Chris Hedges reports, "The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate."
And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Trump Warns China Not To Underestimate His Willingness To Sacrifice Every American's Well-Being," but first Uncle Ernie follows, "Lying Donald's Trip To Japan."
This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dave Granlund, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Spencer Platt, Kris Krug, Sebastian Scheiner, Tariq Mahmood, Evan Vucci, Bill Clark, Pew Charitable Trust, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.
"President Trump once again ricocheted all over the rostrum in Tokyo, where his comments on North Korea contradicted his advisers, expressed his faith in Kim Jong-Un and ignored the reality reflected by Pyongyang's behavior that Prime Minister Abe much more clearly described. Compared to Trump, Kim is playing a consistent and increasingly influential role." ~~~ Kent Harrington ~ former national intelligence officer for East Asia and CIA station chief.
"Quick, Dorothy! Run for the cellar!" ~~~ Auntie Em
"Under longstanding department policy a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view, that too is prohibited. The special counsel's office is part of the Department of Justice and by regulation it was bound by that department policy." ~~~ Robert Mueller
"Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give." ~~~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Our national embarrassment Lying Donald was off to meet Japan's new emperor Naruhito, play a little golf and watch some men with asses as big as his in g-strings; to whom Donald gave a presidential trophy. On the plus side he put Bolton and Pompeo in their places and pissed of the United Nations! So the trip wasn't a total loss!
However, foreign policy experts both inside and outside the Administration say the tRump's very public breaks with National Security Adviser John Bolton's and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's aggressive stands on Iran and North Korea during the trip will fuel new confusion among allies and adversaries about U.S. policy toward the two countries.
During a carefully scripted four-day visit to Japan, Lying Donald contradicted his national security adviser and other top officials on two key issues, insisting that recent North Korean missile tests did not violate United Nations resolutions and saying he did not seek regime change in Iran, which Bolton has championed for years.
"Publicly contradicting the national security adviser and the secretary of State, especially on nuclear issues, just compounds the confusion about who speaks for the United States,"" one senior U.S. official told TIME. "The president contradicting himself doesn't help matters."
The most evident gap between Abe and Lying Donald, however, was on North Korea's recent short-range missile tests, which Trump dismissed and Abe called a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
On that issue, U.S. State Department, military and intelligence officials Tuesday said they side with Abe. tRumps thought on the short range missels, are that they can't reach the U.S., Abe sees them as Japan is at ground zero and the Japanese have some knowledge about such matters!
Trumps off to England next on June 3rd to meet the Queen and is bringing his whole family with him. Rumor has it that the Queen won't be meeting with Lying Donald as her "bone spurs" are acting up again!
In Other News
Last Thursday when I finished up my column there had been 100 tornadoes in a week, here, a a week later, and that number jumped to over 300! I'm fairly convinced that it takes a certain kind of stupid to live in tornado alley. A couple of years ago I came across a man who lived in Kansas, who was interviewed about his house being knocked down by a tornado. This town had been hit seven times in the last nine years by tornadoes. The reporter asked him if he was going to rebuild, and he assured the reporter that he would. I know, WTF? I have personally found that knowing when to leave is perhaps one of lifes most important lessons!
Trouble is, it's only going to get worse and we're going to be told, less and less. Lying Donald want to get rid of NASA's PACE program, which uses data to better understand how our oceans and atmosphere are changing, which then releases the facts to the public, is set to be eliminated. Along with various other programs to keep us in the dark. Leaving it up to us to decide who we're going to believe, our own "lying eyes," or Lying Donald?
Remember, a warming climate does opposing things to supercell thunderstorms.
It provides more energy in the form of higher air temperatures and greater amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere, a combo meteorologists refer to as convective available potential energy. But it also may reduce the availability of wind shear, which is another crucial ingredient for tornadoes. In a warming world, there may be fewer days with both ingredients present to produce tornadoes, but when these ingredients do combine ... oh look out, it's helter shelter time! Going on three weeks we've had tornadoes every day!
Better get Dorthy and Toto into the tornado/fall-out shelter a.s.a.p., America!
So with Mullers farewell the coverup is complete. Jawohl, he did say that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election, I don't want to blow your mind America, but there has been Russian interference in every election since WWII. You could also add Israeli, England, German, Chinese, Koran, both North & South etc, oh, and lets not forget the Rethuglican party's interference in American election interference!
I've lost count of all the American interference in other people elections, from sending billion of dollars to over throw the peoples candidates and replacing them with the corpo-rats candidates not to mention out right murder if the bribing fails. So yes, what goes around comes around, so Mueller didn't say sh*t!
He even went so far to say that everything in the report has been released for all to see, bullsh*t. He continued to dance around tRumps involvement in this high treason being the good Rethuglican stooge that he is. As soon as he had spoken Lying Donald ripped off a new tweet...
Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.
Don't you just love Lying Donalds logic? Me neither. So it's now up to Nancy to save us from the Donald's high-jinx. I won't be holding my breath until that happens, and neither should you, America!
It looks like our June 21st edition will be our last full magazine. With half a magazine we will continue on until the 2020 election, providing Lying Donald hasn't killed all of us by then. Not only haven't we been able to pay the last of last years bill, but a new bill comes due on June 24th.
You will notice some of your favorite authors will be missing as we have to pay their publishing rights in order to publish them. You'll have to look them up yourselves and may have to pay to read them on their sites. The same goes for some cartoonists.
We'll still keep fighting the good fight like we always have as we're in it to the end. 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!
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So how do you like Trump so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?
Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2019 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.
Will Biden's Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
By Norman Solomon
In a party that officially condemns dog-whistle appeals to racism, Joe Biden is running on Orwellian eggshells. Whether he can win the Democratic presidential nomination may largely depend on the extent of "doublethink" that George Orwell described in 1984 as the willingness "to forget any fact that has become inconvenient."
It is an inconvenient fact that Biden has a political history of blowing into dog whistles for racism. More than ever, the Democratic electorate is repelled by that kind of pitch. If his dog-whistling past becomes a major issue, the former vice president and his defenders will face the challenge of twisting themselves into rhetorical pretzels to deny what is apparent from the video record of Biden oratory on the Senate floor that spanned into the last decade of the 20th century.
Biden is eager to deflect any prospective attention from his own history of trafficking in white malice and racial division. When he tweeted this week that "our politics today has become so mean and petty -- it traffics in division and our president is the divider in chief," Biden was executing a high jump over the despicably low standards set by Donald Trump.
A key question remains: Does it matter that Biden was a shrill purveyor of tropes, racist stereotypes and legislation aimed at African Americans? During pivotal moments in the history of race relations in this country, from the 1970s to the 1990s, Biden's hot air manifested as pitches to white racism. From the outset of his career on Capitol Hill, he even stooped to reaching out to some of the worst segregationist senators from the South to advance his legislative agenda against busing.
As Adolph Reed and Cornel West noted this month in the Guardian, Biden began his racially laced approach to lawmaking soon after arrival in the Senate, when he "earned sharp criticism from both the NAACP and ACLU in the 1970s for his aggressive opposition to school busing as a tool for achieving school desegregation."
That was no fluke. "In 1984," Reed and West recount, Biden "joined with South Carolina's arch-racist Strom Thurmond to sponsor the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which eliminated parole for federal prisoners and limited the amount of time sentences could be reduced for good behavior. He and Thurmond joined hands to push 1986 and 1988 drug enforcement legislation that created the nefarious sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine as well as other draconian measures that implicate him as one of the initiators of what became mass incarceration."
It's likely that no lawmaker did more to bring about the mass incarceration of black people during recent decades than Joe Biden. In an understated account last week, The Hill newspaper reported that Senator Biden "was instrumental in pushing for the  crime bill, which critics have said led to a spike in incarceration, particularly among African Americans."
Yet Biden is now eager to project an image as a longtime ally of people of color. In short, journalists Kevin Gosztola and Brian Sonenstein wrote recently, he is in a race between his actual past and his PR baloney.
As the leading advocate for what became the infamous 1994 crime bill, Biden stood on the Senate floor and declared: "We must take back the streets. It doesn't matter whether or not the person that is accosting your son or daughter or my son or daughter, my wife, your husband, my mother, your parents, it doesn't matter whether or not they were deprived as a youth. It doesn't matter whether or not they had no background that enabled them to become socialized into the fabric of society. It doesn't matter whether or not they're the victims of society. The end result is they're about to knock my mother on the head with a lead pipe, shoot my sister, beat up my wife, take on my sons."
And Biden proclaimed with fervor that echoed right-wing dogma: "I don't care why someone is a malefactor in society. I don't care why someone is antisocial. I don't care why they've become a sociopath. We have an obligation to cordon them off from the rest of society."
Paste writer Shane Ryan pointed out the unsubtle subtexts of Biden's speechifying: "This is the language of demonization, and even without the underlying racial element, it would be offensive to describe Americans this way, and to brush aside the societal conditions that lead to violent crime as though they're irrelevant. But, of course, the racial element is not just present, but profound. It's impossible to read these remarks, complete with dehumanizing rhetoric, without coming to the conclusion that Biden is, in fact, talking about black crime."
(c) 2019 Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org 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 speaks to world leaders at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017 in New York City.
What And Who Gave Us Trump? Why did Trump look around and think, "Hey, I can get away with this."? Well, take a look around.
By Ralph Nader
Donald J. Trump's presidential ambition has simmered for decades. He was and is a regular TV watcher and saw the changing political landscape. One by one, previous presidents diminished the integrity of the presidency and violated the rule of law, paving the way for Trump's candidacy.
Bill Clinton was exposed for serial adulteries and abuses of women and lied under oath. This perjury led to him being impeached in the House (though he was acquitted in the Senate). "Hmm," thought Donald, a serial abuser of women, "Clinton got away with it and was elected twice." One potentially career-ending violation no longer had the weight it once did.
