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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi observes, "The War In The White House."

Uri Avnery exclaims, "One, Two, Three - Rejoice!"

Glen Ford finds, "Study Shows School Vouchers Hurt Students - But Trump And DeVos Couldn't Care Less."

Robert Parry examines, "The McCarthyism Of Russia-Gate."

Jim Hightower asks, "How Is Trump Like Humpty-Dumpty?"

Norman Solomon explores, "Killer Drones In The Empire State."

Chris Hedges was, "Going To The Daytime Emmys."

John Nichols declares, "History Will Remember These 217 House Republicans For Their Inhumanity."

Deirdre Fulton reports, "The 'Told You So' Everyone Was Dreading-First DAPL Spill Reported."

David Suzuki returns with, "Research Sheds Light On Dark Corner Of B.C.'s Oil And Gas Industry."

Ann Wright explains, "How the United States Ultimately Talks with Its "Enemies."

David Swanson annouces, "Thousands In U.S. Send Messages Of Friendship To Russian."

Michael Winship concludes, "America's Health Is In The Hands Of GOP Frat Boys."

Sonny Perdue wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich investigates, "The Moral Travesty Of Trumpcare."

Ruth Conniff reveals, "Trump's Watergate? The Firing Of FBI Director James Comey Provokes A 'Constitutional Crisis.'."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion says, "GOP Promises Americans Will Be Able To Keep Current Medical Conditions If Obamacare Repealed" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Here's The List Of The Nazi, Scum Sucking, Bastards Who Voted To Repeal Obama Care."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Tim Eagan, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Gage Skidmore, Carlos Barria, Victor Juhasz, Marissa Roth, Jessie Palatucci, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Director of National Intelligence, The New York Times, Reuters, Flickr, AP, The Washington Post, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Here's The List Of The Nazi, Scum Sucking, Bastards Who Voted To Repeal Obama Care
By Ernest Stewart

"Did the Marquis de Sade Write This Health Care Bill?" ~~~ RoseAnn DeMoro

"The new study extends this earlier modeling study by relying on observations that go back to 1920. We show that over nearly 100 years, the observed deviations in global mean temperature from the anthropogenically forced climate response are nearly all due to IPO." ~~~ Shang-Ping Xie, climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Things are getting strange, I'm starting to worry
This could be a case for Mulder and Scully
Mulder And Scully ~~~ Catatonia

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts." ~~~ Abraham Lincoln

Here's the list. Remember them well when it comes time to vote!!! You might want to send them your thoughts if one of these traitors is your Con-gress man or women!

AL-1 Bradley Byrne AL-2 Martha Roby AL-3 Mike D. Rogers AL-4 Robert B. Aderholt AL-5 Mo Brooks AL-6 Gary Palmer

AR-2 French Hill AR-3 Steve Womack AR-4 Bruce Westerman

AZ-2 Martha E. McSally AZ-4 Paul Gosar AZ-6 David Schweikert AZ-8 Trent Franks

CA-4 Tom McClintock CA-22 Devin Nunes CA-23 Kevin McCarthy CA-45 Mimi Walters CA-48 Dana Rohrabacher CA-50 Duncan Hunter

CO-4 Ken Buck

FL-1 Matt Gaetz FL-3 Ted Yoho FL-4 John Rutherford FL-11 Daniel Webster FL-12 Gus Bilirakis FL-15 Dennis A. Ross FL-16 Vern Buchanan FL-17 Tom Rooney FL-18 Brian Mast FL-19 Francis Rooney

GA-1 Earl L. "Buddy" Carter GA-3Drew Ferguson GA-7Rob Woodall GA-9Doug Collins GA-10Jody B. Hice GA-11Barry Loudermilk GA-12Rick W. Allen GA-14Tom Graves

IA-4Steve King IL-13Rodney Davis IL-15John Shimkus IL-18Darin M. LaHood

IN-2Jackie Walorski IN-3Jim Banks IN-4Todd Rokita IN-6Luke Messer IN-8Larry Bucshon

KS-1Roger Marshall KS-2Lynn Jenkins KS-4Ron Estes

KY-1James Comer KY-2Brett Guthrie KY-6Andy Barr

LA-1Steve Scalise LA-3Clay Higgins LA-5Ralph Abraham

MD-1Andy Harris

MI-1Jack Bergman MI-2Bill Huizenga MI-4John Moolenaar MI-6Fred Upton MI-7Tim Walberg MI-8Mike Bishop MI-10Paul Mitchell MI-11Dave Trott

MN-2Jason Lewis MO-2Ann Wagner MO-3Blaine Luetkemeyer MO-4Vicky Hartzler MO-6Sam Graves MO-7Billy Long MO-8Jason Smith

MS-3Gregg Harper MS-4Steven M. Palazzo

NC-2George Holding NC-5Virginia Foxx NC-6Mark Walker NC-7David Rouzer NC-8Richard Hudson NC-9Robert Pittenger NC-10Patrick T. McHenry NC-11Mark Meadows NC-13Ted Budd

ND-1Kevin Cramer

NE-2Don Bacon NE-3Adrian Smith

NJ-3Tom MacArthur

NV-2Mark Amodei Mbr>

NY-1Lee Zeldin NY-2Peter T. King NY-19John J. Faso NY-21Elise Stefanik NY-23Tom Reed NY-27Chris Collins

OH-1Steve Chabot OH-4Jim Jordan OH-5Bob Latta OH-6Bill Johnson OH-8Warren Davidson OH-12Pat Tiberi OH-15Steve Stivers OH-16James B. Renacci

OK-1Jim Bridenstine OK-2Markwayne Mullin OK-3Frank D. Lucas OK-4Tom Cole OK-5Steve Russell

OR-2Greg Walden

PA-3Mike Kelly PA-4Scott Perry PA-5Glenn Thompson PA-9Bill Shuster PA-10Tom Marino PA-11Lou Barletta PA-16Lloyd K. Smucker PA-18Tim Murphy

SC-1Mark Sanford SC-2Joe Wilson SC-4Trey Gowdy SC-7Tom Rice

SD-1Kristi Noem

TN-1Phil Roe TN-2John J. Duncan Jr. TN-3Chuck Fleischmann TN-4Scott DesJarlais TN-6Diane Black TN-7Marsha Blackburn TN-8David Kustoff

TX-1Louie Gohmert TX-2Ted Poe TX-3Sam Johnson TX-4John Ratcliffe TX-5Jeb Hensarling TX-6Joe L. Barton TX-7John Culberson TX-8Kevin Brady TX-10Michael McCaul TX-11K. Michael Conaway TX-12Kay Granger TX-13Mac Thornberry TX-14Randy Weber TX-17Bill Flores TX-19Jodey Arrington TX-21Lamar Smith TX-22Pete Olson TX-24Kenny Marchant TX-25Roger Williams TX-26Michael C. Burgess TX-27Blake Farenthold TX-31John Carter TX-32Pete Sessions TX-36Brian Babin

UT-1Rob Bishop UT-2Chris Stewart UT-3Jason Chaffetz UT-4Mia Love

VA-1Rob Wittman VA-2Scott Taylor VA-5Tom Garrett VA-6Robert W. Goodlatte VA-7Dave Brat VA-9Morgan Griffith

WA-4Dan Newhouse WA-5Cathy McMorris Rodgers

WI-1Paul D. Ryan WI-5Jim Sensenbrenner WI-6Glenn Grothman WI-7Sean P. Duffy

WY-1Liz Cheney

I'll be sure and repost this again the week of the 2018 election!

In Other News

I see where scientists have warned that global warming is likely to accelerate for the next one or two decades, and temperatures could exceed a landmark within 10 years.

Meanwhile Trump's junta pretends to debate whether to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Trump thinks it's not real, so why bother with the treaty, it's all China's propaganda to destroy American prosperity, after all!

Researchers at Melbourne University have warned that the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, or IPO, a natural cycle lasting 10-30 years, has been switching to its 'warm' phase since 2014. It affects how much heat is absorbed by the Pacific and the previous 'cool' phase has been cushioning the impact of global warming for the past decade. Imagine a permanent El Nino for the next 30 years. You may recall the last El Nino sent one super hurricane after another, after another, after another, e.t.c., destroying Eastern Asia coast lines, warming up the far north, causing all that havoc in Alaska by melting permafrost, and pushing all the arctic air south into the East Coast and Midwest.

The pace of global warming is likely to quicken in coming years as natural processes in the Pacific switch from serving as a brake to an accelerator, placing the planet on course to exceed a landmark level within a decade, according to a new paper.

"A turnaround of the IPO to its positive phase could initiate a period of accelerated warming over the next one or two decades," researchers Ben Henley and Andrew King state.

"Global warming is accelerating, and it could pass this century's limit in 10 years.

"This would likely lead to the Paris target of 1.5 degrees (warming since pre-industrial times) being surpassed within the next decade."

And our head Bozo thinks it's all propaganda! We are sooooo screwed America, and so is the world!

And Finally

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra was wont to say: "It's like deja-vu, all over again." Or as Marx put it: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." Methinks both would apply to our current passion play down in "foggy bottom." Ya'll remember the Saturday Night Massacre back on October 20, 1973 when the "Trick" fired special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox when he was getting to close to the truth about Watergate? This last ditch attempted to cover up the scandal ended up with Nixons impending Impeachment and his resignation on August 8, 1974. What a happy day that was, I don't remember much about that day, but oh what a party!

Speaking of which, I hope the Donald has a similar fate with his firing of of FBI director James Comey, who, by a strange coincidence, like Cox, was getting to the truth about Russiagate and the Trumpster's involvement therein! Perhaps he had copies of the "Golden Shower" discs, who knows? There have been so many impeachable offenses and acts of treason committed by the Junta since the election it's hard to know which one or ones it might be?

Trouble is, as Trump will appoint some fellow one per center who will strive to cover it all up and Trump will keep the sheeple's minds off it with some outrageous act, or another. Can't you just imagine the tweets? I seem to remember a similar plot to remove AD Skinner in the X-Files and of course he was rescued by Mulder and Scully. Where is Mulder and Scully now that we need them? The truth is out there Comey!

Keepin' On

I have said that this is my second favorite thing to do every week, to come before you and beg for money, every week until we get our bills paid. My favorite thing is to drill small holes in my knee caps with an ancient brace and bit. Or would be, but I'm not a masochist; however, the show must go on; so here I am again.

Gone are those golden daze of yore when a couple of folks with money, not that white money, but the folding kind, would step up and pick up our publishing tab for the year. Those indeed were the daze, but I fear those daze have come and and gone; so it's up to all of you to step up and pay your fair share of keeping us active, fighting the good fight for you and for yours. Can you name any other group that does what we do without taking a dime? Most take a six or seven figure salary. The difference is, all we owe allegiance to is to you, and not those who can afford to pay a 6 or 7 figure salary.

Ergo, please visit this site and follow the directions therein; and, against all odds, we'll be here for you every week with the latest news; whether good or bad, you can always deal with the truth; but you need to know what it is; and you'll find it here! Where else can you find it?


01-03-1972 ~ 05-09-2017
Thanks for the music!

04-24-1940 ~ 05-09-2017
Thanks for the film!

01-07-1924 ~ 05-10-2017
Thanks for the film!


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.

The War In The White House
Months of palace intrigue have pitted the D.C. establishment against Steve Bannon - and made Trump more dangerous than ever
By Matt Taibbi

Decades from now, if the planet is even inhabited by then, we will look back at one 72-hour period as the most crucial in the history of America's last president, Donald John Trump. Between the days of April 5th and 7th, 2017, the Washington political establishment tried to reform our madman president and instead only made him infinitely more dangerous, pushing us closer to doomsday than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis.

Welcome to the Trump era, the flushing-toilet-bowl stage of America's history, where every move any of us makes is part of a great swirling synergy sucking us with ever-greater alacrity down the hole of failure and destruction. Good news, bad news, it all heads in the same direction soon enough, after a spin or two around the bowl.

Wednesday, April 5th, began with what seemed like the greatest of news. Former Breitbart chief Steve Bannon, the Trump whisperer who had publicly pledged to destroy government from within, was on the outs for, among other things, calling the president's son-in-law a naughty word. A deluge of gleeful media leaks from the leakiest White House of all time exulted: The witch was dead, Bannon was sidelined, and an "axis of adults" had finally taken over as the key voices behind the president. We were saved!

A few spins of the bowl later, even the sidelining of Bannon turned into bad news. Bannon may currently be America's most infamous racial reactionary, but in the panoply of racist archetypes, he isn't easy to characterize. He's not a gun-toting, moonshine-swilling backwoods Klansman, which is at least a lifestyle one can sort of be born into. His background instead is as an effete suburbanite who went to Virginia Tech, Harvard and the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, made a small fortune in banking and entertainment (he worked for Goldman Sachs and, according to legend, owns a piece of Seinfeld), and only later made promoting ethno-nationalism as an intellectual choice his life mission. If you're sending a child away to college, Bannon is pretty much the worst-case scenario of what might come back - someone who will spend a lifetime inspired by literature to get more in touch with his inner troglodyte.

