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In This Edition

Norman Solomon says, "The Sanders Campaign Was About "Us" -- Not Bernie -- Remember?"

Ralph Nader returns with, "Trump: Letting Big Corporations Get Away With Whatever They Want."

Glen Ford says to, "Indict And Punish the Perpetrators of Covid Mass Death."

Jim Hightower asks, "What's The Difference Between Corporate CEO's And Pigs?"

William Rivers Pitt examines, "COVID Deaths In US Approach 100,000 As Trump Administration Misleads Public."

John Nichols concludes, "Democracy Dies In Dysfunction."

James Donahue wonders, "Can Time Travelers Go Back To Fix This Mess?"

David Swanson asks a lot of questions in, "How Many Revelations Does It Take To Make A Light Bulb Go Off?"

David Suzuki explores, "Multiple Crises Expose Systemic Flaws."

Charles P. Pierce says, "Barack Obama Scares These People To Death."

Juan Cole studies, "Fundamentalist Pandemics."

Rep. Roger Marshall, R/Kan wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explores, "The Privileged And Powerful In The Pandemic."

Jane Stillwater explores, "NYC, COVID & Poverty."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Trump Wishes He Could Replace Fauci With The Doctor Who Saved Him From Vietnam," but first, Uncle Ernie wonders, "Some Good News?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dave Granlund,, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Jabin Botsford, Misha Friedman, Mark Ralston, Gustavo Fring, Michael Brochstein, The Washington Post, Robert Reich, Jane Stillwater, Jim Hightower, AFP, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, 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-

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Some Good News?
By Ernest Stewart

"Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!" ~~~ Donald Trump

"If the relationship between minimum temperature and antibiotic resistance is, indeed, present and increasing over time, this could support a more rapid progression towards a 'post-antibiotic era.'" ~~~ Derek R. MacFadden ~ Harvard Chan School of Public Health

"There is a group of people that just don't want health care and aren't going to take care of themselves." ~~~ Rep. Roger Marshall R/Kan

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me
Help ~~~ The Beatles

I see where recent polls contain bad news for Lying Donald and the Simian Collective, with Joe Biden leading in several "red states" that Lying Donald won the last time around!

Biden is solidifying his lead over Lying Donald in Arizona, a state not won by a Democrat in a presidential race since Slick Willie took it in 1996. According to a new poll Biden leads Lying Donald in Arizona by 7%.

The same survey also had bad news for Senate Rethuglican incumbent Martha McSally. She currently trails Democrat Mark Kelly the former astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, by 13 points.

Even in Georgia, Biden leads Lying Donald. Democrat Jon Ossoff running strong against incumbent GOP Sen. David Perdue. While Ossoff has yet to secure his party's nomination, he leads Purdue by 2 percentage points. So Georgia might be a Demoncratic win too?

"It's an extraordinary turn of events," said Neil Newhouse, a GOP pollster, told Vox. "This is is not the political environment we expected at the beginning of the year." Methinks I see a whole lot of rats leaving the Rethuglican sinking ship!

Meanwhile down in Florida Biden also leads Lyng Donald by 4.5% among likely voters.

Biden's campaign manager Jennifer O'Malley Dillon said last Friday, "We believe that there will be battleground states that have never been battleground states before. We feel like the map is really favoring us if you look to recent polling."

Since Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said the state was sending out mail in voters forms for every registered voter for both the August and November elections Lying Donald called it voter fraud and said he would withhold money that the Feds owe Michigan. As the Michigan government has made much ado about it, I'm guessing that Lying Donald will lose Michigan too!

As Lying Donald has said about free, open elections:

As you know, I'm not a fan of Wall Street Joe but when compared to Lying Donald there is no comparison. Like I've said, "I'd rather vote for a toaster, a 57 Chevy, anything, or anybody, but Lying Donald!

In Other News

I see where new evidence suggests that global warming is giving drug-resistant pathogens an upper hand.

The new coronavirus outbreak may have caught some public officials by surprise, but infectious disease specialists have been anticipating this worst-case scenario for decades. And they warn that the same gaps in our health care system that allowed Covid-19 to flourish could give a window for other types of pathogens to overwhelm us. I can dig it. when it rains it pours, and I'm not talking about salt!

One long-standing threat is antimicrobial resistance (AMR), or when so-called superbugs evolve abilities to evade our best germ-killing drugs, whether they be antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, or anthelmintics (which rid bodies of parasites). An AMR outbreak has some similarities to a viral outbreak like Covid-19: There aren't many tools with which to treat drug-resistant pathogens, and they can easily jump from person to person. Both AMR outbreaks and viral outbreaks spread particularly quickly in places like nursing homes and hospitals, where there is close proximity of people with compromised immune systems. Yes, it's good news week, NOT!

Of course, AMR and viral outbreaks aren't exactly the same. Unlike the novel coronavirus, AMR superbugs can also disperse through the food and water supply or as sexually transmitted diseases, and they tend to transmit more slowly than viruses. But the severity of the threat posed by an AMR outbreak can be similar to that of a viral one.

Every year, at least 700,000 deaths are caused by drug-resistant diseases globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which predicts that number could jump to 10 million deaths annually by 2050. Better and better or, if you prefer, worse and worse!

"What we're watching happen with Covid-19 is not new to us in the AMR arena," says Dawn Siebert, the senior science adviser for antibiotic resistance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are a number of reasons why AMR is on the rise: Antibiotics are overprescribed by doctors but are also ubiquitous in factory farming and even in some pesticides. A growing body of research suggests another reason: That global warming, rather than being a separate existential hazard to AMR, is intertwined, with AMR thriving as temperatures rise and resulting desertification is clustering humans and wildlife closer together.

With a 10 degree Celsius increase in temperature, all three pathogens increased antibiotic resistance, each less than 5%. This suggests that forecasts of AMR fatalities - those 10 million dead per year in just three decades - could be remarkable underestimates.

Way back in the mid 1990'S, when global warming first began to get serious discussion, all of the coming disasters were predicted to happen after the turn of the next century. A lot of these have all ready been happening, for the most part, in the last 20 years, with much worse things soon to come! So, if the WHO predicts 10 million anual deaths by 2050, I'd be thinking 2030! And if Lying Donald gets reelected, my guess would be 2023!

And Finally

Have you heard about Roger Marshall a Rethuglican from Kansas who is pushing the House Rethuglican health care plan? A plan that will strip health care from about 20% of current policy holders. Can you guess who that will be? If you said, the poor, the elderly and the sick you're right!

"I don't believe Medicaid has helped people. Just like Jesus said, 'The poor will always be with us,'" says Rep. Marshall. Marshall went on saying, "The poor just don't want health care." Oh, and did I mention that Roger is a doctor? I'm not sure, but I believe that Roger graduated from the Doctor Mengele school of Medicine, down in Argentina?

So Roger, as 'enemy of the people', wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

If you think that what we do is important and would like to see us keep on, keeping on, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep telling you the truth!


09-18-1939 ~ 05-15-2020
Thanks for the laughs!

11-14-1930 ~ 05-17-2020
Thanks for the film!

12-13-1964 ~ 05-17-2020
Thanks for the music!

02-04-1940 ~ 05-18-2020
Thanks for the film

06-07-1943 ~ 05-18-2020
Thanks for the film


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


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) 2020 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, philosopher, 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 Sanders Campaign Was About "Us" -- Not Bernie -- Remember?
By Norman Solomon

During the five weeks since Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign, many fervent supporters have entered a "WTF?" space. The realities of disappointment and distress aren't just about dashed hopes of winning the presidential nomination. Much of the current disquiet is also due to a disconnect between choices made by the official Sanders campaign in recent weeks and his statement on April 8 that "we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions."

There are scant indications that the remnants of the Bernie 2020 campaign are doing anything to win "as many delegates as possible" in the 20 state primaries set for the next two months. That fact has left it up to individuals as well as independent groups and coalitions to do what they can to gain more Bernie delegates for the Democratic National Convention.