Then came George W. Bush - selected by the Electoral College and a Republican Supreme Court. "Hmm," thought Donald to himself, "Even though Gore won the popular vote, Bush won because of Electors in swing states." Despite Gore's crushing loss, the Democratic Party refused to support ongoing Electoral College reform (see nationalpopularvote.com). Once in office, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied repeatedly to start an unconstitutional illegal war with Iraq, which caused huge Iraqi and U.S. casualties and wreaked havoc on the U.S. budget. Bush and Cheney not only got away with these atrocities, but were reelected. A majority of voters believed their lies. Violating the laws did not matter. "Hmm," thought Donald to himself, "The President is above the law." Positions of power and the trampling of laws appealed to Trump, a lawless, failed gambling czar.
Then along came Obama. He too got away with all kinds of slaughter abroad without authority of the Constitution, statutes, or international treaties. He too was reelected. Domestically, Obama did not prosecute any of the big Wall Street crooks that brought down our economy in 2008-2009, even though a vast majority of the population loathed these reckless financiers. With all of these misdeeds and violations of law on full display, Trump a big business crook himself, must have thought that he would not be held accountable. Even better, he knew how to use television to manipulate the media to his advantage. These examples are just some of the major ways that past presidents, Democrats especially, handed Trump his opportunity. I describe these and other presidential abuses of power in my recent book, To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn't Too Late to Reverse Course.
Given these inoculations for breaking social norms and laws, Trump felt he could break additional norms and laws and still secure the Presidency. It almost didn't work - Hillary Clinton's campaign bungling lost three key states, which provided Trump a path to the White House. The crazy, antiquated Electoral College sealed the deal.
Trump has always known how to use power to get more power. He went after his opponents with harsh nicknames, repeated verbatim by a supine press. The name calling stuck and influenced voters. Democrats did not reciprocate with nicknames like "cheating Donald," "corrupt Donald," "Dangerous Donald," etc.
Emboldened, Trump, with his television knowhow, grasped that many people prefer fiction to non-fiction. Fantasy is big business and it can serve to distract from grim real-life injustices. Day after day, the mass media proved this point by giving huge time to entertainment compared to news and civic engagements locally and nationally.
Donald, through his daily tweets and assertions, shaped a story - true or not, that would help him win the White House. Reporters have collected over 10,000 of Trumps lies and seriously misleading statements since he became President (see the complete list here via the Washington Post).
But Trump, with his 50 million Twitter followers, has his own media machine, which grows because the mass media replays so many of his fictions as if they were real.
Still, the Democrats should have defeated him handily and, failing that, should have since driven his poll numbers below 40 or 42 percent, where they hover.
Democrats having lost the crucial election of 2010 in Congress, most state legislatures and governorships, Democrats lost the gerrymandering battle. This set the stage for Republicans to seriously suppress the vote in many ways documented by the League of Women Voters and the Brennan Center. Some of this suppression occurred in key swing states like Wisconsin.
Today, Trump seems impervious to the many accurate accusations of corruptions and impeachable offenses. He ruthlessly scuttles lifesaving health/safety protections for the American people, undermines law enforcement, and breaks his repeated promises to provide "great" health insurance, "pure" clean air, and jobs for workers displaced by globalization. The norms that restrain politicians and their constitutional duty to "faithfully execute the laws" have been deeply eroded.
Trump is undeterred by the hundreds of syndicated columns and the regular television commentary by leading conservatives who despise him. George Will, Michael Gerson, Max Boot, David Brooks, Bret Stephens, and others have gone after Trump repeatedly. The attacks on the Prevaricator in Chief are like water off a duck's back. Even Trump's trail of broken campaign promises is routinely overlooked by the press and the Trump base.
Next week my column will address what to do to make Trump a one-term President. Only a landslide defeat in 2020 will keep Trump from tweeting "fake election" and demanding a recount.
NBC is hawking a wild tale about Black Identity Extremists, scheming Russians, and military training camps in Africa.
"The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses. The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he's the victim and make the victim look like he's the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." --Malcolm X
On May 20, the day after Malcolm's birthday, NBC correspondent Richard Engel posted a breathless report, claiming to possess documents showing "Russian operatives" hatched a plot to "recruit African Americans with criminal records, giving them sabotage training at camps in Africa and returning them to the U.S. Another proposal: encouraging African Americans to push for independent statehood in the South."
Over footage of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Engel said his sources linked the plot to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian catering magnate often referred to in U.S. media as "Putin's chef." Prigozhin was among the 13 Russians indicted by Robert Muellter for allegedly "communicat[ing] with unwitting individuals" on social media with the aim of disrupting U.S. politics.
Engel said NBC got the documents from a Russian "investigative group" called The Dossier Center, which has "in the past revealed authentic material to us." What Engel neglected to tell viewers is that the Dossier Center is financed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest oligarch in Russia, who is now the world's most prominent Putin-hater after spending a decade in prison before being released to exile in Switzerland, where he coordinates a steady stream of anti-Russia propaganda and intrigue that is lustily consumed by U.S. and European corporate media.
The Dossier Center/ Khodorkovsky allegation is tailor-made to fit the political profile of so-called "Black Identity Extremists" concocted by the FBI to repackage and resurrect Cointelpro in the Black Lives Matter era. According to a 2017 Intelligence Assessment by the Bureau:
"The FBI defines black identity extremists as individuals who seek, wholly or in part, through unlawful acts of force or violence, in response to perceived racism and injustice in American society, and some do so in furtherance of establishing a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States." (emphasis mine)
Note that, by the FBI's political reckoning, Black Identity Extremists include not only those who call for outright secession of liberated southern territories from the United States, but also advocates of "autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States" - a definition that encompasses demands for community control of police, schools, or any other "governing" or even "social institutions" in the U.S. By such definition, damn near all Black folks are Black Identity Extremists.
In an extended, print report for NBC, Engel does inform readers of the exiled Khodorkovsky's involvement. He then delivers a one-paragraph history vignette designed to give credence to the claim that Russians are the Rasputins behind Black American yearnings for self-determination:
"The idea of African American statehood has an intellectual precedent in Russia. During the early 20th century, communists in America proposed forming a 'black-belt nation' in the South. Some party members traveled to the Soviet Union for training."
Engel assumes the "Russian connection" -- in this case, Soviet -- is damning to all involved. But the truth is, during the 1930s the Communist Party USA was, by some estimates, as much as 25 percent Black. Many of the Black members were drawn to the Party by its position on self-determination for the "Black Belt." Although Marcus Garvey was deported from the U.S. in 1927, his Universal Negro Improvement Association had galvanized Black nationalist aspirations throughout the country, and some of his followers wound up in the Communist Party. The CPUSA leadership were never comfortable with the "Black Belt" position, which was adopted in accordance with the Soviet policy to allow autonomy, or even secession, to national groups within the borders of formerly Tsarist Russian territories.
By 1956, the FBI was bragging that the CPUSA "had failed to attract even a significant minority of the Negroes in the United States to its program." Actually, a decade of frenzied red-baiting had driven away all but the most committed members of all races. But the Party's Black self-determination position had attracted far more Black people than it repelled. The Party finally dropped its "Black Belt" stance in 1959. But in 1956, while concluding that the CPUSA was weak in Black America, J. Edgar Hoover launched a new program of surveillance and disruption: COINTELPRO, based on the assumption that "communists" had infiltrated the growing civil rights movement. "Black separatists," loosely defined, would soon be at the top of the target list. Some of them would advocate a Black State in the South, but freedom fighters like Denmark Vesey (1822) and Nat Turner (1831) long ago had plans for Black Belt liberation - by knife and fire -- without benefit of the Soviets. Richard Engel and his ilk are simply acting as annexes to the FBI's updated COINTELPRO, repackaged as Black Identity Extremism, in the context of the New McCarthyism of Russiagate.
And like the Old McCarthyism, with its red-baiting Black collaborators (most notably, the NAACP under Roy Wilkins), the Congressional Black Caucus is ever-ready to prove its allegiance to U.S. empire. NBC's Engel had no trouble finding a House Negro to authenticate his story. "It does not surprise me at all the extent to which Russia would go to undermine democracy, and really to target divisions that already exist in our country," said Black Florida Congresswoman Val Demings. Demings is a career cop and former police chief of Orlando, and made it her business to get appointed to the Homeland Security, Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, the better to serve the National Security and Mass Black Incarceration State. Along with 75 percent of the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus, Deming voted for the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 ,which made law enforcement officers a "protected class" and assault on police a "hate crime." Four years earlier, 80 percent of the Black Caucus voted to continue the Pentagon's infamous 1033 Program that funnels billions of dollars in military weapons, gear and training to local cops - making the Black Caucus the Great Enabler of U.S. militarized policing.
They are resisting nothing - not police surveillance and armed occupation of Black communities, and certainly not the endless austerity and war that are their party's - and the Republicans' - only foreign and domestic policies, the only vision that is permitted by the oligarchs that rule both parties. Russiagate was invented to give the Democrats another chance to run against Trump and his narrow white base, and -- the overarching aim of the "deep state" operatives -- to keep the fires of endless war burning. The betrayal of the Black Misleadership Class is complete. They have utterly forsaken peace and justice in Ferguson, Caracas, Damascus and Kinshasa -- their only solidarity is with Empire.
The FBI has spelled out in clear language that it surveils people that advocate "a separate black homeland or autonomous black social institutions, communities, or governing organizations within the United States" - a broad political cohort that includes most activists associated with Black Lives Matter, as well as all 17 of the Chicago aldermen that say they support the CPAC community control of police bill, as well as community control of schools. That the FBI treats such activists as enemies of the state is proof the Bureau is, and has always been, a secret political police.Yet the House Negro Rep. Demings - a native of Florida, the state with the highest percentage of Black people ineligible to vote in the country -- collaborates in pointing fingers at Russians.
