilities. Which is why Trump wants to force states and cities to report on unauthorized immigrants, even though this violates the principle of federalism enshrined in the 10th Amendment.

Finally, authoritarians promote other authoritarians, in an effort to normalize authoritarian rule.

Last Saturday, Trump invited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines to visit the White House.

Duterte, you should know, is an authoritarian leader accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of thousands of people suspected of using or selling narcotics as well as others who may have had no involvement with drugs. He has referred to former President Barack Obama as a "son of a whore." And he has declared open season on suspected terrorists, saying that if he were presented with a suspected terrorist, "give me salt and vinegar and I'll eat his liver." Two weeks ago, Trump phoned to congratulate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for his victory in a referendum filled with voting irregularities that expanded Erdogan's powers and has put Turkey on the road to dictatorship.

Trump also opined that the recent terrorist attack in Paris will help the right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen. MO< Trump has praised President Xi Jinping of China, the most authoritarian leader China has had since Mao Zedong.

Trump also hosted at the White House Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who had not been granted an invitation to the White House since seizing power in a military coup almost four years ago.

And don't forget Trump's vow during the presidential campaign to pursue a warmer relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. (The effort has faltered in light of possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.)

Donald Trump's authoritarianism is a consistent and coherent philosophy of governing. But it's not America's.

In fact, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution created separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism precisely to avoid concentrated power. Their goal was to stop authoritarians like Donald Trump.

Not long ago Trump adviser Stephen Miller declared "the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned." Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Hamilton would have been appalled.
(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

Trump's Support And Praise Of Despots Is Central To The U.S. Tradition, Not A Deviation From It
By Glenn Greenwald

Since at least the end of World War II, supporting the world's worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: in a world where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.

Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policy makers to ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.

The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington, Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives. Among the statesman's highlights, as Greg Grandin documented, he "pumped up Pakistan's ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan"; "began the U.S.'s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran"; and "supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America." Kissinger congratulated Argentina's military junta for the mass killings it carried out, and aggressively enabled the genocide by one of the 20th Century's worst monsters, the Indonesian dictator and close U.S. ally Suharto.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. under President Reagan, was regarded as a top-flight conservative intellectual because of her explicit defense of pro-western, right-wing dictators, heaping praise on U.S.-supported savage oppressors such as the Shah of Iran and Nicaragua's military dictator Anastasio Somoza on the ground that "they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions even when these entailed personal and political cost." Unsurprisingly, U.S. foreign policy in the Reagan years, like the decades that preceded and followed it, was defined by economic, military and diplomatic support for pro-U.S. dictators, death squads, and even terrorists.

Leading U.S. media outlets have long openly celebrated this pro-dictator stance. Upon the 2006 death of Augusto Pinochet - the military dictator imposed on Chile by the U.S. after it overthrew that country's democratically elected left-wing president - the Washington Post Editorial Page heaped praise on both Kirkpatrick and Pinochet. While conceding that the Chilean tyrant was "brutal: More than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured," the Post hailed "the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle," concluding that like Pinochet, "Kirkpatrick, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right."

When a right-wing coup in 2002 temporarily succeeded in removing Venezuela's elected left-wing President, Hugo Chavez, the New York Times editorial page cast it as a victory for democracy: "With yesterday's resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader."

(As I documented several years ago: In the same editorial, the Times announced that Chavez's "removal was a purely Venezuelan affair," even though it was quickly and predictably thereafter revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a vital role. Eleven years later, upon Chavez's death, the Times editors admitted that "the Bush administration badly damaged Washington's reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. ChAvez," though the paper failed to note that it had not only denied that this happened but had itself celebrated that coup.)

In 1977, Jimmy Carter attended a State Dinner in Tehran for the Shah of Iran, the savage U.S.-supported despot that ruled that country for decades after the CIA overthrew its democratically elected leader. It took place shortly after Carter hosted the Shah at the White House. The U.S. President hailed the Iranian tyrant with a long toast, that began this way:

THE PRESIDENT. Your Majesties and distinguished leaders of Iran from all walks of life:

I would like to say just a few words tonight in appreciation for your hospitality and the delightful evening that we've already experienced with you. Some have asked why we came to Iran so close behind the delightful visit that we received from the Shah and Empress Farah just a month or so ago. After they left our country, I asked my wife, "With whom would you like to spend New Year's Eve?" And she said, "Above all others, I think, with the Shah and Empress Farah." So we arranged the trip accordingly and came to be with you.

As Carter spoke, his praise for the homicidal Iranian despot became more flowery and obsequious: "Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world. This is a great tribute to you, Your Majesty, and to your leadership and to the respect and the admiration and love which your people give to you." Two years later, those same people whom Carter claimed revered the Shah overthrew him and, to this day, loathe the U.S. because of the decades of support and praise they heaped on their dictator.

