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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reports, "Republicans And Democrats Continue To Block Drug Reimportation - After Publicly Endorsing It."

Uri Avnery sends, "Greetings For Diana Buttu."

Glen Ford examines, "Black-Hating Negroes And Their Uses: David Clarke At Homeland Security."

David Michael Green returns with a must read, "Stop Legitimizing 'Conservatism': It's Not An Ideology - It's A Goddam Death Machine."

Jim Hightower asks, "Where Does Inequality Come From?"

Norman Solomon concludes, "Dangerous Discourse: When Progressives Sound like Demagogues."

Chris Hedges orates, "Antonio Gramsci And The Battle Against Fascism."

John Nichols reminds us, "Frank Lloyd Wright Despised And Decried Demagoguery."

Eugene Robinson exclaims, "Trump Is Out Of Control!"

David Suzuki says, "World Environment Day Reminds Us To Reconnect With Nature."

Marjorie Cohn finds, "Trump's Climate Withdrawal Is An Impeachable Offense."

David Swanson gives, "A Portrait Of The CIA In Prison."

Michael Moore tells, "Why I'm Launching A Site For Trump Whistleblowers."

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explores, "The Art Of The Trump-Putin Deal."

Bernie Sanders explains, "Why Trump's So-Called Infrastructure Plan Is Good For Wall Street But Bad For America."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst diagnosis, "Preisdent Trump's Stress Disorder" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Winston Smith Would Understand Trump's America."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Greenberg, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Steve Sack, Chip Somodevilla, Aaron Burden, Mauro Cateb, Gideon Mendel, Al Drago, Michael Reynolds, European Pressphoto Agency, The New York Times, MGM, Blue Gal, CNN, 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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Winston Smith Would Understand Trump's America
By Ernest Stewart

"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word "doublethink" involved the use of doublethink." ~~~ Winston Smith ~ 1984

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." ~~~ George W. Bush

"Right now, green energy is way behind the times. You look at the windmills that are destroying shorelines all over the world. Economically, they're not good. It's a very, very poor form of energy. Solar, as you know, hasn't caught on because, I mean, a solar panel takes 32 years - it's a 32-year payback. Who wants a 32-year payback? The fact is, the technology is not there yet. Wind farms are hurting the country." ~~~ Donald Trump

"I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy." ~~~ Kahlil Gibran

Some 69 years ago Eric Arthur Blair wrote a book about a future society, a society that I think we're all familiar with today. For those of you who said, "who?" You may be more familiar with the author by his pen name, "George Orwell" and his book was, of course, 1984.

What most folks don't realize that Eric wasn't really writing about some dystopian future but what was going on all around him, in 1948! The language of "doublespeak" was being spoken loud and clear, as it had been in Nazi Germany, in England and here in America as well. To see how all that worked out let's move forward 69 years and see the logical outcome!

Trump, is how it worked out; and you thought the book was a nightmare, huh? Trump is the master of doublespeak as are most all of the politicians in both parties, the majority of the Extreme Court and 99% of the American corporations members as well! I called the "Happy Camps" section of the magazine that instead of American Concentration Camps because mighty Zeus knows that all politicians and most Americas love a good euphemism, a.k.a., doublespeak. In fact most prefer doublespeak to the truth. Most Americans love being plugged into the Matrix where they don't have to deal with reality, especially the truth! Believe this old sooth sayer if you want to piss someone off just dare to tell the truth, I dare ya!

It used to be in days of yore that all the dirty political dealing were done behind closed doors. Now, it's done in the open, right in front of your eyes and you could see it too if you'd take your eyes off of those TV, computer or telephone screens. I get it. Those kittens are really cute and funny, unlike the scary mass murders committed in your name all around the world on a minute by minute bases 24/7/365 by our 1% masters and on your dime too!

So, roll on over and go back to sleep, America and get the justice that you so righteously deserve when those chickens come home to roost! Ask England and France how that's working out for them! Orwell gave the warning, said the sooth but no one was listening. The only good thing that came out of 1984 were songs by Spirit and David Bowie! Go figure!