If the total number of Sanders delegates goes over the 25 percent threshold required by party rules -- a goal that's within reach -- progressives will get appreciable leverage over convention decisions. While top-level negotiations between the Sanders and Joe Biden camps have led to agreements that are a bit murky, there's no doubt that the best way for Bernie forces to gain clout is to win as many delegates as possible.

But -- while Bernie has continued to provide valuable forums and town halls via livestreams, such as "Saving Our Planet from the Existential Threat of Climate Change" on Wednesday night -- what remains of the Sanders campaign is not urging supporters to vote in the presidential primaries this spring.

That choice not only makes it harder to win more Bernie delegates in primaries. It also has an effect of depressing turnout from left-leaning voters overall, to the detriment of progressive candidates in important down-ballot races in a score of states.

On Tuesday, the Nebraska primary netted zero delegates for Bernie. But next week the Oregon and Hawaii primaries are more promising to gain substantial numbers of Sanders delegates.

To get a grip on the torch that Bernie is implicitly passing to the grassroots -- now more than ever -- we should take heed of a passage from his painful statement five weeks ago suspending the campaign: "Let me say this very emphatically. As you all know, we have never been just a campaign. We are a grassroots, multiracial, multigenerational movement which has always believed that real change never comes from the top on down, but always from the bottom on up."

From the bottom up, it's up to us. In effect, that now means the leadership for the Bernie campaign and what it stands for must come from the "movement which has always believed that real change never comes from the top on down."

We should take Bernie at his words, and take them to heart: "Not me. Us."

That means grassroots activists in upcoming primary states should take the initiative and get out the vote for Bernie. It also means that progressives around the country should jump into the fray, connecting with organizations that are working to maximize turnout for Bernie such as Our Revolution, People for Bernie Sanders, Progressive Democrats of America, (where I'm national director), and the new coalition Once Again.

No leader is infallible, and the best ones -- like Bernie Sanders -- don't claim to be. Bernie's deeply progressive and visionary leadership has been extraordinary, with inspiring ripple effects nationwide. The rest is up to "us."

(c) 2020 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."

President Donald Trump walks to the Oval Office after attending a ceremony at the
South Portico of the White House on Thursday, September 26, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Trump: Letting Big Corporations Get Away With Whatever They Want
Trump considers himself above the law.
By Ralph Nader

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has allowed large corporations to run rampant, exploit people, and get away with it. Trump considers himself above the law, boldly claiming, "I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president." For more information about Trump's misdeeds, please see the Articles of Impeachment proposed by me and constitutional law experts Bruce Fein and Louis Fisher in the December 18, 2019 Congressional Record, page H 12197.

In 2017, Trump betrayed his own voters by giving the corporate rich a nearly two trillion dollar tax cut instead of fulfilling his promise to invest in repairing infrastructure and expanding well-paid job opportunities.

These tax cuts for the rich and big corporations, which benefited the Trump family, ran up the deficit for our children and were largely used to give executives bonuses and let CEOs waste money on stock buybacks. In short, the corporate bosses lied to the Congress, saying they wanted these tax cuts to invest and create jobs, but actually used them to enrich themselves.

After his Trumpian giveaway, Trump crushed health and safety law enforcement, unleashing more disease-producing corporate polluters and corporate thieves. The result: harm to workers, consumers, and defenseless communities.

The New York Times reported 98 lifesaving regulations were revoked, suspended, or simply replaced with weaker versions. What remains on the books is not enforced.

Similar wreckage of corporate law-and-order has exacerbated the crisis of working people. Trump has worked to further punish student borrowers; diminish workplace and auto safety; and remove safeguards against banking, credit, and payday loan rackets.

Trump, during his failed business career and bankruptcies, saw the law as a nuisance and breaking and escaping justice as a competitive advantage.

While raising huge sums for his reelection campaign from business lobbyists, Trump keeps giving them no-law government, more loopholes for tax escapes ($170 billion more buried in the $2.2 trillion relief/bailout legislation), more corporatist judges to shut you down in the courtroom, and more of your taxes for their endless corporate welfare greed.

Big companies such as banks, insurance companies, real estate behemoths, and Silicon Valley giants have so many tax escapes and cuts that they're moving toward tax-exempt status.

Howard Stern, a longtime friend of Trump who promoted Trump's notoriety early on, has recently called on Trump to resign. Stern said that, in reality, Donald Trump was "disgusted" by his own voters. Why won't more Trump voters realize that Trump has nothing but contempt for them? Trump will betray his followers at every turn.

During the Covid-19 virus pandemic-which Trump dismissed and scoffed for eight critical weeks, leaving the country defenseless-Trump has allowed a corporate crime epidemic. He has no qualms about aiding and abetting a corporate crime wave epidemic.

Trump, with Congressional Republicans, wants more legislation giving big companies immunity from lawsuits by victims for their negligently harmful products and services. Another rigging of the system.

Trump's agencies actually announced that they're putting their law enforcers on the shelf. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) astonishingly told foreign importers of food and medicine that inspections overseas are suspended. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled similar retreats, as have other enforcement agencies. Why would the Trumpsters signal green lights for corporate crooks? Especially since corporate scams and other corporate crimes-some crude, others sophisticated-are exploding as trillions pour out of Washington.

A year ago, Public Citizen reported a steep decline in corporate prosecutions and fines under Trump. Now, compared to the size of the previous corporate crime wave, they've fallen off a cliff. You can ignore the stern warnings by Attorney General William Barr. He is a phony. He has neither allocated nor asked Congress for a budget that will provide the Department of Justice the capacity to crackdown.

In fact, Trump has fired inspectors general and not filled vacant inspectors general positions. Trump's boasts bear repeating: Congress can't watchdog him because "[he has] an Article 2, where [he has] the right to do whatever [he wants] as president."

With vicious madness, Trump pushes for federal deregulation of nursing homes where residents are dying from Covid-19. He pursues court cases in attempts to end Obamacare, the result of which would be throwing 20 million Americans off of their insurance during a lethal pandemic. He is cravenly freeing corporate emitters of life-destroying mercury and coal ash in our air, condemned pesticides and toxins in drinking water, and whatever else is on the deadly wish list given to him by his corporate paymasters.

Trump's actions that dismantled protections for all Americans families have been expertly documented. Yet, few critics are calling for his resignation or removal from office, despite the clear and present danger he poses to the American people and the Republic.

Trump is doing whatever he wants. He is getting away with abandoning the rule of law and the dismantling of crucial government institutions as he embraces American-style fascism and nepotism.

Perhaps people will learn how to effectively fight back against Trump, a delusional, flailing, ego-obsessed, foul-mouthed, self-enriching bully. The people must stand up to this corrupt politician who lies every hour and turns our government over to Wall Street. He sacrifices the people on Main Street to enrich fat cats and oligarchs.

One person, Eugene Jarecki, offers a rebuttal to Trump. In a Washington Post op-ed, Jarecki's sources found that "had the guidelines been implemented earlier, a crucial period in the exponential spread of the virus would have been mitigated and American lives saved." According to conservative estimates from epidemiologists, "had the Trump administration simply implemented mitigation guidelines by March 9, approximately 60 percent of American Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided." On his website,, Jarecki "displays both the number of people who have died in the country from Covid-19 and an estimate of that portion whose lives would have been saved had the president and his administration acted just one week earlier." Jarecki has also erected a 54-foot high Trump death clock in New York City's historic Times Square.

See the numbers yourself on Email to see how Eugene Jarecki's team can help you set up such an accountability clock in your community.

(c) 2020 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Indict And Punish the Perpetrators of Covid Mass Death
By Glen Ford

Not just Trump, but the whole US ruling class must pay for the mass Covid death toll among Blacks, because only the ruling class has the power to systematically allocate life-death chances for whole populations over generations.