Black Congressional Democrats could demand the FBI halt its unconstitutional political surveillance. But they won't because they are in bed with the national security state. Since Russiagate, all the Democrats are fawning toadies of the FBI and the CIA, including "Auntie" Maxine Waters, the Los Angeles Congresswoman who once charged the CIA with bringing crack cocaine to her city. Now she's all-in with the spooks.
"Here you have a president who I can tell you and guarantee you is in collusion with the Russians to undermine our democracy," Waters told attendees at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Town Hall on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., last year. She is certain of this because then-FBI Director James Comey told her so, just as the corporate media "report" that the DNC emails were "hacked" by Russians and then given to Wikileaks because the CIA said it was "confident" that's how it happened - despite Wikileaks denials.
Wikileaks, however, has never been caught in a lie, and the CIA virtually never tells the truth.
The FBI cannot tell the truth about its new COINTELPRO operation without admitting to high crimes and misdemeanors. Therefore, the ACLU Real Justice Program sued the FBI in March to "demand answers about why and how the FBI is targeting Black people based on racial stereotypes rather than true security threats based on evidence." The Bureau cannot admit that it spies on Black people because its political mandate and purpose is to subvert Black aspirations for self-determination, by any means necessary. That's illegal. So they will lie and promise to stay within the bounds of the law in the future. The Black Misleadership Class's job is to believe them, accept their contrition, and declare a civil rights victory. And then attack the Russians.
Malcolm X, known as much for his smile as his sternness, would find today's Russiagate idiocy almost laughable. Just as, in the Sixties, southern segregationists demonized "outside agitators" for stirring up "our Negroes," today's corporate media blame Russians for the presence of a white nationalist in the White House, and for exacerbating every homegrown ill of U.S. society. Funny, how Russia went from "a gas station masquerading as a country," in the words of the late degenerate John McCain, to a super-power so skilled at political manipulation, its operatives stole a national election with $100,000 in Facebook ads, and threaten to wreak more havoc in 2020.
Malcolm would ask, Who does the lie serve? After three years of Russiagate, it is now forbidden to take the same position as Putin on issues of war and peace - even when Putin is right. Folks fear being called "wittiing or unwitting dupes." And when Russian click-baiters mimic the language and symbolism of the Black liberation movement, corporate media infer that the Black people that genuinely hold those positions might have absorbed them through Russian-tainted social media. All in all, its been a marathon of a mass psychological operation, initiated by the CIA and FBI and sustained by a determined corporate media. Malcolm would urge Black folks to double down on struggle and stop listening to the Trickster.
"I just don't believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression." - Malcolm X
The Worst Statue In Charlottesville
By David Swanson
A case can be made that just about any public statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the worst one. The much lamented statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are not alone in their offensiveness. Determining a winner in a contest for the worst monument in Charlottesville is not nearly as important, I think, as removing any of the lot of them from our central public spaces and installing them in a museum. I'm grateful to everyone who has advocated for the removal of any of these monstrosities and support those efforts 1000%, as I have written about often.
But let me suggest at least that a bit more awareness be focused on "George Rogers Clark, Conqueror of the Northwest." This massive sculpture was put up in the 1920s, just like the statues of Lee and Jackson (and the one of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark). It was paid for by the same racist gazillionaire who paid for the statues of Lee and Jackson (and the one of Lewis and Clark). It involved the same level of democratic decision making by the people of Charlottesville, namely none. It, too, depicts a white man on a horse, dressed for war. It, too, would remain a war monument, and therefore protected by state law, completely independent of whether we should decide we dislike it.
But, there are differences from the statues of Lee and Jackson. In this case, Clark has a couple of other men with guns behind him, and he's reaching back for a gun. There are three Native Americans in front of him. The UVA student newspaper celebrated the statue when it was first created as "explaining the futility of resistance." The base of the sculpture calls Clark the "Conqueror of the Northwest." The Northwest means the general area of today's Illinois. Conquering means basically genocide. One of the three Native Americans appears to be carrying an infant.
I don't want to diminish the horror tied to the monuments to the Civil War or the War on Vietnam or World War I or any of Charlottesville's monumental paeans to mass murder, but only this particular artistic perversion openly depicts deadly violence against civilians with unalloyed pride and sadism. Robert E. Lee could be riding in a parade for all anyone can tell from his monument. Not Clark. He is depicted engaged in what he explicitly advocated for and acted upon: the indiscriminate murder of Native Americans in pursuit of their elimination.
George Rogers Clark himself said that he would have liked to "see the whole race of Indians extirpated" and that he would "never spare Man woman or child of them on whom he could lay his hands." Clark wrote a statement to the various Indian nations in which he threatened "Your Women & Children given to the Dogs to eat." While some might object even to a less graphic monument to this murderer, one in which he stood or rode alone, Charlottesville doesn't have one of those. It has a monument to genocide, shamelessly depicting genocide.
Charlottesville also has monuments to Thomas Jefferson, who, as Governor of Virginia, sent Clark west to attack Native Americans, writing that the goal "should be their extermination, or their removal beyond the lakes or Illinois river." Clark killed the captured and destroyed the crops of those he was sent by Jefferson to exterminate. Clark later unsuccessfully proposed further military expeditions to Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison in order to demonstrate "that we are always able to crush them at pleasure."
Clark was considered a hero because his beliefs and actions were widely accepted or supported. His bit part was played in a broad and long-lasting genocidal assault on the native peoples of this continent. Every assertion about and quote of Clark above is documented in a new book from Yale University Press called Surviving Genocide by Jeffrey Ostler. Ostler shows that U.S. officials developed the policy that "wars of extermination" were "not only necessary, but ethical and legal." Causes of decline among Native peoples included direct killing, other traumatizing violence prominently including rape, the burning of towns and crops, forcible deportation, and the intentional and non-intentional spreading of diseases and of alcoholism to weakened populations. Ostler writes that the most recent scholarship finds the devastation caused by European diseases resulted less from Native Americans' lack of immunity, and more from the weakness and starvation created by the violent destruction of their homes.
In George Rogers Clark's day, John Heckewelder noted that frontiersmen had adopted "the doctrine . . . that the Indians were the Canaanites, who by God's commandment were to be destroyed." In our day, we make Clark's monument central to our public life in Charlottesville, where it greets those arriving from downtown to the campus of the University of Virginia.
(c) 2019 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
This combination of pictures shows at left a police file photo made available February 6, 2002 of the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh and at right a February 11, 2002 photograph of him as seen from records in Pakistan's northwestern city of Bannu.
John Walker Lindh Spent 17 Years In Prison - And The War Rages On
By William Rivers Pitt
John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban" who was captured on an Afghanistan battlefield in November of 2001, was released on Thursday from the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence.
After his capture, Lindh was indicted on a slew of charges that included supporting terrorism and aiding al-Qaeda. In 2002, Michael Chertoff, who was at the time head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, directed prosecutors to offer Lindh a plea bargain: supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Lindh accepted, and began serving his sentence in January of 2003.
"I did not go to fight against America, and I never did," Lindh said at the time. "I have never supported terrorism in any form, and I never will.... I made a mistake by joining the Taliban. Had I realized then what I know now, I would never have joined them."
"John is entirely innocent of any involvement in the [September 11] terror attacks, or any allegiance to terrorism,"wrote Lindh's father Frank in 2011. "That is not disputed by the American government. Indeed, all accusations of terrorism against John were dropped by the government in a plea bargain, which in turn was approved by the U.S. district court in which the case was brought."
Lindh maintained a clean record in prison and remains a devout Muslim. "I once told him I felt he had always been a Muslim," his father wrote, "and only needed to find Islam in order to discover this in himself. He remained the loving son and brother he had always been."
Lindh's release from prison - three years early for good behavior - has angered the family of slain CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann, who interrogated Lindh after his capture. Shortly after that interrogation, Spann was killed in an uprising at the Afghanistan prison where Lindh was being held, and Lindh was returned to the U.S. to face charges of conspiring to kill Spann. The charge was never officially made, but Spann's family remains furious at his release.
Seeing Lindh's name in the headlines again after 17 years uncorked a number of grim memory jars. It is difficult to quantify just how thoroughly wretched the year 2002 was for this country, and for the world. The trauma of 9/11 became elongated aftermath in 2002, and we are still suffering from decisions and events which unfolded during that dark passage.
In 2002, the war in Afghanistan began in March with Operation Anaconda. The Bush administration busily stacked lies in preparation for the following year's invasion of Iraq, which was approved by a majority of Congress in October. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D - Minnesota) was killed in a plane crash nine days after that vote.
The first prisoners of Camp X-Ray arrived at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and at least one of them - Ghassan al-Sharibi - is still there. The detention camp certainly is. George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, a major step in the establishment of the modern surveillance state. The GOP expended its House majority during the midterms after heeding White House adviser Karl Rove's advice to "run on the war."
"On February 7, 2002,"writes Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic, "President George W. Bush signed a brief memorandum titled 'Humane Treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda Detainees.' The caption was a cruel irony, an Orwellian bit of business, because what the memo authorized and directed was the formal abandonment of America's commitment to key provisions of the Geneva Convention. This was the day, a milestone on the road to Abu Ghraib, that marked our descent into torture - the day, many would still say, that we lost part of our soul."
And then there was John Walker Lindh, the perfect gift for a Republican Party looking to consolidate power after 9/11. Demagogues on the right, along with a corporate media bent on cashing in on the pervasive fear of the day, exploited Lindh's capture with ruthless efficiency. He's from San Francisco! He's a liberal! He's a terrorist! Liberals are terrorists! One might be living right next door! To you! And your family! Here's a flag! Vote Republican!