In Other News

Hurricane season is officially upon us but let's hope we don't have any because guess what? No one is in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency that predicts and forecasts hurricanes ahead of a storm. And for an extra thrill, no one is in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) either, the agency that responds to disasters and offers relief. Heck of a job Donnie!

Mighty Zeus protect us all if we get a series of Hurricanes like Hurricane Katrina that turned New Orleans into a lake back in 2005. Bush, like Trump, has put a lot of people in power that haven't a clue about what they are doing. Michael Brown someone whose expertises was show horses, not emergency relief and was forced to resign ten days later. You may recall Dubya was out strumming guitars while America drowned; like Nero and his fiddling while Rome burned. There's that history repeating itself again thingie, huh?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the season will be a busy one, with an above-average range of 5-9 hurricanes likely in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Hawaii maybe in for a rush as 6 tropical storms or Hurricanes are looked for but if El Nino strengthens, things could get really rough. Anyone from coastal Maine to coastal Alaska better keep an eye opened as summer comes on!

Oh, and did I mention the Trump budget cuts? According to a PEER news release:
"Proposed budget cuts by President Trump would compromise the timeliness and accuracy of tsunami forecasting and warnings, thereby putting thousands of coastal residents at needless risk.... The budgetary reductions unveiled last week would also negate key provisions of the Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act which Trump signed into law on April 18th.

According to National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration experts, the cuts will significantly reduce warning time of an incoming tsunami to coastal populations, especially in Alaska and Hawaii. In addition to eliminating over 60% of the staff for the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center (from 40 positions to only 15), the Trump budget would terminate funding for three separate tsunami detection systems:

Land-based seismic sensors;
Coastal water level sensors; and
Deep-ocean buoys (the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis or DARTs)."
When Trump finally gets around to it, he can appoint some Bozo that will react as quickly as Brownie did, however, unlike Brownie, he'll not have the resources or the personal to react to global warming threats, even if he wanted to. In fact, I wonder what Brownie's doing right now? Don't you, America?

And Finally

I see where during a meeting with Republican Congressional leadership on Tuesday, President Trump pitched the idea of putting solar panels on his border wall. Finally, it's grasping at straws time for the Trumpster!

"The president is committed to building the wall and securing the border and I commend him for it. He's continuing to fight and following through on that promise. One idea he is looking at is a wall that would actually function as a solar panel to ultimately pay for itself. I'm glad he's being innovative and I'm fully supportive of helping him build the wall however we can can legislatively. He is continuing to pursue every option to make sure it happens," said House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

Trump's suggestion comes after the Associated Press reported in April that one of the proposed designs for the wall includes solar panels on sections of the wall.

"I like the wall to be able to pay for itself." said Thomas Gleason a managing partner of Gleason Partners LLC. which proposed the solar panel design.

Trouble is, Trump has made a point of dishing zero polluting renewable energies like solar, wind, thermal and wave, while promoting polluting energy from Coal, Gas and Atomic reactors. Ergo, the clutching at straws.

Keepin' On

Another week and zero chump change in the old p.o. box. I've seen people throw more money than what we owe out the window of their car in order to make room in their pockets. Of course, the person who did that was rich beyond your wildest explanations (See Uncle Ernie's Hollywood Daze)!

Compared to any other Ezine that I am aware of, you get the most bang for your bucks with us, as we could publish for 5 years on what the others require for 3 months; and, in some cases we could go on for 20 years! Plus, you have the added advantage of reading the truth, instead of whatever song and dance some politician gives to the others who publish it word for word, when not a drop of it is the truth.

As this "moving paper fantasy" of a government is about to collapse under it's own weight and take you with it, wouldn't it be handy to know what the truth is and how it relates to you and yours? After being strapped inside a white box car on the way to a Happy Camp is no time to figure out that you've been lied to, nor will it be easy to explain to the kids that mommy and daddy are morons. Perhaps it would be to your advantage to know what's happening before it hits the fans, and be able to avoid the worst of what's to come? If so, you'll want to keep us active in the fight to restore the old Republic and keep the truth that's so hard to find out there coming to you every week. If that's the case, please send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you!