The United States finds myriad ways of killing Black people - of negating the term "Black lives matter." The novel, or new, coronavirus is ending the lives of African Americans at a nationwide rate that is 2.6 times that of whites, 2.3 times the death toll among Asian Americans and 2.2. times that of Latinos, according to the APM Research Lab's breakdown of mortality by race. Collectively Blacks have suffered 27 percent of all Covid-19 deaths in the United States, which would mean that 24, 930 of the 92, 333 total U.S. deaths from the virus as of this week, were African Americas, who make up only 13 percent of the population.

Researchers at Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh put the proportionate Black death toll considerably higher, with Blacks 3.5 times more likely to die than whites, and Latinos twice as likely to succumb to the virus. The actual ratios of death may never be known since, according to the Yale study, "almost half the states do not track the race and ethnicity of those who have died in the pandemic, and states that are tracking racial and ethnic data do not account for age differences among population groups."

The COVID Racial Data Tracker, a collaboration of The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project and The Antiracist Research & Policy Center, updates the toll by ethnicity on a daily basis, with about a three-day lag in reporting of deaths by state.

If the Yale/Pittsburgh finding that Blacks are 3.5 times more like to die from Covid-19 than whites is correct, then Blacks make up considerably more than 27 percent of deaths. But, even at the lower rate, the carnage in Black America is horrific. If projections of 143,360 total U.S. deaths from coronavirus by August 4 hold true, that would result in a Black death toll of 38,707 - with no end in sight. By comparison, 1,008 people of all races were killed by police gunfire in 2019, according to the Washington Post tally.

What will be the Black political response to such gruesome numbers? Who will be made accountable for a slaughter that was pre-programmed by the very nature of a society birthed in genocide, slavery and the glorification of conquest and plunder?

Just as infant mortality is the best measure of a society's general health, so does the Covid-19 death toll indict the United States for systematically undermining the life chances of all of its constituent peoples (143,360 dead by August 4), and for the aggravated crime of setting a death trap for African Americans, every aspect of whose lives has been methodically weighted towards early death. These are crimes that only the ruling class can commit, because only the ruling class has the power to systematically allocate life-death chances for whole populations over generations.

The indictment must be initiated by Black America, the most deeply harmed victims of preventable mass death at the hands of a morally depraved white ruling class. The very nature of mass slaughter by Covid-19 demands that the entire system of political economy - of racial capitalism -- in the United States be put on trial, and that the humans that have profited from, bolstered and defended that murderous system be removed from power and punished.

To limit the indictment to Donald Trump and his administration would be an insult to today's dead and dying, and to all past victims of racial capitalism's carnage around the world. Every Democrat that has joined with the Lords of Capital in preventing the United States from establishing a universal health care system, is guilty of depraved indifference to the lives of his and her constituents, as is virtually every member of the Republican Party, whose organizing principle is white supremacy, an ideology of mass murder. The U.S. electoral duopoly system has acted as a criminal enterprise, answering to an oligarchy of wealth, with both parties colluding to deny most of the population - and especially Black people - the right to healthy and safe lives and protection from contagious disease, as well as the closely related rights to meaningful and fairly compensated employment, adequate shelter from the elements, and an education that provides the people with the knowledge and skills to shape, and contribute to, society.

It takes a whole class of criminals to create the conditions to kill nearly one hundred thousand people - 27 percent of them Black -- in just three months. However, politicians representing Black America, the most victimized constituency, are co-conspirators in the great crime, both by their collaboration with Democrats that have systematically weakened the U.S. social safety net (most notably, President Obama's partially consummated Grand Bargain with Republicans), and by their management of Black population centers that have been methodically stripped of defenses against debilitating poverty and disease.

These Black auxiliaries to ruling class criminals put personal profit above the welfare of Black people, and must be indicted along with their masters. The Black political class should have been our antibodies against the plagues of racial, political and economic repression, but made common cause with the oppressor. The Black misleaders must be the first to be indicted, because they weaken our ability to resist the greater evils: the Lords of Capital.

The proof of their culpability lies in cemeteries all across Black America. People's tribunals must convene to indict the perpetrators of mass death, including the Black collaborators in the lower ranks of capitalist crime. Why were Blacks seven times more likely to die of Covid-19 in Kansas City, than whites? What factors (crimes) made Missouri, Wisconsin and Washington D.C six times as lethal for Blacks as whites, and Michigan five times more deadly for Blacks? How is it that the Grim Reaper came for Black people three times more often than for whites in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Oregon and South Carolina? And what should be the penalty for locking up millions of human beings in virus-infested cages without provision for basic hygiene, much less protection from disease. Isn't every Covid-19 death in prison -- where captives are totally dependent on their captors - a case of murder?

The people must convene, learn the truth, and make their verdicts. The only fitting punishment is overthrow of the criminal racial capitalist regime, whose crimes are multitudinous and manifest. I'll be asking the organization I co-founded, the Black Is Back Coalition, to initiate Black Covid-19 tribunals in cities across the nation. Activists of all races should do the same.

(c) 2019 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

What's The Difference Between Corporate CEO's And Pigs?
By Jim Hightower

There's a general sentiment today that multimillionaire corporate chieftains are pigs. But I think that's unfair. To pigs. Those oinkers are remarkably intelligent animals with a sense of social responsibility to the common good of the group.

Compare that ethic to the ethic of self-entitlement expressed by pompous and petulant corporate executives like hotel magnate Monty Bennett, who recently grabbed millions of dollars in economic relief meant for small businesses. It was so stinky that even the thievish Trumpistas made him return the money. Yet, a shameless Bennett continues to insist that he deserves a government bailout: "What are all those taxes we paid supposed to provide us with, anyway," he whined?

Well, Monty, maybe with a literate workforce, clean water, paved streets, fire and police protection, and other public basics that subsidize your business. But our taxes aren't meant to guarantee your profit. Yet, Bennet flaunts his cluelessness: "I won't apologize for being a capitalist in America," exclaimed this "socialist capitalist" in March, as he was grabbing taxpayer handouts.

Indeed, he's apparently a very poor capitalist. Last year, before the coronavirus catastrophe struck, the Ashcroft trust that he heads had a $113 million loss and saw its stock value nosedive by 80 percent. Yet, he took special care of himself, pocketing $5.7 million in personal pay.

Meanwhile, Monty is in line for more government money from Trump & Company's new $500 billion pot of cash exclusively reserved as "emergency aid" for giant corporations. Moreover, Bennett and his ilk can take this bailout with no requirement to use any of it to protect the paychecks or save the jobs of employees. They can even use our money to raise their own pay! In CEO-World, taking care of Number One is Priority Number One. Then, as a second priority, repeat Priority Number One.

(c) 2020 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

A funeral home director wheels a body out of a new york brownstone lit by streetlights
Lily Sage Weinrieb transfers remains to her funeral home in Harlem on April 30, 2020, in NYC.

COVID Deaths In US Approach 100,000 As Trump Administration Misleads Public
By William Rivers Pitt

There is a lot to keep track of these days, and almost all of it is awful.

Tensions are high at today's World Health Organization (WHO) meeting as China and the U.S. growl at each other over Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's baseless allegation that COVID-19 emerged from a Wuhan laboratory, and over accusations from White House trade adviser Peter Navarro that China used air travel to "seed" COVID around the world. Navarro went on to blame the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the monstrous spread of the virus in the U.S., despite the fact that the CDC acts upon the direction of the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, Health and Human Services director Alex Azar tried to deflect blame for the country's high COVID-19 death toll away from the Trump administration by seemingly blaming people of color for dying. When the issue of the disproportionate effect COVID has had on the Black community was raised, Azar began, "Unfortunately, the American population is a very diverse..." before retreating from saying the quiet part loud on network television. Unfortunately? Say no more, Mr. Azar. You just let the racist cat out of the bigot's bag.

