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In This Edition

Ray McGovern thinks, "Europe May Finally Rethink NATO Costs."

Uri Avnery overlooks, "The Visitation."

Glen Ford examines, "Hillary Clinton's Syria Revenge."

Bernie Sanders orates, "The Commencement Address At Brooklyn College ."

Jim Hightower asks, "Who's Drafting Trump's 'New NAFTA' Deal - And Who's Not?"

Matt Taibbi returns with, "Two Vile Names, One Sweetheart Deal: Goldman Bails Out Maduro."

Chris Hedges considers, "The Artist As Prophet."

John Nichols reports, "Hillary Clinton Roasts Toxic Trump Administration In A Remarkable Speech."

Ralph Nader exclaims, "End The Greedy Silence - Enough Already!"

David Suzuki finds, "Oil And Plastic Are Choking The Planet."

Amy Goodman explains, "Kabul Bomb Blast Kills At Least 90 People. We Need To Know Their Names."

David Swanson concludes, "War Monuments Are Killing Us."

Naomi Klein believes, "Economic Pressure Could Jolt Trump Into Action On Climate Change."

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich sees Trump, "Making America Meaner."

Medea Benjammin examines, "Free Fallin': On the Perils and Promise of Possibly Impeaching Trump."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Trump Says He Does Not Know Jared Kushner Very Well," but first Uncle Ernie wonders, "The New Log Lady?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dave Granlund, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Pete Souza, John Schneider, Josh Reynolds, Ian Houlding, Richard Drew,, National Nurses United, Brooklyn College, White House, A.P., Flickr, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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The New Log Lady?
By Ernest Stewart

What rolls down stairs
alone or in pairs,
rolls over your neighbor's dog?
What's great for a snack,
And fits on your back?
It's log, log, log!
The Log Song ~~~ Ren & Stimpy

"This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice." ~~~ Donald Trump

"It is absolutely unclear how the bill will be implemented. To control Russian ports, the US will have to introduce a blockade and inspect all ships, which amounts to an act of war." ~~~ Alexey Pushkov

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

When the new Twin Peaks started I noticed that Catherine E. Coulson, who played Margaret Lanterman aka The Log Lady looked pretty bad, so I wasn't surprised that she has been dead for almost two years! She must have filmed her part just before she died. So I thought that perhaps David Lynch was looking to audition a replacement for the Log Lady when I saw a picture of Kathy Griffin posing with a log! Or perhaps she was practicing for a new "Log for Girls" commercial? Then I noticed Trumps bloody head was portrayed on the log!

Of course, the blog sphere erupted as did social media over the bloody photo, and the president said the image particularly upset his youngest son. "Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11-year-old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!" Trump tweeted. I seem to recall that things were different when Ted Nugent said: "We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their [the Obama administration's] heads off." Instead of admonishing Nuget like he did Griffin Trump declared that Nugent demonstrated "the anger people have towards President Obama, even if his figure of speech was a bit unfortunate." Seems to me that is exactly what Kathy Griffin did.

The first lady also chimed in. "As a mother, a wife, and a human being, that photo is very disturbing." Much like the first ladies nude photographs are, methinks!

I just thought, Kathy, you go girl! I know, my bad! You may recall that once upon a time that was the fate of traitors, Kings and the like, (ask my great uncle Charles how that worked out for him) and before the Junta is through with us, you might agree that his head would fit quite nicely on a stake. Do you remember, Dubya's head on a stake in the first season of "Game of Thrones?" Well, it's just a happy thought!

In Other News

Donald Trump brought his song and dance show to Europe last week and officially became this countries new national embarrassment, replacing Dubya. The reviews from leaders on the "old continent" were decidedly downbeat. Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, said after the end of the G-7 meeting: "We really must take our fate into our own hands." Trump all but killed what little good will remained in Europe since he took office and started jacking his jaws about NATO, Europe and global warming!

The end result of Donald's European tour was cooperation between the US and other nations on global warming and climate change appears to be at an end. With Trump's decision not to honor US commitments to the Paris climate accords we're joining only Syria and Venezuela as the only three countrys on Earth not to sign the treaty. Not a surprise as Trump has made it crystal clear on many occasions that he thinks global warming is a Chinese plot to bankrupt the US and isn't real. So much for our leadership position on the world stage, but don't worry, America, China, is about to take over our leadership role! Making America Great Again, huh?

Did I mention that, Trump is an investor in several fossil fuel companies, including Energy Transfer Partners, (the company building the Dakota Access pipeline and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline), both of which will transport oil from Canada's tar sands, some of the dirtiest, most polluting oil, in the world. Trump would be impeached off this single conflict of interest if there was any justice. Trouble is, there is a hundred more similar acts of treason already committed by Donald. Did I mention his investment in coal companies? E.T.C.!

There can be no doubt that global warming is real, that it is happening now, and will only get worse if we take no action; much less cause it to get worse, as Trump is doing. From pole to pole the Earth is warming and every year its gotten a little worse and the timetables for real disaster keep getting shorter and shorter. We keep pumping pollution into the air, the water and the Earth at an unparalleled pace. Remember that Barry knew the truth about global warming, but it took him 6 years to start to do something about it. Even the little he accomplished Trump has now struck down. Meanwhile, most of America mimics Sgt. Shultz, saying "I see nothing, nothing!"

And Finally

I see where the US House wants to start a nuclear exchange with Russia and China. All the Rethuglicans except one voted for it, along with every Demoncrat, imagine that. Top Russian officials are concerned that a bill passed by the US Congress will do more than increase sanctions on North Korea. Moscow claims H.R. 1644 violates its sovereignty and constitutes an "act of war."

On May 4, 2017, House Resolution 1644, the innocently named "Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act," was quickly passed by the US House of Representatives by a vote of 419-1 - and it was just as quickly labeled an "act of war" by top Russian officials.

Why was Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Russian Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, so alarmed about a US law ostensibly aimed at North Korea? After all, there had been no blistering partisan debate preceding the vote. Instead, the bill was handled under a "suspension of the rules" procedure usually applied to noncontroversial legislation. And it passed with only one dissenting vote (cast by Republican Thomas Massie of Kentucky).

So why the hubbub about H.R. 1644? The bill would amend the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 to increase the president's powers to impose sanctions on anyone in violation of certain United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea. Specifically, it would allow for expanding sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear weapons programs by: targeting overseas individuals who employ North Korean "slave labor;" requiring the administration to determine whether North Korea was a state sponsor of terrorism and, most critically; authorizing a crackdown on North Korea's use of international transit ports, i.e., foreign shipping ports and airports.

What alarmed the Russians and Chinese was Section 104, the part of the bill that presumed to grant the US "inspection authorities" over shipping ports (and major airports) far beyond the Korean Peninsula - "specifically, ports in China, Russia, Syria, and Iran." The bill identifies more than 20 foreign targets, including: two ports in China (Dandong and Dalian and any other port in the People's Republic of China that the President deems appropriate). What could go wrong with that? "Ten ports in Iran (Abadan, Bandar-e-Abbas, Chabahar, Bandar-e-Khomeini, Bushehr Port, Asaluyeh Port, Kish, Kharg Island, Bandar-e-Lenge, Khorramshahr, and the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport); four facilities in Syria (the ports at Latakia, Banias, Tartous and the Damascus International Airport) and; three ports in Russia (Nakhodka, Vanino, and Vladivostok)." Under the proposed law, the US Secretary of Homeland Security could use the National Targeting Center's Automated Targeting System to search any ship, plane, or conveyance that has "entered the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea, or landed in any of the sea ports or airports of North Korea." Any vessel, aircraft, or vehicle found in violation of this US law would be subject to "seizure and forfeiture." I wonder what Russia or China might do if we started seizing their ships and airliners, don't you?

Kosachev told Sputnik News, "I hope [this bill] will never be implemented, because its implementation envisions a scenario of power with forced inspections of all vessels by US warships. Such a power scenario is beyond comprehension, because it means a declaration of war. No country in the world, and no international organization, has authorized the US to monitor implementation of any resolutions of the UN Security Council." He accused Washington of attempting to "affirm the supremacy of its own legislation over international law," an example of US "exceptionalism" that he claimed constitutes "the main problem of present-day international relations."

Hopefully this bill will get tied up in some Senate subcommittee and never be heard of again. Sure we could block some ports but it also calls for blocking airports which would be imposible to do short of WWIII. This world ending piece of trash was introduced by Rep. Edward R. Royce, [R-CA-39], so you folks in the 39 district need to get rid of this moron before he gets rid of you and the rest of us too. You might also want to write or call your Sin-ator to voice your opposition to this madness!

Keepin' On

Oh, yippie, it's my least favorite time of the week. Time to come before you cap-in-hand to beg for alms to keep on keeping on, for you and yours. Yes, we did make our first goal; but it's no time to rest on our laurels. That was just one down and three to go; I have absolutely nothing of my own to use to take care of business; so, as it has been for the last 17 years, whether we keep on working for you is totally up to you.

Yeah, I get it; most of our readership isn't doing all that well; and with this, that, and the other thing, it's hard enough to keep bread on the table and a roof over your head; but for the most part, that's where most of our funds come from -- the retired or the working poor. It seems we lost most of our middle class readership when I turned on the blessed one, just like I had on Dubya. Sure, one is a little worse than the other; but Dubya really tried, and as old Democrat, George Wallace said in a rare moment of truth and candor, "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Republicans and Democrats."

Don't like that Democrat? Then try this one, "It makes no difference who you vote for - the two parties are really one party representing four percent of the people." ~~~ Gore Vidal. Point being, the cavalry isn't coming, and as Bob Seger once sang, "And when the war comes, the cops will be on their side!"

However, despite great expense in both time and effort, we've been on your side since we lost our Republic on 12-12-2000, fighting for our rights and helping you to prepare for what's coming. I'm pretty sure it'd be handy to know just before it hits the fan, that's it's about to hit the fan. Being blindsided by it could spell doom for you and yours. Ergo, please send in whatever you can, as often as you can; and we keep fighting the good fight!


12-08-1947 ~ 05-27-2017
Thanks for the music!