12-18-1932 ~ 06-04-2017
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.

Earlier this year, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar introduced an
amendment to a budget resolution that would have paved the way for drug importation.

Republicans And Democrats Continue To Block Drug Reimportation - After Publicly Endorsing It
The one true bipartisan instinct in Washington? Caving to rich industries
By Matt Taibbi

Amidst all the angst and acrimony of last year's trench-warfare presidential campaign, there was one area in which the two major-party candidates purported to agree. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favored allowing the importation of cheap drugs from Canada.

Drug reimportation would be a no-brainer policy move if actual human beings ran our government. Disgust with high prescription drug prices is nearly universal - 77 percent say drug prices are "unreasonable" - and 71 percent of respondents favor allowing the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

The entire pharmaceutical industry is floated by a protectionist racket. Drugs that are in fact very cheap to make are kept artificially expensive - we have drugs that cost $1,000 a pill here in America that sell for $4 in India, for instance.

The means of keeping prices high vary, but include lengthy patents to push production of generics into the future, the barring of foreign competition (usually on "safety" grounds), and the prohibition of negotiations to lower prices for bulk purchases by both the federal and state governments. Without government intervention, the pharmaceutical industry would be profitable, but it wouldn't be the massive cash factory it is now. In 2015, for instance, the 20 largest drug companies made a collective $124 billion in profits.

All the industry needs to protect those sums is the continued cooperation of Congress.

So naturally it spends money - not a lot by industry standards, but a ton by the standards of the ludicrously cheap dates we call federal politicians - to make sure they always have just enough dependable people in office to block change.

Which brings us back to drug importation. Trump announced early in the race that he was in favor of bringing in cheaper drugs from Canada and made it a big stump theme. I remember in New Hampshire last year listening to Trump ridicule Jeb Bush for having a Big Pharma honcho as his campaign finance chairman.

"The head of Johnson and Johnson [Woody Johnson] is Jeb Bush's top fundraiser," Trump crowed. "Do you think Jeb Bush is going to make drug prices competitive?"

Trump continued this theme throughout his candidacy. He said "allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options." Even after the election, in December, Trump sent pharma stocks tumbling when he vowed in Time to "bring down drug prices."

The Democrats, meanwhile, put allowing importation of drugs from countries like Canada in their platform last summer. There were some ominous caveats in the language ("with appropriate safety protections"), but Clinton seemed to make bringing pharmaceutical prices down a priority in her rhetoric as the campaign progressed.

Along with scandals like the furor over drugmaker Mylan's EpiPen - a lifesaving injection for sufferers of severe allergies, often children, that was being sold for an outrageous $630 a pop - the seeming synergy of the two candidates' positions led to the hope that something might actually be done about the problem, no matter who won.

No such luck. Trump's support for drug importation basically went up in smoke from the moment he started filling out his executive appointees. Virtually every Trump nominee who would have influence over the importation question was bluntly opposed to the idea.

His FDA chief, Scott Gottlieb, was not only against importation, he'd written a Forbes editorial in 2016 denouncing then-candidate Trump's position on the issue. Trump's Health and Human Services chief, Tom Price, also has a long history of supporting pharmaceutical industry initiatives. Price's former press secretary, Ellen Carmichael, is now president of a political research firm called the Lafayette Company and just a few weeks ago was penning an anti-importation editorial reprinted by the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a leading industry group lobbying against reform.

Back in January, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar introduced an amendment to a budget resolution that would have paved the way for drug importation. Twelve Republicans, including John McCain, Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski, voted for it. But the measure died when thirteen Democrats voted no.

Social media slammed the 13 Dems, who included Mark Warner of Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Cory Booker and Bob Menendez in New Jersey (a New Jersey senator voting against big pharma is as rare as an Iowan voting against ethanol, which makes it more notable that Booker later came around on the issue). Many of those senators had supported alternative plans that, they said, better addressed the issue that really concerned them: safety. One by one, each of the 13 Democrats insisted that they liked the importation idea in general, but were too concerned about foreign poisons to vote yes.