While speaking to Tapper, Azar also let loose one of the more profound lies ever told by a public official not named Donald Trump. "We are seeing that in places that are opening, we're not seeing this spike in cases," he said. This is brazenly false. Texas, Alabama, North Dakota and Wisconsin are among several "reopening" states that have seen definitive, even dramatic increases in COVID cases since the rush to please the money began in earnest.

Azar lied because his boss wants this to be true. It isn't. "The coronavirus pandemic is spreading out from urban centers and increasingly infecting residents in small rural counties, even as some of those areas begin to loosen lockdown requirements aimed at stopping its spread," reports The Hill. "A new analysis shows nearly three-quarters of Americans live in counties where the virus is now spreading widely."

These reports are but a portion of the avalanche of bad news we endure today, and every day. Within this vale of tears lie stacked layers of sorrow. Many of these new infections are happening in prisons, senior care facilities and meatpacking plants. Within the walls of these places are the forgotten ones, the ignored and the disdained, the lowest rungs on the American social order.

The confinement of COVID has not spared those who count more in this culture than incarcerated people, the elderly and immigrant laborers in the plants. All across the country, instances of domestic violence are on the rise. Depression, anxiety and other mental ills are a brushfire fed by the freshening winds of grief and solitude.

Millions are going without food, and lack basic health care because their insurance was tied to their employment, and that employment has come to an end. More than 36 million people have filed for unemployment benefits, while many low-wage laborers face the choice between destitution and infection. They are called "heroes" in the media, but that label doesn't pay the rent or put dinner on the table. Food banks across the country are being overwhelmed as people stand in line for hours to receive whatever assistance is available.

It is all entirely overwhelming, a gorging of horror and woe with no true end in sight. There is no leadership to speak of from the federal government. Trump has declared victory and washed his hands of the crisis, leaving state and local governments to fend for themselves as he attempts to cheerlead a reluctant country into a breakneck "reopening" schedule that will - by the White House's own numbers - cause thousands of additional deaths in the coming weeks and months.

In this maelstrom of dread and slow-rolling agony, amid the ceaseless screaming din of dark tidings and bleak conflict, we must pause to remember the dead.

No one can be blamed for pushing the mortal victims of this calamity to the back rooms of the mind, because it is almost entirely too much to encompass. The U.S. will surpass 100,000 deaths before June if the pattern holds, and there is no earthly reason to believe that pattern will change.

100,000 dead since the New Year, and that number is almost certainly an undercount. Combine the death tolls from Pearl Harbor, Oklahoma City, September 11, and the number of U.S. shooting victims from 2019, and you still fall far short of the butcher's bill from COVID-19, and the butcher is not nearly finished with us.

With so many of the living doing everything they can simply to hold on by their fingernails, it is easy enough to understand why the incalculable enormity of the agony represented by that six-digit figure is too much to focus on for long.

But when Miguel Moran of Long Island died of COVID, his son Daniel was at his bedside. Eight days later, Daniel was also dead from COVID. Miguel was 56, and Daniel was 23.

Ruben Burks of Flint, Michigan, was a labor activist and community organizer who spent his retirement protesting the poisoned water supply in his city. He was 86 when COVID took him.

Barbara Birchenough of Midland Park, New Jersey, was a nurse for 46 years. She was days away from retirement when she contracted COVID and died in the same hospital where she once helped others. She was 65 years old.

Leilani Jordan of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was a grocery clerk with cerebral palsy who continued to work so she could help the store's elderly customers. She was 27 when the virus took her life.

Rolando Aravena of New Windsor, New York, was taken by COVID on his twin daughters' tenth birthday. He was 44 years old.

Conrad Buchanan of Fort Myers, Florida, died alone in quarantine in the hospital at age 39. His family never got to say goodbye.

Alfredo and Susana Pabatao of Palisades Park, New Jersey, were both health care workers who had been married for 44 years. They both died of COVID a few days apart in separate hospital rooms. He was 68 and she was 64.

There are nearly 100,000 stories like this now, with far too many more to come.

We must remember the lost, and not let their passing become another body count like all the other ones this nation has grown far too accustomed to ignoring.

We are in sorrow. We are in pain. We are alive, and they are not. Amid the agony and fear, we must remember them.

(c) 2020 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

Californians wait to cast their ballots.

Democracy Dies In Dysfunction
There are clear steps we can take now to ensure fair and functional elections in November-but time is quickly running out.
By John Nichols

Like many Americans, Joe Biden is skeptical about President Trump's respect for democracy. "Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held," Biden said at an online fundraiser in late April. He's right to worry but wrong about how Trump's inclination toward voter suppression will manifest itself this fall. It would take an act of Congress-including the Democratic-controlled House-to upend the federal law that requires general elections be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

But that does not mean Trump won't try to mess with the elections, in which, polls suggest, he and Republican Senate candidates are now vulnerable. This president thrives on chaos and fear, and the Covid-19 pandemic has created plenty of both. The virus that led 16 states to postpone primaries this spring could resurface in time to disrupt the November elections. In many states, that disruption could depress turnout-a prospect that seems to appeal to Trump, who recently complained that if voting was made easy, "You'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." How far might Trump and his minions go? After Republicans blocked efforts to organize safe and fair Wisconsin elections on April 7, state Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler warned of a GOP that "remorselessly weaponizes courts, election laws, and the coronavirus itself to disenfranchise the voters who stand in its way."

Democrats can act now to avert chaotic, low-turnout fall elections. Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate who now leads the voting rights group Fair Fight, says, "No. 1, we have to have vote-by-mail." Building on existing vote-by-mail and absentee ballot rules, she says, "We simply have to scale it so that every state can execute it at the level necessary for a country in crisis, and that is doable." Abrams proposes a "toolbox" approach, in which states make voting by mail available to all, along with safer early and in-person voting. But the time to scale it up is running out, and hard-pressed state and local governments don't have the necessary resources. The National Vote at Home Institute calculates that 42 states would need "infrastructural changes" to make voting by mail a readily available option. "Can we expand the vote-by-mail system? Absolutely," Amber McReynolds, the group's CEO told BuzzFeed News in April. "But if this drags on for weeks and decisions are slow, it's not possible."

To get the $4 billion the Brennan Center says states need to pay for equipment, postal fees, and necessary changes to guarantee "safe and sanitary in-person voting," urgent federal action is required. Trump's resistance to funding the Postal Service and vote-by-mail initiatives can be overcome if congressional Democrats play hardball in stimulus negotiations. Democracy advocates must tell House Democrats that funding for safe and fair elections cannot be compromised away.

Advocacy also has to ramp up in the states. On May 8, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that every registered voter in that state be mailed a ballot before the November elections. All other Democratic governors and sensible Republicans should be encouraged to do the same.

In states where Trump-aligned Republicans erect barriers to statewide action, there's a local option. Prodded by the Working Families Party and voting-rights advocates, the Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously in late April to create a SafeVote program that will send absentee ballot applications and postage-paid return envelopes to roughly 300,000 registered voters in the city. "The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that nothing is truly certain at the moment," council member Marina Dimitrijevic told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "but with SafeVote we can make certain that all registered voters in Milwaukee can easily apply for an absentee ballot for the historic and pivotal election this fall." That certainty must be demanded for all voters in all states this November.

(c) 2020 John Nichols writes about politics for The Capitol Times. 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.

Can Time Travelers Go Back To Fix This Mess?
By James Donahue

One reason the Matrix film series was so popular a few years ago is because it suggested that we live in a make-believe world where events can be altered by master game players at the push of a button.

As humanity rushes headlong into the threat of extinction because of over-population, reckless environmental policies and consequently a polluted, dying and over-heating planet, we seem incapable of fixing our desperate condition.

Not only can we not fix it, America's Republican leaders seem incapable of agreeing that it even exists.