Look around. It worked.
Old bones. Old scars. Old pain. None of them rest easy. To no small degree, 2002 cemented the world we live in today. It is a world of permanent war, total surveillance and permissible torture where presidents peddle fear to win elections, marginalize minorities and disembowel a meddlesome Constitution. The seeds planted in 2002, the year John Walker Lindh accepted a plea for prison time, have grown into a bleak forest.
Seventeen years later, the war in Afghanistan grinds on. We have smart phones and self-driving cars now, but we are still trapped in 2002, trying to find some measure of peace in the stasis of permanent war.
Sean Duffy Is Trump's No. 1 Fanboy
By John Nichols
Sean Duffy is best known as the congressman who, in front of a working-class audience, complained about how he was struggling to pay his bills on a $174,000-a-year salary, and then started griping about his federal health care benefits.
The former reality TV star has always seemed a little overwhelmed by his job. But he has finally found a way of managing things.
Instead of representing all of the almost 700,000 people who live in northern Wisconsin's Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, St. Croix, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Florence, Forest, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Monroe, Oneida, Polk, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Vilas, Washburn and Wood counties, Duffy has decided to represent a man who doesn't even live in the district: Donald Trump.
That became obvious last week, after the president threw his latest temper tantrum. Angered by the fact that he now faces multiple investigations by House committees into legal and constitutional abuses of his position, Trump announced that he was going on strike. He stormed out of a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, where the group was supposed to discuss infrastructure investment. According to The Washington Post, the president "declared he could not work with Democrats on legislation while House investigations continue." Then he called Pelosi "Crazy Nancy," called Schumer "Cryin' Chuck," and accused former FBI director James Comey and former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe of treason.
Duffy's reaction to the total meltdown of his party's president should have been to encourage Trump to calm down and get back to work on infrastructure plans that are vital for rural Wisconsin. Instead, the congressman raced to the nearest television studio to defend the president's behavior. In a strange, sputtering performance that would have gotten him kicked off his old MTV show, Duffy characterized investigations into Trump's wrongdoing as "total bogus" and "all political charade."
"Let's get beyond the business of politics," chirped Duffy. "Let's work for the American people."
CNN host Chris Cuomo stopped Duffy in his tracks. "If that's what you want to do, then you must not like what the president had to say today - him saying: let's do infrastructure OR investigations."
Referencing past presidents who kept working with Congress - and getting things done - even as they faced impeachment inquiries, Cuomo pointed out that: "Nixon didn't say that. Clinton didn't say that."
Refusing to acknowledge the reality that Cuomo was spelling out, Duffy announced that "it was actually Nancy Pelosi who blew this meeting up" and claimed the House Speaker "will not work with (the president) on infrastructure."
That was not one lie but two. Trump walked out of the meeting and started calling people names, even as Pelosi kept saying that if Trump would just calm down, "I'll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues."
Trump was out of control. Yet, Duffy was portraying him as a statesman.
If Trump were standing naked in the Rose Garden, Duffy would claim the emperor was fully clothed.
Since becoming a senior citizen I have become aware of an odd phenomena occurring among many of the people of my age. We all go to sleep at night with breathing masks on our faces. That is because we have been diagnosed as suffering from sleep apnea. Is this a medical scam or are we all finding it difficult to get our breath in the night?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. It affects older people who are overweight, are on sleep or pain medications, or are suffering from high blood pressure or any medical problem that blocks the airways when we relax and try to sleep.
So it is a proven medical problem. But why are so many of us affected? I remember when my family doctor in Michigan thought I might be suffering from sleep apnea. I was sent to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit to be tested. I checked in in the evening, was sent to a bedroom where attendants hooked me up with all kinds of wires and tubes designed to monitor all of my body functions. Then I was told to go to sleep but to remain on my back. That was because flipping over would interrupt all of those testing devices.
Unfortunately I have never slept on my back. As soon as I drifted off I turned over on my side. Thus I had a voice from a speaker over my head constantly telling me to turn on my back. This went on all night so I went through the entire test being unable to sleep. The next morning the doctors told me the test failed because I did not sleep. I drove home so tired it was a wonder I didn't fall asleep on the road. That was my Michigan test for sleep apnea.
After moving to California my doctor sent me to another sleep clinic. This one was operated differently and the doctor in charge of that clinic quickly diagnosed me with sleep apnea. I was given a breathing machine and mask and told that the cost of everything was covered by my medical insurance. This involved regular rental payments on the breathing machine for several months until it was paid for. Then I technically owned the machine.
During my social intercourse in California I gradually discovered that everybody my age and even younger also used breathing machines financed by their insurance. If I traveled to stay overnight at motels or friend's homes that machine and all of the hoses and pipes leading to the mask went with me. The entire apparatus fit into a travel case and had to be assembled and Then torn down with every stop. Consequently it has always been a nuisance.
I don't know if it because of the medical attention, or the global warming statistics that claim our air is getting more and more polluted, but I think I am appreciating my breathing machine more and more.
Through my environmental studies we have learned that the very air we now breathe is laced with toxins and the amount of oxygen we now get in our lungs is declining. Thus there may be a valid and man-made reason why we need artificial sources to help us breathe. But these machines only force air into our lungs on a regular basis. No oxygen is added. There are nights, however, when I almost wish a little extra oxygen was available. I have a friend my age who was assigned a breathing machine but uses portable oxygen tanks instead.
The bottom line to this article is simply a question. If the shortage of oxygen in the air most of us breathe is affecting senior citizens is this a sign that our daily air supply is getting so filled with toxins it may soon fail to sustain life?
(c) 2019 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.
President Donald Trump lifts the "President's Cup" to present it to Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament winner Asanoyama at Ryogoku Kokugikan Stadium on Sunday.
Trump's Upcoming Yankee Doodle Disaster
I was there the last time a president and his pals tried to use the Fourth of July for partisan purposes.
Years ago, I was interviewing the college roommate of a famous politician who told the story of being sent to a shop by the pol to pick up a large impressive trophy. It would be presented at an official school dinner that night. Is this for the university president, the roommate asked? No, the politician replied, without missing a beat, it's for me.
That kind of 24-karat self-worth came to mind this Memorial Day weekend as I was watching Donald Trump present the first ever US President's Cup, a four-foot high, 60-pound hunk of metal, at a sumo wrestling championship in Tokyo, part of his state visit. He violated several protocols of the highly formalized sport in the process and I distinctly got the impression that he would have preferred giving the prize to himself.
As The New York Times' Katie Rogers reported, "a large Trump 2020 sign greeted the president as he approached the arena. And Mr. Trump seemed to make an entrance similar to those at any 'Make America Great Again' rally-he clapped, fist-pumped and waved, greeting the attendees as if they had assembled on his behalf."
It was said of Teddy Roosevelt that he wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral, a supreme sense of self that has been far exceeded by Trump's. (Although you have to wonder what TR might have been like in this age of social media: "Charge at San Juan Hill a cakewalk. Horses barely broke sweat. Cuba full of losers. #BigStick #Bully."
Trump's favorite perks surrounding the office of being president revolve around a similar but exponentially greater grandiosity: he wallows in the overall pomp and circumstance of the job and the receiving of or presenting awards and honors; anything focusing on him that doesn't take too much mental effort.
So as we enter the official beginning of summer with the Memorial Day weekend, we need to look ahead just a few weeks to the next big holiday and realize, with a shudder, that even the Fourth of July, that most patriotic of American celebrations isn't safe. Solid ego and id, Trump has decided to make it all about him.
It began with a surprise tweet from him in late February: "HOLD THE DATE! We will be having one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, D.C., on July 4th. It will be called 'A Salute To America' and will be held at the Lincoln Memorial. Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!"
I've spent many Fourth of July holidays in DC - along with some inebriated pals, I once even managed to accidentally set fire to the median strip of the George Washington Parkway with some sparklers thrown from an apartment terrace after the fireworks ended. We rushed downstairs to stomp out the flames as motorists honked either their approval or outrage, I'm not sure which.
Until Trump's sudden announcement of this Lincoln Memorial event and presidential address, the Fourth of July formula all these years has pretty much been the same in DC: small parade, folk life festival on the Mall, concert by the National Symphony with guest stars, fireworks, oohs, ahhs, applause.
But no, this year, Cheeto Benito, our self-aggrandizer-in-chief has to make the theme of the day Trump's America and in so doing disrupt a city and federal plan for synchronizing events and crowd control that has worked reasonably well for quite some time. He's planning a big speech, the location of the fireworks is changing, additional musical talent reportedly is being engaged and none of us yet know who's paying for all of it. A good guess says it's us.
Trump has "effectively taken charge" of the festivities, and made Interior Secretary David Bernhardt the overseer, according to The Washington Post: "The president's starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation's founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally... The revised Independence Day celebration is the culmination of two years of attempts by Trump to create a major patriotic event centered on him and his supporters, including failed efforts to mount a military parade modeled on the Bastille Day celebration in France."
The last time something like this happened was nearly fifty years ago, in 1970, when Washington's Fourth of July was rechristened "Honor America Day," exactly two months after the National Guard killed four kids at Kent State University in Ohio during protests against Richard Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. (A week and a half later, police killed two more demonstrators at Jackson State University in Mississippi.)
In the wake of this violent national division, and bipartisan claims to the contrary, "Honor America Day" was created as a celebration of Richard Nixon organized by his pals J. Willard Marriott, the hotel magnate; the Rev. Billy Graham and Bob Hope. As per historian Kevin Kruse, "Organizers self-consciously recruited conservative crowds, sending White House advance teams across the country to bring 350,000 members of Nixon's Silent Majority to the capital by car, train and bus."