A Coons spokesperson said the Sanders-Klobuchar amendment "didn't meet the safety standards he believes are necessary." Booker said he wanted to "ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards." And so on.

But we already do import foreign drugs, and have an established safety certification process. In fact, an astonishing 40 percent of all pharmaceuticals sold in the United States are already imported, as are 80 percent of the chemical ingredients. These imported drugs and drug ingredients arrive by way of more than 300,000 foreign food and drug manufacturing facilities that are regularly certified as safe by the FDA.

These drugs come from manufacturing facilities not just in Canada but across the globe, from the first world to the third, sometimes using the same kind of degraded and underpaid labor forces we bemoan in other industries.

The only difference is that at the moment, the only entities that are allowed to benefit from these foreign imports are drug companies. The important ban only applies to pharmacists and consumers.

That's why the pharmaceutical industry works so tirelessly to keep Congress captured. It's not just to protect its many forms of federal subsidy, but also to keep customers and retailers from benefitting from the same money-saving overseas shopping in which they engage.

The controversy over the January fiasco led to hand-wringing within the Democratic Party. Minority leader Chuck Schumer convened an extraordinary meeting in mid-February to try to broker a truce between the reform advocates and the members who voted against importation.

That didn't accomplish much, and Sanders and others decided to continue trying to get importation to a vote. This led to the most recent, and less-publicized, fiasco.

A few weeks ago, on May 11th, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee met to consider the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017. This little-known piece of legislation would reauthorize the FDA to collect "user fees" from the makers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Although controversial to some who believe these fees make the FDA clients of the industries they're supposed to regulate - Sanders and Paul voted against it in committee - the overall bill is likely to sail through Congress, and in fact passed in committee, 21-2.

Sanders, along with co-sponsors Elizabeth Warren and Robert Casey, offered an amendment to the user-fee bill that would have allowed for importation of drugs from FDA-approved facilities in Canada. As Casey pointed out in committee, the amendment is laden with protections, requiring patients to have valid Canadian prescriptions, allowing the FDA to shut down bad actors, etc.

Once again, Democratic discipline broke down. The amendment this time was beaten in committee, 13-10. Two Democrats, Patty Murray and Michael Bennet, both of whom accept a lot of pharmaceutical money, voted no.

Interestingly, two Republicans from states bordering Canada who voted for almost exactly the same measure earlier in the year - Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine - now voted no as well.

This often seems to happen with controversial bills. The math will allow a large-ish number of members to cast a vote in favor of a popular policy disliked by industry, but if there's any danger of it actually passing, there will suddenly be defectors or converts. The political damage is limited to just a few poor souls who have to wear the unpopular vote.

Importation isn't dead yet. It could still be offered to the whole Senate as an amendment to this same bill later on, but since it didn't pass in committee, the idea's proponents are now at the mercy of a series of dubious actors.

Majority leader Mitch McConnell could for instance prevent the amendment from being voted on through a process known as "filling the tree," whereby bills are larded down with so many amendments by leadership before they hit the floor that there's no room for other ideas.

"Filling the tree" is one of a whole range of tricks that exist in both the House and the Senate to save members from themselves - i.e., from having to vote on issues they know would be popular with people, but unpopular with their donors.

That's not to say it will happen in the case of this issue, but that it does frequently with "populist" ideas. People like McConnell stay in leadership thanks in large part to their demonstrated skill at saving members from having to vote down ideas they know their constituents want.

The history of what's happened with drug importation in the last year is a classic example of how American politics works. Politicians in both parties endorse ideas they know are popular, and often get themselves elected on the strength of them.

But once the ideas get into the weeds of Congress, there are a million tricks that can be employed to keep business flowing as usual while giving politicians political cover. A year ago, it looked like we had a good shot at ramping back this vicious predatory practice of overpricing life-saving drugs. Today, absent a major public uproar, it looks like the idea will have to wait quite a while longer. And people wonder why Congress is so unpopular.
(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.