U.S. devotion to the world's worst dictators did not end, or even recede, upon the end of the Cold War. Both the Bush and Obama administrations continually armed, funded, supported and praised the world's worst dictators.

In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually said of the murderous Egyptian dictator supported by the U.S.: "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family." When Egypt's defense minister, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, overthrew that country's first elected government, Clinton's successor, John Kerry, hailed him for "restoring democracy," and as Sisi became more brutal and repressive, the Obama administration lavished him with more weapons and money. The U.S. Government did the same for the human-rights abusing dictators in Bahrain.

The U.S. gave at least tacit approval, if not outright encouragement, to the 2009 military coup against Honduras' elected left-wing government. The Clinton-led State Department then repeatedly denied abundant evidence that the coup government it was supporting was engaging in an assassination program of critics and anti-government activists. Last year, the Washington Post's Karen Attiah examined "how [Clinton's] State Department's role in undemocratic regime changes has contributed to violence and political instability in Honduras and Haiti today," particularly documenting the various steps Secretary Clinton took to protect the military leaders who engineered the Honduran coup.

And then there is Saudi Arabia, long one of the most repressive regimes on the planet and one of the U.S.'s most cherished allies. U.S. devotion to the Saudi tyrants by itself negates virtually every plank of U.S. propaganda about spreading freedom and democracy, given that one administration after the next has worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen that regime.

Obama, like Bush before him, repeatedly hosted Saudi despots at the White House. When the monstrous Saudi King died in 2015, Obama terminated his state visit to India in order to fly to Ryaidh to pay homage to the close U.S. partner, where he was joined by a bipartisan cast of U.S. political stars. As the Guardian put it: "Obama has been forced to defend his unwillingness to challenge Saudi Arabia's autocratic rulers as he led a US delegation to shore up relations with its new king, just hours after lecturing India on religious tolerance and women's rights."

Upon the Saudi King's death, Obama said of a despot who killed and imprisoned dissidents: "At home, King Abdullah's vision was dedicated to the education of his people and to greater engagement with the world." Obama's gestures of admiration were mild when compared to those of the U.K. Government, which ordered all flags be flown at half-mast to honor the deceased monarch, but Obama was not remotely shy about publicly lavishing the Saudi regime with praise.

In sum, the post-World-War-II foreign policy of the U.S. - independent of its own massive human rights violations committed over and over around the world - has been predicated on overthrowing democratically elected governments and, even more so, supporting, aligning with and propping up brutal dictators. This policy has been applied all over the world, on multiple continents and by every administration. It is impossible to understand even the most basic aspects of the U.S. role in the world without knowing that.

All of this history is now being erased and whitewashed, replaced with jingoistic fairy tales, by the U.S. media and leading political officials. Despite these decades of flagrant pro-dictatorship policies, the U.S. media and leading political officials have spent months manufacturing and disseminating a propagandistic fairy tale that casts Donald Trump's embrace of dictators as some sort of new, aberrational departure from the noble American tradition.

They have repeatedly claimed that the pre-Trump U.S. was devoted to supporting and spreading democracy around the world, while condemning and opposing tyranny. This is rank revisionism of the worst kind: jingoistic propaganda that should shame anyone endorsing it.

Like U.S. support for dictators, these recent bouts of propaganda are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. Some of the more influential instances will have to suffice.

In February, the New York Times editorial page - writing under the phrase used by Jeane Kirkpatrick to demonize 1984 Democrats as unpatriotic: "Blame America First" - attacked Trump with this propagandistic garbage: "Since taking office, Mr. Trump has shown little support for America's traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance." Imagine what a shock it would be to the people of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Bahrain, Iran, Argentina, Brazil and the countless other countries which lived under a U.S.-supported dictator to hear about "America's traditional roles as a champion of universal values like freedom of the press and tolerance."

Perhaps the worst example yet came yesterday in a Washington Post article by its White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker, who made this claim: "Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world." He added: "In an undeniable shift in American foreign policy, Trump is cultivating authoritarian leaders." Cultivating authoritarian leaders is everything except a "shift in American foreign policy." Nonetheless, this propagandistic lie has now become commonplace among uber-patriotic journalists eager to tell the world that the U.S., before Trump, has been devoted to liberating the oppressed peoples of the world from tyranny. How can someone possibly be a journalist and believe that Trump's being "uninterested in spreading small-d democracy" is a "dramatic break" from his predecessors? Yet this is now standard fare for the U.S. media, as evidenced by this segment from CNN this morning pronouncing Trump's praise of rogue leaders to be "a sharp U.S. policy shift."

CNN took a policy that has been standard U.S. posture for decades and told its viewers that it represented "a sharp U.S. policy shift."