I was there. I had been taking a course in filmmaking taught by a local priest at Washington's free university. In the wake of the national student strike and antiwar demonstrations that had closed DC's colleges, classes were done, so he and I decided to take the Super 8 mm camera we had been using and film the events of Honor America Day.
We met up early and began shooting the spectators dressed up in variations of red-white-and-blue finery and the many counter-protesters who had gathered as well. We worked our way over to the Lincoln Memorial where Billy Graham was leading a prayer service. Simultaneously, a smoke-in featuring red-white-and-blue joints began with lot of stripping down and jumping naked into the reflecting pool in front of the memorial. Meanwhile, a small group of young neo-Nazis shouted abuse. It was quite a scene.
Throughout the hot and humid day, there were confrontations between police and protesters. It all culminated in the evening when a nationally broadcast extravaganza hosted by Bob Hope and featuring a taped address from Nixon plus performances by Jack Benny, Red Skelton and Dinah Shore was broadcast from the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument.
Demonstrators pushed through police lines and tear gas was fired. But the gas, intended for protesters, accidentally drifted into the crowd there for the show and pandemonium ensued. The gas hit us, and I always swear this is true, it was while Kate Smith was singing "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever."
The priest grabbed me by the hand and the two of us began to run as fast as we could away from the gas and the stampeding crowd. Absolute chaos.
So ended Nixon's Honor America Day. And there's a chance Donald Trump's Fourth of July might end that way or worse. The aforementioned historian Kevin Kruse wrote a couple of years ago, "[A]ny effort by one side to claim the day as theirs, and theirs alone, invariably sparks an angry reaction from the other... "
On Fourth of July holidays like Honor America Day and Trump's upcoming Salute to America, "Americans sought to advance divisive issues by tapping into the day's ceremonies and celebrations of national unity. But efforts to harness the holiday rarely ended well. Instead of bringing the nation together, they only served to illustrate just how divided it had become - or perhaps to remind us how divided it has always been."
If Trump insists on making the anniversary of our nation's birth a celebration of him, he will antagonize two-thirds of the country and perhaps thrill the other third that constitute his base. But his overreach will symbolize all that he has done to the country, trampling tradition and unity, trampling the tenets of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence that we commemorate on the Fourth, and trampling American democracy as no other president has ever done.
Nothing to celebrate.
(c) 2019 Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on twitter:@MichaelWinship
You Thought It Was Fiction?
By Heather Digby Parton
Prominent figures on the Christian right in the US ranging from religious magazines to authors to elected politicians have warned that the fight over abortion rights could lead to a new civil war.
Though such dire predictions are not necessarily new on the extreme right wing in the US, the passing of a wave of hardline anti-abortion laws in numerous states this year appears to have amped up the conspiracy-minded predictions that depict abortion squarely as a root cause of a coming conflict.
Republican lawmakers such as Ohio's Candice Keller have openly speculated that the divide over abortion rights might lead to civil war. Last month, Keller drew explicit comparisons with the antebellum situation over slavery, telling the Guardian: "Whether this ever leads to a tragedy, like it did before with our civil war, I can't say."
Earlier this month, the Guardian revealed that the Washington state republican legislator Matt Shea had also speculated about civil war, and the "Balkanization" of America, predicting that Christians would retreat to "zones of freedom" such as the inland Pacific north-west, where Shea is campaigning for a new state to break away from Washington.
Asked on a podcast if the two halves of the country could remain together, Shea said: "I don't think we can, again, because you have half that want to follow the Lord and righteousness and half that don't, and I don't know how that can stand."
Shea has introduced a bill - unlikely to pass - which would criminalize abortion in the state.
Along with legislators, the notion of a civil war over abortion has been finding traction in the media organs of the Christian right.
In the past year, Charisma magazine, the leading media voice of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, has run at least half a dozen articles contemplating the possibility of an imminent civil war in America. One recent article profiles pastor, broadcaster and author Michael L Brown, who blames a "coming civil war" on "militant abortionists."
Brown told Charisma: "A civil war is coming to America, only this time, it will be abortion, rather than slavery, that divides the nation."
An upcoming book from Brown also warns that abortion is among the signs that "the demonic spirit of Jezebel is powerful in America." In another column this month Brown wrote: "A civil war is certain. The only thing to be determined is how bloody it will be."
This year the Christian televangelist Rick Joyner has, on his ministry's website and other Christian right outlets, been offering detailed descriptions of a civil war he believes to be coming on the basis of his own prophetic dream.
Abortion is one of the key reasons he thinks that war is imminent.
Joyner also turned to Charisma magazine at one point to describe a dream, which he says he had late last year. "We are already in the first stages of the Second American Revolutionary/Civil War," he wrote. "In the dream, I saw that we had already crossed that line and it is now upon us, so we must change our strategy from trying to avoid it to winning it.",/I>
Andre Gagne is an associate professor of theology at Concordia University in Montreal, who researches the religious right. He says that while Charisma magazine may be unfamiliar to secular and liberal Americans, it is "absolutely representative" of charismatic and Pentecostal Christians on abortion, and as such speaks for "millions of people."
He says that the idea that abortion may lead to civil war has percolated for some time on the Christian right. Gagne says that the Christian right's fight against abortion is driven by real belief, and real fear.
"The Christian right believes that if they don't engage politically, and try to influence social issues, God will judge America, and he will judge them," Gagne said.
But is the possibility of an abortion-centred civil war likely?
Journalist Robert Evans hosts the breakout podcast It Could Happen Here, which canvases scenarios for a new American civil war.
He said that the Christian right "generate a lot of the extremist language in mainstream politics," but that "there's more talk about violent insurrection from the white nationalist right than the Christian right, because there's less faith in politics."
For now, as demonstrated by the abortion bills passed in several states in an apparent attempt to get a case to the supreme court and overturn abortion rights nationally, the Christian right is reaping dividends from engaging with the political process.
But, Evans notes, the danger may come if "they see victory slip from their grasp."
And unlike the fractious and small subcultures of the racist far right, "the Christian right is really good at keeping people working together for years at a time."
Trump consistently does better with regular churchgoing white Evangelicals than with less observant members of this group (70 percent of weekly churchgoers approve of Trump's job performance, versus 65 percent of others). This finding suggests that MAGA people aren't just a bunch of rednecks who identify as Evangelical but are as heathenish as Trump in their actual belief systems and conduct. The same is true, interestingly enough, of another relatively pro-Trump religious demographic, white Catholics. Being churchy and being Trumpy seem to go hand in hand (not so much, however, with white mainline Protestants, an at-best-lukewarm group for Trump)...
If Trump doesn't win in 2020, one can imagine this group losing its grip and just going for it.
(c) 2019 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.
Fort McMurray Oil SandsPoliticians often justify their undying support for the fossil fuel industry by claiming they're looking out for jobs and the economy -but those claims don't hold up.
True Leaders Work For Us, Not The Fossil Fuel Industry
By David Suzuki
Some politicians believe protecting a sunset industry's interests is more important than looking out for the citizens who elected them. In Australia, the coal industry holds sway over government policy. In Canada, bitumen and fracked gas rule. In the U.S., it's all of the above. Fortunately, many people, especially youth, are heeding the rational voices of those who acknowledge the tremendous opportunities in cleaner energy and economic diversification.
Politicians often justify their undying support for the fossil fuel industry by claiming they're looking out for jobs and the economy -but those claims don't hold up.
Despite assertions of some political representatives in Australia and the U.S., coal doesn't have a bright future and "clean coal" doesn't exist. In Canada, pipeline opponents, Indigenous communities and environmental groups aren't putting bitumen jobs at risk; automation, market forces and change in the face of the climate crisis are behind the declines.
Suncor Energy recently switched to automated haulage systems at its North Steepbank bitumen mine, and expects to increase to 150 driverless haul trucks in its oilsands operations over the next five years -affecting hundreds of jobs. Other companies are following suit. Industry is also switching to automated technologies like drones for work ranging from surveying to pipeline inspections. In 2017, Kieron McFadyen, then Cenovus Energy's executive vice-president, told investors that his company's long-term vision was to "de-man oilsands" operations.
Market forces are also having a huge impact on fossil fuel jobs and economic prospects, especially for highly polluting coal and dirty, hard-to-extract oil, such as oilsands bitumen. The bitumen market has been hit from several angles. A global oil glut, fuelled partly by a U.S. oil fracking boom, has driven prices down, especially for inferior products like bitumen.
Calculations of "energy return on energy invested" -the amount of energy output over the amount required to produce it -shows one reason for bitumen's lower price compared to conventional oil. The latter historically delivered 30 units or more for each unit invested, although that's declining as easily accessed sources become depleted. Recent research shows wind energy can also reach this level, while solar is closer to 9:1 or higher. Oilsands bitumen is 5:1 or lower, because large amounts of energy are required to extract, process and refine it, which makes it costly, inefficient and much more emissions-intensive than conventional oil.
Transporting bitumen through pipelines is also expensive, as every 10 barrels of bitumen must be diluted with three barrels of condensate, which costs more than light crude. Costs and inefficiency make oilsands products less desirable on world markets.
Climate change poses the biggest threat to the future of energy sources like bitumen and coal. Under the Paris Agreement, all countries committed to reduce emissions to try to keep the global average temperature from rising more than 2 C over pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational goal of 1.5 C. We're already near 1 C! That means we can't burn much of the oil, coal and gas still in the ground. Clean energy technologies are advancing rapidly, fossil fuels divestment is increasing and people are finding ways to reduce use of these polluting energy sources.
But instead of a rational debate about how to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy with minimal disruption to workers and society, media and short-sighted politicians inundate us with logical fallacies and absurd conspiracy theories about who's funding the people and organizations that want a prosperous future with clean air, water and soil and a stable climate.