Bannon is said to have spent much of his adult life reading books that contain some combination of the following elements: violent collapses of Western civilization, invading hordes of dirty foreigners, elitist plots, murder and revolution. Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints, a book so dumb it makes The Turner Diaries seem like Huck Finn, is a favorite; the novel is a grimy fantasy about Europe overrun by brown immigrants who have les bras decharnés de Gandhi ("bare, fleshless Gandhi arms") and whose children are "all wormy inside." He is also said to be a fan of Italian fascist Julius Evola, and of The Fourth Turning, a book that insists America goes to hell once every four generations. He has also said he likes Trump's books, a seeming impossibility for a college graduate - about the only Trump-Hitler comparison one can safely make without trampling on Godwin's law is that it is impossible to say which of the two demagogues is the worse writer.

Bannon drifted into politics after his career as a Goldman Sachs banker led him to Hollywood. He began producing movies with political content, including the historically awful Sarah Palin hagiography The Undefeated. This experience seems to have put him on the shortlist of figures to take over the leadership of the right-wing provocateur site, after its Buttafuocoid windbag founder Andrew Breitbart died of heart failure. Bannon was in the process of turning Breitbart into a model of modern race-baiting efficiency when he was pegged by then-candidate Trump to help run his foundering campaign. Nothing underscored the limitless awfulness of Trump's judgment better than a decision to make this nakedly abhorrent thinker his key adviser.

In the late Nineties, Bannon was a Hollywood banker who'd be in the room for important deals, but was never himself the most important person in the meeting. A reporter who knew Bannon in the early aughts recalls that even then he was sort of a misfit. Away from his job, he'd regale the reporter with his blistering observations about various film-industry titans, people like Disney chief Mike Ovitz and former Warner Music head Edgar Bronfman Jr., painting them as caricatures of dissolute nobles destined to piss away fortunes.

"He was a great talker," the reporter recalls. "He would go on and on about these people." And he liked talking to the press, the reporter noted, hinting at a flaw that would later prove seriously problematic. This reporter never caught a whiff of the future culture-first ideologue who would become the pope of the alt-right movement. Bannon was then just an eccentric pseudo who didn't quite fit into the world he had chosen for himself, a theme that followed him throughout his life.

History is filled with whisperers behind the throne: Machiavelli, Richelieu, even Thomas Cromwell, to whom Bannon once compared himself. Most of these were smart enough to stay in the background. Bannon went the opposite route. He burnished his Rasputinite legend at every turn, making himself the subject of a Time cover ("The Great Manipulator") and pumping up his brand by dressing like a Banana Republic version of Charles Bukowski. The bloated and tieless Bannon's permanent 10-o'clock-shadow look, which any man knows takes more time and narcissistic grooming to maintain than a clean face, stood out in a Trump inner circle made up of men in square suits and power ties.

Bannon embraced the role of the evil Svengali in a way no one in recent American history had, at least not since Joe McCarthy's henchman Roy Cohn - coincidentally, one of Trump's first mentors. "Darkness is good," Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter, with Cohn-ian verve, in the weeks after Trump's electoral win. "Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power."

His signature moment came at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in late February. The elephantine Bannon waddled onstage with chief of staff Reince Priebus (a classic donor-stroking, risk-averse Beltway weenie who represented everything Bannon's alt-right movement hated about the Republican Party) and announced a revolutionary agenda to the world. The Trump administration, he said, would seek nothing less than the "deconstruction of the administrative state." This revolution would face its toughest opposition in a "globalist" and "corporatist" (read: Jewish) media that disavowed Trump's "economic nationalist agenda."

Trump seemed to embrace Bannon's revolution, appointing to his Cabinet a string of dunces and anti-government zealots like Betsy DeVos and Scott Pruitt who fit the "deconstruction" plan. Bannon looked triumphant. The fact that The New York Times had dubbed him "President Bannon" no longer seemed like a joke.

Priebus, representing the Republican establishment, made a halfhearted effort at that CPAC event to look like he didn't despise Bannon with the heat of a thousand suns. "We share an office suite together," Priebus insisted. "We're basically together from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night."

I was in the crowd that day and could feel the discomfort onstage from 50 yards off. When Bannon reached over to affectionately touch Priebus on the knee, the latter recoiled like a schoolgirl sitting next to a subway flasher. The moment was an instant YouTube sensation and captured the untenable inner dynamic of the Trump White House, which had already become the locus of a mountain of Kremlinological speculation by Beltway experts.

Who was really running things in the new administration? How long could the Republican old guard and the alt-right revolution coexist under one roof? And how long would a notorious attention hog like Trump put up with the media calling someone else the president?

"You can't really call it Kremlinology," says a renowned Sovietologist, "because with this White House, there are so many leaks, every one knows what's going on." From Day One - from before Day One, in fact - there have been few secrets in the Trump presidency.

At first, it was outsiders who did the dirty work. Intelligence sources hostile to Trump seemingly leaked almost everything Trump and his associates did to news agencies. Some of these leaks turned into explosive news stories, like a Washington Post report about Gen. Michael Flynn talking out of school to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Others involved more mundane embarrassments, like a play-by-play summary of Trump's braggadocios phone call to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that made the newspapers.

"Officials" likewise told the Post that Trump had bragged about his inauguration-crowd size to Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. No matter where the new president went, or how private the setting, his bloopers kept ending up in the papers. It's shocking that video of Trump's first visit to a White House toilet didn't make it to America's Funniest Home Videos.

But by April, and despite Trump himself having essentially declared war on the media, calling reporters "the enemy of the people," Trump's closest advisers began to spend an increasingly large amount of time talking to the press anonymously.

On April 6th, in a piece by the Daily Beast, "senior officials" leaked a spate of sordid details about a growing feud between Bannon and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The headline read that Bannon had called Kushner a "cuck," right-wing slang derived from the lurid porn term describing a white guy who likes to watch his wife take it from black men.

"Cuckservative" in the modern right-wing lexicon is the more hardcore replacement for what used to be called "RINOs," or "Republicans in Name Only." According to the Beast, Bannon spent a lot of time using such goofball slang terms to complain about Kushner - saying Trump's son-in-law wanted to "shiv him and push him out the door," adding that Kushner was a "globalist" - and apparently considered him worse than a Democrat.

Bannon with Jared Kushner in the Oval Office

To the surprise of no one, the Beast story also reported that Trump himself was irritated by the media's depictions of Bannon as the real president. He was particularly upset by a Saturday Night Live skit showing Bannon as the Grim Reaper, manipulating Trump, played by Alec Baldwin - who in turn called Bannon "Mr. President."

"Did you see this crap?" Trump reportedly said.

All of these lurid details coincided with news that Bannon had been removed from the National Security Council, where, of course, a political strategist like Bannon should never have been in the first place (even Karl Rove never wormed his way into that kind of job). Not long after, a Bannon confidante - fellow alt-right journalist Mike Cernovich, perhaps the most loathsome American left who hasn't been hired by the Trump White House - promised to release a "mother lode" of stories that would "destroy marriages" if Bannon were fired.

"I know about the mistresses, the sugar babies, the drugs, the pill-popping, the orgies. I know everything," said Cernovich.

By any normal standards this was all madness: a president perhaps making staffing decisions because of a Saturday Night Live skit, a chief White House strategist calling the president's son-in-law a cuck, a Web journalist blackmailing senior White House officials in public. Worse, all of this took place with the whole country following along in real time with a flattening pulse rate, two years of lunatic politics having made the daily soap opera of our collapse as a global superpower seem normal, like no big deal.

No sooner had Bannon been sidelined than another set of signals came from the White House that Washington mostly applauded. Earlier that week, news had broken of a horrific chemical-weapons attack that left 86 people dead in the rebel-held Idlib province in Syria. And at first, Trump appeared determined to stick to his "I don't want to be the president of the world" campaign stance, which was part of an isolationist posture seemingly chalked up to Bannon's influence.

But that Thursday evening, with Bannon appearing disgraced, Trump suddenly reversed course and lobbed 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Syria, killing seven and destroying at least six warplanes.

In an instant, the entire narrative of the Trump presidency was altered. Leading Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi took time out from calling Trump a Russian agent to praise the attacks. Even more bizarre, a smorgasbord of "liberal" press outlets now sang his praises. This was what happened on Day Two of Trump's 72-hour makeover: The until-then unrelentingly hostile Washington punditocracy suddenly began slobbering all over the missile-throwing version of Trump.

The New York Times said that by launching a military strike "just 77 days into his administration" (what difference did that make?), Trump might yet "change the perception of disarray" in his presidency. CNN, which on the very morning of the missile strikes had run a monster investigative report detailing Trump's alleged Russia ties, now breathlessly lauded His Orangeness.

Fareed Zakaria said, "I think Donald Trump became president of the United States." Over on MSNBC, a tumescent Brian Williams raved as he watched video of Trump's missile attacks, twice calling them "beautiful." He even stole a line from Leonard Cohen, saying, "I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons."

Trump responded to the press love with the obedient habituation of Pavlov's dog. He'd spent his first few months in office trying (and failing, mostly) to fulfill campaign promises to his base: a "Muslim ban," a face-plant effort to overturn Obamacare, an order to start building his "big, beautiful, powerful wall." For his trouble, Trump earned nothing but Mendoza-line approval ratings and a string of vicious new caricatures on Saturday Night Live.

But fire a few missiles, Trump learned, and suddenly even your enemies love you. Encouraged, Trump began frantically chucking campaign promises overboard.

The man who once promised to label China a currency manipulator in the first 100 days of his presidency now said of the Chinese, "They're not currency manipulators." Candidate Trump courted end-the-Fed conspiracists by bashing Fed chief Janet Yellen ("Very political . . . she should be ashamed of herself"). New-and-improved Trump's take on Yellen? "I like her, I respect her," he said. Candidate Trump said NATO was "obsolete"; new Trump said NATO was "no longer obsolete." Old Trump said it would be better "if we actually got along" with Russia; new Trump humble-bragged that relations "may be at an all-time low." All of these reversals had one thing in common. They ran in stark contrast to the nationalist, anti-globalist, Bannonite rhetoric Trump had sounded not only as a candidate, but in his much-ballyhooed joint address to Congress just a month before.

Trump in that speech described his own rise as a "rebellion" of voters who were upset that America had spent "trillions and trillions of dollars overseas" in military interventions while ignoring domestic problems. Those voters, he said, "were united by one very simple but crucial demand: that America must put its own citizens first."

President Donald Trump leaves after delivering a statement about missile strikes on a Syrian airfield, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Now the would-be isolationist was bombing Syria, bear-hugging a Fed chair and glad-handing the bespectacled Euro named Jens who runs NATO.

Between all the leaks and dysfunction, by late April the American government looked to the outside world like a mad-house with glass walls. Here in America, of course, the reaction was different. Officially now, we've been in this water too long to notice it boiling. Instead of fleeing to the hills in panic, the most common reaction to the latest Trump rebrand was to cheer.

A week after the Syria missile attack, the Trump administration dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on a remote corner of Afghanistan. The 21,600-pound MOAB, which stands for Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb in reality but is cheerfully known by bloodlusting Americans as the "Mother of All Bombs," reportedly killed at least 94 people, all of whom we somehow determined were either ISIS fighters or commanders.

Ironically, even before the Tomahawk and MOAB attacks, Trump had overseen a massively increased campaign of bombing. According to the British monitoring group Airwars, the U.S.-led coalition killed some 1,755 civilians in Syria and Iraq alone in March, a nearly ninefold increase over last March's total of 196.

But to the Beltway priesthood, even a mere massive increase in civilian deaths qualified as Trump accepting the "constraints" of Bannonite America-First-ism. To really win over the capital's beautiful people, and convince them of his capacity for responsible interventionism, the new president needed to get rid of the one tiny part of his entire barking-mad worldview that made a small bit of sense, i.e., his reluctance to start schoolyard brawls abroad.

By firing missiles at a Russian client state and dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, Trump won over both the Fox-watching bomb-porn crowd and the neo-liberal pros who run Washington. In Washington terms, he proved he was "serious."

The revelations of the past month show the Trump White House to be a kind of bizarro version of Real World or Amish in the City - a bunch of loutish out-of-towners granted undeserving residence in a classy downtown mansion wired in every corner for the world's amusement. Ditsy Kellyanne Conway rubs her feet on the furniture, blabbermouth Sean Spicer loses battles of wits to Rob Gronkowski in the press room, and grandpa Rex Tillerson spends every episode hiding from the press, maybe behind the new gold drapes (they really changed the color of the Oval Office drapes). The remaining zoo animals are split in a perfectly disgusting caricature of the modern American political divide. On one side rests Bannon, a fascistic creep who represents the tens of millions of "deplorables" who rallied to Trump because he validated their zombie-movie fantasies about armies of wormy Mexicans staggering up the isthmus ("tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border," as Trump put it).