As an old science fiction buff, I have been unable to avoid entertaining the thought that perhaps time travel is possible, and that somehow, at the last moment, we might discover a way to send someone back into the past. And if we could do this, who might we send and what might be done to alter current events and save the day?

If it were possible, just where would we send this time traveler, and just what mission could he or she have that would make such an impact on today's hopeless world? Might Henry Ford be encouraged to develop cars operating on alternative forms of energy? But wait, he did that; but his ideas were never accepted.

Might Thomas Edison be persuaded to listen to the voice of inventor Nikola Tesla and choose a cleaner way of generating power for mankind?

Perhaps we might persuade Saul of Tarsus not to make that historic trip down the road to Damascus where he claimed that he encountered Jesus and consequently launched the religious movement that dominates the minds of political leaders. Too many "believers" are now promoting the final world war that they hope will stimulate a "rapture of the saints." This is deadly mythology.

But is time travel possible?

A report by physicists Daniel Greenberger of the City University of New York, and Karl Syozil of the Vienna University of Technology in Austria, suggests that the laws of quantum physics seem to permit time travel, but prohibit the paradoxical problem of altering the present because of the things we might do in the past.

The theory they present is complex, but it suggests that quantum objects split their existence into multiple component waves, each following a distinct path through space-time. They believe that even if a person were to travel back to the past, they would unlikely be in places where they might interfere destructively with an event and change the present.

While it may be good news among sci-fi buffs who worry about the paradox of going back in time and destroying themselves by accidentally killing their grandfathers, it also suggests that nothing we do can alter the course we have chosen for mankind in general, even if we succeed in going backward in time.

Some modern philosophers believe that time is a relative creation by the human mind as a way of putting events in perspective. Outside of our three-dimensional existence, however, entities that exist in a spirit universe around us that appear to live outside the boundaries of space and time. Thus they can see our future as well as our past because they exist in all places at the same time.

Perhaps if would be possible for us to develop the technology to save our planet, or carry the DNA of an estimated 200,000 humans back in time to the Cretaceous Period, just after the flood. Thus we might have the wild chance of starting over and learning from our mistakes.

Perhaps even this wild idea would end in failure. Humans living today seem to lack the mental and technical ability to stop the ecological train wreck we are bringing upon ourselves. The idea, however, is that all of the DNA would be implanted in the unborn children of the humanoids existing at that time. From these children would spring modern humans, with all of the genetic memory of what went wrong this time around.

The question nags, however.

Even if we get another chance, are the quantum theorists correct? Will it be impossible for us to change the level of mass insanity going on today?

(c) 2020 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

How Many Revelations Does It Take To Make A Light Bulb Go Off?
By David Swanson

The U.S. government is certainly in the running for worst handling of coronavirus on earth. Where did this grotesque incompetence and indifference to human lives come from so suddenly?

What if it was always there?

What if it's to be found in long-standing U.S. policies on environment, energy, labor, healthcare, education, and retirement?

What if U.S. policy on climate collapse is just as catastrophic as on coronavirus, but the clown car simply hasn't yet reached the edge of the cliff it's been barreling toward?

What if the scientists who are screaming that the Doomsday Clock is nearer midnight than ever before, that the earth is more likely than ever to experience nuclear apocalypse, don't view U.S. nuclear policy as somehow wiser than U.S. coronavirus policy? What if we're still here at all principally because of outrageously great luck that cannot possibly hold out much longer?

What if all the killing and destruction and all the restrictions on privacy and self-governance and activism and journalism established in the name of "fighting terrorism" have been part of a decades-long "war on terrorism" that has predictably (and it was predicted) increased terrorism?

What if the Russian and Chinese and North Korean and Cuban and Iranian and Venezuelan menaces haven't been held off but rather propped-up, provoked, and puffed into purely fictional monsters by the same fascistic nitwits who are stumbling their way toward an earthly paradise for deadly viruses?

What if the idea that the nation that, in relation to its wealth and resources, performs far-and-away worst in the world in terms of life expectancy, health, happiness, equality, sustainability, and education has somehow fallen off the rails of perfection and professionalism is a delusional idea?

What if coronavirus denial is of a piece with climate denial, socialism denial, nonviolence denial, and nuclear denial?

What if returning to normal isn't a stupid idea because normal was disastrous but because we have never left it?

What if bloody bumbling Joe Biden is not an important topic of debate so much as a distraction?

What if we need a revolution of values that takes crises seriously based on their seriousness rather than their immediacy?

What if we need tremendous outrage over the reckless discarding of lives based on the number of lives, not the date on which they are lost or the location in which they are lost or their demographics or details?

What if people who do not yet get it are the biggest hurdle standing in our way?

What if Zoom needs a shake-this-person-by-the-lapels button?

What is it going to take?

(c) 2020 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.

We have a lot to learn still, but COVID-19 can teach us ways to address a crisis with many unknowns,
whether it's a disease pandemic, a rapidly heating planet or accelerating biodiversity loss.

Multiple Crises Expose Systemic Flaws
By David Suzuki

The coronavirus spreading COVID-19 around the globe isn't the first disease microbe suspected to have jumped from other animals to humans, nor will it be the last. That we know to a large extent why so many diseases are making that leap should help us resolve the problem.

Dealing with a swiftly spreading illness with many unknown consequences is clearly the top priority now. We're fortunate in Canada to have a medical system somewhat equipped to handle such crises, leaders who rely on evidence and compassion, and some measures to protect workers from lost time and wages.

Scientists say we can expect more disease outbreaks as the climate warms, although research into how global heating affects human-to-human spread is still in early stages. The novel coronavirus is thought to have been transmitted to humans from animals, possibly bats. Climate change, habitat destruction, growing human populations and wild-game markets put us in closer contact with creatures that can spread disease, and make them more susceptible to disease outbreaks. We've also seen disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes move into areas where longer, colder winters once kept them in check.

Diseases can also jump to humans from domesticated animals, as we've seen in Canada with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease moving from cattle to people, and avian flu from birds.

Our constant-growth mindset, which assumes production and human populations will continue to expand, also means many more of us are living in closer quarters, often flying around the world, which contributes to infectious disease spread.

We have a lot to learn still, but COVID-19 can teach us ways to address a crisis with many unknowns, whether it's a disease pandemic, a rapidly heating planet or accelerating biodiversity loss.

We've seen that decisive action can substantially reduce health risks and contagion, as well as emissions and the activities that cause them - and that by heeding the advice of scientists and experts, business and government leaders can make an immediate difference, with public support.

Curtailment of flights, cruise ship tours, major public events and some industrial activity has led to a dramatic drop in greenhouse gas emissions - along with declines in economic activity. A European study found 11,000 fewer people died from pollution-related causes over one month than before the pandemic shutdown, as levels of dangerous pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter declined. Air pollution has also been shown to exacerbate COVID-19's effects and outcomes.

But, as UN secretary general Antonio Guterres cautioned, "We will not fight climate change with a virus." He pointed out that "both require a determined response. Both must be defeated."

If people have responded with much more immediacy and urgency to the pandemic than the climate crisis, it's possibly because it seems more present and resolvable. Although the impacts of climate disruption are accelerating daily, many don't see it as a direct threat. Those who understand that it's immediate and worsening often feel there's little to be done, whereas the personal and institutional actions to limit pandemic spread seem relatively simple, timely and effective.

That the world is facing several crises at once is challenging, but maybe it offers an opportunity to reset. Along with the coronavirus and climate disruption, oil prices have also plummeted, partly because of a dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia. An oil-dependent economy like Canada's can't escape the impacts - especially in Alberta where successive governments have pinned their hopes on bitumen and gas rather than adequately diversifying.

We must continue to take precautions to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19, like washing hands regularly, avoiding touching our faces and practising distancing. Working to ensure that our medical system is maintained and strengthened is also important.