One would be remiss to omit this blatantly false propaganda from one of the Democrats' most beloved members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff, who - in a predictably viral tweet - yesterday chided Trump for inviting to the White House the mass murdering ruler of the Philippines and thus defacing noble U.S. traditions:

Aside from the fact that the U.S. has spent decades supporting tyrants and despots whose calling card is "extrajudicial killings" - including many who were feted at the White House - the central War on Terror approach of the Obama presidency was exactly that. For years, Obama bombed multiple Muslim countries in order to kill people - including his own citizens - who his administration suspected, but never proved, had connections to terrorism. In other words, he killed thousands of people extrajudicially. It takes a special kind of propagandist to claim that this is a new Trumpian innovation.
What's really going on here is self-evident. Nobody remotely rational, nobody with even a fleeting understanding of U.S. history, believes that the U.S. only began supporting and heaping praise on dictators upon Trump's inauguration. Responding to criticisms, the Post yesterday edited Rucker's patriotic tribute to the U.S. by adding the italicized words: "Every American president since at least the 1970s has used his office at least occasionally to champion human rights and democratic values around the world."

But that claim is still false. Can anyone possibly believe that - even when U.S. leaders paid lip service to human rights improvements - there was anything remotely genuine about it? Condemning human rights abuses is an instrument that the U.S. cynically uses to punish adversaries. And they admit this when being candid, as this extraordinary passage from a 2013 Washington Post article revealed:

Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

"The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass," acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. "Whereas other countries that don't cooperate, we ream them as best we can."

The Post article went on to note that the Bush administration "took the same approach," and that while "many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy ...that has not happened." In fact, "'There's pretty much been no change at all,' the official said. 'In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.'"

That's how the U.S. uses human rights advocacy: as a weapon to "ream" uncooperative countries to punish them for their disobedience. For regimes that "cooperate" with U.S. dictates, they get "at least a free pass" to abuse human rights as extensively as they want, if not outright support and funding for doing so.

What's really infuriating those attacking Trump for doing what the U.S. government has been doing for decades - supporting and praising heinous tyrants - is that he's denying them the ability to maintain the myths they desperately tell themselves about their own country. Being able to claim that the U.S. is devoted to spreading freedom and democracy in the world is central to their internal monologue. From the Washington Post newsroom to the corridors of the State Department, this is the fairy tale that they tell themselves every day in order to justify their position as global arbiters of the behavior of other countries.

Once that veneer is removed, once that fairy tale is dispensed with, then the harsh reality stands nakedly exposed: what they are defending is nothing more than the illegitimate and arbitrary exercise of imperial power. The loss of this fiction imperils their entire moral framework. They aren't angry that Trump is hugging dictators, obviously. All the other presidents whom they revere did the same. It goes without saying that a political culture that admires Henry Kissinger has no objection whatsoever to embracing tyrants.

They are furious that Trump isn't as effective or as willing to pretend that he's not doing this. That means they can no longer pretend that the violence, the wars, the coercion, the interference, the dictator-support that they routinely condone has a moral purpose to it.

The reality is that even the fiction, the pretense, of the U.S. as some sort of defender of human rights and democracy is being wildly overstated. As the above examples (and so many others) demonstrate, U.S. officials, including U.S. Presidents, have openly feted and praised despots at least as monstrous as Duterte.

Just as it's comforting to believe that Trump is the by-product of a foreign villain rather than an American phenomenon, it's also comforting to believe that his embrace of despots is some sort of novelty. But, especially for journalists, the fact that it feels good to believe a myth does not justify disseminating it.

Watching the U.S. media tell everyone that Trump's predecessors were devoted to spreading democracy, and that supporting tyrants is a "dramatic break" from the U.S. tradition, is such an obvious break from reality that it is staggering to see, even for those who already view the U.S. media as principally devoted to spreading patriotic state propaganda about the U.S. Government.
(c) 2017 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

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Betsy DeVos Says Media Shouldn't Emphasize First Hundred Days Because 'It's So Hard to Count to a Hundred'
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos criticized the media on Friday for placing so much emphasis on Donald Trump's first hundred days, because "it's so darn hard to count to a hundred."

"I'm watching the news and they're going on about a hundred days this and a hundred days that, and all I want to say is, 'Who the heck can count all the way to a hundred?'" she said. "They're acting like we're a bunch of math geniuses."

DeVos added that, if the media wanted to establish a benchmark for Trump's achievement, "they should have picked a number of days that people can actually count to, like five or ten."

The Education Secretary then demonstrated how it was possible to count to ten using one's hands.

Despite the media's obsession with "ridiculously big numbers," DeVos said she has no intention of trying to count to a hundred.

"I have an important job and the last thing I need is to do something that makes my head hurt," she said.
(c) 2017 Andy Borowitz

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