Bannon hasn't been fired, and Trump's recent bleatings about rewriting trade deals are supposedly due to his continuing influence. But there are many reports that Bannon has lost influence to Kushner and former Goldman Sachs deputy Gary Cohn, a noted monster of the financial-crisis era who represents the opposite vile brand of American politics, a Wall Street kleptocracy that has spent decades robbing Main Street blind through bubble economics and sleazy asset-hoovering schemes like sub-prime-mortgage fraud.

If there's a better metaphor for the depressing nonchoice of modern Western democracy than the intramural struggle for influence between these two arch-fiends, it's hard to imagine. Bannon and Cohn, two bilious, overweight ex-Goldman bankers, now sit on either side of the throne, each whispering his respective villainous ideology into the president's ears.

It'll be backlash ethnic nationalism against sociopathic finance capitalism, foreigners-suck versus screw-the-poor, depending on Trump's mood. That's assuming the president hasn't been distracted by some insane civilization-imperiling military adventure recommended to him by "adults" like Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Chief John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Who's really running things in the Trump White House? The more we hear, the less we seem to know, but none of the choices seem to be good. 'Round and 'round the bowl we go; God knows when we will hit the bottom.
(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.

One, Two, Three - Rejoice!
By Uri Avnery

I REMEMBER the first few Independence Days, just after the foundation of the State of Israel. There was spontaneous jubilation, we were all out in the streets, the celebration was real.

That was long ago. This years Independence Day, last Tuesday, was not a very happy affair. The holiday was subdued, even sad. Old-timers felt that "this is not our state anymore", that "they" have stolen Israel". "They" - the rightists.

One of the reasons may be that there is no real unity any more. Israeli society has fallen apart into a number of sub-societies, which have less and less in common.

There are the Ashkenazim (of European descent), the Mizrahim (Easterners, from Arab countries and Iran, often erroneously called Sephardim), the "Russians" (from the former Soviet Union, who live a separate life of their own), the Haredim (God-fearing, ultra Orthodox, non-Zionists), the National-Religious (religious Zionists (including the settlers in the occupied territories and fascist elements), and, of course, the Palestinian-Arab minority, who constitute more than 20% of the population, and who exist outside of almost everything.

Lately, some of the Mizrahim have developed an almost pathological hatred of the Ashkenazim, feeling despised and discriminated.

So all the routine Independence Day ceremonies were observed as scheduled, without much enthusiasm and without anything new. The fireworks, the Air Force fly-by, the Bible quiz, the official torches lit by outstanding citizens (including a leader of the settlers who excels in driving Arabs out of Jerusalem.)

The Chairman of the Knesset said in his speech that "Not all the Leftists are traitors."

Interesting. How many are? Most of the ceremonies were just occasions to show the King, Binyamin Netanyahu, again and again on TV. His queen, Sarah'le, also got the measure of exposure she demands. Woe to the TV editor who does not give Sarah'le her due!

What is her merit? Well, she married Netanyahu when she was an airline stewardess and he was just a young diplomat, twice divorced.

I DON'T like officially-decreed holidays and official days of mourning.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany, I was 9 years old. I had the impression that almost every second day had become a national holiday, commemorating a German victory in a forgotten war or some Nazi event.

On such occasions, all the boys (there were no girls) in my highschool were assembled in the Aula (Latin for hall), listened to patriotic speeches, raised their right arm and sang the two anthems - the national and the Nazi one.

This particular occasion was the 17th century Battle of Belgrade, in which the Austrian Prince Eugene beat the Turks. I was the youngest pupil in the lowest class, and the only Jew in school. I stood at attention like everybody, but did not raise my arm and did not sing the Nazi song. My heart was pounding.

My class teacher, a Catholic priest, protected me. A few weeks later, we were on our way to Palestine.

Since that day, I don't like officially ordered celebrations.

IN ISRAEL we are blessed, perhaps more than any nation in the world, with official days of joy and mourning, some national and some religious, with no clear difference between them.

By my count there are 15 in the Jewish-Israeli year, but I may have omitted one or two. They are:

New Year: a religious holiday. It arose long ago in an agricultural society. In Palestine, autumn is the time of re-awakening of nature, like spring in Europe.

Yom Kippur: the holiest day of Judaism, when God finally decides on your fate for the next year.

Succot: the feast of the huts, commemorating the 40 years of wandering in the desert after the escape from Egypt. In the desert, there were no houses.

Shmini Atseret: the eighth day of Succot, when God gave us the Ten Commandments.

Hanukkah: the feast of the lights, commemorating - what? For nationalists, the victory of the Maccabees over the "Greeks" (actually Syrians). For the religious, it is all about a miracle, when God made a lamp burn for eight days in the Temple on enough oil for one day. Now, Jews light candles over eight days.

15th of the month Shvat - "the birthday of the trees", honoring all the plants in our country.

Purim - a jolly day, like carnivals elsewhere, when the anti-Semite Haman in Persia was about to kill all the Jews, but Queen Esther, a Jewish girl who succeeding in marrying the drunken King Ahasuerus, convinced him to change the decree and allow the Jews to kill all their enemies, especially Haman and his sons.

Passover: the feast commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, when Jews are forbidden to eat real bread and commanded to eat matzot, a kind of unleavened bread.

Second Passover: the last day of the feast. The days in between are half-holidays.

Holocaust Day: day of mourning for the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis by gassing, shooting, starvation and disease. Practically every Ashkenazi Jew had relatives among those who perished. Since only very few Mizrahim were among the victims, this gives rise to a lot of jealousy.

Remembrance Day: in commemoration of the fallen in the wars of modern Israel. They amount to about 23 thousand, but this year the public was astonished to learn that this number also includes all soldiers who died in road accidents or from disease.

Independence Day: starts immediately after Remembrance Day.

Lag B'Omer: an ancient agricultural festival, announcing summer, but linked in Jewish mythology to several different historic events, such as the last rebellion against Rome, which put an end to Jewish statehood in Palestine. Children light bonfires all over the country.

Shvuot: the feast of harvest, also the feast of the Torah.

9th of the Month Av: The day on which the Temple in Jerusalem was twice destroyed, first by the Babylonians and, centuries later, by the Romans. A day of mourning.

On most of these days, everything in Israel is closed. Some observe even more days commemorating calamities of the past.

WHAT IS the reason for this proliferation of joy and mourning?

For many centuries, Jews were an ethno-religious community, without a territorial homeland. They were not an exception. In Byzantine and Ottoman times, communities were organized that way. A Jewish girl in Antioch (today's Syria) could marry a Jewish boy in Alexandria (Egypt), but not the Catholic boy next door. Communities were largely autonomous, ruled by religious functionaries.

Such communities disappeared long ago. People adopted new forms of human organization. But the Jews clung to their ancestral habits. All these ceremonies and holy days were necessary to hold them together. Jews in Riga read the Passover Haggada in exactly the same way and at the same time as Jews in Cape Town.

Some 250 years ago, human communities became nations. As these nations became the norm, Jews were becoming more and more "abnormal" and hated. The founders of Zionism decided that Jews, too, must become a nation.

How to turn a religious community into a modern nation? All the important rabbis of the day cursed Zionism and its founder, the Viennese journalist and playwright Theodor Herzl. In order to overcome this resistance and lure the Jews to Palestine, Herzl and his disciples adopted the religious holy days and poured into them a new nationalist content.

These, then, are the Jewish-Israeli holidays: a mish-mash of ancient religion and modern nationalism, many of them including both.

At the beginning of modern Zionism, such a proliferation of holy days may have been necessary to hold the new society together. But now?

WHAT'S SO bad about that?

The bad thing is that these holy days create an endless continuity of indoctrination, of brain-washing. Every child absorbs the national story almost from birth. The parents see to that. In kindergarten, these ideas are deeply implanted in their minds, in school the indoctrination is deepened from feast to feast and from year to year. The end result is a community totally absorbed with itself, half-religious and half-ultra-nationalist, cut off from all other nations, lacking universal values.

Expressions like "all the world is against us" or "they all want to destroy us" or "all the Goyim are the same" are heard quite often. The great majority of Israelis of all hues believe in them deep in their hearts.

Perhaps it is true that there exists no really secular Jewish Israeli. Take a secular specimen, dig into his consciousness and you will find the traces of all these holy days. Very few escape.

Perhaps the most characteristic is the transition we experienced last Monday evening. Memorial Day for the fallen soldier turned into Independence Day, with nothing between them.

Extreme joy after extreme mourning, almost merging. A masterpiece of emotional manipulation.

If we want to turn Israel into a normal nation, all this profusion of holy days must be reduced to a normal few.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Study Shows School Vouchers Hurt Students - But Trump And DeVos Couldn't Care Less
By Glen Ford

President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are old school "segregation academy" politicians with strong ideological investments in private school vouchers. They will not be deterred by a new study that shows the Washington DC school voucher program actually detracts from student achievement. The people of DC never wanted vouchers, but school privatization has nothing to do with democracy.

The nation's only federally funded private school voucher program, foisted on the overwhelming Black student population of Washington, DC by the George Bush administration in 2004, inflicts negative effects on student achievement levels, according to a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education. Low-income students who were selected by lottery to receive the taxpayer-funded "scholarships" performed 7.3 percent worse on math and 4.9 percent lower in reading than students from similar backgrounds who remained in public schools because they did not make the lottery pick. Parents of voucher kids seemed oblivious to their children's relative underachievement, but believed the private schools they attended were "very safe, compared with the parents of students not selected for the scholarship offer" - confirming ample anecdotal evidence that safety concerns are at the root of much pro "school choice" sentiment in the Black community.

If President Trump gets his budget passed, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school privatizer who was rescued from rejection by the Senate by only one vote, will have an additional $250 million to fund private school voucher programs in Washington and, she hopes, the 13 states that currently finance their own voucher schemes. Trump proposes an overall increase of $1.4 billion for school voucher and charter programs, with the goal of ramping it up to $20 billion -- while immediately cutting the total federal education budget by $9 billion, or 13 percent.

Neither facts nor democracy have been allowed to stand in the way of the school privatizers. Polls showed 85 percent of Black residents and three-quarters of DC voters of all ethnicities opposed vouchers in late 2002, as did most local elected officials. The exception was Mayor Anthony Williams, whose avowed mission was to draw more "middle class" residents to the nation's capital through "quality education." (When Williams declared that Washington could easily accommodate 200,000 new residents, everyone knew he wasn't talking about additional Black people. By the 2010 Census, DC had lost its Black majority.) In 2004, Williams endorsed the Republican plan to impose an "experimental," five-year private school vouchers program on Washington, using Congress's unique powers over the District to make it the only federally-funded vouchers scheme in the nation. "We had never had a locally elected black official, a Democrat from a city like D.C., asking for something like this before," said Shokraii Rees, an operative for George Bush's Department of Education. "That's the single strongest factor that got people's attention."

Most of the nation's Black Democrats opposed vouchers, as did large majorities of the Black rank-and-file, because of the scheme's roots in Jim Crow-era white "segregation academies." Never in history have Black Americans marched, rallied or petitioned for private school vouchers. Therefore, the corporate privatizers had to create a Black pro-voucher "movement" out of thin air -- or rather, through the political "astro-turfing" power of their checkbooks. In 1999, some of the most right-wing foundations and fat cats in the nation spent millions to found the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which then tapped into additional millions in direct federal funding once George Bush won the presidency. Among the BAEO's founders was the first-term Newark, New Jersey, city councilman, Cory Booker, a true believer in privatized education who helped operate two private schools and evangelized about forming a national movement to spread the "choice" gospel. (See "Fruit of the Poisoned Tree," The Black Commentator, April 5, 2002.) While rising steadily in Black Democratic politics, Cory Booker was also a star in the rightwing corporate political firmament, serving for ten years with the American Federation for Children, a leading school voucher and charter advocacy outfit founded by Betsy DeVos, and chaired by her until last year.

Booker joined all of the Senate's Democrats in voting against Devos' confirmation, claiming he had problems with her positions on school safety issues. It is surely true that Booker's efforts to distance himself from his private school voucher roots have a lot do with his presidential ambitions. But, much more importantly, vouchers have long been eclipsed by charters as the most effective means of wholesale privatization of public education. As two-term mayor of Newark, Cory Booker was largely responsible for boosting charters to one-third of total school enrollment. Charters now account for 44 percent of Washington, DC public school enrollment, while voucher schools serve only a small fraction of the city's students.

Corporate America, the real force behind school privatization, found its education champion in Barack Obama, whose "Race to the Top" program coerced states across the nation to create a "market" for charter schools, which tap directly into the public school funding money-stream.