As a society, we must learn to slow down and stop consuming so much. We must get serious about the many threats to human health and well-being, including climate disruption, loss of plant and animal species and new diseases. Making the world safer means taking immediate precautions and measures, but it also means looking into ways to alter our behaviours to lessen our destructive impacts on air, water, land, climate and biodiversity. It means conserving and using energy more efficiently and shifting to renewable sources, and preserving and restoring wild spaces.

Be healthy. Be safe.

(c) 2020 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Barack Obama Scares These People To Death
Republicans talk big about taking on the 44th president, but in the end, they're puffed-up lizards.
By Charles P. Pierce

In Australia, there is a lizard that, when confronted by danger, will puff out its frills, open its mouth wide, raise its tail, and stand on tip-toe to try to bluff its way out of being dinner. For the past month or so, prominent Republicans have made loud mouth-noises about investigating Barack Obama-and, by extension, Joe Biden-for imaginary crimes committed in office, most of them in connection to the investigations into the Trump campaign's connections to the Volga Bagmen. In this, it is now plain, the Republican Party is nothing more than a puffed-up lizard.

First, Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been one of the loudest voices in this chorus of fools, told the president* that, no, he wouldn't be calling Obama to testify before Congress. From CNBC:

"I think it'd be a bad precedent to compel a former president to come before the Congress," Graham, a close ally of Trump's, told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That would open up a can of worms and for a variety of reasons I don't think that's a good idea," Graham said.

Graham clearly is thinking long-term. After all, this president* is going to be a former president* someday, and this administration* is going to be a container ship of worms.

No Republican actually wants to face off with the 44th president.

On Monday, after a weekend in which Obama dropped some thick shade on his successor, and after a week in which the wingnut press was aflame defending Mike Flynn, Civil Liberties Martyr, Attorney General Bill Barr declared that he, too, will be taking a dive. From Business Insider:
"As to President Obama and Vice President, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don't expect Mr. Durham's work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man," Barr said. "Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others."
Barack Obama scares these people to death. He is the most popular politician in America, and he is far and away the one most likely to occasion an Oval Office crack-up. They've gotten what they really wanted from this head-fake; the rubes are being ginned up by the usual outlets, which have fed them another fairy tale in which they can invest their darker selves. But actually sit there and match wits with Barack Obama? Under oath and in public? What Republican wants good seats for that abattoir?

(c) 2020 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote-

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

In the U.S., a variety of evangelical religious leaders have failed the test of reasoned public policy in outrageous ways.

Fundamentalist Pandemics
What evangelicals could learn from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
By Juan Cole

This spring, the novel coronavirus pandemic has raised the issue of the relationship between the blindest kind of religious faith and rational skepticism-this time in two countries that think of themselves as polar opposites and enemies: Supreme Leader Ali Khameini's Iran and Donald Trump's America.

On the U.S. side of things, New Orleans pastor Tony Spell, for instance, has twice been arrested for holding church services without a hint of social distancing, despite a ban on such gatherings. His second arrest was for preaching while wearing an ankle monitor and despite the Covid-19 death of at least one of his church members.

The publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's famed Origin of the Species, arguing as it did for natural selection (which many American evangelicals still reject), might be considered the origin point for the modern conflict between religious beliefs and science, a struggle that has shaped our culture in powerful ways. Unexpectedly, given Iran's reputation for religious obscurantism, the science-minded in the nineteenth and twentieth century often took heart from a collection of Persian poems, the Rubaiyat, or "quatrains," attributed to the medieval Iranian astronomer Omar Khayyam, who died in 1131.

Edward FitzGerald's loose translation of those poems, also published in 1859, put Khayyam on the map as a medieval Muslim free-thinker and became a century-and-a-half-long sensation in the midst of heated debates about the relationship between science and faith in the West. Avowed atheist Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney at the 1925 "monkey trial" of a Tennessee educator who broke state law by teaching evolution, was typical in his love of the Rubaiyat. He often quoted it in his closing arguments, observing that for Khayyam the "mysticisms of philosophy and religion alike were hollow and bare."

To be fair, some religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, have followed the most up-to-date science, as Covid-19 spread globally, by supporting social-distancing measures to deal with the virus. When he still went by the name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio and lived in Buenos Aires, the Pope earned a high school chemical technician's diploma and actually knows something about science. Indeed, the Catholic Church in Brazil has impressively upheld the World Health Organization's guidelines for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, defying the secular government of far right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, that country's Donald Trump. Brazil's president has notoriously ignored his nation's public-health crisis, dismissed the coronavirus as a "little flu," and tried to exempt churches from state government mandates that they close. The archbishop of the hard-hit city of Manaus in the Amazon region has, in fact, publicly complained that Brazilians are not taking the virus seriously enough as it runs rampant in the country. Church authorities worry about the strain government inaction is putting on Catholic hospitals and clinics, as well as the devastation the disease is wreaking in the region.

Here, we witness not a dispute between religion and science but between varieties of religion. Pope Francis's Catholicism remains open to science, whereas Bolsonaro, although born a Catholic, became an evangelical and, in 2016, was even baptized as a pastor in the Jordan River. He now plays to the 22% of Brazilians who have adopted conservative Protestantism, as well as to Catholics who are substantially more conservative than the current pope. While some U.S. evangelicals are open to science, a Pew Charitable Trust poll found that they, too, are far more likely than the non-religious to reject the very idea of evolution, not to speak of the findings of climate science (action on which Pope Francis has supported in a big way).

Death in the Bible Belt

In the U.S., a variety of evangelical religious leaders have failed the test of reasoned public policy in outrageous ways. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, railing at "tyrannical government," refused to close his mega-church in Florida until the local police arrested him in March. He even insisted that church members in those services of 500 or more true believers should continue to shake hands with one another because "we're raising up revivalists, not pansies."

As he saw it, his River Tampa Bay Church was the "safest place" around because it was the site of "salvation." Only in early April did he finally move his services online and it probably wasn't to protect the health of his congregation either. His insurance company had cancelled on him after his arrest and his continued defiance of local regulations.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis muddied the waters further in early April by finally issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order that exempted churches as "essential services." Then, after only a month, he abruptly reopened the state anyway. DeSantis, who had run a Facebook group dominated by racist comments and had risen on Donald Trump's coattails, has a sizeable evangelical constituency and, in their actions, he and Pastor Howard-Browne have hardly been alone.

It tells you all you need to know that, by early May, more than 30 evangelical pastors had died of Covid-19 across the Bible Belt.

Two Epicenters of the Pandemic

In the Muslim equivalent of the Bible Belt, the clerical leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, stopped shaking hands and limited visits to his office in early February, but he let mass commemorations of the 41st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic go forward unimpeded. Then, on February 24th, he also allowed national parliamentary elections to proceed on hopes of entrenching yet more of his hardline fundamentalist supporters-the equivalent of America's evangelicals-in Iran's legislature. Meanwhile, its other religious leaders continued to resist strong Covid-19 mitigation measures until late March, even as the country was besieged by the virus. Deputy Minister of Health Iraj Harirchi caught the spirit of the moment by rejecting social-distancing measures in February while downplaying the seriousness of the outbreak in his country, only to contract Covid-19 himself and die of it.

The virus initially exploded in the holy city of Qom, said to have been settled in the eighth century by descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. It's filled with a myriad of religious seminaries and has a famed shrine to one of those descendants, Fatima Masoumeh. In late February, even after government officials began to urge that the shrine be closed, its clerical custodians continued to call for pilgrims to visit it. Those pilgrims typically touch the brass latticework around Fatima Masoumeh's tomb and sometimes kiss it, a classic method for passing on the disease. Its custodians (like those American evangelical pastors) continued to believe that the holiness of the shrine would protect the pilgrims. They may also have been concerned about their loss of income if pilgrims from all over the world stopped showing up.