03-15-1942 ~ 05-30-2017
Thanks for the film!

04-20-1925 ~ 05-30-2017
Thanks for the film!


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

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

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump traveled to Brussels,
Belgium on Wednesday evening for their fourth stop on their trip abroad.
President Trump met with leaders from around the world before the NATO Summit in Brussels.

Europe May Finally Rethink NATO Costs

By Ray McGovern

President Donald Trump's politically incorrect behavior at the gathering of NATO leaders in Brussels on Thursday could, in its own circuitous way, spotlight an existential threat to the alliance. Yes, that threat is Russia, but not in the customary sense in which Westerners have been taught to fear the Russian bear. It is a Russia too clever to rise to the bait - a Russia patient enough to wait for the Brussels bureaucrats and generals to fall of their own weight, pushed by financial exigencies in many NATO countries.

At that point it will become possible to see through the West's alarmist propaganda. It will also become more difficult to stoke artificial fears that Russia, for reasons known only to NATO war planners and neoconservative pundits, will attack NATO. As long as Russian hardliners do not push President Vladimir Putin aside, Moscow will continue to reject its assigned role as bete noire.

First a request: Let me ask those of you who believe Russia is planning to invade Europe to put down the New York Times for a minute or two. Take a deep cleansing breath, and try to be open to the possibility that heightened tensions in Europe are, rather, largely a result of the ineluctable expansion of NATO eastward over the quarter-century since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Actually, NATO has doubled in size, despite a U.S. quid-pro-quo promise in early 1990 to Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev in early 1990 not to expand NATO "one inch" to the east of Germany. The quid required of Russia was acquiescence to a reunited Germany within NATO and withdrawal of the 300,000-plus Russian troops stationed in East Germany.

The U.S. reneged on its quo side of the bargain as the NATO alliance added country after country east of Germany with eyes on even more - while Russia was not strong enough to stop NATO expansion until February 2014 when, as it turned out, NATO's eyes finally proved too big for its stomach. A U.S.-led coup d'etat overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installed new, handpicked leaders in Kiev who favored NATO membership. That crossed Russia's red line; it was determined - and at that point able - to react strongly, and it did.

These are the flat-facts, contrasting with the mainstream U.S. media's propaganda about "Russian aggression." Sadly, readers of the New York Times know little to nothing of this recent history.

Today's Russian Challenge

The existential threat to NATO comprises a different kind of Russian "threat," which owes much to the adroitness and sang froid of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who flat-out refuses to play his assigned role of a proper enemy - despite the Western media campaign to paint him the devil incarnate.

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

Over time, even the most sophisticated propaganda wears thin, and more and more Europeans will realize that NATO, in its present form, is an unnecessary, vestigial organ already a quarter-century beyond its expiration date - and that it can flare up painfully, like a diseased appendix. At a time when citizens of many NATO countries are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, they will be reluctant to sink still more money into rehab for a vestigial organ.

That there are better uses for the money is already clear, and President Trump's badgering of NATO countries to contribute ever more for defense may well backfire. Some are already asking, "Defense against what?" Under the painful austerity that has been squeezing the Continent since the Wall Street crash nearly a decade ago, a critical mass of European citizens is likely to be able to distinguish reality from propaganda - and perhaps much sooner than anyone anticipates. This might eventually empower the 99 percent, who don't stand to benefit from increased military spending to fight a phantom threat, to insist that NATO leaders stop funding a Cold War bureaucracy that has long since outlived its usefulness.

A military alliance normally dissolves when its raison d'etre - the military threat it was created to confront - dissolves. The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 - more than a quarter century ago - and with it the Warsaw Pact that was established as the military counter to NATO.

Helpful History

NATO's first Secretary General, Lord Ismay, who had been Winston Churchill's chief military assistant during World War II, stated that NATO's purpose was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." But a lot can change over the course of almost seven decades.

The NATO flag is raised during the opening ceremony for Exercise Steadfast Jazz in Poland, Nov. 3, 2013.

The Russians relinquished their East European empire after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and withdrew their armed forces. There no longer needed to be a concerted priority effort to "keep the Russians out," preoccupied as they were with fixing the economic and social mess they inherited when the USSR fell.

As for "keeping the Germans down," it is not difficult to understand why the Russians, having lost 25 to 27 million in WWII, were a bit chary at the prospect of a reunited Germany. Moscow's concern was allayed somewhat by putting this new Germany under NATO command, since this sharply lessened the chance the Germans would try to acquire nuclear weapons of their own.

But NATO became the "defensive" blob that kept growing and growing, partly because that is what bureaucracies do (unless prevented) and partly because it became a way for U.S. presidents to show their "toughness." By early 2008, NATO had already added ten new members - all of them many "inches" to the east of Germany: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

There were rumors that Ukraine and Georgia were in queue for NATO membership, and Russian complaints were becoming louder and louder. NATO relations with Russia were going to hell in a hand basket and there was no sign the Washington policymakers gave a hoot.

A leading advocate from the Russo-phobic crowd was the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had been President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser and remained in the forefront of those pressing for NATO expansion - to include Ukraine. In 1998, he wrote, "Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire."

The relentless expansion of NATO greatly bothered former Sen. Bill Bradley, a longtime expert on Russia and a sober-minded policy analyst. On Jan. 23, 2008, in a talk before the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, he sounded an almost disconsolate note, describing NATO expansion a "terribly sad thing" … a "blunder of monumental proportions. ...

"We had won the Cold War … and we kicked them [the Russians] when they were down; we expanded NATO. In the best of circumstances it was bureaucratic inertia in NATO - people had to have a job. In the worst of circumstances it was certain … irredentist East European types, who believe Russia will forever be the enemy and therefore we have to protect against the time when they might once again be aggressive, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophesy."

As tensions with Russia heightened late last decade, Sen. Bradley added, "Right now we are confronted with something that could have easily been avoided."

Finally Saying Nyet

A week after Bradley's lament, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called in U.S. Ambassador William Burns to read him the riot act. The subject line of Burns's CONFIDENTIAL cable #182 of Feb. 1, 2008, in which he reported Lavrov's remarks to Washington shows that Burns played it straight, choosing not to mince his own or Lavrov's words: "Nyet means nyet: Russia's NATO enlargement redlines."

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Here what Ambassador Burns wrote in his summary, which the public knows because the cable was among the thousands leaked to WikiLeaks by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, for which she was imprisoned for seven years and only recently released (yet the cable has been essentially ignored by the corporate U.S. news media):
"Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine's intent to seek a NATO Membership Action Plan at the Bucharest summit, Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat. NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains an emotional and neuralgic issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

"In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene. Additionally, the government of Russia and experts continue to claim that Ukrainian NATO membership would have a major impact on Russia's defense industry, Russian-Ukrainian family connections, and bilateral relations generally."

So, it is not as though then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. policymakers were not warned, in very specific terms, of Russia's redline on Ukrainian membership in NATO. Nevertheless, on April 3, 2008, the final declaration from at a NATO summit in Bucharest asserted: "NATO welcomes Ukraine's and Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO."

The Ukraine Coup

Six years later, on Feb. 22, 2014, the U.S.-pushed putsch in Ukraine, which George Friedman, then President of the think-tank STRATFOR, labeled "the most blatant coup in history," put in power a fiercely anti-Russian regime eager to join the Western alliance.

President Barack Obama talks with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and Commerce
Secretary Penny Pritzker following a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 18, 2014.

Russia's reaction was predictable - actually, pretty much predicted by the Russians themselves. But for Western media and "statesmen," the Ukrainian story begins on Feb. 23, 2014, when Putin and his advisers decided to move quickly to thwart NATO's designs on Ukraine and take back Crimea where Russia's only warm-water naval base has been located since the days of Catherine the Great.

U.S. officials (and The New York Times) have made it a practice to white-out the coup d'etat in Kiev and to begin recent European history with Russia's immediate reaction, thus the relentless presentation of these events as simply "Russian aggression," as if Russia instigated the crisis, not the U.S.

A particularly blatant example of this came on June 30, 2016, when then U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute spoke at a press briefing before the NATO summit in Warsaw:

"Beginning in 2014 ... we're moving into a new period in NATO's long history. ... So the first thing that happened in 2014 that marks this change is a newly aggressive, newly assertive Russia under Vladimir Putin. So in late February, early March of 2014, the seizing, the occupying of Crimea followed quickly by the illegal political annexation of Crimea. ... Well, any notion of strategic partnership came to an abrupt halt in the first months of 2014."
And so, for the nonce, Western propaganda captured the narrative. How long this distortion of history will continue is the question. The evolution of Europe as a whole (including Russia) over the past half-century, together with the profound changes that this evolution has brought, suggest that those of the European Establishment eager to inject life into the vestigial organ called NATO - whether for lucrative profits from arms sales or cushy spots in NATO's far-flung bureaucracy - are living on borrowed time.

President Trump can keep them off balance by creating uncertainty with respect to how Washington regards its nominal NATO obligation to risk war with Russia should some loose cannon in, say, Estonia, start a shooting match with the Russians. On balance, the uncertainty that Trump has injected may be a good thing. Similarly, to the degree that his pressure for increased defense spending belatedly leads to an objective estimate of the "threat" from Russia, that may be a good thing too.
(c) 2014 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years "from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one"on"one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Visitation
By Uri Avnery

THANK GOD for Oren Hazan.

Without him, this would have been an exceedingly dull visit.

Israel's cabinet ministers were lined up in the blazing sun at the foot of the airplane stairs for the official reception of President Donald Trump.

It was very hot, there was no shade, dark suits for men were obligatory. Just awful.

Many cabinet ministers did not want to attend. The Prime Minister had to compel them with dire threats.

But lo and behold, when Trump descended from the presidential plane, there was an endless line of receivers. Not only all the cabinet ministers were lined up, but also a large number of infiltrators. It was too late to remove them.

The most prominent among them was Oren Hazan. A simple first-term Member of the Knesset, with an acknowledged gift for vulgarity, he infiltrated the row of cabinet ministers. When President Trump approached his outstretched hand, Hazan produced his cellphone and started to take pictures of himself with the President, who, taken by surprise, cooperated sheepishly.