A true troglodyte from the "segregation academy" school of politics, Donald Trump wants to throw billions of dollars at private voucher schools. He and DeVos will doubtless do a lot of damage with their voucher schemes, but the main thrust of privatization will continue to be the methodical construction of an alternative -- and, in much of Black America, dominant - charter school system that is accountable only to its managers and corporate service providers.

Voucher schools are small-scale privatization. Charters are the corporate Mother Lode.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

The McCarthyism Of Russia-Gate
By Robert Parry

Congressional demands for personal and business information from several of Donald Trump's campaign advisers demonstrate how the Russia-gate investigation continues to spill over into a new breed of McCarthyism infringing on civil liberties, including freedom of speech and freedom of association.

The original thinking had been that congressional and other investigations would concentrate on specific concerns from alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, such as whether a Trump intermediary somehow conveyed purloined Democratic emails to WikiLeaks for publication on the Internet.

WikiLeaks denies getting the leaked emails from Russians and the Trump campaign denies colluding with Russians, but President Obama's intelligence chiefs claimed that Russian agents hacked the emails and then used intermediaries to get the material to WikiLeaks - although no real evidence of that has been presented publicly.

However, instead of zeroing in on that central question, the Senate investigation appears engaged in a fishing expedition looking at virtually every contact between Trump advisers and Russians, who may or may not have ties to the government. The demands are so broad that they could entrap the targets for perceived obstruction of an official investigation if some name or contact is left off, intentionally or by accident.

For instance, the Senate Intelligence Committee has demanded from ex-Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business dealings and personal contacts in Russia, the names and details of pretty much anyone he contacted over an 18-month period who could be a Russian official or somehow connected to a Russian business.

In a letter dated April 28, the committee's top Republican, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and top Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, gave Page until May 9 to provide: "A list of all meetings between you and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests which took place between June 16, 2015, and January 20, 2017. For each meeting listed, please include the date, location, all individuals present, and complete copies of any notes taken by you or on your behalf."

Meetings with Campaign

Further, the committee set a deadline of May 19 for Page to also supply: "A list of all meetings of which you are aware between any individual with the Trump campaign and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests which took place between June 16, 2015, and January 20, 2017. For each meeting listed please include the date, location, and all individuals present."

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally
at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona. March 19, 2016.

By the same deadline, the committee demanded: "All communications records, including electronic communications records such as e-mail or text messages, written correspondence, and phone records of communications which took place between June 16, 2015, and January 20, 2017, to which you and any Russian official or representative of Russian business interests was a party.

"All communications records, including electronic communications records such as e-mail or text message, written correspondence, and phone records, of communications related in any way to Russia, conducted between you and members and advisors of the Trump campaign.

"All information regarding your financial and real estate holdings related to Russia between June 16, 2015, and January 20, 2017, including those financial securities or real estate holdings which you sold or from which you divested in that time period."

Similar information requests reportedly have been sent to other Trump campaign advisers, including Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.

Given the extent of Page's dealings in Russia, which included having lived there for several years, the broad information demand amounts to a perjury trap because even if Page tried his best to supply all the personal, phone and email contacts, he would be sure to miss something or someone, thus setting him up for prosecution for obstructing an investigation or lying to investigators.

A FISA Warrant

Also, since the Obama administration reportedly obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Page last summer, the U.S. government may well have more complete records of Page's contacts and communications than he would, thus putting him into even greater legal jeopardy for an omission.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks with President Barack
Obama in the Oval Office, with John Brennan and other national security aides present.

The FISA warrant was allegedly obtained, in part, because of a speech that Page delivered in Russia on July 7, 2016, that was mildly critical of U.S. foreign policy toward the countries of the former Soviet Union. Beginning in late July, that FBI investigation then expanded into a much wider probe of people connected to Donald Trump's presidential campaign with possible links to Russia.

In an article about the origins of the investigation of Page and other Trump advisers, The New York Times characterized Page's July speech to the New Economic School in Moscow as critical of "American policy toward Russia in terms that echoed the position of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia."

The Times then quoted one line from the speech in which Page said, "Washington and other Western capitals have impeded potential progress through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change."

The Times article by Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman added: "His [Page's] remarks accorded with Mr. Trump's positive view of the Russian president, which had prompted speculation about what Mr. Trump saw in Mr. Putin - more commonly denounced in the United States as a ruthless, anti-Western autocrat."

In reality, Page's speech was much more nuanced than the Times presented. His central point was that the hasty transformation of the former Soviet Union from state-controlled to free market economies led to unintended consequences, including increased corruption.

"As the state remained dominant and new markets were simultaneously established following the breakup of the Soviet Union, members of these societies devised other methods and means of survival through corruption," Page said, adding that the West was not entirely innocent of similar problems:

"These approaches mirror several corrupt tendencies at times found in Western societies. Some may be clear-cut such as the Bernard Madoff scandal in financial markets and Enron in the energy sector, while others are more subtle such as the perceived societal injustices highlighted by the Occupy Wall Street movement."
In other words, Page's comments fell well within a reasonable assessment of the troubles that have occurred within the countries of the former Soviet Union. Page also recognized that the West - despite its sometimes holier-than-thou attitude toward less-developed nations - has its own problems with both criminal corruption and the more subtle variety of Wall Street machinations. After all, the 2008 financial crisis stripped common citizens of both America and Europe of trillions of dollars in lost assets and costs from government bailouts.

Echoing Putin?

But note how The New York Times characterized Page's remarks as having "echoed the position of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia," suggesting that Page, a former U.S. Navy officer, was somehow demonstrating disloyalty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015.

The Times also suggested that Page's opinions as expressed in his speech contributed to the Obama administration's decision to seek and obtain a FISA warrant that allowed the U.S. government to monitor his communications as a suspected foreign agent.

Normally, such intrusive government action against a citizen for expressing his opinions - whether they "echoed" the views of President Putin or not - would alarm defenders of civil liberties. However, since Page briefly served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump - and much of the civil liberties community has enlisted in the #Resistance to Trump over his presumed threats to civil liberties - there has been extraordinary silence about the McCarthyistic treatment of Page and other Trump advisers.

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump's national security adviser, has already had a taste of how the U.S. government's surveillance powers can entrap a citizen in a "process" crime, such as lying to investigators or obstructing justice.

On Dec. 29, 2016, several weeks before Trump's inauguration, Flynn - while vacationing in the Dominican Republic - took a phone call from Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which they apparently discussed mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow, as U.S. intelligence officials surreptitiously listened in.

Because Flynn was not officially part of the government at the time of the call, Obama administration appointees at the Justice Department created a pretext for a criminal investigation by citing the Logan Act, a law enacted in 1799 to prohibit private citizens from negotiating with foreign adversaries but never used to convict anyone, ever. The law also is of dubious constitutionality and was surely never intended to apply to a president-elect's advisers.

However, based on that flimsy pretext, FBI agents - with a transcript of the electronic intercept of the Kislyak-Flynn phone call in hand - tested Flynn's memory of the conversation and found his recollections incomplete. Flynn also has come under criticism for giving a paid speech in 2015 to a dinner in Moscow honoring the tenth anniversary of the Russian television station, RT. Under mounting media and political pressure, President Trump fired Flynn.

The New McCarthyism

So, while one can legitimately criticize Flynn's judgment, the larger civil-liberties issue surrounding the Russia-gate investigation is the prospect of criminalizing otherwise innocuous contacts with Russia and punishing American citizens for resisting the New Cold War.

Green Party leader Jill Stein and retired Lt. General Michael Flynn attending a dinner marking the RT network's
10-year anniversary in Moscow, December 2015, sitting at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many Democrats, liberals and even some progressives appear excited over the prospect of wielding this new McCarthyism against Trump's advisers with the hope that Russia-gate can be built up into a case for Trump's impeachment.

But the precedents that are being set could be very dangerous for the long term. If Americans can be put under invasive FISA warrants for going abroad and criticizing U.S. policies or if intercepted phone calls can be used to test the memories of citizens during FBI interviews, many of the warnings from civil libertarians about the dangers of "war on terror" surveillance powers being applied more broadly may be coming true.

After receiving the sweeping congressional demands for documents and other data, Carter Page, who is an oil industry consultant with numerous foreign contacts including in Russia, responded by taking note of the reported FISA surveillance of him, writing to Senators Burr and Warner:

"I remain committed to helping the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in any way that I can. But please note that any records I may have saved as a private citizen with limited technology capabilities will be miniscule in comparison to the full database of information which has already been collected under the direction of the Obama Administration during last year's completely unjustified FISA warrant that targeted me for exercising my First Amendment rights, both in 2016 as well as in years prior.

"As a starting point for this latest step in the witch hunt which you suggested per the cumbersome chores defined in your ... letter, I would request that you please begin by sharing [with me] the same information which you currently have ... Based on the database of my personal information already collected during the Obama Administration's domestic political intelligence operations which reportedly began at some point last year, it seems clear that many of the weighty task[s] you assigned will have already been largely completed.

"As a lone individual, I can assure you that my personal administrative capabilities pale in comparison to the clerical juggernaut represented by the numerous staff in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. Government which have heretofore been allegedly involved in this unscrupulous surveillance for many months on end."

Whether justified or not, the FISA surveillance of Page - and thus likely others whom he contacted - may create the basis for some kind of criminal charges against him. Other Trump advisers may be tripped up on various process crimes, such as failure to report properly under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, another law that gets enforced selectively mostly against people without political pull.

In an interview on Friday, Page told me that he was a small player who was innocent of violating any laws but who became an "obvious" target for the Obama administration's effort to undermine the Trump campaign.

"I don't have [political] protection and I have genuine, deep Russian connections," he said, adding that compliance with the Senate's demands would require him reviewing "thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls. ... It defies all logic and common sense."

But the reality of Official Washington is that once momentum builds up around a "scandal," someone has to get convicted of something - or all the Important People who have weighed in on the "affair" will look stupid. In Russia-gate, however, important principles about the right to dissent, the right to privacy and the right to associate freely are getting trampled.
(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

How Is Trump Like Humpty-Dumpty?
By Jim Hightower

Comandante Trump, El Jefe, the gringo strongman!

That's the image our current commander-in-chief seems to be cultivating. He has surrounded himself with generals, cavalierly threatened war with all "bad hombres," drastically bulked up military spending, and imperiously slapped foreign leaders, people, and nations with demeaning tweets and public rants. Posing as Patton-on-the-Potomac, Trump is out to "Make America Feared Again."

How's that working out? Look south, to Mexico. Our bellicose president has repeatedly blasted Mexicans as marauding thieves, murderers, and rapists. Adding injury to insult, Trump pledged to seal-off Mexico by building an 1,800-mile-long, 30-foot high, "big, beautiful wall." But the Big Man and his Big Wall are crumbling in the face of reality. Start with the cost: $21.6 billion! The congressional leaders of Trump's own party couldn't choke down a number that big, so the interim budget agreement they passed in April provided exactly zero dollars to start building his wall.

Then there's the reality of illegal entry into our country. First, two-thirds of undocumented people living here enter legally, zipping through customs with a valid visa. Then, when their visa expires, they just stay here. No wall will affect this big majority of immigrants – they would walk through or fly over Trump's massive monument to futility. Second, these days, most people crossing the Mexican border illegally are not Mexicans, but Central Americans, especially children fleeing gangs that are routinely kidnapping, raping, and murdering kids. Furthermore, the fastest growth in illegal immigration is not from Latinos, but people from Asian nations.

Far from making America feared, much less "great" - Trump's foolish belligerence is making him a global laughingstock.
(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.

Killer Drones In The Empire State
By Norman Solomon

At dusk I stood on a residential street with trim lawns and watched planes approach a runaway along the other side of a chain-link fence. Just a few dozen yards away, a JetBlue airliner landed. Then a United plane followed. But the next aircraft looked different. It was a bit smaller and had no markings or taillights. A propeller whirled at the back. And instead of the high-pitched screech of a jet, the sound was more like... a drone.

During the next half-hour I saw three touch-and-go swoops by drones, their wheels scarcely reaching the runaway before climbing back above Syracuse's commercial airport. Nearby, pilots were at the controls in front of Air Force computers, learning how to operate the MQ-9 Reaper drone that is now a key weapon of US warfare from Afghanistan to the Middle East to Africa.

Since last summer the Defense Department has been using the runway and airspace at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport to train drone operators, who work at the adjoining Air National Guard base. Officials say it's the first time that the federal government has allowed military drones to utilize a commercial airport. It won't be the last time.

No longer will the pilots who steer drones and fire missiles while staring at computer screens be confined to remote areas like the Nevada desert. With scant public information or debate, sizable American communities are becoming enmeshed in drone warfare on other continents. Along the way, how deeply will we understand -- in human terms -- what the drone war is doing to people far away? And to us?