True concern for workers means helping them find new ways to employ their skills, including offering retraining and incentives for jobs in the growing clean energy sector -a process Canada's government recently started with its Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal-Power Workers and Communities. All political parties should find ways to reform employment policies to reduce waste, inequity and rampant consumerism, including improved work-life balance with shorter workweeks.
Decision-makers who care about the people they represent and understand science, social trends and technological potential know that a low-carbon future offers better health, livability and economic resilience. The fossil fuel industry is still the most profitable (and among the most destructive) in human history, but those days are coming to an end. True leaders understand this.
Trump Can't Be Trusted with The Espionage Act. We Can't Trust a Country That Would Give It to Him. The act was born in a political context similar to this one, and it deserves to die an unmourned death for the same reason we gently take a firearm away from a toddler.
By Charles P. Pierce
Lawyer friends of mine like to refer to the case of Korematsu v. U.S., the Supreme Court decision that allowed for the dislocation and detention of Japanese-American citizens, as a land mine in the law in that, technically, it never has been repealed, although the Court did repudiate it while throwing out the original Muslim travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii. For me, and for the people in my profession, the land mine in the law always has been 18 USC 793, the Espionage Act of 1917, the immortal gift of that half-nutty professor, Woodrow Wilson, and his truly awful attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer.
Of course, it all came back this week when the president* had himself a nutty on consecutive days, threatened James Comey with execution for treason, and allowed his personal Palmer, the career Republican jackanapes William Barr, to indict Julian Assange on 17 counts of violating, you guessed it, the Espionage Act. It is true that Assange is a messianic nuisance who jacked around with the 2016 presidential election, as well as being the guy who brought a road company performance of The Man Who Came To Dinner to the Ecuadorian embassy that ran for several years.
But this isn't really about Assange who, in any case, may never see the inside of a U.S. courtroom. This is about Jane Mayer, and Charlie Savage, and Barton Gellman, and David Fahrenthold and every other dogged reporter who has made this president*'s life miserable by continuously pointing out what an incompetent, authoritarian crook and bunco artist this president* is. Weaponizing the Espionage Act on behalf of a Justice Department already weaponized to attack the president*'s political enemies is a signal and a warning. It is a monstrous abuse of power, but only because that power was there to be abused all these years and nobody was paying attention.
And so, here we are. The Espionage Act should have been repealed decades ago. In 1971, John Mitchell, the only competition Barr and Palmer have for worst attorney-general in history, tried to use it to enjoin newspapers from publishing the Pentagon Papers. In deciding against Mitchell, the Supreme Court ducked the opportunity to declare the Espionage Act unconstitutional. So it continued to sit there in the statute book like a viper under a rock. It was used against authentic spies like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, and as a cudgel over the heads of innocent victims like Wen Ho Lee.
The Obama Administration, to its everlasting embarrassment, shined it up and used it against whistleblowers. Conspicuously, however, the Obama administration didn't target the reporters to whom the whistleblowers blew the whistle, deciding quite sensibly that they didn't want to stand the constitutional shitstorm that would blow in if they tried. (And, perhaps, also because they truly had First Amendment qualms about doing so.) Naturally, then, when this administration* came upon the act, they tightened the screws, polished the barrel, and sent it back into the kind of vicious political warfare that had birthed it in the first place.
The Obama Administration, embarrassingly, used the act against whistleblowers-but didn't target reporters.
The Espionage Act-and the Sedition Act that was its primary enforcement mechanism and was signed into law by Wilson, that idiot, the following year-was born of fear and anger. It was directed almost entirely against people who were opposed to the country's entry and participation in the slaughter of World War I-pacifists, Quakers, genuine radicals, actual (or alleged) Communists. Eugene Debs went to jail under the Act partly for giving a speech in which he...wait for it... criticized the Espionage Act. "I may not be able to say all I think; but I am not going to say anything that I do not think," Debs told a crowd in Canton, Ohio, "I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in jail than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets." In other words, Debs was convicted for purely political speech. A unanimous Supreme Court upheld Debs's conviction and, per force, the laws under which he was convicted. When the war ended, Palmer, who really deserves to be dug up and put on trial in a modern Cadaver Synod, easily turned the Espionage Act against anybody he saw as a threat to his conception of the public order.
But the most ringing opposition to the Espionage Act at the time of its passage came from Robert LaFollette, the great Progressive senator from Wisconsin. At the time, LaFollette had been one of the loudest-and the most effective-voices in Congress against U.S. entry into the war. It was he who led the filibuster against the Armed Ships Bill and it was he most directly whom Wilson was talking about when he raged against "a small group of willful men." In October of 1918, after the Espionage Act was passed, and while mindless public opinion had turned so much in favor of the war that petitions were flooding in to have him expelled from the Senate, LaFollette rose to defend himself. He spoke for three hours. His speech is worth quoting at length because it is a formidable antidote to the paralysis that sets in on the American spirit whenever enough people get scared and angry enough that cheapjack leaders see an opportunity.
The mandate seems to have gone forth to the sovereign people of this country that they must be silent while those things are being done by their government which most vitally concern their well-being, their happiness, and their lives. Today and for weeks past honest and law-abiding citizens of this country are being terrorized and outraged in their rights by those sworn to uphold the laws and protect the rights of the people.
I have in my possession numerous affidavits establishing the fact that people are being unlawfully arrested, thrown into jail, held incommunicado for days, only to be eventually discharged without even having been taken into court, because they have committed no crime. Private residences are being invaded, loyal citizens of undoubted integrity and probity arrested, cross-examined, and the most sacred constitutional rights guaranteed to every American citizen are being violated. It appears to be the purpose of those conducting this campaign to throw the country into a state of terror, to coerce public opinion, to stifle criticism, and suppress discussion of the great issues involved in this war.
More than all, the citizen and his representative in Congress in time of war must maintain his right of free speech. More than in times of peace it is necessary that the channels for free public discussion of governmental policies shall be open and unclogged.
It is the citizen's duty to obey the law until it is repealed or declared unconstitutional. But he has the inalienable right to fight what he deems an obnoxious law or a wrong policy in the courts and at the ballot box. It is the suppressed emotion of the masses that breeds revolution.
This, remember, was a speech given during what was then the greatest war in the history of mankind, and a war that was reinforced at home by pernicious and anti-democratic politicians passing pernicious and anti-democratic war. Today, by and large, and despite the best efforts of some of the president*'s crew, we are at peace. But we are treated as though we are engaged wholly in war-the endless war in west Asia, certainly, but we are also being driven into a war against our own democratic heritage and our own rights, as well as a war against phantom enemies and spectral adversaries that exist only in the mind of a president* who clearly is coming unglued. The Espionage Act was born in a political context similar to this one, and it deserves to die an unmourned death for the same reason we gently take a firearm away from a toddler. The president* can't be trusted with a weapon like that, and we can't be trusted with a country that gives it to him.
(c) 2019 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.
"With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order."
~~~ Noam Chomsky
The Israeli Government Is Collapsing Before Our EyesWith 120 seats in parliament, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs 61 to govern; his Likud Party has 35 seats, so coalitions are imperative.
The Israeli Government Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes The American South's next Great Migration
By Juan Cole
We'll know later today whether prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu will succeed in forming a government. If not, Israel will have snap elections in September. In parliamentary systems, coalitions are often made after the election. In the US, the two big parties have already made their coalitions before the election (the GOP is a combination of wealthy entrepreneurs, prairie farmers, and Evangelicals, which Trump manages to bring together around economic nationalism and hatred of certain ethnic groups, or maybe most of them.) In Israel, they have to put together the coalitions afterward. The Israeli far right, which dominates, has both secular and religious constituencies, and they absolutely despise one another.
In the 1990s, about a million immigrants came in from Ukraine and Russia (the former Soviet Union). They had been brought up to view religion as sort of like smoking- maybe it won't kill you immediately but it is bad for you and probably will eventually kill you.
At the same time, the Haredim or Ultra-Orthodox have grown from 2% in earlier decades to 8% of the population today. That would mean that they are about 700,000 strong, about the population of Detroit nowadays. Over the next 40 years, Israel's population will double from nearly 9 million to about 18 million, which would make it a little more populous than the Netherlands. Haredim will then make up 29%, almost a third.
Haredim are a little like the Amish in Pennsylvania. About half of them don't believe in being on the World Wide Web, and the number would be less if they actually listened to their rabbis. Many of them don't believe in the legitimacy of the Israeli state, since they believe that only the coming of the Messiah could establish such a state, and therefore don't like the idea of serving in the Israeli army. About half the men and 25% of the women are unemployed and they suffer from relatively high rates of poverty.
114,000 Ultra-Orthodox men are currently enrolled in religious seminary, or about 17% of the Haredi population (34% of its men).
Here's the problem. The Russians and Ukrainians who came in the 1990s are often themselves irreligious and they don't like the style of life of the Haredim. They are typically grouped in the Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home) party. The recent Eastern European immigrants dislike that the Haredim essentially get stipends from the state and subsidized food, and most important, they mostly don't have to serve in the army. (Some 3,000 a year do sign up for military duty and a minority now is fairly militant nationalists.)
The leader of the Russian-Ukrainian bloc in the Israeli parliament, the Moldovan immigrant Avigdor Lieberman, insists that an already-passed set of laws and regulations aimed at integrating the Haredim into the nation more, including a demand for military service.
With 120 seats in parliament, Netanyahu needs 61 to govern. His Likud Party has 35 seats.
Netanyahu needs the Yisrael Beitnenu seats to get to 61. But he also needs the votes of some small Ultra-Orthodox Parties. They want the government to soften the military service provision.
So far Lieberman is not yielding. (He also wants a war on little Gaza).
And so the divide between the non-religious and the religious is standing in the way of the formation of yet another far right Israeli government.
Ironically, if Netanyahu is ousted over all this, and becomes a civilian, he could be more open to prosecution. Lieberman's militant secularism could bring him down and put him away.