Within seconds, the photo was all over the world and on many websites. It seems to have made little impression in America itself. But Hazan was proud. It boosted his image even more than the recent court case, where it was found that there was no proof that he provided prostitutes to clients of his casino in Bulgaria.

It was as if somebody was out to prove my contention of last week, that the present Knesset was full of "parliamentary riffraff." Oren Hazan fits that description admirably.

THERE WERE two Donald Trumps this week. One of them was touring the Middle East, being feted everywhere. The second was in Washington, where he was battered from all sides, denounced for incompetence and even threatened with impeachment in the future.

Against the background of his troubles at home, Trump's Arabian Nights were fantastic.

His first stop was Saudi Arabia. The desert kingdom put forward its best face. The royal family, consisting of a few hundred princes (princesses do not count) looked like the realization of all of Trump's secret dreams. He was received like a gift from Allah. Even Melania, demure and silent as usual, was allowed to be present (and that in a kingdom in which women are not allowed to drive a car.)

As usual among eastern potentates, gifts were exchanged. The gift for Trump was a 110 billion arms deal that will provide jobs for multitudes of American workers, as well as investment in American enterprises.

After his short stay, including a meeting with a large group of Arab rulers, Trump came away with tremendous enthusiasm for everything Arab.

After a two hour flight, he was in a completely different world: Israel.

SAUDI ARABIA and Israel have no common border. Though at one point -by the Gulf of Aqaba -only a few miles of Jordanian territory separate them, the two states could just as well exist on different planets.

Contrary to the romance of the desert kingdom, where hunting hawks are prized, horses are admired and women are kept behind closed doors, Israel is a very prosaic place. Trump quickly learned just how prosaic.

Before the airport ceremony, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had a hard time convincing his cabinet to come to the airport at all. It was a very warm day, Ben Gurion airport is an especially hot place, and wearing a heavy, dark business suit is a nightmare for Israelis.

But in the end, the honor of attending was overwhelming. Not only did all cabinet ministers attend, but quite a number of ordinary (in both senses) parliamentarians and the like infiltrated the receiving line, which must have looked endless to the esteemed guest. Hazan was just one of many, though the most colorful.

They did not just want to shake hands. Every one of them had something very important to convey. So poor Donald had to listen politely to each and every one of them reciting his historic remark, mostly about the sanctity of eternal Jerusalem.

The Minister of Police had an urgent news item for Trump: there had just been a terror attack in Tel Aviv. It appeared later, that it was an ordinary road traffic accident. Well, a police minister cannot always be well informed.

(My humble advice: on such hot days, please erect an air-conditioned tent at the airport.)

A WORD about The Ladies.

I presume that in her marriage contract, Melania Trump undertook to be graceful and silent on such occasions. Along the lines: look beautiful and shut up.

So she stands aloof, slim, statuesque, her profile to the cameras.

Sarah Netanyahu is the very opposite. She is not quite as sleek as Melania, and she certainly does not shut up. On the contrary, she does not stop talking. She seems to have a compulsive desire to be the center of attention in every scene.

When a microphone succeeded in capturing a snatch of her small talk, it was about painting the walls of the official residence in anticipation of this visit. Not very highbrow.

I don't think that it is wise for Sarah'le to stand next to an international beauty queen like Melania. (Just a thought.)

IT ALL reminded me of a book I read ages go. The first British colonial District Officer in Jerusalem, almost a hundred years ago, wrote his memoirs.

The British entered Palestine and soon issued the Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jews a national home in in the country. Even if the Declaration was a pretext for grabbing Palestine for the British Empire, the British were indeed imbued with a love for this country. They were also quite friendly to the Jews.

Not for long. The colonial officers came, met Jews and Arabs, and fell in love with the Arabs. Hosting guests is a part of Arab culture, a long-standing tradition. The British loved the Arab aristocracy.

They were much less enamored with the Zionist functionaries, mostly from Eastern Europe, who never ceased to demand and complain. They talked too much. They argued. No beautiful horses. No hawks. No noble manners.

By the end of British rule, very few British administrators were ardent Jew-lovers.

AS FOR the political content of Trump's visit, it was a contest of lies. Trump is a good liar. But no match for Netanyahu.

Trump spoke endlessly about Peace. Being quite ignorant of the issues, he may even have meant it. At least he put the word back on the table, after Israelis of almost all shades had erased it from their vocabulary. Israelis, even peaceniks, prefer now to speak of "separation" (which, to my mind, is opposed to the spirit of peace.)

Netanyahu loves peace, but there are things he loves more -annexation, for example. And settlements.

In one of his addresses, a sentence was hidden that, it seems, nobody noticed but me. He said that "security" in the country - meaning the right to use armed force from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River - will be exclusively in the hands of Israel. This, in simple words, means an eternal occupation, reducing the Palestinian entity to some kind of Bantustan.

Trump did not appear to notice. How could he be expected to?

PEACE IS not just a word. It is a political situation. Sometimes it is also a state of mind.

Trump came to Israel with the impression that the Saudi princes had just offered him a deal - Israel will free Palestine, Sunni Arabs and Israelis will become one happy family, they will fight together against bad old Shiite Iran. Wonderful.

Only Netanyahu does not dream of freeing Palestine. He does not really give a damn about far-away Iran. He wants to hold on to East Jerusalem, to the West Bank and, indirectly, to the Gaza Strip.

So Trump went home, happy and satisfied. And in a few days, all of this will be forgotten.

And we will have to solve our problems ourselves.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Hillary Clinton's Syria Revenge
By Glen Ford

Four months after Donald Trump's inauguration, the U.S. military is fighting Hillary Clinton's war in Syria. Last week's U.S. airstrike against a mixed column of Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese soldiers marks a major escalation, as the U.S. draws lines in the sand to claim parts of Syria as its own. Although the presence of the Russian air force has prevented the establishment of Clinton's "no-fly" zones over Syria, the Americans appear to be attempting to establish "no-go" zones on the ground to provide sanctuary for their Islamic jihadist proxies. The larger goal is to seize eastern Syria, under the guise of fighting ISIS, severing the land route between Syrian government-held territories in the west and the Iraqi border, and further east to Iran.

The U.S. claimed it struck the column, killing at least six soldiers and knocking out several tanks, to protect U.S. and British special forces troops training anti-government jihadists on the Syrian side of the Jordanian border, where Washington is amassing a large invasion force. The attack is a blatant violation of international law, an act of war, since the Americans and Brits have no right to be on Syrian soil, while the Iraqis, Iranians, Lebanese and Russians are guests of the sovereign, internationally recognized government in Damascus.

Washington claims it is preparing a big offensive to destroy ISIS outposts in eastern Syria -- as if invocation of anti-ISIS intent makes Washington immune from international law. However, it is the Syrian Arab Army that has prevented ISIS from seizing the whole of eastern Syria, while the U.S., acting as the Islamic State's air force, attacked Syrian government troops defending the city of Deir Ezzor in September of last year. Deir Ezzor has been encircled and besieged by ISIS since 2014. The September bombing by jets from an assortment of NATO countries killed at least 100 Syrian soldiers and allowed ISIS to launch a coordinated assault seven minutes later, overrunning key government positions and parts of the city of 100,000 people. Since then, the Syrian garrison and civilian population have been sustained by helicopter supply missions.

The U.S. later claimed the attack was a "mistake," but it had all the marks of a military mutiny against the lame duck Obama administration's agreement to a cease-fire with the Russians. As we wrote at the time:

"The cease-fire agreement arrived at between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart calls for the U.S. and Russian armed forces to collaborate, after a period of seven days, in targeting both ISIS and the al Qaida force formerly known as the al Nusra Front, the military backbone of the West's proxy war against the Syrian government. If the U.S. superpower, whose military assets in the arena far outweigh Russia's, honestly adhered to the agreement, the war against the Assad government would collapse. The mutineers see the waning weeks and months of the Obama presidency as a make-or-break moment for their jihadist proxy strategy in the region.

"It is the Syrian Arab Army that has prevented ISIS from seizing the whole of eastern Syria."

As intended, the U.S. attack on Deir Ezzor snuffed out the cease-fire pact with Russia. The U.S. doubled down on its not-so-covert support for al Qaida (aka al-Nusra, now calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, and no longer on the U.S. terror list), with the Clinton-led War Party and its corporate media screaming bloody murder as the jihadists were finally driven from Aleppo in the last weeks of 2016.

The triumph in Aleppo allowed Bashar al Assad's government to free up Syrian forces for a general offensive, and to accelerate the government's program of negotiating cease-fires and withdrawals by isolated pockets of (non-ISIS and non-al Qaida) "rebel" fighters. With their jihadist proxies in disarray, the Americans concentrated on supporting a largely Kurdish force that is slowly closing in on Raqqa, the so-called capital of ISIS, and with training yet another batch of "moderate" rebels in Jordan for what the U.S. is marketing as a final knockout blow against ISIS in eastern Syria -- at Deir Ezzor. But of course, it is the Syrian government that is actually holding the line at Deir Ezzor against both ISIS and the U.S. "coalition." The column of Syrian and allied troops that the U.S. attacked last week was part of the force the Syrians are gathering to liberate the eastern part of their country. The U.S. war plan is to deliver eastern Syria to its "rebel" mercenaries and jihadists.

" The U.S. drew its line in the sand 18 miles from the U.S.-British special ops base on the Syrian of the Jordanian border. The ritual U.S. flag-planting-by-fire is a sick imperial response to the agreement reached by Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey, earlier this month in Astana, Kazakhstan, to create "de-escalation zones" in Syria, where fighting and government air strikes would be put on hold and aid deliveries allowed to proceed around four main zones held by rebels -- excluding ISIS and al Qaida. With Donald Trump now dutifully in synch with the War Party, the U.S. has countered the Syrian-Russian-Iranian-Turkish "de-escalation" with a major escalation: "no-go zones."