The takeoffs and landings of military drones at the Syracuse airport get little attention in New York's fifth-largest city. Already routine, the maneuvers are hardly noticed. In an elevator at a hotel near the airport, I mentioned the Reaper drone exercises to an American Airlines flight attendant who had just landed on the same runway as the drones. "I had no idea," she said.

The Reaper drones using the Syracuse runway are unarmed, the Air Force says. But when trainees go operational, their computer work includes aiming and launching Hellfire missiles at targets many thousands of miles away.

Despite the official claims that drone strikes rarely hit civilians, some evidence says otherwise. For example, leaked classified documents (obtained by The Intercept) shed light on a series of US airstrikes codenamed Operation Haymaker. From January 2012 to February 2013, those drone attacks in northeast Afghanistan killed more than 200 people, but only about one-sixth of them were the intended targets.

Even without a missile strike, there are traumatic effects of drones hovering overhead. The former New York Times reporter David Rohde has described what he experienced during captivity by the Taliban in tribal areas of Pakistan: "The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death."

As civic leaders in Syracuse and elsewhere embrace the expanding domestic involvement in day-to-day drone warfare, clear mention of the human toll far away is almost taboo. Elected officials join with business groups and public-relations officers from the military in extolling the benefits and virtues. Rarely does anyone acknowledge that civilians are maimed and killed as a result of the extolled activities, or that -- in the name of a war on terror -- people in foreign lands are subjected to the airborne presence of drones that is (to use Rohde's word) "terrifying."

Such matters are a far cry from Syracuse, where the local airport's role in drone warfare is visible yet virtually unseen. My random conversations with dozens of Syracuse residents in many walks of life turned up scant knowledge or concern about the nearby drone operations. What's front and center is the metropolitan area's economic distress.

Unlike the well-financed Air National Guard base, the city's crumbling infrastructure and budgets for relieving urban blight are on short rations. When I talked with people in low-income neighborhoods of Syracuse -- one of the poorest cities in the United States -- despair was often unmistakable. A major study by the Century Foundation identified Syracuse as the city with the highest concentrations of poverty among African Americans and Hispanics in the United States. Locally, the latest influx of federal largesse is for the drone war, not for them.


A group called Upstate Drone Action has been protesting at the Air National Guard base on the outskirts of Syracuse with frequent vigils and persistent civil disobedience. A recent demonstration, on Good Friday, included nine arrests. The participants said in a joint statement: "What if our country were constantly being spied upon by drones, with some of us killed by drones? What if many bystanders, including children, were killed in the process? If that were happening, we would hope that some people in that attacking country would speak up and try to stop the killing. We're speaking up to try and stop the illegal and immoral drone attacks on countries against which Congress has not declared war."

The last couple of months have not gone well for authorities trying to discourage civil disobedience -- what organizers call "civil resistance" -- at the base. In early March, a jury in the Dewitt Town Court took just half an hour to acquit four defendants on all charges from an action two years ago that could have resulted in a year behind bars for disorderly conduct, trespassing and obstruction of government administration.

Later in March, citing a lack of jurisdiction, a local judge dismissed charges against four people who set up a "nativity tableau" in front of the main gate at the Hancock Air Force Base two days before Christmas last year. In a press release, Upstate Drone Action said that the activists had been "protesting the hunter/killer MQ-9 Reaper drones piloted over Afghanistan by the 174th Attack Wing of the New York National Guard" at the base.


The US drone war is escalating in numerous countries. A year ago the head of the Air Combat Command, Gen. Herbert Carlisle, told a Senate subcommittee that "an insatiable demand" was causing US drone operations to grow at a "furious pace." That pace has become even more furious since President Trump took office. In early April a researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, Micah Zenko, calculated that President Trump had approved an average of one drone attack per day -- a fivefold increase from the rate under the Obama administration.

Upstate New York is leading the way for the Pentagon's plan to expand its drone program from isolated areas into populous communities, which offer ready access to workers. One hundred and sixty miles to the west of Syracuse, just outside the city of Niagara Falls, an Air National Guard base -- the largest employer in the county -- is in the final stages of building a cutting-edge digital tech center with huge bandwidth. There, pilots and sensor operators will do shifts at computer consoles, guiding MQ-9 drones and firing missiles on kill missions. The center is on track to become fully operational in a matter of months.

At the main gate of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, a sergeant from the public-affairs office was upbeat about the base "operating the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft." At city hall the mayor of Niagara Falls, a liberal Democrat, sounded no less pleased, while carefully sidestepping my questions about whether he could see any downsides to the upcoming drone role. A local businessman who chairs the Niagara Military Affairs Council -- a private organization that has long spearheaded efforts to prevent closure of the base -- told me that getting the drone mission was crucial for keeping the base open.

In such ways, functioning locally while enabling globally, the political economy and mass psychology of militarism do the work of the warfare state.
(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."

Going To The Daytime Emmys
By Chris Hedges

PASADENA, Calif.-After fumbling with a thin piece of black silk for half an hour in front of a YouTube video called "How to Tie the Perfect Bow Tie" and achieving only marginal success, I went to the 44th Daytime Emmy Awards. I was nominated for outstanding information talk show host. The other nominees were Steve Harvey and the hosts of "The Chew," "The Dr. Oz Show, "Larry King Now" and "The Kitchen." Harvey won.

I made my way down the red carpet ignored, thankfully, by the gaggle of press whose questions revolved around two themes-how do you feel to be here and tell us what you are wearing. The celebrities, mostly soap opera stars, had the generic attractiveness found on movie and television screens, some of it clearly enhanced through surgery and injections, and the bubbly effervescence we expect from entertainers.

"I dreamt about coming here as a little kid and now here I am," Ross Mathews, a judge on RuPaul's "Drag Race," told Red Carpet TV. "I get to present tonight. Best game show. This is a moment, a day, I'll never forget."

I looked at the reporters and television crews behind the rope that stretched the length of the carpet and wondered what the ratio is between reporters in the United States who cover entertainment and fashion and reporters who cover the poor. I'm sure it is a bleak statistic.

After my ticket was examined, I was ushered into a hall with my fellow nominees, none of whom I recognized with the exception of Larry King, and was served champagne and snacks such as pita bread, hummus and olives.

Then we were hectored into the neighboring Pasadena Civic Auditorium by frequent public address announcements that counted down the minutes until the show began. We took our seats. The lights dimmed. The awards ceremony started.

"I'm definitely feeling the love right now," Mario Lopez, a host of "Extra," said to his Emmy co-host, the comedian Sheryl Underwood. "Are you feeling the love, Sheryl?"

"I'd like to feel the love, Mario," Underwood, a host on "The Talk," said. "What are you doing after the show?"

"Let's talk about that later," he answered.

"What do I have to do?" she asked. "Buy your wife a refrigerator?"

This kind of banter, usually with a much older man making sexual overtures to a young woman, is classic vaudeville. In an age of gender equality, it was updated for a 53-year-old woman and a man 10 years her junior. Underwood told Lopez he might be tied up with his own tie later.

"Is he gorgeous or what, ladies?" she asked. The audience cheered.

"Twitter is my second home," she said. "My Twitter handle is @sherylunderwood. I have close to 1 million followers. How many do you have, Mario?"

"I'm not a big social media person," he replied. "But I think the last time I checked I have around 1.3 million followers on Twitter."

"You just had to brag," she said. "I need to get me more Twitter followers. Step aside, Mario. I need to beg. I need everyone watching to follow me @sherylunderwood. Follow me right now. I need you to follow me. By the time this show is over, we'll see who has the most followers. In fact, Mario, let's make a deal. Whoever has the most followers at the end of the show has to have sex with the one who has the least. That's a win-win for me either way. And let me tell you, Mario, there's not enough baby oil in Pasadena for what's going to happen to you tonight."

This one joke conceit dominated the night.

The awards were handed out by guest presenters, and the announcement of each winner was preceded by a video clip, viewed on an overhead screen, that featured the nominated show or person.

The clips were saturated with melodrama. Hunter King's character in "The Young and the Restless" was shown by her mother's hospital bed.

"I love you, Mom," she said.

The heart rate monitor made a high-pitched "flat-line" beep.

"Mom? Mom? Mom, can you hear me?" she screamed.

The flat-line beep continued.

"Mom, you can't, you cannot leave me. Do you hear me? Please!"

Chloe Lanier from "General Hospital" was shown sitting naked in a bed. Her chest was covered with a comforter. She was talking to a man standing on the other side of the room.

"Please," she implored him, "you cannot tell Carly about any of this. I do not want her to look at me differently." She began to cry. "Please, I am begging you. You cannot tell her!" She slammed her fist on the mattress.

Lexi Ainsworth from "General Hospital" was up for outstanding younger actress, and in her clip her character asked her father, played by Maurice Benard, if he could accept having "a gay daughter," and he said, "Of course, no question," which given the current political climate is better than the alternative.

In the best game show category there were clips of Steve Harvey on "Family Feud" singing and dancing with a tambourine and a man screaming and jumping up and down on "The Price Is Right" as "$25,000" was displayed in large, red characters. The man fell to his knees and hugged the game show host.

At one point in the Emmy show, Lopez stopped and looked upward. "I'm sorry there seems to be a bit of commotion on the balcony," he said. "Fans are ... wait a minute. Sheryl? What are you doing?"

The camera showed Underwood standing in the balcony.

"Follow me!" she said.

"Sheryl?" Lopez said. "What are you doing?

"Me and you have sex after the show because I'm getting more followers than you," she said. "That's why I'm out here in the balcony with the most amazing fans on daytime! I need them to follow me. I need them to follow me, Mario, I need them to follow me."

"That is so shady," Lopez said. "You know that's a little underhanded."

"Oh, that's not underhanded," she said. "That's underwooded. And you know what we have to do in daytime. We have to trick a man for him to go to bed with us."

The audience cheered.

Brandon McMillan, the host of the show "Lucky Dog," brought out 50 dogs from DaphneyLand Basset Hound Rescue in presenting an award. The leashed dogs were paraded down the two aisles with individual handlers.

"Each and every one of these wonderful dogs is looking for a home," he announced.

There are nearly 600 homeless people living on the streets of Pasadena. I had walked past several earlier in the day. But homeless people don't elicit oohs and ahhs or provide comic relief. And providing a home for the homeless is more complicated than adopting a dog.

When my category was called, the clips for outstanding information talk show host included the chef Mario Batali, one of the hosts of "The Chew," holding a drink with a little paper umbrella in it and a plate with a huge cheese ball. "I wish I lived in a world where all apps could be one-handed," he said, "that way I could have my drink in order to nosh on this fantastic cheese ball."

Dr. Mehmet Oz was shown holding the hand of a woman lying on a table with a monitor, telling her she and her baby "can continue to bond." The scene could have come from a soap opera.

There was a clip of the hosts of "The Kitchen" clinking glasses and eating sections of a hero sandwich that was several feet long, with chef Geoffrey Zakarian saying, "Now that's what I call a super hero."

Steve Harvey was shown saying to a man who was with his wife, "So date night for you would be a video game?"

"That's savin' us money," the man said.

"Let me tell you what ain't cheap-divorce," Harvey responded.

My clip, taken from an interview with the Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf about Islam and the modern world, looked as if it was a tribute to some decades-old show on PBS. For its brief duration the hall was silent.

Soap operas, however tawdry and idiotic, were once confined to a limited cultural space. They did not claim to be anything but what they were-mass entertainment. Entertainment and celebrity worship, however, have taken over politics, culture and journalism. The lives of the famous and the infamous feed 24-hour news cycles. The news programs are our new soap operas. Who needs daytime soaps when we have Donald Trump and Sean Spicer? The five-day-a-week soap opera melodramas are quaint anachronisms.

There were once gradations of culture. There were once broadcast news programs that took journalism seriously. There were once talk shows that focused on books, political philosophy, economic theory, art and ideas. There was once a literate public. This is gone now, replaced by a vast burlesque. "Entertainment Tonight"-whose host, Mary Hart, was given a lifetime achievement award at the Pasadena ceremony-has taken over the news and information business. Almost all the shows on television today, from "Dr. Oz" to "General Hospital," are about presenting a performance. Emotions replace opinions. Complex thought is banished. All solutions are simple. We are never challenged. It is comforting, amusing and reassuring. But it is cultural death. Societies that kill their cultures kill themselves.
(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

Donald Trump gathers with congressional Republicans after the
House of Representatives approved the American Health Care Act on May 4, 2017.

History Will Remember These 217 House Republicans For Their Inhumanity
What Paul Ryan and his minions just voted for is immoral.
By John Nichols

North Carolina Congressman Ted Budd cast an indefensible vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with legislation that is so awful that Budd's fellow Republicans were caught scheming to exempt themselves and their staffs from the measure's draconian provisions.

But Budd got one thing right. "I'll take around 2,000 votes this Congress. Most of them will be forgotten," the Republican congressman said as the vote approached. "This is not one of those votes."