Ironically, Binyamin Netanyahu played dirty to get another term as prime minister, impelled in part by the corruption charges chasing him, which he had hoped he could get parliament to immunize himself from. He played the racist card against the Palestinian-Israelis, over 20% of the population, and he convinced an allied party to make a coalition with the small far, far Right Otzma Yehudit or Jewish Power bloc, which has been accused of terrorism. Although he disappointed his allies on the far Right by declining to go to all out war against the Palestinians of Gaza, he loosened the rules of engagement to allow the Israeli army to just shoot down unarmed Palestinian protesters on their, the Gaza, side of the border.
This is a war crime, and indeed has been pursued so systematically that it may now rise to a crime against humanity.
But the current crisis is not about Palestine. I suppose it is in part over who will fight for Israel, if 27% of the future population checks out of the army and sees the state as illegitimate.
And, this gridlock in Israel produced by the secular-religious divide? We've got that too.
(c) 2019 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.
Vox Populist: Give The People What They Want: Socialism The future of the party doesn't require moving left, center, or right. Those are ideological positions. Instead, the Dems should move out to the grassroots reality of ordinary Americans.
By Jim Hightower
"Socialism," snarled The Donald at a recent pep rally of Republicans. And the obedient crowd of faithful Trumpistas snarled back in unison: So-sh'll-izz-ummm!
And there you have the entire intellectual content of the GOP's 2020 re-election strategy under Generalissimo Trump-slap Democrats silly with a scurrilous campaign branding them as Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin reincarnate.
It's not just Trump hissing out the socialist label in a frantic McCarthyesque attempt to make it stick by mindless repetition. Also onboard with this strategy are Mike Pence, Cabinet officials, Republican lawmakers, rightwing pundits, and of course the extremist choreographers of Fox News.
Their incessant babbling has already turned clownish, with many babblers bumbling over their own ignorance. Texas Senator John Cornyn, for example, compared Democrats who support ideas like Medicare for All to Mussolini. Apparently, Cornyn is unaware that the brutish Italian dictator was no socialist, but a fascist! Mussolini's ideology of ultranationalism, promotion of masculine authoritarianism, domination of society by big business and the wealthy, and suppression of democratic rights is the opposite of the Democratic agenda. Indeed, it describes the policies of-guess who?-Trump and his acolytes, including Cornyn!
The real problem for the GOP, however, is not merely that squawking like Chicken Little about diabolical socialism makes them sound like old fuddy-duddies, but that the so-called socialism they're attacking is enormously popular with the workaday majority of Americans.
Government-backed health care for all? Sure, why should CEOs and Congress critters be the only ones to get this? Affordable higher education and housing initiatives? Of course, for that helps all of America. A wealth tax on corporate giants and the super-rich? Long overdue that they stop dodging the cost of the common good. Restore the rights of labor and restrain the rise of monopolies? Yes!
Far from socialism, this is democratic populism, reversing decades of government policies that take from the many to give to the wealthy few. It's an honest, popular rebellion against the corporate plutocracy that seeks to usurp America's democracy, promoted by Trump and Cornyn. Which side are you on?
And which side are some of our Democratic leaders on? Unfortunately, an exotic flu epidemic has broken out in Washington, D.C. Dubbed the "Canadian Hot Sauce Flu," it afflicts a particular group of Democratic office holders and operatives.
As the name suggests, its victims are rendered weaker than Canadian hot sauce, leaving them unable to stand boldly for the workaday majority they're supposed to represent. Instead, the afflicted-who are mostly old-line party leaders-are reduced to meek incrementalism, don't-rock-the-boat corporatism, and conservative appeasement when advancing policy ideas. They fear that anything stronger than a policy stew of watered-down leftovers will spook centrist and conservative voters.
The Canadian Hot Sauce Flu outbreak is a reaction to the recent surge of younger, aggressively progressive voters and office holders taking charge of the Democratic Party. Instead of vague, lobbyist-approved ideas that only perpetuate America's widening chasm of inequality, the upstarts are openly pushing real populist change, including a Green New Deal, taxing the obscene wealth of corporate profiteers, public financing of our public elections, breaking up monopolies, restoring labor rights, free higher education and tech training, and Medicare for All.
Far from alienating the electorate, these proposals are generating majority support and excitement precisely because they are bold and clearly would benefit . . . well, the majority. Yet the protectors of the old money-soaked, politics-as-usual system are wailing that the Democratic Party must move to the center, rather than to the left. But wait-their mythological center is way over to the right, hunkered down with corporate interests and blocking working-class progress.
The future of the party doesn't require moving left, center, or right. Those are ideological positions. Instead, the Dems should move out to the grassroots reality of ordinary Americans. People are envisioning, electing, and beginning to enact a true progressive agenda to advance our nation's democratic ideals of economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all. That is a politics of integrity, a politics that is worthy of our involvement.
Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, Donald J. Trump, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.
Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your covering up tRump's collusion with Putin, 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 07-06-2019. We salute you herr Mueller, Sieg Heil!
Vice Fuhrer Pence
Why We Must Legalize Marijuana
By Robert Reich
The federal prohibition on marijuana has been a disaster. For decades, millions of Americans have been locked up and billions of dollars have been wasted. It's also deepened racial and economic inequality.
We must end this nonsensical prohibition.
The facts are staggering. In 2017, more Americans were arrested for marijuana possession than for murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery combined.That's one marijuana arrest every minute.
The costs associated with enforcing this ban - including arrests, court costs, and incarceration - reach nearly $14 billion a year.
Prohibition also hurts the economy in terms of lost wages. And Americans with criminal records have a harder time finding a job and getting the education they need.
On the other hand, legalizing, taxing, and regulating is good for the economy and creates jobs.
By simply levying a tax on marijuana like we do cigarettes and alcohol, state and local governments could raise more than $6 billion a year. This doesn't even include additional revenue from taxes on the marijuana industry.
States like Colorado and Washington that tax and regulate marijuana have already generated millions of dollars for health care, education,and other public investments.
But this is more than an economic issue. It's also a matter of racial justice and equality.
The federal prohibition on marijuana dates back to anti-Mexican sentimentin the 1930s. In large part, it was nothing more than another way to criminalize communities of color.
Given the racist legacy of these laws, it's particularly important that the economic gains of legalization extend to communities that have been most harmed by the war on drugs.
Support for marijuana legalization has surged in recent years, with two-thirds of Americans now in favor of it. Even a majority of Republicans are in support, and more states are taking action to reform their laws and move toward legalization.
Yet Donald Trump and his administration are trying to turn back the clock. They've even formed a task force to weaken public support for legalization and help spread misinformation about so-called "marijuana threats."
Just as with the prohibition on alcohol in the 1920s, the federal prohibition of marijuana has been unnecessarily cruel - wasting billions of dollars, unjustly harming millions of lives, and furthering racist policies.
The Mass Media Is Poisoning Us With Hate
By Chris Hedges
In "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media," published in 1988, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky exposed the techniques that the commercial media used to promote and defend the economic, social and political agendas of the ruling elites. These techniques included portraying victims as either worthy or unworthy of sympathy. A Catholic priest such as Jerzy Popiełuszko, for example, murdered by the communist regime in Poland in 1984, was deified, but four Catholic missionaries who were raped and murdered in 1980 in El Salvador by U.S.-backed death squads were slandered as fellow travelers of the "Marxist" rebel movement. The techniques also included both narrowing the debate in a way that buttressed the elite consensus and intentionally failing to challenge the intentions of the ruling elites or the actual structures of power.
"Manufacturing Consent" was published on the eve of three revolutions that have dramatically transformed the news industry: the rise of right-wing radio and Fox-style TV news that abandon the media's faux objectivity, the introduction of 24-hour cable news stations, and the creation of internet platforms-owned by a handful of corporations-that control the distribution of news and information and mine our personal data on behalf of advertisers, political campaigns and the government. The sins of the old media, bad though they were, are nothing compared with the sins of the new media. Mass media has degenerated into not only a purveyor of gossip, conspiracy theories and salacious entertainment but, most ominously, a purveyor of hate. Matt Taibbi, the author of "Hate Inc.: How, and Why, the Media Makes Us Hate One Another," has dissected modern media platforms in much the same way that Herman and Chomsky did the old media.
The new media, Taibbi points out, still manufactures consent, but it does so by setting group against group, a consumer version of what George Orwell in his novel "1984" called the "Two Minutes Hate." Our opinions and prejudices are skillfully catered to and reinforced, with the aid of a detailed digital analysis of our proclivities and habits, and then sold back to us. The result, Taibbi writes, is "packaged anger just for you." The public is unable to speak across the manufactured divide. It is mesmerized by the fake dissent of the culture wars and competing conspiracy theories. Politics, under the assault, has atrophied into a tawdry reality show centered on political personalities. Civic discourse is defined by invective and insulting remarks on the internet. Power, meanwhile, is left unexamined and unchallenged. The result is political impotence among the populace. The moral swamp is not only a fertile place for demagogues such as Donald Trump-a creation of this media burlesque-but channels misplaced rage, intolerance and animosity toward those defined as internal enemies.
The old media sold itself as objective, although as Taibbi points out, this was more a reflection of tone rather than content. This vaunted objectivity and impartiality was, at its core, an element of a commercial tactic designed to reach the largest numbers of viewers or readers.
"Objectivity was when I was told I couldn't write with voice," Taibbi told me when I interviewed him on my television show, "On Contact." [Part one of the interview; part two.] "I couldn't write with a point of view. Objectivity was to write in a dull, flat, third-person perspective. Don't express yourself. Don't be too colorful. This actually was, if you pick up The New York Times today, that same writing style. The original idea behind it is you didn't want to turn off people on the start because they're trying to reach the widest possible audience. This also infected radio, television. That's why you have this Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather-style delivery, which was monotonal, flat, unopinionated. A lot of people thought this was some kind of an ethical decision that news organizations were making. In fact, what they were trying to do is reach the greatest number of people to sell the greatest number of ads. That's how we developed that idea."