Hillary Clinton may never win the presidency, but she has won the battle over U.S. imperial policy in Syria. The U.S. will soon begin laying political-military trip-wires at strategic "no-go" points around Syria, to create space for Washington's Islamic jihadist foot soldiers. Hillary's style of warring diplomacy requires that targeted nations react to U.S. aggressions in prescribed ways: the Russians are supposed to blink in the presence of a real superpower; the Syrians must accept the loss of their territorial integrity and sovereignty; and the Iranians are required to surrender or become the next inferno. Otherwise, "We came, we saw - everybody died."
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered the 2017 commencement address to graduates at Brooklyn College on Tuesday,
telling students that they give him "tremendous confidence" in the future of the country.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Delivers The Commencement Address At Brooklyn College
By Bernie Sanders

You know and I know that these are tough times for our country. But I do want to say that standing up here and looking out at the beautiful people in front of me, I have enormous confidence in the future of our country.

Let me begin by congratulating the graduating class of 2017. Today is an important day in your lives, something that I know you have worked very hard to achieve, and I want to wish all of you the very best of luck in your future endeavors.

I do want, on behalf of my wife, Jane, and myself, to pray that you all live healthy and happy lives, doing the work you enjoy surrounded in love by family and friends.

Let me thank President Michelle Anderson, Nicole Haas, the Brooklyn College Administration, faculty and staff and all of you for inviting Jane and me back to Brooklyn where we were both born and raised. I am greatly honored of the honorary degree you have given me.

I grew up in Flatbush and, like Senator Schumer, graduated from James Madison High School. My wife, Jane, was also raised Flatbush and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and graduated from St. Savior's High School a few miles away from here.

In 1959, as a first-generation college student I attended Brooklyn College for a year - a year which had a major impact in my life. After that year I left for the University of Chicago, where I eventually graduated. My mom had died the previous year and I felt it was time to leave the neighborhood and see what the rest of the world looked like.

My childhood in Brooklyn was shaped by two profound realities. First, my mom, dad and older brother, who graduated from Brooklyn College, lived in a 3 1/2 room rent-controlled apartment. As with many of your families who don't have a lot of money, financial pressures caused friction and tension within our household. From those experiences of growing up without a lot of money, I have never forgotten that there are millions of people throughout this country who struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, try to save for their kids' education or for retirement - people who against great odds are fighting today to live in dignity.

The second reality that impacted my life was that my father left Poland at the age of 17 from a community which was not only very poor, but from a country where anti-Semitism, pogroms and attacks on Jews were not uncommon. While my father emigrated to the United States, and escaped Hitler and the Holocaust, many in his family did not. For them, racism, right-wing extremism and ultra-nationalism were not "political issues." They were issues of life and death - and some of them died horrific deaths.

From that experience, what was indelibly stamped on my mind was the understanding that we must never allow demagogues to divide us up by race, by religion, by national origin, by gender or sexual orientation. Black, white, Latino, Asian American, Native American, Christian, Jew, Muslim and every religion, straight or gay, male or female, we must stand together. This country belongs to all of us.

As a United States senator from Vermont let me give you a very brief overview of some of the serious crises we currently face - crises which do not often get attention they deserve.

As a student at James Madison High School, many years ago, I recall my social studies teacher talking about how there were small developing countries around the world that were "oligarchic" societies - places where the economic and political life of the nation were controlled by a handful of very wealthy people. It never occurred to me as a kid in Brooklyn that the United States of America, our great nation, could move in that direction. But that is precisely, in my view, what is happening today.

Today, the top one-tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Twenty Americans now own as much wealth as the bottom half of America and one family now owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of our people. In the last 17 years, while the middle class continues to decline, we have seen a tenfold increase in the number of billionaires. Today in America CEOs are earning almost 350 times more than the average worker makes. In terms of income, while you and your parents are working in some cases two or three jobs, 52 % of all new income goes to the top 1%.

At the same time as we have more income and wealth inequality than any other major nation, 43 million Americans live in poverty, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country in earth, half of older workers have nothing in the bank as they approach retirement and in some inner cities and rural communities, youth unemployment is 20, 30, 40%. Unbelievably, in our country today as a result of hopelessness and despair we are seeing a decline in life expectancy. People are giving up. And they're turning to drugs, to alcohol, and even to suicide. And because of poverty, racism today in a broken criminal justice system we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. Those people are disproportionately black, Latino and Native American.

Directly related to the oligarchic economy that we currently have is corrupt political system which is undermining American democracy and it's important we talk about that and understand that. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, corporations and billionaires are able to spend unlimited sums of money on elections. The result is that today a handful of billionaires are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every single year, often on ugly 30-second TV adds, helping to elect candidates who represent the rich and the powerful get elected.

And we are seeing the results of how oligarchy functions right now in Congress where the Republican leadership wants to throw 23 million American off of health insurance, cut Medicaid by over $800 billion, defund Planned Parenthood, cut food stamps and other nutrition programs by over $200 billion, cut Head Start and after school programs, and by the way, make drastic cuts in Pell grants and other programs that help working class kids be able to go to college.

And, unbelievably, at exactly the same time that they are throwing people off health care, making it harder to people to go to college, they have the chutzpah to provide the $300 billion in tax breaks to the top 1%. In other words, the very, very rich are getting richer and they get huge tax cuts. The working class and the middle class are struggling and they are seeing drastic cuts in life or death programs that could mean survival or not for those families.

Now, in response to these very serious crises it seems to me that we have two choices. First we can throw up our hands in despair. We can say, "I am not going to get involved."

That is understandable. But it is wrong.

Because the issues that we deal with today - the economic issues, the social issues, the racial issues, the environmental issues - not only impact your lives, they impact the lives of future generations and you do not have the moral right to turn your back on saving this planet and saving future generations.

The truth is that the only rational choice we have, the only real response we can make is to stand up and fight back - reclaim American democracy and create a government that works for all of us, not just the 1%.

And for us to do that it is necessary that we fight for a vision of a new America. An America based on progressive, humane values, not the values of the oligarchy.

And what does that mean, briefly in concrete terms?

It means that, no, we are not going to throw 23 million Americans off the health care they have. We are going to bring about health care for all as a right, not a privilege.

It means that, no, we are not, as the current administration does, deny the reality of climate change. We are going to take on the fossil fuel industry, transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

It means no we are not going to cut Pell grants and other student assistance. We are going to do what Germany, what Scandinavia, what countries all over the world do. And that is to make certain the public colleges and universities are tuition-free and we're going to significantly lower student debt because we believe that anyone in America who has the ability and the desire to be able to get a higher education regardless of his or her income.

And no we're not going to do what the attorney general of the United States now wants. We're not going to put more people in jail. We're going to fix a broken criminal justice system and invest in education and jobs for our young people, not more jails and incarceration.

No, we're not going to defund Planned Parenthood. We're going to vigorously defend a woman's right to choose.

My friends, let me conclude by saying this. We live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We are seeing exploding technology, which if used well, has extraordinary potential to improve life. We are an intelligent and hardworking people. If we are prepared to stand together; if we take on greed and selfishness; if we refuse to allow demagogues to divide us up there is no end to what the great people of our nation can accomplish.

So today as you graduate Brooklyn College, my message to you is very simple. Think big, not small, and help us create the nation that we all know we can become. Thank you all very much.
(c) 2017 Bernie Sanders (I"Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at"large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

Who's Drafting Trump's 'New NAFTA' Deal - And Who's Not?
By Jim Hightower

Like rose blossoms, a politician's promises can be beautiful when they burst into full, glorious bloom - only to see them fade over time and, petal by petal, fall away.

Take Donald Trump's glorious pledge last year to renegotiate NAFTA and provide a "much better" deal for working families. Beautiful! This particular blossom is what convinced many hard-hit, former-factory workers to vote Trump into the White House.

But the bloom is now off Trump's rosy promise, and it looks like working families will get nothing but thorns from him. A recently-leaked copy of his NAFTA plan reveals that, far from scrapping the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal, White House negotiators are goosing it up with even more power for multinational corporations. In particular, it includes new "investor incentives" to offshore thousands more of our middle-class jobs. Where did this come from? Right out of last year's discredited and defeated Trans-Pacific Partnership, a scam intended to enthrone corporate supremacy over our own laws.

Indeed, the 500 corporate executives and lobbyists who essentially wrote that raw TPP deal have quietly been huddling with Trump's team to draft the plan for this "new" NAFTA. What about those working people Trump promised to help? Locked out, not even allowed to watch the negotiations, much less have a say in them. The same for consumers, environmentalists, farmers -even members of Congress are being left in the dark, allowed no voice in shaping the deal.

But I'm guessing that the six Goldman Sachs executives Trump brought in to run our economic policy do have a say, along with his daughter and son-in-law who oversee both our government and the extended Trump family's global business empire. It's the same old NAFTA story: Corporate powers are at the table - you and I are on the menu.
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Goldman Sachs reportedly bought $2.8 billion worth of bonds issued by Venezuelan national oil company PDVSA.

Two Vile Names, One Sweetheart Deal: Goldman Bails Out Maduro
The Vampire Squid rescues an infamous autocrat
By Matt Taibbi

Who says two amoral and corrupt institutions with diametrically opposing ideologies can't collaborate to sink even lower together?

Goldman Sachs, infamous investment bank and symbol of international predatory capitalism, has made a devil's bargain with Nicolas Maduro, the infamous left-wing dictator of Venezuela who claims to despise companies just like Goldman. As Forbes writes:

"What happened is that the Venezuelan Treasury owned some bonds issued by PDVSA, the national oil company. They sold those bonds to Goldman Sachs at a serious discount to face value."

Maduro's authoritarian government has been rocked by protests this spring thanks to widespread economic and political devastation. (Maduro blames his country's problems on an "economic war" waged by Washington.) The most shocking statistic is that 75 percent of Venezuelans are said to have lost at least 19 pounds from food shortages.

The Goldman deal was a win-win for the bank and the dictator. Goldman bought $2.8 billion worth of oil bonds for 32 cents on the dollar, according to the Times of London. Maduro's regime, in return, immediately gets to stock its coffers with about $865 million.

Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly and a leading opposition figure, denounced Goldman for "aiding and abetting" the goblin of Bolivarian socialism:

"Goldman Sachs' financial lifeline to the regime," Borges wrote in a letter to Lloyd Blankfein, "will serve to strengthen the brutal repression unleashed against the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans peacefully protesting for political change in the country."