Good. The vote by 217 House Republicans to gut the Affordable Care Act (while 20 of their colleagues and 193 Democrats opposed the move) must be remembered as the shameful abandonment of health and humanity that it is. This should become the permanent stain on every member of the House who supported it-the issue that does not to go away. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his caucus abandoned any pretense of deliberative or responsible legislating in order to deliver an empty "win" the flailing administration of President Donald Trump.

To do this, Ryan's Republicans voted for a devastating piece of legislation without knowing:

the cost of their plan
how many tens of millions of Americans will lose insurance
how their plan will be implemented at the federal or state level
what will remain of their plan after it is reviewed by the Senate

House Republicans simply did not care. The overwhelming majority of them cast their votes as Ryan said they should, and then they ran the gantlet-past crowds of citizens chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!"-on their way to a White House Rose Garden "celebration" of their partisanship with Donald Trump.

Republicans claimed that they had addressed the fundamental flaws in a bill that had been widely decried for providing less health care to fewer people at greater cost. But that was a convenient lie, told for the sake of media outlets that could not keep up with the twisting and tinkering that was being done to win the votes of so-called "moderate" Republican holdouts. The truth came from the American Medical Association (AMA): "None of the legislative tweaks under consideration changes the serious harm to patients and the healthcare delivery system if AHCA passes. Proposed changes to the bill tinker at the edges without remedying the fundamental failing of the bill-that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result of this proposal."

That's only part of the problem, explained the group that represents America's physicians. "Not only would the AHCA eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of Americans," the AMA added, "the legislation would, in many cases, eliminate the ban against charging those with underlying medical conditions vastly more for their coverage."

A Wall Street Journal review of assessments of the GOP measure from actual health-care providers was devastating: The American Academy of Family Physicians dismissed the "highly flawed" measure's attempt to address the crisis it will create for people with pre-existing conditions as "inadequate" and "temporary." The CEO of America's Essential Hospitals decried an amendment on funding for high-risk pools as the equivalent of applying "a bandage to a mortally wounded patient."

Sister Carol Keehan, DC, the president of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, was unequivocal in her opposition. "The recent amendments to the bill, intended to make it more palatable to those who did not support it initially, are even more disastrous for people who have just gotten health care," explained Sister Carol. "Changing the current rules to undermine essential benefits requirements and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as well as allowing insurers to set annual and life time caps on the care they cover, would seriously undermine health security and leave many individuals with substandard protection. Even the proposed state high-risk pools would be an inadequate and underfunded solution to a problem that need not exist in the first place."

Sister Carol counseled that "It is critically important to look at this bill for what it is. It is not in any way a health care bill. Rather, it is legislation whose aim is to take significant funding allocated by Congress for health care for very low income people and use that money for tax cuts for some of our wealthiest citizens. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation, a giant step backward that should be resisted."

That is precisely right. The health-care debate will go on. What House Republicans voted for on Thursday will not be the final word on this issue. But the votes those Republicans cast for this particular bill ought never be forgotten. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned Republican backers that "they have this vote tattooed on them. This is a scar that they will carry...." Her admonition should serve as a call to arms.

Republicans now must be identified for what they are: charlatans who would lie to Americans with cancer and heart conditions about the health care they cannot live without.

Representative Gwen Moore, Democrat of Wisconsin, got it right as she outlined her opposition to Ryan's plan for the mangling of health care in America by tweeting photos of people who have battled leukemia and other diseases-constituents who had contacted her to express their fears about what the speaker of the House proposed to do to them. "They're not numbers and statistics. They're cancer survivors and people with disabilities. They're sons and daughters," explained Moore, who declared that she was voting "no" for them.

The politics of health care is personal. It's about whether human beings can get the care they require, about whether they will live or die. The choice that House Republicans made Thursday was inhumane. It should be remembered as such-and it should be continually condemned as such.

Primary and general-election challengers to Paul Ryan and to every member of Congress who voted for Ryan's "repeal and replace" scam-which Moore correctly described as "a massive tax giveaway masquerading as a health care bill"-should not be allowed to talk around what they have done. They should not be allowed to run in 2018 on whatever final reform eventually is agreed upon-if, indeed, an agreement can be reached.

They should be held to account for their willingness to tear apart a health-care system in order to reward campaign donors and political allies at the expense of ailing Americans. These wicked politicians will face opposition in 2018. Their opponents should pull no punches. What Ryan and his minions have voted for is not just wrong. It is immoral.

That is the message that must go forward from this awful day. No quarter should be given in delivering it.
(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.

At the Native Nations march in Washington, D.C. in March.

The 'Told You So' Everyone Was Dreading-First DAPL Spill Reported

"We have always said it's not if, but when, pipelines leak"

By Deirdre Fulton

Throughout the battle over the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), Indigenous campaigners and their allies repeatedly warned it was not a question of if, but when a breach would occur.

Now, before the pipeline is even fully operational, those warnings have come to fruition.

The Associated Press reports Wednesday:

The Dakota Access pipeline leaked 84 gallons of oil in South Dakota early last month, which an American Indian tribe says bolsters its argument that the pipeline jeopardizes its water supply and deserves further environmental review.

The April 4 spill was relatively small and was quickly cleaned up, and it didn't threaten any waterways. The state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources posted a report in its website's searchable database, but it didn't take any other steps to announce it to the public, despite an ongoing lawsuit by four Sioux tribes seeking to shut down the pipeline.

"At the pipeline's pump station there's what's called a surge tank, which is used to store crude oil occasionally during the regular operation of the pipeline," Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources Ground Water Quality Program, told Dakota Media Group. "And connected to that tank is a pump, which pumps oil back into the pipeline system, and the leak occurred at that surge pump."

The pipeline operated by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) is expected to be in service by June 1.

"As far as this happening during the start-up, I don't want to make it sound like a major event, but the fact that you had oil leaving the tank says there's something not right with their procedures," longtime pipeline infrastructure expert Richard B. Kuprewicz said to Dakota Media Group. "They might have been trying to hurry."

Joye Braun, of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe (one of those still engaged in a legal battle to shut down the pipeline), cited Kuprewicz when explaining why the news was so concerning.

"This leak hits close to home, my home," Braun said. "We have always said it's not if, but when, pipelines leak, and to have someone like Richard B. Kuprewicz-a pipeline infrastructure expert and incident investigator with more than 40 years of energy industry experience-question the integrity and building practices of Dakota Access says something pretty serious could go wrong."

"That worries me," she continued. "South Dakota already faces water shortages and our livelihoods depend on water, from ranching and farming to healthcare. Do we have more spills just waiting to happen? This is our home, our land, and our water. This just proves their hastiness is fueled by greed not in the best interest for tribes or the Dakotas."

News from elsewhere in the country this week hardly helps ETP's case.

Following two spills of millions of gallons of drilling fluids into Ohio wetlands last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has "curtailed work" on ETP's Rover gas pipeline, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

After the spills and 18 reported leaks, the Post reported, FERC blocked Energy Transfer Partners, which also built the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, from starting horizontal drilling in eight areas where drilling has not yet begun. In other areas, where the company has already begun horizontal drilling, the FERC said drilling could continue. The FERC also ordered the company to double the number of environmental inspectors and to preserve documents the commission wants to examine as it investigates the spills.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency earlier this week fined ETP $430,000 for damaging the wetland, which an agency spokesman has said "will likely not recover to its previous condition for decades."

Responding to the South Dakota incident, Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said, "We fear more spills will come to bear, which is an all too frequent situation with Energy Transfer Partners pipeline projects. As such, eyes of the world are watching and will keep Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Partners accountable."
(c) 2017 Deirdre Fulton is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Previously she worked as an editor and writer for the Portland Phoenix and the Boston Phoenix, where she was honored by the New England Press Association and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. A Boston University graduate, Deirdre is a co-founder of the Maine-based Lorem Ipsum Theater Collective and the PortFringe theater festival. She writes young adult fiction in her spare time.

Infrared image of potent methane emissions from gas compressor station.

Research Sheds Light On Dark Corner Of B.C.'s Oil And Gas Industry
By David Suzuki

We've long known extracting oil and gas comes with negative consequences, and rapid expansion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, increases the problems and adds new ones - excessive water use and contamination, earthquakes, destruction of habitat and agricultural lands and methane emissions among them.

As fossil fuel reserves become depleted, thanks to our voracious and wasteful habits, extraction becomes more extreme and difficult. Oilsands mining, deepsea drilling and fracking are employed because easily accessible supplies are becoming increasingly scarce. The costs and consequences are even higher than with conventional sources and methods.

Fracking involves drilling deep into the earth, and injecting a high-pressure stream of water, sand and chemicals to break apart shale and release gas or oil. In British Columbia, politicians tout liquefied natural gas as an economic panacea, a product we can export around the world to create jobs and prosperity at home. More than 80 per cent of B.C.'s natural gas is fracked, and as fracking increases, the percentage rises.

Of the many problems with the industry, methane emissions from fracked and conventional operations are among the most serious. Methane is at least 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas over the short term. Researchers estimate it's responsible for 25 per cent of already observed climatic changes. One difference between methane and CO2: Methane remains in the atmosphere for a shorter time - around a decade, compared to many decades or centuries for CO2.

Methane's relatively short lifespan means reducing the amount entering the atmosphere will have major and rapid results. Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is one of the cheapest, most effective ways to address climate change. The technology to do so already exists. It's absurd that the industry is leaking the very resource it wants to sell.

Methane comes from a number of sources, including animal agriculture and natural emissions. Global warming itself means methane once trapped in frozen ground or ice is escaping into the air.

The oil and gas industry is one of the major emitters. A field study by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University found methane pollution from B.C.'s oil and gas industry is at least 2.5 times higher than B.C. government estimates.

In 2015 and 2016, Foundation researchers joined St. Francis Xavier University's Flux Lab under the supervision of David Risk, an expert in measurement, detection and repair of fugitive emissions. Using gas-detection instruments mounted on a "sniffer truck," they travelled more than 8,000 kilometres in northeastern B.C. They found methane emissions from B.C.'s Montney region alone are greater than what the provincial government has estimated for the entire industry! (Montney represents about 55 per cent of B.C.'s oil and gas production.) David Suzuki Foundation senior scientist John Werring followed up on and corroborated that research by measuring point-source methane emissions from more than 170 oil and gas sites.

The research, available in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, found Montney operations leak and intentionally release more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually - equivalent to burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal or putting more than two million cars on the road. Half of all well and processing sites in the region are releasing methane.

This research shows that the oil and gas sector is the largest source of climate pollution in B.C., surpassing commercial transportation - and it contradicts claims that natural gas or LNG is a clean fuel or that it's useful to help us transition from other fossil fuels.

Given these results and other studies - including one in Alberta that found the amount of methane leaking from Alberta operations in one year could heat 200,000 homes - it's time for all levels of government to get industrial methane emissions under control.

Beyond existing commitments to reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent, governments must work to eliminate them from this sector by 2030, with strong regulations, monitoring and oversight. We need better leak detection and repair, improved reporting and enforcement, and methods to capture emissions rather than burning them.

Climate change is a serious issue, and methane emissions are a significant contributor. Getting them under control is a quick, cost-effective way to help address the problem. What's stopping us?
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

The 105-story Ryugyong Hotel, the highest building under construction in North Korea,
is seen behind residential buildings in Pyongyang, North Korea in this 2015 photo.

How the United States Ultimately Talks with Its "Enemies
Now Its Time to Dialogue with North Korea
By Ann Wright

Enemies of the United States come and go, but the longer they espouse revolutionary ideals and thus defy the United States, the longer they stay enemies. Eventually, U.S. officials try other strategies, such as engagement, to undermine or win over these adversaries.

Currently, the U.S. does not recognize/have diplomatic relations with only three countries-two built on revolutionary models that the U.S. doesn't like, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the communist regime of North Korea - and Bhutan, a remote Asian kingdom in the Himalayan mountains that purposely isolates itself and has diplomatic relations with only India.

I'm on the way to visit a former U.S. enemy but now recognized diplomatically by the U.S.: Cuba. This trip will be my third in 18 months and the second since the U.S. reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Obama administration took the big leap of talking with the "enemy" with its secret discussions with the Cuban government over a period of two years.

While discussions were proceeding, commercial businessmen and journalists provided the political cover for Obama to withstand the withering criticism from those who strongly opposed dealing with the Cuban government that has been in power since the Cuban revolution in 1959. The U.S. broke diplomatic relations with the new Cuban government on Jan. 3, 1961, because of its nationalization of U.S. businesses in Cuba and its alliance with the Soviet Union.

On July 20, 2015, U.S.-Cuban relations were reestablished after 54 years. On March 20, 2016, President Obama visited Cuba, becoming the first U.S. President in 88 years to visit the island.