The old media rigidly held to the fiction that there were only two kinds of political opinions-those expressed by Democrats and those expressed by Republicans. These two positions swiftly devolved into caricatures on radio and television. The classic example was the show "Crossfire," in which two antagonists, the stereotypical liberal and the stereotypical conservative, could never agree. The liberal, Taibbi pointed out, "was always cast as the person who couldn't punch back. He was always in retreat. The conservative was always in attack mode. A personality like Tucker Carlson." These staged and choreographed confrontations were, in essence, sporting events.
"If you watch a ['Sunday NFL] Countdown' you'll see the sets are designed exactly the same" as that of "Crossfire." "The anchor on one side. There's usually four commentators-two that represent each team. They have graphics that tell you what the score is, who is ahead, who is behind. We want people to perceive politics as something they have a rooting interest in. There's no possibility of any gray area in any of this. Your political identity can't possibly bleed into any other political identity. You are on one team or another. That's it. We don't even acknowledge the existence of people who have different types of ideas. For instance, anti-abortion but also pro-union. Whatever it is. That doesn't exist in the media."
The fact that on most big issues the two major political parties are in agreement is ignored. The deregulation of the financial industry, the militarization of police, the explosion in the prison population, deindustrialization, austerity, the endless wars in the Middle East, the bloated military budget, the control of elections and mass media by corporations and the wholesale surveillance of the population by the government all have bipartisan support. For this reason, they are almost never discussed.
"It's always presented as two parties that are always in disagreement about everything," Taibbi said, "which is not true."
"We [members of the press] are not focusing on the timeless, permanent nature of how the system works," he said. "We don't think about the central bank. We don't think about the security state. We don't think about any of that stuff. We focus on personalities. Donald Trump versus Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That simplifies everything and allows us to not look at the bigger picture."
Once the old media model imploded with the arrival of 24-hour news networks, Fox-style news and the internet, the monopoly of a few dominant newspapers and networks ended. In the new setting, media organizations tailor their content to focus on specific demographics.
"MSNBC, which has gone through some interesting changes over the years, markets itself as a left-leaning network," Taibbi said. "But it was so intensely pro-war in 2002 that it had to uninvite Jesse Ventura and Phil Donahue from the network. This latest thing was 'Russiagate' and the constant hyping of the narrative 'If you watch, you might learn any minute that we, along with Robert Mueller, are going to take down the president.' "
The media model not only sets demographic against demographic, it mutes and destroys investigations into corporate systems of oppression and genuine dissent.
"You don't have to make the news up for these people," Taibbi said of the process of carving up the public. "You can just pick stories that they're going to like. You start feeding them content that is going to ratify their belief systems. Fox did it first. They did it well. They started to make money. They were No. 1 for a long time. But this started to bleed into the rest of the business. Pretty soon, everybody was doing the same thing. It didn't matter whether you were the food channel tailoring content for people who liked food or MSNBC who tailored content for people who leaned in a certain political direction, you were giving people stuff they wanted to hear."
"Previously, you were looking at the illusion of debate," Taibbi said of the old media model. "You would see people arguing on 'Crossfire.' On the op-ed pages, there were people who disagreed with each other. Now, most people's news consumption experience is tailored entirely to their preferences. ...If you're only reading media that tailor to your particular belief system you're not being exposed to other ideas. It's going to be progressively more vituperative."
"One of the first stories that taught the news business you can actually sell anger as a product was the [Monica] Lewinsky scandal," Taibbi said.
MSNBC built its brand and its audience by relentlessly warning that the presidency of Bill Clinton was in mortal peril during the Lewinsky investigation. It repeated this formula by spending two years hyping the story of supposed Russian collusion with the Trump administration.
"What they were trying to do was basically create the impression that [a new] 'Watergate was going on, you better tune in because at any moment this could all go kaput,' " Taibbi said of the Lewinsky scandal. "They got an enormous market share. Fox added a twist to it. Fox took the same concept and openly villainized the characters. They decided to make Bill and Hillary Clinton into caricatures and cartoon figures, aging hippies. They kept running clip after clip of Hillary Clinton talking about how she didn't bake cookies. They knew their audience was going to react to all these images in a certain way. They sold people stories that make them angry. They told them, 'If you keep tuning in, somehow you are a part of the process. You are a part of this ongoing prosecution of this culture enemy that we're showing you. ...We tell you about somebody you don't like. We keep telling you about it over and over to dominate the ratings.' "
The result, Taibbi argues, is a marketing strategy that fosters addictive and aggressive behavior. The more the habits of readers and viewers on the internet and electronic devices are tracked, the more the addiction and aggression are fed.
"This creates more than just pockets of political rancor," he went on. "It creates masses of media consumers who have been trained to only see in one direction, as if they have been pulled through history on a railroad track, with heads fastened in blinders, looking only one way. ...Even without the vitriolic content, just the process of surfing and consuming the news has a lot of the same qualities as other addictions-like smoking cigarettes or taking drugs. People get addicted to the feel of their phones. They get addicted to the process of turning on screens. You especially get addicted to the idea that you're going to turn on a news program or read an article and it's going to tell you something that is going to anger you even more than you were yesterday."
The template for news, Taibbi writes, is professional wrestling.
"Wrestling was a commercial formula that they figured out worked incredibly well," Taibbi said of the corporate owners of news outlets. "There was a simplified morality play where there was a good guy, who was called the baby face, and a bad guy they called the heel. They relentlessly hyped the bad guy. The heel was more important in wrestling and more popular than the face. The amount of tickets they can sell is a direct correlation to how much people hate the bad guy. You have to have a hateable heel in order to make the formula work. This is how news works."
Reporters, Taibbi writes in his book, "now regularly do the outraged hero, finger-pointing routine whenever they are within a mile of Trump. Jim Acosta's confrontations with the president, for instance, seemed pulled straight from WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] outtakes. Trump's whole presidency has turned into a heel/hero promotion with Bob Mueller in the face role."
"Trump fits like a glove into the commercial formula of all of this," Taibbi said in the interview. "That's what's fascinating about it. He actually makes more money for the MSNBC, CNN, Washington Post, New York Times side than he does for Fox and the Daily Caller. He's a cartoon character who is a perfect heel. You have an utterly simplified political landscape. There are only two ways to be. You are either for this incredibly noxious figure or you are against him."
But, Taibbi notes, there is a diminishing return as with any addiction.
"You always have to constantly increase the level of the rhetoric in order to get people to keep coming back," he said. "You can't be narrowly 'incompetent' or 'corrupt.' Sooner or later, you have to get to the point where you're saying 'demagogues,' 'authoritarians,' 'dictators.' Finally, as Glenn Beck discovered, you have to start calling them Hitler. Beck got to the point where he was simultaneously calling people Hitler and Stalin. It wasn't enough just to be Hitler."
"If you are defining somebody else as that bad, then everything is permissible," he said. "We saw this with Russiagate. The same sort of liberal commentators who, ages ago, would have been very concerned about things such as the collapse of attorney-client privilege, or the FISA program, any of that stuff. They don't care about it anymore. They just want to get the person."
The shaping of the public into antagonistic tribes works commercially. It works politically. But it is a recipe for social disintegration. I watched competing ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia seize rival mass media outlets and use them to spew vitriol and hate against the ethnic group they demonized. The poisonous images and rhetoric that were pumped out month after month in Yugoslavia led to a savage fratricide.
The United States is already plagued by an epidemic of mass shootings, death threats against critics of Trump, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, and aborted assassination attempts, including a Trump supporter's mailing of pipe bombs last year to prominent Democrats and CNN, an effort to decapitate the hierarchy of the Democratic Party, as well as terrorize the media outlet that is the party's principal propaganda arm.
"If you're constantly winding up audiences and telling them that all of their troubles are a result of this other group that is literally Hitler, that they're literally Nazis, they're literally Stalin, sooner or later some people are going to start picking up weapons and do something crazy," Taibbi said. "This is why people are correctly upset about Fox News. But they should also be concerned about other forms of media. The formula is similar across the board."
"Our system of bubble economics is going to produce some kind of a catastrophe at some point," Taibbi, the author of one of the finest books on the 2008 financial crash, "Griftopia," concluded. "At which point, if you tell people often enough that their next-door neighbor is literally in the league with Nazis or terrorists or whatever it is-of course Fox pioneered this, going back to the Iraq War, when we were told liberals were terrorist supporters-sooner or later, there's going to be violence. The inability of society to agree on a common set of facts means the media has failed already. It means we're just not reaching people. [In this atmosphere] we will never be able to work things out in a civil way."
(c) 2019 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges.
Trump Warns China Not To Underestimate His Willingness To Sacrifice Every American's Well-Being
By The Onion
WASHINGTON-Stating that he would be sticking to his guns regardless of the consequences, President Trump warned China in a White House press briefing Thursday that its leaders should not underestimate his willingness to sacrifice the well-being of every single person in the United States.
"If you think for one second I'm about to back down on this trade war, you've clearly failed to grasp my complete indifference toward the entire population of my country," said the president, who affirmed his unwavering commitment to letting the price of consumer goods rise, even if it meant a certain number of American families might struggle to make ends meet or be forced to go hungry.
"I'm not about to lose a fight just because we have a bunch of farmers who depend on Chinese markets and workers who will lose their jobs if factories can't get Chinese raw materials. Believe me, I can tolerate a tremendous amount of their pain." Trump went on to state that most Americans are "great patriots" and willing to suffer so that he can get anything he wants.
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