Greetings For Diana Buttu
By Uri Avnery

A FEW days ago, an almost anonymous Palestinian woman received an unusual honor. An article of hers was published on top of the first page of the most respected newspaper on earth: New York Times.

The editors defined the writer, Diana Buttu, as: "a lawyer and a former adviser to the negotiating team of the Palestine Liberation Organization."

I knew Diana Buttu when she first appeared on the Palestinian scene, in 2000, at the beginning of the second intifada. She was born in Canada, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants who tried hard to assimilate in their new homeland, and received a good Canadian education.

When the struggle in the occupied territories intensified, she returned to her parents' homeland. The Palestinian participants of the negotiations with Israel, which started after the Oslo agreement, were impressed by the young lawyer who spoke excellent English - something rare - and asked her to join the national endeavor.

When the negotiations died clinically, Diana Buttu disappeared from my eyes. Until her dramatic reappearance last week.

THE LOCATION and the headline of the article demonstrate the importance which the American editors saw in her argument. The headline was "Do we need a Palestinian Authority?" and further on, in another headline, "Shutter the Palestinian Authority."

The argument of Diana Buttu seduces by its simplicity: the usefulness of the Palestinian Authority has passed. It should be liquidated. Now.

The Palestinian Authority, she says, was set up for a specific purpose: to negotiate with Israel for the end of the occupation and the creation of the hoped-for Palestinian state. By its very nature, that was a task limited in time.

According to the Oslo agreement, the negotiations for ending the occupation should have reached their goal in 1999. Since then, 18 years have passed without any movement towards a solution. The only thing that has moved was the settlement movement, which has reached by now monstrous dimensions.

In these circumstances, says Buttu, the Palestinian Authority has become a "subcontractor" of the occupation. The Authority helps Israel to oppress the Palestinians. True, it employs a large number of educational and medical personnel, but more than a third of its budget - some 4 billion dollars - go the "security". The Palestinian security forces maintain a close cooperation with their Israeli colleagues. Meaning, they cooperate in upholding the occupation.

Also, Buttu complains about the lack of democracy. For 12 years now, no elections have taken place. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) rules in contravention of the Palestinian Basic Law.

Her solution is simple: "it's time for the authority to go." To abolish the authority, to return the responsibility for the occupied Palestinian population to the Israeli occupier and adopt a "new Palestinian strategy."

What strategy, exactly?

Up to this point, Burttu's arguments were lucid an logical. But from here on they become unclear and nebulous.

BEFORE GOING on, I have to make some personal remarks.

I am an Israeli. I define myself as an Israeli patriot. As a son of the occupying nation I don't think that I have the right to give advice to the occupied nation.

True, I have devoted the last 79 years of my life to the achievement of peace between the two nations - a peace that, I believe, is an existential necessity for both. Since the end of the 1948 war I preach the establishment of an independent State of Palestinian side by side with the State of Israel. Some of my enemies in the extreme Israeli Right even accuse me of having invented the "Two-State Solution" (thus deserving the title of "traitor".)

In spite of all this, I have always abstained from giving the Palestinians advice. Even when Yasser Arafat declared several times publicly that I am his "friend", I did not see myself as an adviser. I have expressed my views and voiced them many times in the presence of Palestinians, but from that point to giving advice, the distance is great.

Now, too, I am not ready to give advice to the Palestinians in general, and to Diana Buttu in particular. But I take the liberty to to make some remarks about her revolutionary proposal.

Reading her article for the second and third time, I gain the impression that it contains a disproportion between the diagnosis and the medicine.

WHAT DOES she propose that the Palestinians do?

The first step is clear: break up the Palestinian Authority and return all the organs of Palestinian self-government to the Israeli military governor.

That is simple. But what next?

Diana Buttu voices several general proposals. "Non-violent mass protests", "boycott, divestment and sanctions", "addressing the rights of Palestinian refugees" (from the 1948 war) and the "Palestinian citizens of Israel". She mentions approvingly that already more than a third of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories support a single-state solution - meaning a bi-national state.