Yet, despite diplomatic relations, U.S. sanctions and restrictions remain on Cuban trade and commerce, based on the "Trading with the Enemy Act" and kept in place by strong political pressure from south Florida and its Cuban emigre population, much of which moved to Florida to escape the Cuban revolution. But the U.S. and Cuban decisions to dialogue showed that long broken diplomatic ties can be reestablished.

There was hope that the Obama administration would reach a similar accommodation with Iran after almost four decades of ruptured ties resulting from the seizure of the U.S. Embassy by Iranian militants on Nov. 4, 1979, and the holding of 52 U.S. diplomats for 444 days. But negotiations with the Iranian government to constrain the Iranian nuclear program in 2015 have not yet led to reestablishment of diplomatic relations.

Both the Obama and now Trump administrations have made clear that the U.S. will not talk about reestablishing diplomatic ties because of what Washington calls Iran's meddling in the affairs of its neighbors - Iraq, Syria and Yemen. For its part, Iran notes that the U.S. has invaded and occupied countries in Iran's neighborhood for over 16 years, Afghanistan and Iraq, and has launched military operations in other countries in the region, including Syria and Yemen.

Peoples Republic of China

During much of the Cold War, Washington refused to recognize the communist Chinese government that controlled the mainland in favor of defeated Nationalists who had fled to Taiwan. However, in July 1971, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a secret trip to the People's Republic of China (PRC), followed by President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972.

The U.S. did not fully recognize the PRC until 30 years after its founding as a communist state because of the PRC's participation in the Korean War on the side of the North Koreans. Finally, on Jan. 1, 1979, during the Carter administration, the U.S. switched recognition from Taiwan to the PRC.


Interestingly, the United States never broke diplomatic relations with the communist government in the Soviet Union, from its founding in 1917 through the tense days of the Cold War. After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1992, the U.S. shifted diplomatic relations to the Russian Federation. Even with the current high tensions with Russia, dialogue continues as does cooperation in certain areas. For example, the Russians' launch-and-return responsibilities of the international astronaut corps to the International Space Station have not been interrupted.


In the late 1950s, the United States embarked on its longest war at the time, 15 years of attempting to overthrow the communist government of North Vietnam and to maintain a pro-U.S. regime in South Vietnam. After the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, the United States supported France in trying to reestablish its colonial control of Vietnam. After France was defeated and Vietnam was partitioned, the United States blocked elections that likely would have reunified the country under communist Ho Chi Minh and eventually the U.S. committed half a million troops to the ensuing civil war. In 1975, however, the South Vietnamese government collapsed, dealing the U.S. a humiliating defeat.

It wasn't until 1995, 20 years later, when President Bill Clinton established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Vietnam. "Pete" Peterson, an Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War who spent over six years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese army after his plane was shot down, became the first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam. In January 2007, Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam.

North Korea

In the same region, the U.S. never diplomatically recognized the government of Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) after World War II but instead set up its own compliant government in South Korea.

During the Korean War in the early 1950s, the strategy of the United States was to crush North Korea with a scorched-earth policy that leveled virtually every town and city. Though the hot war ended with an armistice in 1953, there was never a peace treaty, leaving North Koreans to face a huge U.S. military presence in South Korea while the U.S. assisted South Korea in building a powerful economy. While South Korea blossomed economically, North Korea had to divert its human and economic resources into defending its sovereign country from continuing threats of attack, invasion and regime change from the United States.

North Korea, however, did expand its diplomatic relations with most nations. At the start of the Cold War, North Korea only had diplomatic recognition from other communist countries but it later established relations with developing countries and joined the Non-Aligned Movement. By 1976, North Korea was recognized by 93 countries and by August 2016 it was recognized by 164 countries. The United Kingdom established diplomatic relations with the DPRK in 2000 and Canada, Germany and New Zealand recognized North Korea in 2001. Today, the United States, France, Japan and Saudi Arabia are the only large states that do not have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Under the new Trump administration, dialogue with the North Koreans has not been ruled out. However, as with the Bush and Obama administrations, the starting point for the U.S. for talks is still the North Korean government suspending or ending its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Those demands are non-starters for the North Korean government without a peace treaty and while the U.S. continues annual military maneuvers with the South Korean military, threatening regime change in the North. The latest set of maneuvers was code-named "Decapitation."

The North Koreans are also aware what happened to Iraq and Libya after their leaders surrendered WMD stockpiles, a move followed by U.S.-backed invasions and the executions of the two countries' leaders.

North Korean leaders consider their nuclear program the only deterrent to another U.S. invasion. So, while under the most stringent international sanctions, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and has placed satellites into orbit.

Thus, despite U.S. threats, U.S. leaders have to contemplate the potential destruction of South Korea and much of Japan if the U.S. launches a new war against the North. That is why the only rational hope for resolving the standoff is to finally negotiate a Korean peace treaty and make the North Koreans no longer terrified of another U.S. "regime change" war.
(c) 2017 Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (

The Quotable Quote...