Borges added that he believed Goldman "decided to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people." In characteristic form, Goldman insisted it didn't do anything untoward because it bought the bonds from an intermediary on the secondary market, and didn't deal with Maduro's government directly. (Goldman would only identify the intermediary as "European.") Also, the bank insisted, it bought the bonds for a third of their value to help the Venezuelan people!

"We recognize that the situation is complex and evolving and that Venezuela is in crisis. We agree that life there has to get better, and we made the investment in part because we believe it will," the firm said in an email statement.

More than 50 people have died in protests over the past two months, with many more injured and arrested.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda, told reporters that he and his team were beaten by security forces in a march this past weekend. He said he believed Goldman's investment would "only make things worse," as the Miami Herald put it.

"Why do they need this money?" Capriles wondered. "To buy bombs and war supplies that are running out? To finance a fraudulent electoral campaign?"

It's a good thing Karl Marx is dead, because otherwise this metaphysical mind-loop of a news story would make his head explode. Is this a corruption of capitalism, a corruption of socialism, both, or neither? Maduro himself would probably say this transaction is a perfect example of the "savage capitalism" he says he despises.

Whatever it is, this tale of dogs and cats living together on the secondary bond market represents the ultimate in cynicism, and one likely to have dire consequences for a country already on the brink.
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

The Artist As Prophet
By Chris Hedges

The Israeli writer and dissident Uri Avnery asked an Egyptian general how the Egyptians managed to surprise the Israelis when they launched the October 1973 war. The general answered: "Instead of reading the intelligence reports, you should have read our poets."

The deep malaise, rage and feelings of betrayal that have enveloped American society are rarely captured and almost never are explained coherently by the press. To grasp the savage economic and emotional cost of deindustrialization, the destruction of our democratic institutions, the dark undercurrent of nihilistic violence that sees us beset with mass shootings, the attraction of opioids, the rise of the militarized state and the concentration of national wealth in a tiny cabal of corrupt bankers and corporations, it is necessary to turn to a handful of poets, writers and other artists. These artists, who often exist on the margins of mass culture, are our unheeded prophets.

"What Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, and most other prophets have in common is a strong ethical outlook and a heightened sensitivity to attitudes and morals-the obvious ones as well as those that lurk beneath the surface," the painter Enrique Martinez Celaya said in an essay. "They also share urgency. Prophets are not inclined to wait for the right time. Their prophetic vision demands action, leaving little room for calculation and diplomacy. Truth, for the prophets, is not merely a belief but a moral imperative that compels them to speak and act with little regard for convenience or gains. But prophets need to do more than speaking and acting, and it is not enough to be apocalyptic. Something must be brought forward."

All despotisms, including our own, make war on culture. They seek to manipulate or erase historical memory. This assault on memory, Martinez Celaya said, is "philosophical violence." It leaves us with a "sense of being a stranger, displaced, a sense of having no way to check where one comes from because something has been cut and removed."

When I recently interviewed Russell Banks, the novelist said, "It's remarkable to me, the speed which memory gets lost in America and perhaps elsewhere. The world has been so decentralized. No one lives with anyone older than they are, generally. It's only through memory that we can compare the present to anything else, to take its measure."

"If you can't take its measure then you can't judge it," he said. "You can't evaluate it. You can't take a moral position with regards to it."

Randall Jarrell in his essay "A Sad Heart at the Supermarket" calls our consumer culture "periodical."

"We believe that all that is deserves to perish and to have something else put in its place," he wrote. This belief, Jarrell said, is "the opposite of the world of the arts, where commercial and scientific progress do not exist; where the bone of Homer and Mozart and Donatello is there, always, under the mere blush of fashion, where the past-the remote past, even-is responsible for the way we understand, value, and act in, the present."

"An artist's work and life presuppose continuing standards, values stretched out over centuries of millennia, a future that is the continuation and modification of the past, not its contradiction or irrelevant replacement," he went on.

"The past's relation to the artist or man of culture is almost the opposite of its relation to the rest of our society," Jarrell wrote. "To him the present is no more than the last ring on the trunk, understandable and valuable only in terms of all the earlier rings. The rest of our society sees only that great last ring, the enveloping surface of the trunk; what's underneath is a disregarded, almost hypothetical foundation."

In his novel "Cloudsplitter," Banks tells the story of John Brown through the eyes of Owen, a son who survived the assault on Harpers Ferry and the aborted slave uprising.

"White Americans always say that John Brown was well intended but insane," he said in the interview. "Black Americans don't think that at all. They think he was heroic. From Malcolm X to Baldwin to whomever you want to ask. W.E.B. Du Bois' biography of Brown was the first biography of Brown that was sympathetic in any way. It's very interesting there's a racial divide on this man that is so extreme, yet no one disagrees about the facts. The facts have been known since 1859. No one has uncovered any new facts. But diametrically two views of history."

"It began in the 15th century with this power grab that required genocidal relations to people who were not white Europeans," he said.

"It continues all the way to our present. You think of Shakespeare. The Moor becomes Caliban. The rise of the slave trade coincides exactly with that 10-year period [in which 'Othello' and 'The Tempest' were written]."

The artist makes the invisible visible. He or she shatters the cliches and narratives used to mask reality.

"Whenever they talk about unemployment figures or the state of the economy, you read the comments [about the article]," the poet Linh Dinh said when I interviewed him earlier this year. "The comments are people howling and cursing the article. Most people know these articles are nonsense. If you're not fighting for your livelihood you tend to believe these articles."

"What's most disturbing is the hatred for these people, [the working class]," he told me. "The left always pretends to talk about the masses, the working class, but it really hates the working class. It doesn't pay any attention to the working class. It mocks their values."

Banks, in his novels beginning with "Continental Drift" in 1985, has, like Martinez Celaya and Linh Dinh, relentlessly chronicled the economic and psychological effects of deindustrialization on the working class and the deadening effects of technocratic society.

"If you lift the rock of bourgeois respectability, you see underneath these kinds of realities," Banks said. "It isn't just particular to small towns in upstate New York or New Hampshire or south Florida. It's true across the entire spectrum of humanity. Those just happen to be the worlds I know best personally and longest. So my attention tends to focus there. But I know I'm really writing about humanity at large. Jesus said 'the poor will always be with us.' I think he was really saying there are more of them than there are of us. I think I'm writing about the majority of human beings on this planet, more than the majority. My attention goes out to those people. They are everywhere. Whenever someone says you're writing about the minorities and outcasts, that's not true. There are more people of color than there are people without color on this planet."

Martinez Celaya said, "We need artists more than ever to be the conscience of the moment, to reflect back to us in the mirror what this society and this moment is, so we can see it. We cannot see it because of the creations, fabrications, and reality TV. It makes it so difficult for us to see what we're going through. I keep wishing Dostoevsky could be born again so he can actually write a book of this moment."

The physical decay of towns and cities silences important parts of our past. It allows corporations to create a false history and a false culture that homogenizes our lives into a deadening sameness.

"Stories make a place," Linh Dihn wrote. "Without stories, there is no place, but without place, there can still be stories. If your stories are not organically grown, but imposed on you by those who hate everything about you, then you're virtually dead."

"Everywhere I go, every town I visit, you don't see any industries," he said in the interview. "You don't see any factories. You don't see anything. We don't make anything. We are really the poorest country on earth, but people refuse to see that. We are only surviving. We are only looking good because of our military might, because we are an empire. But this force cannot go on forever. It should be so obvious that we're only chugging along, bullying people into lending us money and sending us stuff that we don't deserve, that we haven't earned. How can we survive? Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been reduced to living like savages in this self-proclaimed greatest country on earth."

The disease of empire, the belief that military power is a virtue, blinds us to the folly of our own hubris, our proclivity for violence and our decline. It leads us, Martinez Celaya said, to create miniature, distorted empires of our own. Donald Trump embodies this yearning for a personal empire as vicious and exploitative as the American empire. Empires create a culture in which people dedicate their lives to building monuments to themselves.

"I'm interested in this fabrication of empires," Martinez Celaya said. "The implication that we're always looking at a place that is better than where we are. We're always insisting on a future that in some ways invalidates our present. Empires are dangerous for many reasons. Empires are dangerous because they ignore the conditions of the present. They are a denial of self. They are a denial of the real conditions of the present. And empires are illusory fabrications, manipulative to one's self as well as to others. They are projections of human vanity. That's what they are. The vanity of imagining ourselves better tomorrow than we are today."

Soren Kierkegaard understood that the fundamental problem of modernity was that people had been deformed by mass culture into non-people. It was the artist-as-prophet who was tasked with exposing the lies embodied in the mindless chants fed to the crowd, he said. Tyrannies always seek to destroy us as distinct, autonomous human beings.

Christ "did not want to form a party, an interest group, a mass movement, but wanted to be what he was, the truth, which is related to the single individual," Kierkegaard wrote. "Therefore everyone who will genuinely serve the truth is by that very fact a martyr. To win a crowd is not art; for that only untruth is needed, nonsense, and a little knowledge of human passions. But no witness to the truth dares to get involved with the crowd."

In his novel "The Lost Memory of Skin," Banks looks at how the alienation and isolation of modernity have been exacerbated by the digital age.

"If you digitalize your erotic life you have a lost memory of skin," Banks told me. "That's really central to this story and to the experience of this boy. He's a 22-year-old boy. That may also be part of it too. Evolution into adult life is made much more difficult through the digitalization of our erotic lives and every other aspect of our lives-our economic lives, our political lives. It is key to that novel. He lives through his screen. Yet it's not in any sense a book that focuses on that fact of life. It's his environment. That's all. I wanted to show what it was like to be immersed in that as an environment. Where you had no point of comparison. Where you had no genuine outside experience that you could compare and see what was going on. I have a 9-year-old grandson. He has no memory of life without it being located on the screen. It's frightening because it alters one's brain and whole perceptual apparatus of the world."