With due respect, will these remedies - all together and each one separately - liberate the Palestinian people?

There is no proof that it will.

Experience shows the it is easy for the occupation authorities to turn a "non-violent mass protest" into a very violent one. That happened in both intifadas, and especially in the second. It started with non-violent actions, and then the occupation authorities called in snipers. Within a few days the intifada became violent.

The use of boycotts? There is now in the world a large movement of BDS against Israel. The Israeli government is afraid of it and fights against it with all means, including ridiculous ones. But this fear does not spring from the economic damages this movement can cause, but from the damage it may cause to Israel's image. Such image may hurt, but it does not kill.

Like many others, Buttu uses here the example of South Africa. This is an imagined example. The world-wide boycott was indeed impressive, but it did not kill the apartheid regime. This is a western illusion, which reflects contempt for the "natives".

The racist regime in South Africa was not brought down by foreigner, nice as they were, but by those despised "natives". The blacks started campaigns of armed struggle (yes, the great Nelson Mandela was a "terrorist") and mass strikes, which brought down the economy. The international boycott played a welcome supporting role.

Buttu has high hopes for "Palestinian boycotts". Can they really hurt the Israeli economy? One can always bring in a million Chinese workers.

Buttu also mentions the international court in the Hague. The trouble is that Jewish psychology is hardened against "goyish justice". Aren't they all anti-Semites? Israel spits on them, as it spit on the UNO resolution at its time.

WHAT IS left? There is only one alternative, the one Buttu wisely refrains from mentioning: terrorism.

Many peoples throughout history started wars of liberation, violent struggles against their oppressors. In Israeli jargon that is called "terror."

Let's ignore for a moment the ideological aspect and concentrate on the practical aspect only: does one believe that a "terrorist" campaign by the occupied people against the occupying people can, under existing circumstances, succeed?

I doubt it. I doubt it very much. The Israeli security services have shown, until now, considerable ability in fighting against armed resistance.

If so, what remains for the Palestinians to do? In two words: Hold on.

And here there lies the special talent of Mahmous Abbas. He is a great one for holding on. For leading a people that is passing a terrible ordeal, an ordeal of suffering and humiliation, without giving in. Abbas does not give in. If someone will take his place, somewhere in the future, he will not give in either. Not Marwan Barghouti, for example.

As a young man I was a member of the Irgun, the underground military organization. During Workd War II, my company organized a "trial" for Marshal Phillip Petain, who became head the French government after the French collapse. This "government" was located in Vichy and took orders from the German occupation.

Much against my will, I was appointed counsel for the defense. I took the job seriously, and, to my surprise, discovered that Petain had logic on his side. He saved Paris from destruction and made it possible for most of the French people to survive the occupation. When the Nazi empire broke down, France, under Charles de Gaulle, joined the victors.

Of course, Diana Buttu does not refer to this emotion-laden historic example. But one should remember.

A FEW days before the publication of Buttu's article, a leader of the Israeli fascist right, Betsalel Smotrich, a deputy chairman of the Knesset, published an ultimatum to the Palestinians.

Smotrich proposed to put the Palestinian before a choice between three possibilities: to leave the country, to live in the country without citizenship rights or to rise up in arms - and then the Israeli army "would know how to deal with them."

In simple words: the choice is between (a) the mass expulsion of seven million Palestinians from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Israel proper and the Gaza Strip, which would amount to Genocide, (b) life as a people of slaves under an Apartheid regime and (c) simple genocide.

The unclear proposal of Buttu constitutes, in practice, the second choice. She mentions that many Palestinians approve of the "one-state solution". She shies away from a clear-cut statement and hides behind a formula that is becoming fashionable these days: "two-states or one state". Rather like: "swimming or drowning."

This is suicide. Dramatic suicide. Glorious suicide. Suicide none the less.

Both Buttu and Smotrich lead to disaster.

After all these years, the only practical solution remains as it was at the beginning: two states for two peoples. Two states that will live side by side in peace, perhaps even in friendship.