Despite having a theocratic government in which clerics wield disproportionate power, Iran also has a significant and powerful scientific and engineering establishment that looks at the world differently, even if some of them are also devout Shiite Muslims. In the end, as the virus gripped the country and deaths spiked, the scientists briefly won and the government of President Hassan Rouhani instituted some social-distancing measures for the public, including canceling Friday prayers and closing shrines in March, though-as in Florida-those measures did not last long.

In this way, as the U.S. emerged as the global epicenter of the pandemic, so Iran emerged as its Middle Eastern one. Call it an irony of curious affinity. Superstition was only part of the problem. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed the Trump administration's sanctions and financial blockade of the country for the government's weak response, since the Iranians had difficulty even paying for much-needed imported medical equipment like ventilators. Indeed, the U.S. government has also had Iran kicked off global banking exchanges and threatened third-party sanctions against any companies doing business with it.

President Trump, however, denied that the U.S. had blockaded medical imports to that country, a statement that was technically true, but false in any other sense. The full range of U.S. sanctions had indeed erected a formidable barrier to Iran's importation of medical equipment, despite attempts by the European Union (which opposes Trump's maximum pressure campaign against Iran) to allow companies to sell medical supplies to Tehran.

Still, as with Trump's policies in the U.S. (including essentially ignoring the virus for months), Iranian government policy must be held significantly responsible for the failure to stem the coronavirus tide, which by early May had, according to official figures, resulted in more than 100,000 cases and some 7,000 deaths (numbers which will, in the end, undoubtedly prove significant undercounts).

A Rubaiyat World

Whether in America or Iran, fundamentalist religion (or, in the U.S. case, a Trumpian and Republican urge to curry favor with it) often made for dismally bad public policy during the first wave of Covid-19. Among other things, it encouraged people, whether in religious institutions in both countries or in American anti-shutdown protests, to engage in reckless behavior that endangered not just themselves but others. Ironically, the conflict in each country between defiant pastors or mullahs and scientists on this issue should bring to mind the culture wars of the early twentieth century and the place of the Iranian poetry of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in what was then largely a Western debate.

That makes those poems worthy of reconsideration in this perilous moment of ours. As I wrote in the introduction to my new translation of the Rubaiyat:

"The message of the poems... is that life has no obvious meaning and is heartbreakingly short. Death is near and we might not live to exhale the breath we just took in. The afterlife is a fairy tale for children... The only way to get past this existential unfairness is to enjoy life, to love someone, and to get intimate with good wine. On the other hand, there is no reason to be mean-spirited to other people."
Some of the appeal of this poetry to past millions came from the dim view it took of then (as now) robust religious obscurantism. The irreverent Mark Twain once marveled, "No poem had given me so much pleasure before... It is the only poem that I have ever carried about with me; it has not been from under my hand for 28 years." Thomas Hardy, the British novelist and champion of Darwin, wove its themes into some of his best-known fiction. Robert Frost wrote his famous (and famously bleak) poem "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night" with Khayyam's quatrains in mind. Beat poet Jack Kerouac modeled Sal Paradise, the unconventional protagonist of his novel On the Road, on his idea of what Khayyam might have been like.

Although compilers have always attributed those poems to that great astronomer and mathematician of the Seljuk era, it's clear that they were actually written by later Iranian figures who used Khayyam as a "frame author," perhaps for fear of reaction to the religious skepticism deeply embedded in the poetry (in the same way that the Thousand and One Nights tales composed in Cairo, Aleppo, and Baghdad over centuries were all attributed to Scheherazade). The bulk of those verses first appeared at the time of the Mongol invasion of Iran in the 1200s, a bloody moment that threw the region into turmoil and paralysis just as Covid-19 has brought our world to an abrupt and chaotic halt.

As if the war's urban destruction and piles of skulls weren't enough, historians have argued that the Mongols, who opened up trade routes from Asia into the Middle East, also inadvertently facilitated the westward spread of the Yersina pestis bacillus that would cause the bubonic plague, or the Black Death, a pandemic that would wipe out nearly half of China's population and a third of Europe's.

A fifteenth-century scribe in the picturesque Iranian city of Shiraz would, in fact, create the first anthology of quatrains entitled The RubAiyat of Omar Khayyam, many composed during Mongol rule and the subsequent pandemic. The dangers of what we would now call religious fundamentalism, as opposed to an enlightened spirituality, were trumpeted throughout those poems:

In monasteries, temples, and retreats
they fear hellfire and look for paradise.
But those who know the mysteries of God
don't let those seeds be planted in their hearts
While some turn to theology for comfort during a disaster, those quatrains urged instead that all of us be aggressively here and now, trying to wring every last pleasure out of our worldly life before it abruptly vanishes:
A bottle of Shiraz and the lips of a lover, on the edge of a meadow --
are like cash in hand for me-and for you, credit toward paradise.
They've wagered that some go to heaven, and some to hell.
But whoever went to hell? And whoever came back from paradise?
The poetry ridicules some religious beliefs, using the fantasies of astrology as a proxy target for the fatalism of orthodox religion. The authors may have felt safer attacking horoscopes than directly taking on Iran's powerful clergy. Astronomers know that the heavenly bodies, far from dictating the fate of others, revolve in orbits that make their future position easy to predict and so bear little relationship to the lives of complex and unpredictable human beings (just as, for instance, you could never have predicted that American evangelicals would opt to back a profane, womanizing, distinctly of-this-world orange-faced presidential candidate in 2016 and thereafter):
Don't blame the stars for virtues or for faults,
or for the joy and grief decreed by fate!
For science holds the planets all to be
A thousand times more helpless than are we.
Wars and pandemics choose winners and losers and-as we're learning all too grimly in the world of 2020-the wealthy are generally so much better positioned to protect themselves from catastrophe than the poor. To its eternal credit, the Rubaiyat (unlike both the Trump administration and the Iranian religious leadership) took the side of the latter, pointing out that religious fatalism and superstitions like astrology are inherently supportive of a rotten status quo in which the poor are the first to be sacrificed, whether to pandemics or anything else:
Signs of the zodiac: You give something to every jackass.
You hand them fancy baths, millworks, and canals --
while noble souls must gamble, in hopes of winning their nightly bread.
Who would give a fart for such a constellation?
In our own perilous times, right-wing fundamentalist governments like those in Brazil and the United States, as well as religious fundamentalist ones as in Iran, have made the coronavirus outbreak far more virulent and dangerous by encouraging religious gatherings at a time when the pandemic's curve could only be flattened by social distancing. Their willingness to blithely set aside reason and science out of a fatalistic and misguided faith in a supernatural providence that overrules natural law (or, in Donald Trump's case, a fatalistic and misguided faith in his own ability to overrule natural laws, not to speak of providence) has been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths around the world. Think of it as, in spirit, a fundamentalist version of genocide.

The pecuniary motives of some of this obscurantism are clear, as many churches and mosques depend on contributions from congregants at services for the livelihood of imams and pastors. Their willingness to prey on the gullibility of their followers in a bid to keep up their income stream should be considered the height of hypocrisy and speaks to the importance of people never surrendering their capacity for independent, critical reasoning.

Though you might not have noticed it on Donald Trump's and Ali Khameini's planet, religion seems to be in the process of collapsing, at least in the industrialized world. A third of the French say that they have no religion at all and just 45% consider themselves Catholic (with perhaps only half of those being relatively committed to the faith), while only 5% attend church regularly. A majority of young people in 12 European countries claim that they now have no religion, pointing to a secular future for much of the continent. Even in peculiarly religious America, self-identification as Christian has plunged to 65% of the population, down 12% in the past decade, while 26% of the population now disavows having a religion at all.

In post-pandemic Iran, don't be surprised if similar feelings spread, given how the religious leadership functionally encouraged the devastation of Covid-19. In this way, despite military threats, economic sanctions, and everything else, Donald Trump's America and Ali Khameini's Iran truly have something in common. In the U.S., where it's easier to measure what's happening, evangelicals, more than a fifth of the population when George W. Bush was first elected president in 2000, are 16% of it two decades later.