"We have now in place a system that makes a person like Trump not only possible but also probably inevitable as president," he said. "You can tell by surrounding himself with billionaires and generals, it's really an oligarchy that's come into existence. The seeds were there long before Ronald Reagan. Once you no longer have to hide it-because you're so entrenched in power-then it's OK to put someone like that up front. Until now, we've felt with lesser and lesser degree that we've had to hide it. Now we're in trouble. We're in deep trouble." The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, at the height of Stalin's terror, was in a visitor line at the prison in Leningrad. A woman came close to her and whispered: "Can you describe this?" Akhmatova answered: "Yes, I can." "And then something like the shadow of a smile crossed what had once been her face," the poet wrote.

Between 1935 and 1961 Akhmatova worked clandestinely on her elegy "Requiem." The 10 numbered poems, which would not be fully published until 1987, chronicled the despair, grief, loss and terror suffered under Stalin's tyranny. She became one of the most eloquent and powerful voices of the oppressed. Her art was wielded against the brutality of power in defense of the sanctity of life. She wrote:

Then I learned how faces fall apart
How fear looks out from under the eyelids,
How deep are the hieroglyphics
Cut by Suffering on people's cheeks.
The artist, if true to his or her vocation, recovers the past and explains the present. The artist is the true chronicler of who we were and where we came from. Culture, in times of distress, is not a luxury but a life raft.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

Hillary Clinton delivering the commencement address at Wellesley College on May 26, 2017.

Hillary Clinton Roasts Toxic Trump Administration In A Remarkable Speech
"When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society."
By John Nichols

Hillary Clinton returned to her alma mater Friday and delivered a remarkable rebuke, not just to the right-wing policies but to the disdain for truth that is so frequently evidenced by the man she beat by almost 3 million votes in the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump's budget, Clinton told Wellesley College graduates in a compelling commencement address, represents:

An attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us-the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, and hard working people who need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent, middle-class life. It grossly underfunds public education, mental health, and efforts even to combat the opioid epidemic. And in reversing our commitment to fight climate change, it puts the future of our nation and our world at risk.
Ripping a White House plan that is "shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie," she declared, "Let's call it what it is: a con. They don't even try to hide it."

Clinton grounded her denunciation of the Trump agenda in an impassioned defense of American values. Her remarks combined humor, insight, and ardent advocacy for a radically different vision of the the country's future. Her speech embraced the resistance to the Trump administration and its toxic brew of "alternative facts," jabs at journalists and dismissals of critical inquiry.

"There is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason," Clinton explained. "Just log on to social media for ten seconds, it will hit you right in the face. People denying science, concocting elaborate hurtful conspiracy theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors, drumming up rampant fear about undocumented immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the poor.... Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes, like the size of crowds. And then defending themselves by talking about quote-unquote alternative facts."

At the core of her message was a defense of open and honest debate based in reality rather than White House spin. In the most powerful portion of her speech, Clinton warned that the discourse and, yes, democracy itself, are threatened by an administration that refuses to acknowledge the truth.

"When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society," Clinton declared. "That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality-not just our laws and our rights and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs."

One does not need to be a Clinton enthusiast to recognize the importance of the speech she delivered at Wellesley. There's plenty to criticize about her 2016 presidential run-Clinton freely acknowledges that she did not run a perfect campaign-but this was a commencement address, not a campaign speech. It contained within it a necessary argument against complacency at a time when the basic premises of the American experiment are under attack.

Clinton used the bully pulpit that is afforded defeated presidential candidates-especially those who prevailed in the popular vote even as they fell short in the Electoral College-to argue against the normalization of Trumpism.

"If our leaders lie about the problems we face, we'll never solve them. It undermines confidence in government as a whole," Clinton explained. "It also matters because our country was founded on the principles of the enlightenment, in particular the belief that people possess the capacity for reason, and that free and open debate is the lifeblood of a democracy."

Of course, Clinton's critics will object to her tone. They always do. In particular, Trump enthusiasts will be unsettled by her comparison of the moment in which the Wellesley College Class of 2017 is graduating with the moment in which her own Wellesley College Class of 1969 graduated.

"We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice, after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice," she recalled, with a reference to Richard Nixon that drew roars of approval from a crowd who immediately recognized a historical synchronicity at the close of a month that began with Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey.

While Clinton's partisan critics will gripe about her tone, their real objection will be to her truth.

There is nothing Democratic or Republican, nothing left or right, in a defense of the principles of the enlightenment, of a faith in reason and facts. It is American to say, as Hillary Clinton did on Friday, that we must all "Stand up for truth and reason. Do it in private-in conversations with your family, your friends, your workplace, your neighborhoods-and do it in public-in Medium posts, on social media, or grab a sign and head to a protest. Make defending truth and a free society a core value of your life every single day."
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

End The Greedy Silence - Enough Already!

Why do we tolerate our fellow Americans dying in the tens of thousands each year because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time?

By Ralph Nader

It is time Americans rise up against the corruption, inefficiency, and cruelty of our healthcare system and tell its corporate captors and Congress - Enough Already!

For decades other countries have guaranteed universal health insurance for all their people, at lower costs and better outcomes (President Truman proposed it 72 years ago in the US). When are we going to break out of this taxpayer-subsidized prison built by the giant insurance companies, drug goliaths and monopolizing hospital chains?

How long is Uncle Sucker going to pay through the nose for gouging drug prices, patient-denying health insurance companies and all the brutal fine print rules in consumer contracts whose trap doors are maddening tens of millions of Americans?

Deductibles, exclusions, waivers, co-pays, corporate immunities from injured patients, disqualifying changes in patients' status and just plain stonewalling are just some examples of this cruel madness.

Not to mention the endless electronic bills with their inscrutable codes and unchallengeable charges - that is if you can get anyone on the phone to answer your questions. Billing fraud and abuses alone cost us up to $330 billion a year!

Why do we put up with "pay or die" drug prices? Why do we tolerate our fellow Americans dying in the tens of thousands each year because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time?

Do we know that the profiteering drug companies regularly are given a slew of handouts, including huge tax breaks, free drugs developed by our National Institutes of Health, and few restraints on their high pressure sales of dangerous and addictive drugs (eg opioids) or, together with their corporate middlemen, return the favor by charging Americans the highest prices in the world? Other countries put limits on such blatant greed and exploitation.

Groping for ever more profits, the big drug companies offshore production to less regulated labs in China and India, which amount to 60% of the drugs we buy and 80% of the active ingredients in all medicines sold in the US. Unpatriotic in the extreme!

Compounding these inhumane practices is a supine Congress, with few exceptions like Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D, TX), and state legislatures, misusing the power we entrusted to them. These legislators see large pharmaceutical companies as honey pots for campaign cash that work as hush money paid by hordes of drug industry lobbyists. So craven was the majority in Congress in 2003 that, when the drug benefits bill was passed, it prohibited Medicare from negotiating volume discounts for this lucrative corporate sales bonanza (Past Congresses authorized the Pentagon and Veterans Administration to bargain and they get lower prices as a result).

Despite the fact that these healthcare challenges have been dealt with more humanely and economically by other Western countries in the world, Americans are consistently told to tolerate an aggravating status quo. Scores of books, articles and television exposés highlight all the ways we're pushed around, denied, excluded, harmed, overcharged and deceived, yet so many of these authors still maintain that our system of health insurance/healthcare can't be replaced with a much better one? So these writers continue to advise us how to duck, slide and swivel our escape from a few of these commercials chains and scams.

In all the fine articles written to help consumers navigate Obamacare, Medicare, and private health plans, the authors trap themselves in this vast corporate cul-de-sac by never mentioning the way out.

That way is Single Payer or Full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, with free choice of doctors and hospitals - at far lower costs, mortality and morbidity. These narrow reformers can't escape their "it ain't going to happen here" syndrome.

Really? Don't they know that the public has long viewed Single Payer favorably (including a majority of doctors and nurses), even without political leaders standing up for it or mass media reporting this proven safe path.

The surrender to corporate tyranny infects the 112 members of the House of Representatives who have co-signed HR 676 to create full Medicare for all. They signed, but then gave in to a silent resignation by not fighting for it in Congress and back home.

When the companies and their apologists argue for a "free market" approach to healthcare, you can retort - what free market? Half the money coming to these companies is from the federal, state and local governments. Taxpayers also pay tens of billions of dollars for much of the discovery and testing of drugs. Tax breaks and loopholes in patent laws block generic drugs and distort the free market.

Drug patents are by definition monopolies. Concentration by mergers and acquisitions of hospitals, clinics and physician practices (note dwindling independent cardiology practices) raise serious anti-trust issues. Fine print contract peonage takes away the consumers' freedom of contract, as do the daily buy and sell equations, so often rendered by third parties for patients. Corporate billing and other crimes are endemic. What free market?

Each of you can help the Single Payer movement build momentum. Ask your members of Congress in writing if they support HR 676 and, if not, demand their appearance in person at a town meeting arranged by people like you to answer why. If they refuse, peacefully picket their local offices.

Ask the newspapers, radio and television stations, including the culpable public radio and public television, when are they going to cover the basic full Medicare reform supported by tens of millions of their listeners and viewers?

Finally, go to the website to find out what other people are doing and what more you can do with your friends and co-workers.

One percent of you, together with popular backing, can make it happen, through a persistent civic hobby. Remember, you only have to turn around less than 450 members of Congress.

Enough Already?
(c) 2017 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is Unstoppable, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Oil and plastic are choking the planet

Oil And Plastic Are Choking The Planet
By David Suzuki

People who deny that humans are wreaking havoc on the planet's life-support systems astound me. When confronted with the obvious damage we're doing to the biosphere - from climate change to water and air pollution to swirling plastic patches in the oceans - some dismiss the reality or employ logical fallacies to discredit the messengers.

It's one thing to argue over solutions, but to reject the need for them is suicidal. And to claim people can't talk about fossil fuels and climate change because they use fossil fuel-derived products, such as plastic keyboards, is nonsensical.

There's no denying that oil, coal and gas are tremendously useful. They hold super-concentrated energy from the sun and are used to make a variety of products, from medicines to lubricants to plastics. The problems aren't the resources but our profligate use of them. Using them more wisely is a start. In many cases, we also have alternatives.