"We do not want a PAX Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women -- not merely peace in our time but peace for all time."
~~~ John F. Kennedy (1963)

Thousands In U.S. Send Messages Of Friendship To Russians
By David Swanson

As of this writing, 7,269 people in the United States, and rising steadily, have posted messages of friendship to the people of Russia. They can be read, and more can be added at People's individual messages are added as comments endorsing this statement:

To the people of Russia:

We residents of the United States wish you, our brothers and sisters in Russia, nothing but well. We oppose the hostility and militarism of our government. We favor disarmament and peaceful cooperation. We desire greater friendship and cultural exchange between us. You should not believe everything you hear from the American corporate media. It is not a true representation of Americans. While we do not control any major media outlets, we are numerous. We oppose wars, sanctions, threats, and insults. We send you greetings of solidarity, trust, love, and hope for collaboration on building a better world safe from the dangers of nuclear, military, and environmental destruction.

Here is a sampling, but I encourage you to go and read more:

Robert Wist, AZ: A world of friends is far better than a world of enemies. - I wish for us to be friends.

Arthur Daniels, FL: Americans and Russians = friends forever!

Peter Bergel, OR: After meeting many different kinds of Russians on my trip to your beautiful country last year, I am especially motivated to wish you well and to resist the efforts of my government to create enmity between our countries. Together our countries should lead the world toward peace, not further conflict.

Charles Schultz, UT: All of my friends and I have nothing but love, and the utmost respect, for the Russian people! We are not your enemies! We want to be your friends. We do not agree with our government, the members of congress, the president, any of the agencies of government that are constantly accusing Russia of every problem, not only here in the US, but also throughout the entire world!

James & Tamara Amon, PA: As someone that visits Russia (Borovichi, Koyegoscha and Saint Petersburg) every year, I can assure you that most Americans only want peace. I married a beautiful Russian lady, and can honestly say that I love Russia, her people, food, and life style. I trust the people of both USA and Russia, it is the politicians that I don't trust.

Carol Howell, ME: As someone with acquaintances in Russia, and having much respect for your efforts to clean up and preserve the environment, I extend a hand in friendship.

Marvin Cohen, CA: Both of my grandfathers immigrated to the US from Russia-I wish you well.

Noah Levin, CA: Dear citizens of Russia, - I send you all my best wishes and friendship, hoping that you achieve a satisfying life in these difficult times.

Deborah Allen, MA: Dear Friends in Russia, I look forward to the day when we will hold hands circling the earth. We breathe the same air and enjoy the same sunshine. Love is the answer.

Ellen E Taylor, CA: Dear Russian People, - We love you and admire you! - We will do everything we can to control our imperialistic government policies.....

Amido Rapkin, CA: Having grown up in Germany and now living in the US - I am asking for forgiveness to any injustice done to your country by our countries.

Bonnie Mettler, CO: Hello Russian Friends! We would like to meet you and talk to you. I know that we both share the same desires - to live safe, happy, and healthy lives and leave the earth for all of our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Kenneth Martin, NM: I have extended family, love them very much. I have spent a lot of time in southwestern Siberia (Barnaul) to be close to them!

Maryellen Suits, MO: I have read Tolstoy and Chekov and Dostoyevsky. These authors have helped me to know you, and I send you love and hope. We Americans who oppose our new president could benefit from your love and hope as well. - Fondly, - Maryellen Suits

Anne Koza, NV: I have visited Russia 7 times. I love Russia and its culture and history. I wish the Russian people "All the best."

Elizabeth Murray, WA: I hope for the day that we can live together in peace without the shadow of nuclear war over our heads. I hope for the day that many billions currently being used to prepare for never-ending war will instead be used to prepare for never-ending peace.

Alexandra Soltow, St. Augustine, FL: The leadership of the US does not represent me or most of the people I know.

Anna Whiteside, Warren, VT: Just imagine a world without war where we can work together for bettering the world for all humankind.

Stephanie Willett-Shaw, Longmont, CO: The Russian people are a great people. Rock on!

Meghan Murphy, Shutesbury, MA: We are one global family. We can love our homeland but not always our governments.

Mark Chasan, Puducherry, NJ: Greetings from real American people who want mutual friendship, understanding, loving kindness, unity in diversity. We the people of the U.S. and Russia can build friendships, respect, new understandings and relationships that will bring us closer and lead to future peaceful and caring connections. It is a great way to lead our governments in the right direction.

Ricardo Flores, Azusa, CA: I always wish only the best for the Russian population, who I am sure feel misrepresented by some members of their governing power, just like many of us do, but the future of a peaceful Earth resides on our hands.

When I visit Russia this week I intend to bring a sampling of these messages of friendship. I will not claim that they represent a unanimous U.S. view, only that they represent an informed view and an under-reported view that contrasts with what Russians and the world hear directly and indirectly from U.S. corporate media all the time.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to reproduce here, without names attached, a handful of lovely emails from my in-box:

"And don't forget to offer Putin all of Europe and let's learn Russian so we can have Putin take over the USA. We should sent the same love letter to the heads of another Korea and Iran as well as ISIS - if you could get your head out of your a-s you see the dangers of your dumb position of gutting our military."

"Fuck Russia! They gave that bastard TRUMP the election! I will NOT send friendship to them!"

"STUPID, they, under the burden of Putin, gave us TRUMP, the only thing to send to them is for the sake of PEACE is to dump Putin. You people are fools."

"Sorry, While I consider myself a very progressive person, I won't make 'nice' with Russia, with all the crap and invasions, and assignations of Russian progressives. . . and what about Syria, the chemical weapons, and atrocities...NO! I won't make nice!"

"I do not like the militaristic actions of the Russian government-annexing Crimea, support of Assad in Syria. Why should I send Russians a letter condemning MY government?"

"This is complete bullshit. You guys are prostituting yourselves for that arch-criminal Vadimir [sic] Putin. David Swanson, better get your head examined before you visit Russia."

Yeah, well, I've always been of the opinion that anyone not examining their own head constantly was in danger of complacency, which - if combined with television viewing or newspaper reading - can produce comments like those immediately above.

There are some 147 million people in Russia. As in the United States, the vast majority of them do not work for the government, and of course a much smaller number than in the United States work for the military, on which Russia spends some 8% of what the U.S. does, and declining steadily. I cannot imagine how impoverished this head of mine would be, as I examine it, were it lacking the time it has spent with Russian authors and music and painters - and I might say the same of U.S. culture as a whole: without the influence of Russia it would be radically reduced.

But imagine everything were otherwise, that the culture of Russia simply disgusted me. How on earth would that be a justification for mass-murder and the risk of nuclear apocalypse for all cultures on the planet?

The Russian government is clearly entirely innocent of numerous slanders and libels emanating from Washington, D.C., partially innocent of others, and shamefully guilty of yet others - including crimes that the U.S. government does not focus on condemning because it is so heavily engaged in committing them itself.

Granted, hypocrisy does not always silence. Former U.S. President Barack Obama has produced a campaign ad for a French presidential candidate, even as the U.S. government melts down over evidence-free charges that the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election by accurately informing the U.S. public how the election was being corruptly run. Meanwhile the United States has interfered, often quite openly, in over 30 foreign elections, including in Russia, since World War II, overthrown 36 governments in that time, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries.

None of that justifies threatening the United States, sanctioning the U.S. economy, or putting weapons and troops on the U.S. border. Neither do the offenses of the Russian government justify such actions. Nor will anyone be helped in Russia or the world by such actions, any more than U.S. prison populations or fossil fuel consumption or racist police violence would be reduced by putting Russian tanks in Mexico and Canada or demonizing the U.S. on the world's airwaves every day. Undoubtedly conditions for all within the United States would rapidly worsen following such actions.

A first step out of the madness we're caught up in - I mean after turning off all televisions - might be to stop speaking of governments in the first person. You are not the U.S. government. You did not destroy Iraq and throw Western Asia into turmoil, any more than the people of Crimea who voted overwhelmingly to re-join Russia are the government of Russia guilty of having "invaded" themselves. Let's take responsibility for reforming governments. Let's identify with people - all people - the people of the earth, the people all over the United States who are us, and the people all over Russia who are us as well. We cannot be made to hate ourselves. If we extend friendship to all, peace will be inevitable.
(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.

Many had already noted how men dominated Thursday's Rose Garden celebration of Trumpcare passage.

America's Health Is In The Hands Of GOP Frat Boys
By Michael Winship

This just in: Health care is not a game. It's a matter life or death for millions and millions of Americans. But you sure wouldn't know it from watching Donald Trump and House Republicans celebrate their narrow victory on Thursday.

The House managed to pass a bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), aimed at altering or eradicating provisions of Obamacare, a somewhat muted version of the "repeal and replace" battle cry screamed throughout the election campaign but one that nevertheless will still devastate all but the richest of society with exorbitant medical costs that many cannot afford. Medicaid would be slashed by hundreds of millions. Twenty-four million fewer would be left without health insurance.

But the Republicans celebrated this impending tragedy with cheers on Capitol Hill and then got on buses to the White House for some further revelry in the Rose Garden.

"Trump basked in adulation as lawmakers heaped praise on him," Ashley Parker reported in The Washington Post:

"... Including Trump and [vice president Mike] Pence, a dozen lawmakers and officials spoke, a snaking queue -- nearly all white men -- who took turns stepping to the lectern to claim their reward: cable news coverage, orchestrated by a president who values it above almost all else."
Trump shouted, "How am I doing? I'm president. Hey, I'm president. Can you believe it?" Not if I don't want to. It all felt like a chintzy version of the victory party after a high school football championship, except no one dared douse Coach Trump or assistant coaches Pence and Paul Ryan with Gatorade. Which was unfortunate.

Democrats got into the act, too, singing, "Hey hey hey, goodbye!" at the Republicans in the House chamber, reminding the GOP that they had just cast a vote that may cost many of them their seats in the 2018 midterms.

The whole thing was very classy, as if the Founders high-fived, fist-bumped and burst into "We Are the Champions" after signing the Declaration of Independence.

The fact is, few Republicans have even read the bill. They did not wait for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office before ramming it through. No hearings were held; no group was given the opportunity to raise its objections in such a public forum: no American Cancer Society, AARP, the March of Dimes, the American Hospital Association - all of which, along with many other professional and advocacy organizations, have made their opposition known. No American Medical Association, which announced, "millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result of this proposal..."

"Not only would the AHCA eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of Americans, the legislation would, in many cases, eliminate the ban against charging those with underlying medical conditions vastly more for their coverage."

But if you're looking for the real reasons Republicans were throwing themselves a frat party on Thursday, heed first the words of Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association of the United States:

"It is critically important to look at this bill for what it is. It is not in any way a health care bill. Rather, it is legislation whose aim is to take significant funding allocated by Congress for health care for very low-income people and use that money for tax cuts for some of our wealthiest citizens. This is contrary to the spirit of who we are as a nation, a giant step backward that should be resisted."

Then remember, as Paul Kane noted in The Post, that the GOP "viewed the measure as a necessary step to demonstrate some sense of momentum and some ability to govern in GOP-controlled Washington... inside the White House, President Trumps advisers became increasingly concerned about how little they had to show in terms of early victories." And so they were willing to vote for a lousy, misbegotten piece of legislation just so they could get the first round of tax cuts for the rich and to make it look as if they had accomplished something. Not exactly the Age of Pericles.

I remembered that old poem, After Blenheim, in which Robert Southey recounts the 1704 battle in which Britain's Duke of Marlborough (ancestor of Winston Churchill) defeated the forces of France's Louis XIV.

The poem concludes:

"And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win.
'But what good came of it at last?'
Quoth little Peterkin.
'Why that I cannot tell,' said he,
'But 'twas a famous victory.'"

Never confuse motion for action, Republicans. And your "famous" victory may be Pyrrhic. Fortunately, this horrible health care legislation has a long way to go through the Senate before Donald Trump gets the chance to affix his EKG-like signature. As South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted yesterday, "A bill - finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate - should be viewed with caution."

Perhaps the most relevant - if unintentional - comment came from Trump himself Thursday night when he told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, "You have better health care than we do." The Land Down Under has universal health care with a private insurance option. They call it Medicare.

If the Democrats don't immediately start playing Trump's statement on a constant video loop between now and November 2018, they've lost the will to live. The White House said Trump didn't mean anything by it (although he then doubled down on his words with a tweet) but if you're in the mood to have a celebration of your own, lift a glass to what he told the Australian PM and make a toast to blowing up this bogus health care reform bill and giving us what Americans truly need - Medicare for all.
(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...

Sonny gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Perdue,

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 repeal of the healthy school lunch program, 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 Perdue, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Moral Travesty Of Trumpcare
By Robert Reich

Shame on every one of the 217 Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, and substitute basically nothing.

Trumpcare isn't a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It's a transfer from the sick and poor to the rich and healthy.

The losers are up to 24 million Americans who under the Affordable Care Act get subsidies to afford health insurance coverage, including millions of people with pre-existing conditions and poor people who had access to Medicaid who may not be able to afford insurance in the future.

The winners are wealthy Americans who will now get a tax cut because they won't have to pay to fund the Affordable Care Act, and healthy people who won't have to buy health insurance to subsidize the sick.

House Republicans say they have protected people with pre-existing health problems. Baloney. Sick people could be charged premiums so high as to make insurance unaffordable. Trumpcare would even let states waive the Obamacare ban on charging higher premiums for women who have been raped - which actually occurred before the Affordable Care Act.

America has the only healthcare system in the world designed to avoid sick people. Private for-profit health insurers do whatever they can to insure groups of healthy people, because that's where the profits are. They also make every effort to avoid sick people, because that's where the costs are.

The Affordable Care Act puts healthy and sick people into the same insurance pool. But under the Republican bill that passed the House, healthy people will no longer be subsidizing sick people. Healthy people will be in their own insurance pool. Sick people will be grouped with other sick people in their own high-risk pool - which will result in such high premiums, co-payments, and deductibles that many if not most won't be able to afford.

Republicans say their bill creates a pool of money that will pay insurance companies to cover the higher costs of insuring sick people. Wrong. Insurers will take the money and still charge sick people much higher premiums. Or avoid sick people altogether.

The only better alternative to the Affordable Care Act is a single-payer system, such as Medicare for all, which would put all Americans into the same giant insurance pool. Not only would this be fairer, but it would also be far more efficient, because money wouldn't be spent marketing and advertising to attract healthy people and avoid sick people.

Paul Ryan says the House vote was about fulfilling a promise the GOP made to American voters. But those voters have been lied to from the start about the Affordable Care Act. For years Republicans told them that the Act couldn't work, would bankrupt America, and result in millions losing the healthcare they had before. All of these lies have been proven wrong.

Now Republicans say the Act is unsustainable because premiums are rising and insurers are pulling out. Wrong again. Whatever is wrong with the Affordable Care Act could be easily fixed, but Republicans have refused to do the fixing. Insurers have been pulling out because of the uncertainty Republicans have created.

The reason Republicans are so intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act is they want to give a giant tax cut to the rich who'd no longer have to pay the tab.

Here we come to the heart of the matter.

If patriotism means anything, it means sacrificing for the common good, participating in the public good. Childless Americans pay taxes for schools so children are educated. Americans who live close to their work pay taxes for roads and bridges so those who live farther away can get to work. Americans with secure jobs pay into unemployment insurance so those who lose their jobs have some income until they find another.

And under the Affordable Care Act, healthier and wealthier Americans pay a bit more so sicker and poorer Americans don't die.

Trump and House Republicans aren't patriots. They don't believe in sacrificing for the common good. They don't think we're citizens with obligations to one another. To them, we're just individual consumers who deserve the best deal we can get for ourselves. It's all about the art of the deal.

So what do we do now? We fight.

To become law, Trumpcare has to go through 4 additional steps: First, a version must be enacted in the Senate. It must then go a "conference" to hammer out differences between the House and Senate. The conference agreement must then pass in the House again, and again in the Senate.

I hope you'll be there every step of the way, until Trumpcare collapses under the weight of its own cruelty. House Republicans who voted for this travesty will rue the day they did. Any Senate Republican who joins them will regret it as well.
(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 Watergate? The Firing Of FBI Director James Comey Provokes A 'Constitutional Crisis.'
By Ruth Conniff

Donald Trump's sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey shocked Washington, D.C., the American public, and Comey himself-who reportedly found out about it from a television news report while he was giving a speech, and thought it was a joke.

Trump's explanation: that Comey was fired for publicly discussing an FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server before the election-arguably helping Trump to win-makes little sense.

More to the point, Comey was leading a criminal probe of the Trump team's collusion with Russia and Russian meddling in the U.S. election. CNN reported days ago that a grand jury in Virginia was issuing subpoenas, which it called "the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI's broader investigation."

Trump made a point of referring to the Russia probe in his letter dismissing Comey: "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau."

So now, what will become of the Russia probe? If the FBI is frozen, can a parallel investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee pick up the slack?

Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, and a former deputy assistant attorney general and chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, says no.

"The willingness of 'leaders' like Mitch McConnell to put their party above our country above the sacred trust of defending our Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic who would try to subvert our democracy and the rule of law, demonstrates that a closed-door Senate examination is insufficient," Graves says.

Even a truly bipartisan Senate investigation could not match the intelligence and law-enforcement firepower of the FBI to expose the relationships between Trump, his family members, businesses, advisors, and the Russian government, Graves points out.

She calls Trump's firing of Comey a "constitutional crisis" and says the Justice Department must appoint a special prosecutor.

"Trump is not king. The United States is not a monarchy," Graves says. "And any leader who fails to join in the call for a special prosecutor or who attempts to minimize the crisis Trump has caused must be considered an aider and abettor to his subversion of the rule of law. And a majority of the American people will hold them accountable." In 1973, when President Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox while Cox was investigating the Watergate break-in, the lead editorial in The Progressive was "A Call to Action."

From The Progressive, March 1973.

A "crisis," the editors declared, "swirls around the person of the President of the United States . . . . We are confronted, suddenly and dramatically, with fundamental questions that demand swift and decisive answers."

The fundamental questions are the same today: "Will we permit our highest and most powerful office-an office whose occupant can literally decide the future and even the survival of the nation and the world-to remain in the hands of a man who has, in the words of the American Civil Liberties Union, 'made one thing perfectly clear: He will function above the law whenever he can get away with it?'"

Journalist, history professor, and Nixon scholar David Greenberg believes the comparison between Trump's firing of James Comey and Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, which got rid of Archibald Cox, is not overblown:

"The parallels here are undeniable," Greenberg says. "In both cases, a president fires the man investigating whether he committed or covered up crimes against democracy in the previous year's presidential election-in the hope of snuffing out the investigation."

"The parallels here are undeniable."

The firing is legal, Greenberg adds, but it "violates our fundamental understandings of how justice and law are supposed to function in a democracy."

So now what?

In 1973, The Progressive called on readers to exert "immense and unremitting pressure" to convince Congress to impeach Nixon: "Public opinion has already persuaded some legislators to abandon their customary vacillating stance. Public opinion, forcefully applied, can move the requisite number of Representatives to embark on the process of impeachment."

On Friday, May 12, progressive members of Congress will be holding town hall meetings in Congressional districts around the country where Republican members have refused to meet with constituents. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Indivisible are launching a new Adopt a District guide to help voters set up empty-seat town halls to hold their own members of Congress accountable.

Let the forceful application of public pressure begin.
(c) 2017 Ruth Conniff is a native of Madison, Wisconsin, Ruth joined the magazine as a summer intern working with the late Erwin Knoll and has been part of the team ever since. As Associate Editor for the Progressive, she opened The Progressive's Washington, D.C., office in 1997. She became a regular on TV pundit shows on CNN, Fox News, and PBS. She appears frequently on the Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC. Ruth received an "Editor's Choice" award from Madison Magazine for her coverage of the Wisconsin Uprising in 2011.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Tim Eagan ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

GOP Promises Americans Will Be Able To Keep Current Medical Conditions If Obamacare Repealed
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-In an effort to reassure citizens ahead of a planned effort to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, Republican congressional leaders promised Monday that Americans would still be able to keep their current medical conditions if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

"Whatever health problem you have right now, you will absolutely still be allowed to continue having it once Obamacare has been dismantled," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, adding that the repeal of the landmark healthcare legislation would in no way prevent patients from maintaining their existing medical issues or even adding to their afflictions.

"Let's say you have lymphoma. Under our plan, you can still have lymphoma. You could even expand on that into other forms of cancer. In fact, for the vast majority of Americans, repealing Obamacare will actually increase the number of significant medical conditions available to them." Ryan added that "under the new system, millions of Americans would also see a 100 percent reduction in their health insurance premiums, copays, and coverage."
(c) 2017 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 17 (c) 05/12/2017

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