Given the unpredictable nature of our world (as the emergence of Covid-19 has made all too clear), nothing, secularization included, is a one-way street. Religion is perfectly capable of experiencing revivals. Still, there is no surer way to tip the balance toward an Omar Khayyam-style skepticism than for prominent religious leaders to guide their faithful, and all those in contact with them, into a new wave of the pandemic.

(c) 2020 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

The Dead Letter Office-

Roger gives the corporate salute!

Heil Trump,

Dear Unterfuhrer Marshall

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 Samuel (the con) Alito.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your scheme to destroy Medicaid, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-23-2020. We salute you herr Marshal, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Musk & Bezos

The Privileged And Powerful In The Pandemic
By Robert Reich

As America reopens for business, you might expect Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, and his Amazon corporation, one of the most profitable corporations in America, to set the corporate standard for how to protect the health of American workers.

Think again.

Amazon's warehouses have become Covid-19 hot spots, yet Amazon has repeatedly fired workers who sound the alarm - including, just recently, a warehouse worker in Minnesota who spoke out against unsafe conditions, and, earlier in the pandemic, a worker who led a walkout Amazon's huge JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island after several employees tested positive for Covid-19.

A few weeks ago, Amazon fired two white-collar employees after they criticized the company's treatment of warehouse workers. I talked with one of them, Maren Costa, at a virtual rally. (The event didn't come off quite as planned. After thousands of employees had RSVPed, Amazon deleted all invitations and emails regarding the event, according to organizers.)

"Why is Amazon so scared of workers talking with each other?" Costa wondered. "We're all in this together. No company should punish their employees for showing concern for one another, especially during a pandemic."

At Amazon's AVP1 fulfillment center near Hazleton, Pennsylvania - under federal investigation because of an early spike in cases - workers say Amazon stopped sharing information about Covid-19 cases, so they started their own unofficial tally, which at last count was 64 and rising.

"Plain truth: No one cares about us," one of them told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Another pointed to lack of enforcement of health and safety regulations. "Believe me - we've complained and complained and complained," the worker said.

Only recently did Amazon start offering two weeks' paid sick leave to workers afflicted with the virus, but some sick workers say they've had trouble collecting their pay despite the new policy.

The company now says anyone who doesn't return to work will be terminated, and it's about to eliminate an extra $2 per hour hazard pay it had given warehouse workers.

Why has Bezos and set the bar so low for the rest of corporate America? It can't be the cost. Amazon can afford the highest safety standards in the world. Last quarter, its revenue surged 26 percent and its profits soared to $75.5 billion. Since March, Jeff Bezos' net worth has jumped $24 billion.

So, what is it? Perhaps the arrogance and indifference that comes with extraordinary power.

Consider billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who last week reopened his Tesla plant despite county public-health orders to keep it shut. After Musk threatened to sue the county and move the factory and jobs to another state, officials finally caved.

Tesla promptly notified workers that "Once you are called back, you will no longer be on furlough so if you choose not to work, it may impact your unemployment benefits."

So Tesla workers are now being forced to choose between their livelihoods or, possibly, their lives. Musk says his factory is safe, but a worker who returned to the production line told the New York Times that little has changed, and "it's hard to avoid coming within six feet of others."

Why is Musk so intent on risking lives? It can't be the money. Musk is rolling in it. Tesla's stock closed at $790.96 a share last Wednesday, which put the company's value at about $146 billion (by contrast, GM, which produces far more cars, is valued at less than $31 billion).

It's that, like Jeff Bezos, Musk wants to impose his will on the world. The pandemic is an obstacle, so it must be ignored.

In January, Musk said Covid-19 was nothing more than common cold. In March, he tweeted the "coronavirus panic is dumb." By late April he was calling shelter-in-place orders "fascist," and asserting that health officials were "breaking people's freedoms." If all this reminds you of someone who now occupies the Oval Office, that's no coincidence. Musk's thin-skinned, petulant narcissism bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump, who last week tweeted, "California should let Tesla and @elonmusk open the plant, NOW."

I once oversaw the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and I can attest that Trump's OSHA is doing squat about worker safety in this pandemic. Trump is fine with this. All he cares about is being reelected.

Trump despises Bezos, presumably because Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which has been critical of Trump. But it's easy to see in Bezos the same public-be-damned bullying that emanates from the White House.

Enough! Those in power must stop viewing the pandemic as an obstacle to personal ambition. Over 300,000 people around the world have lost their lives in just four months, including more than 90,000 Americans. Bezos, Musk, Trump, and all others in positions to help contain this disaster are morally bound to do so, their own ambitions be damned.

(c) 2020 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is

NYC, COVID & Poverty
No "shelter at home" for the homeless
By Jane Stillwater

When my plane landed in New York City recently, I had the entire JFK airport all to myself. Even the TSA security checkpoint was empty except for a few bored employees. Empty. Totally empty. Can you even imagine a TSA line with nobody in it? Totally surreal. But then I saw a few more people on the subway into Manhattan -- and then lots of people on 34th Street. People in front of Penn Station. People next to the Empire State Building. People walking past Macy's.

My mind boggled. Here's me, with a completely boggled mind. But why was I being so gobsmacked? Definitely not because there were people on the streets of New York City -- but rather because of the type of people I saw. All the techies, the yuppies, the rising-star professionals, the upper-class shoppers, New York's chic urban workforce? They were all gone from the streets completely, disappeared as if by magic.

And all that was left on the streets of New York City were its "dregs."

And New York City has a hecka lot of "dregs". America itself has a whole freaking lot of "dregs."

Thanks to COVID-19, America's convenient veil of secrecy has been ruthlessly ripped aside and America's morbid classism has now been cruelly exposed. Tears came to my eyes -- and I don't usually cry.

All those suave New Yorkers with homes to go to and Netflix to watch and popcorn to eat as they sit on their sofas bombarded by TV commercials with violins in the background and soothing voices telling us that "We're all in this together" and "We're here to help?"

None of that warm-puppy feeling applies to New York City's underclasses, America's underclasses, carefully cultivated since Nixon and Reagan -- and now in full bloom right next to Madison Square Garden.

And then I thought of our recent "stimulus package" -- $1200 to everyone who has filed an income tax return. $1200 might be a drop in the bucket for some Americans, but to the people actually living on the streets of New York City, $1200 would be a freaking miracle, a wonderful last meal, a comfortable place to finally lay down their heads -- like a dead man walking being offered a last meal before midnight.

But none of those who are truly in need will be getting any of America's bounty. Once again.

(c) 2020 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Dave Granlund ~~~

To End On A Happy Note-

Have You Seen This-

Parting Shots-

President Donald J. Trump seen through a window speaks with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Trump Wishes He Could Replace Fauci With The Doctor Who Saved Him From Vietnam
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-Donald Trump wishes he could replace Anthony Fauci with the podiatrist who helped him avoid serving in the Vietnam War, Trump said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters, Trump disparaged Fauci by arguing that he is not "half the doctor" that his former podiatrist was.

"You tell Tony to do something, and he says he has to look at a bunch of numbers and charts first, and even then he maybe doesn't do what you told him to," Trump complained. "You asked my foot doctor in Queens to say I had bone spurs and, boom, ten minutes later you got the note."

If his podiatrist were still alive, Trump said, "I would tell him that the country was at war with coronavirus, and he would get me out of it, no questions asked."

He also questioned whether Fauci was as medically qualified as his former podiatrist. "An epidemiologist like Tony specializes in just one thing," Trump said. "A podiatrist has to know about both feet. That's twice as much knowledge, medically speaking."

Trump grew emotional as he recalled the "unbelievable service" that his beloved podiatrist performed for him. "That doctor saved lives," he said.

(c) 2020 Andy Borowitz

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 20 # 20 (c) 05/22/2020

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