Burning oil, coal and gas to propel inefficient automobiles and generate electricity illustrates the problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 14 to 30 per cent of a gasoline-powered car's fuel is used to propel the vehicle. That energy is mostly moving a tonne of car, which often holds one 80-kilogram person. That's a lot of fuel and energy to transport one or two people.

Looked at this way, even electric or hybrid personal vehicles aren't terribly efficient, but they at least pollute less than gas-powered vehicles - and the EPA notes 74 to 94 per cent of an electric car's energy goes to moving the vehicle and its passengers. Energy-efficient or electric vehicles are moving in the right direction, but public transit and active transport such as cycling and walking are better alternatives.

Fossil fuel power plants are also inefficient. Only about a third of the power generated reaches consumers. More is lost through wasteful household or business use. A lot of energy is also required to extract, process and transport fuels to power plants. Because of the many methods of generating and supplying electricity with renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, it's tough to put exact numbers on efficiency, but far less power is wasted. Because the energy sources are inexhaustible and don't produce emissions, waste isn't as big a concern as with fossil fuels - although it's still important.

Most plastics are also made from oil - which presents another set of problems. As with fuels, people started making plastics from oil because it was inexpensive, plentiful and easy for corporations to exploit and sell. Our consume-and-profit economic system meant automakers once designed cars not to be efficient but to burn more fuel than necessary. Likewise, manufacturers create far more plastic products than necessary. Many items don't serve much purpose beyond making money. Sometimes the packaging is worth more than the contents!

It's so bad that researchers from Australia's University of Tasmania and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recently found 18 tonnes of plastic garbage - 239 items per square metre - scattered across a small South Pacific island 5,000 kilometres from the nearest human occupation. Scientists have also found massive, swirling patches of plastic in the North and South Pacific oceans, each holding around 400,000 plastic particles per square kilometre. University of Tasmania researcher Jennifer Lavers said plastic in the oceans could be as great a threat as climate change. "You put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or plastic in the oceans and both will stick around," she told New Scientist.

As with fossil fuels, the first step to addressing the problem is to substantially reduce plastics usage. There are also alternatives. To begin, we should recycle everything already produced. Plastics can also be made from renewable resources, such as hemp, or any fast-growing plant that contains cellulose. In fact, plastics were once commonly made from animal products such as horn and tusks, but when those became expensive, people started using plants, switching to oil products when that became more profitable.

We can and must cut down on fossil fuels and plastics. We also have alternatives, and ways to prevent plastics from ending up in the oceans. Those who look away and pretend we don't have a problem are only slowing solutions and accelerating our self-destruction.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Kabul Bomb Blast Kills At Least 90 People. We Need To Know Their Names
By Amy Goodman

A suicide bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan killed at least 90 people and injured over 450. Hidden in a tanker truck, the bomb is likely one of the largest ever set off in Kabul. It left a crater 13 feet deep, and broke windows over a mile away. Among those killed were two media workers, Aziz Navin of the 24-hour Afghan cable news channel TOLOnews, and Mohammed Nazir, a driver for the BBC. The death toll continues to climb as additional bodies are found, and some who were injured succumb to their wounds. Details of those killed are sparse. While the Manchester bombing nine days earlier garnered wall-to-wall coverage on the corporate news networks, with in-depth biographies of the victims, Kabul, with a death toll over four times as high, with hundreds injured, gets mentioned only in brief reports, the dead and injured listed as numbers rather than names.

"It was 8:30 in the morning, and I was in my office. ... It shook the building. I thought it was an earthquake. And then there was a huge blast," Lotfullah Najafizada, news director for TOLOnews, said on the "Democracy Now!" news hour. "What happened today is definitely a tragic and a huge attack," he said, describing the victims as "civilians, working-class people."

Lotfullah recounted how they found their co-worker Aziz Navin on Wednesday morning: "We had to go and find his dead body among over 50 dead bodies, which were at two hospitals, by noon. And most of the bodies were burned to death. And some bodies, you could just see a few body parts available, beyond recognition. It was a very, very tragic and barbaric attack."

TOLOnews was attacked last year, in January 2016. Seven colleagues were targeted and killed while riding together in a van. Led by Lotfullah, the TOLO team debated whether to give up their jobs to avoid future attacks. "We talked to all of our colleagues, and over 90 percent of them were under immense family pressures to quit their jobs. But over 90 percent of them, in the same time, decided to stay and told us that now we should continue firmly and continue with even greater dedication and commitment," he said.

The Kabul attack on Wednesday took place in what is considered one of the city's safest neighborhoods, with many embassies, security checkpoints, gates and blast walls. Nevertheless, the size of the bomb and its detonation at a crowded intersection during the morning rush hour inflicted massive casualties, almost all of them civilians. Each of these deaths is tragic. We ought to know not only the number of those killed, but also their names, their life stories.

The reporting on the May 22 bomb attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, was immediate and comprehensive. As names were released, print, TV and online news outlets offered an extensive biography of each victim. The Manchester Evening News launched a fundraising webpage that has raised almost $3 million for the families of those killed and for the wounded in that bombing. These are appropriate responses to be sure. Without the wall-to-wall coverage of the Kabul attack, there is no comparable outpouring of compassion for its victims. War should never be normalized; it should never become routine. We need to see the images. Only then will war become unacceptable, intolerable.

Aziz Navin was walking to work at TOLOnews, where he provided IT support. He was 22 years old. We know from his Facebook profile that he was an avid photographer, and a fan of the Liverpool Football Club. He was a student at the American University of Afghanistan, and also worked as a systems administrator at a Kabul-based web hosting company, NavinHost. TOLOnews co-workers attended his funeral, the same day of the bombing, and also posted a story about him, with moving images from the funeral.

The other media worker killed, Mohammed Nazir, was remembered by a BBC colleague, Waheed Massoud, who wrote, "Mohammed Nazir was young. He was the father of four children and the only breadwinner in his family. He had a gentle smile and a warm personality."

Late reports suggest the Kabul bombing was committed by the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group, with help from the Pakistani intelligence services, the ISI. We may never know who is to blame, nor, sadly, are we likely to learn the names and the life stories of the victims. Aziz Navin's favorite quote, posted on his Facebook page, was: "Be the change you wish to see in the world.
(c) 2017 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co"author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Quotable Quote...

"Since world war two we've managed to create history's first truly global empire. This has been done by the corporatocracy, which are a few men and women who run our major corporations and in doing so also run the U.S. government and many other governments around the world."
~~~ John Perkins, 2005, author of the book titled 'Confessions of and Economic Hit Man

War Monuments Are Killing Us
By David Swanson

Remarks at Lincoln Memorial, May 30, 2017

Washington, D.C., and much of the rest of the United States, is full of war monuments, with many more under construction and being planned. Most of them glorify wars. Many of them were erected during later wars and sought to improve the images of past wars for present purposes. Almost none of them teach any lessons from mistakes made. The very best of them mourn the loss of a tiny fraction - the U.S. fraction - of the wars' victims.

But if you search this and other U.S. cities, you'll have a harder time finding memorials for North American genocide or slavery or the people slaughtered in the Philippines or Laos or Cambodia or Vietnam or Iraq. You won't find a lot of monuments around here to the Bonus Army or the Poor People's Campaign. Where is the history of the struggles of sharecroppers or factory workers or suffragettes or environmentalists? Where are our writers and artists? Why is there not a statue of Mark Twain right here laughing his ass off at us? Where is the Three-Mile Island memorial warning us away from nuclear energy? Where are the monuments to each Soviet or U.S. person, such as Vasili Arkhipov, who held off nuclear apocalypse? Where is the great blowback memorial mourning the governments overthrown and the arming and training of fanatical killers?

While many nations erect memorials to what they do not wish to repeat as well as to what they wish to emulate, the United States focuses overwhelmingly on wars and overwhelmingly on glorifying them. And the very existence of Veterans For Peace jams that narrative and forces some people to think.

Well over 99.9% of our history is not memorialized in marble. And when we ask that it be, we're generally laughed at. Yet if you propose to remove a monument to a Confederate general in a southern U.S. city, do you know what the most common response is? They accuse you of being against history, of wishing to erase the past. This comes out of an understanding of the past as consisting entirely of wars.

In New Orleans, they've just taken down their Confederate war monuments, which had been erected to advance white supremacy. In my town of Charlottesville, Virginia, the city has voted to take down a Robert E. Lee statue. But we've run up against a Virginia law that forbids taking down any war monument. There is no law, as far as I know, anywhere on earth that forbids taking down any peace monument. Almost as hard as finding such a law would be finding any peace monuments around here to consider taking down. I don't count the building of our friends nearby here at the U.S. Institute of Peace, which if defunded this year will have lived out its entire existence without ever having opposed a U.S. war.

But why shouldn't we have peace monuments? If Russia and the United States were engaged in jointly memorializing the ending of the Cold War in Washington and Moscow, would that not help hold off the new Cold War? If we were building a monument to the prevention, over the last several years, of a U.S. attack on Iran, would a future such attack be more likely or less likely? If there were a monument to the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Outlawry movement on the Mall, wouldn't some tourists learn of its existence and what it outlawed? Would the Geneva Conventions be dismissed as quaint if the war planners saw the Geneva Conventions Monument out their window?

Beyond the lack of monuments for peace agreements and disarmament successes, where are the monuments to the rest of human life beyond war? In a sane society, the war memorials would be one small example of many types of public memorials, and where they existed they would mourn, not glorify, and mourn all victims, not a small fraction deemed worthy of our sorrow.

The Swords to Plowshares Memorial Bell Tower is an example of what we should be doing as a society. Veterans For Peace is an example of what we should be doing as a society. Admit our mistakes. Value all lives. Improve our practices. Honor courage when it is combined with morality. And recognize veterans by creating no more veterans going forward.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Americans should prepare themselves for the possibility that other countries will impose trade and economic sanctions on the United States

Economic Pressure Could Jolt Trump Into Action On Climate Change
By Naomi Klein

Let's just give up. That's one way of responding to the reports that President Trump has decided to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

After all, without the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases onboard, what point is there in any of us doing our part to try to prevent catastrophic climate change? Time to focus on yoga and juicing and what the kids today call "self-care." Or maybe there's a recreational drug that will make serial disasters seem exciting. Oh, and if you are really rich, it's time to join the movement of high-end preppers and invest in some land on higher ground.

No, wait a minute, that's . . . monstrous. Monstrous to people in Sri Lanka, where hundreds were killed in recent days in the midst of deadly mudslides and flooding. Monstrous to people in India and Pakistan, where thousands have died in heat waves in recent years.

Monstrous to the people in the United States who cannot afford to escape the worst impacts of storms like Sandy and Katrina, and whose homes and communities are already disappearing because of coastal erosion, from Alaska to Louisiana.

Today, I feel the same way about the urgency of climate action as I did yesterday: The threat is so grave that it is immoral to waste even a moment pondering our chances of success. So long as there is any chance of keeping temperatures below truly catastrophic levels, we have an unbreakable responsibility to do everything in our power to increase those chances.

And that means deploying every tool in the policy, activist and judicial arsenal to lower emissions. Since Trump has effectively turned the federal government into a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, from here on in, the rule of thumb needs to be: Every domain that he does not control needs to fully commit to being ExxonMobil's worst nightmare.

Mayor de Blasio just announced that he plans to "sign an executive order maintaining New York City's commitment to the Paris Agreement." That's good news. So is the ongoing investigation by New York's attorney general into whether ExxonMobil misled shareholders about climate risks. And we need more examples like these.

Large states like New York and California need to commit to getting to 100% renewable energy as fast as current technology allows (and fortunately, that's very fast). We also need states and cities to show that policies that decrease emissions don't have to drive up prices or drive down employment; on the contrary, they can be designed to bring better, cheaper services and unionized jobs to those who are currently the most economically excluded.

Universities, faith institutions, foundations and trade unions need to use their endowments and pension funds to starve out the fossil fuel sector and bet big on clean energy.

And if Trump does indeed pull the U.S. out of Paris, Americans should prepare themselves for the possibility that other countries will impose trade and economic sanctions on the United States. This idea is gaining traction quickly, especially because Trump has been so quick to threaten economic retaliation against anyone who doesn't follow his America-first dictates. It's now much easier to imagine major trading partners responding to a Paris pullout by imposing penalties on U.S. goods, particularly those with a high carbon footprint.

This kind of tactic, if it went beyond threats, could have painful impacts on the U.S. economy. But it might provoke Trump to reconsider - and if he didn't, it could cause him serious political damage with the very sectors where he made the most extravagant job-creation promises.

It's difficult for any country to accept the idea that it might deserve (or even benefit from) outside economic sanctions. But consider this: The United States has imposed sanctions on others - South Africa and Iran are two examples - when it felt the moral case was clear and the stakes were high. It's impossible to argue that an existential threat like climate disruption, and a rogue action like Trump's, does not far surpass that bar.

Over the past four months, America's allies have tried to use charm to get Trump to see the light on climate change. He has been cajoled by European and Chinese leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau snapped a picture with Ivanka sitting behind her father's desk in the Oval Office and even took her to the theater.

We now know that none of it worked. It's time to communicate with this President in the only language he appears to understand: money.
(c) 2017 Naomi Klein is an award"winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism." To read all her latest writing visit You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

The Dead Letter Office...

Mick gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Mulvaney,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your willingness to steal money from Social Security and Medicaid and give it to the rich, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 06-24-2017. We salute you Herr Mulvaney, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Making America Meaner
By Robert Reich

Last Wednesday, on the eve of his election to the House of Representatives, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte beat up Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the "Guardian" newspaper.

What prompted the violence? Jacobs had asked Gianforte for his reaction to the Congressional Budget Office's report showing that the House Republican substitute for the Affordable Care Act would result in 23 million Americans losing their health insurance.

Then, in the words of a Fox News team who witnessed the brutal attack: "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. ... Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, 'I'm sick and tired of this!' Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken.... To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies." After the attack, Jacobs was evaluated in an ambulance at the scene and taken to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. Several hours later he left the hospital wearing a sling around his arm. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Donald Trump's reaction? In Sicily for the G-7 summit, he praised Greg Gianforte's election as a "great win in Montana."

For years, conservatives warned that liberals were "defining deviancy down" by tolerating bad social behavior.

Donald Trump is actively defining deviancy down in American politics. He's also making America meaner.

Last year, Trump said of a protester at one of his campaign rallies: "I'd like to punch him in the face." He added "in the old days, protesters would be carried out on stretchers."

In a different era, when decency was the norm, the members of the U.S. House of Representatives would not seat a thug like Gianforte in the chamber. In the age of Trump, it's okay to beat up a reporter.

Charlie Sykes, a conservative former talk-show host in Wisconsin, says "every time something like Montana happens, Republicans adjust their standards and put an emphasis on team loyalty. They normalize and accept previously unacceptable behavior."

Gianforte's attack on Jacobs was shameful enough. Almost as shameful was Gianforte's press release about what occurred, written immediately afterward by his campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon:

"After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ."

This was all a blatant lie, as confirmed by the Fox News crew that watched the whole thing. But under Trump, blatant lying is the new normal. And a "liberal journalist" is the enemy.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, says that Donald Trump "has contributed to a climate of discourse consistent with assaulting a reporter for asking an inconvenient question."

It used to be that candidates and elected officials had a duty to answer reporters' questions. We assumed that answering questions from the press was part of the job. We thought democracy depended on it.

But we're now in the era of Donald Trump, who calls the press the "enemy of the American people."

It was never the case in the United States that candidates or elected officials beat up reporters who posed questions they didn't like. That was the kind of thing that occurred in dictatorships.

But "Trump has declared open season on journalists, and politicians and members of his Cabinet have joined the hunt." says Lucy Dalglish, the dean of Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.

More generally and menacingly, Trump has licensed the dark side of the American psyche. His hatefulness and vindictiveness have normalized a new meanness in America.

Since Trump came on the scene, hate crimes have soared. America has become even more polarized. Average Americans say and do things to people they disagree with that in a different time would have been unthinkable.

"I'd submit that the president has unearthed some demons," says Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican Representative from South Carolina. "I've talked to a number of people about it back home. They say, 'Well, look, if the president can say whatever, why can't I say whatever?' He's given them license."

This is not only dangerous for our democracy. It's also dangerous for our society. "There is a total weirdness out there," says Sanford. "People feel like, if the president of the United States can say anything to anybody at any time, then I guess I can too. And that is a very dangerous phenomenon."

A president contributes to setting the norms of our society. Trump is setting them at a new low.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

We know that Donald Trump is a pathological liar. Sooner or later, his lies will catch up with him.

Free Fallin': On the Perils and Promise of Possibly Impeaching Trump
By Medea Benjamin

I would love to see Donald Trump impeached-for anything. Emoluments. Corruption. Conflicting business interests. Profiting at public expense. Obstructing the Russia investigation. Leaking classified information. Waging wars without congressional approval. Groping. Whatever it takes.

It's a colossal embarrassment to our nation and a danger to the planet that Trump inhabits the White House. Much of the world, Arab despots aside, would jump for joy if he were kicked out.

Some Democrats, such as Representative Al Green of Texas, are openly calling for impeachment, and even a few Republicans are speaking up. Republican congressman Justin Amash admitted that Trump may have committed an impeachable offense by trying to shut down the FBI's investigation into Michael Flynn's contacts with the Russians. So did Carlos Curbelo, a Republican congressman from Florida.

Calling for Trump's removal from office can be a powerful organizing tool.

But let's be real: It's highly unlikely that a Republican president will be impeached by a Republican-led Congress. There would have to be some pretty damning evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign or the president's own profiteering from his office to convince Republicans that the president had violated the Constitution and should no longer serve.

George W. Bush did far worse damage by dragging our nation into war on the basis of lies. Sixteen years later, Iraq-and the wider region-is still reeling. Even then, impeachment did not gain steam as a mainstream issue, mostly because the Democratic leadership, including Nancy Pelosi, refused to support it. Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment, but they languished in the Judiciary Committee even after Democrats took control of the House in 2006.

The initiative to impeach Bush failed in Congress, but it received enthusiastic grassroots support and became a tool used by the peace movement to build momentum. Similarly, the call to impeach Trump is an organizing tool. Over 1.1 million people have already signed an impeachment petition. From Los Angeles to Cambridge, Massachusetts, activists have pushed their cities to pass impeachment resolutions saying Trump's many business interests violate the Constitution's Emoluments Clause. The resolutions have sparked heated debates and media attention at the local level, giving a powerful megaphone to the resistance movement.

While most members of Congress are not yet ready to jump on the impeachment bandwagon, they are constantly sticking out their fingers to see where the wind is blowing. And the wind is picking up. Trump's approval ratings are in the doldrums, hovering in the high 30s and low 40s. A poll taken after Trump's firing of former FBI director James Comey found for the first time that more Americans are in favor of impeachment than against: 48 percent versus 41 percent. Perhaps even more encouraging was that just 43 percent of respondents believe Trump will serve his full term as president.

We know that Donald Trump is a pathological liar. Sooner or later, his lies will catch up with him. The impeachment movement should be there waiting, hands outstretched, ready to nab him as he falls.
(c) 2017 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

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Trump Says He Does Not Know Jared Kushner Very Well
By Andy Borowitz

TAORMINA, Italy (The Borowitz Report)-Donald J. Trump on Saturday accused the media of exaggerating his relationship with Jared Kushner, asserting that "I don't know him very well."

"He's someone I would see around the office and who, I guess, was working for me," Trump told reporters on the last leg of his foreign trip. "Beyond that, I couldn't tell you much about him."

Trump acknowledged that he had spoken to Kushner at times during the 2016 campaign. "I'd pass him in the hall and say hello," he said. "He seemed like an O.K. person. I never got much of a sense of the guy."

When asked whether Kushner might have had improper contact with Russian spies during the transition, Trump said, "I couldn't tell you if that's the kind of thing he"d do. You really should ask someone who knows him."

Trump refused to answer further questions about Kushner's possible legal difficulties, saying only, ""I wish Garrett well."
(c) 2017 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 20 (c) 06/02/2017

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