There is no other solution.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Black-Hating Negroes And Their Uses: David Clarke At Homeland Security
By Glen Ford

The Black sheriff from Milwaukee is a cartoon character whose elevation to Homeland Security is intended as an insult to Black people and a sop to the most bigoted elements of Donald Trump's base. Clarke's "talent is to cultivate a crude and shameless contempt for his own ethnicity, tuned to the racist receptors of his white patrons." He's a sick Black cat in a hat -- but he's got company.

David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County who appears slated for a top post at the Department of Homeland Security, has made himself valuable to the White Man's Party through ostentatious display of hatred and contempt for his fellow Blacks. Clarke is the go-to Negro for denunciations of Black Lives Matter ("Black Lies Matter," in his words) as Islamic State sympathizers who should be "scooped" up, charged with treason and detained "indefinitely at Gitmo." Clarke shares his repugnant political specialty with a debased cast of domestic and international characters, including presidents Yoweri Museveni and Salva Kiir, of Uganda and South Sudan, respectively, and Roy Innis, the late former leader of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality.

All three of the living professional Black-hating-Negroes make themselves readily identifiable as eager allies of American-style white supremacy by wearing huge black cowboy hats. Yoweri Museveni, Ronald Reagan's favorite African since seizing power in Uganda in 1986, turned his country's army into a central African military appendage of U.S. imperialism. Under Washington's direction, Museveni incorporated minority Tutsis from neighboring Rwanda into his armed forces, then supported their 1990 invasion of Rwanda, which led to mass tribal slaughter and the overthrow of the majority Hutu government, followed by the invasion and occupation of the Democratic Republic of Congo by Rwandan Tutsi forces under Paul Kagame, resulting in the death of more than six million Congolese, and still counting. (Kagame should also wear a cowboy hat, but prefers the military beret.) As mercenaries of U.S. Empire, both Museveni and Kagame contribute troops to virtually every western-funded "peace keeping" operation on the continent.

Salva Kiir sports a cowboy hat reportedly given to him by President George W. Bush during a visit to the White House in 2006, five years before South Sudan declared independence under U.S. sponsorship. The hat has become an even more important signifier that Kiir has superpower support, now that he has reverted to the role of warlord in his country's catastrophic tribal conflict.

Roy Innis, who died in 2017, usually went hatless. He kicked whites out of staff positions in the Congress of Racial Equality in 1968, then almost immediately endorsed Richard Nixon for president. Innis's vicious diatribes against fellow Blacks earned him a steady stream of speaking engagements at rightwing Republican functions. He backed Ronald Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court in the 1980s, Clarence Thomas in 1991, and Rudolph Giuliani for Mayor of New York in 1989.

David Clarke plays cartoon Black cowboy kiss-up to the same white supremacist audience on the U.S. domestic circuit, and has counterparts in the far-flung Black diasporas of the other white settler colonies and "mother countries." His talent is to cultivate a crude and shameless contempt for his own ethnicity, tuned to the sick receptors of his white patrons. He fills both a psychic and political need of the racists, insulting Blacks with words that even modern day Klansmen hesitate to use in public: "Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle - because they're uneducated, they're lazy, and they're morally bankrupt," Clarke said on a rightwing podcast. Clarke and his ilk serve to sanitize and normalize the most vile, blatantly racist behavior (and thoughts), simply by playing "crackers" in blackface. (The hat conveys the message to even the dullest bigot.) He invoked a lynching party when he vowed, during the campaign, to bring out "pitchforks and torches" against the media and political establishment in Washington.

Clarke and his despicable domestic cohort do not proselytize to Black people. They are not seeking to build a base of support in their "own" community -- which they constantly dis-own -- so they cannot sway significant numbers of Black people to vote for racists. They are the Anti-Blacks, useful because their antics drive other Black folks up the wall -- to the delight of white racists.

Patrisse Cullors, of the Movement for Black Lives, has good reason to think that David Clarke would use his influence at Homeland Security to make her a political prisoner. "The way he demonizes Black Lives Matter is befitting for an enemy in a war zone," she writes. "He openly dismisses civil liberties and suggests introducing limitless detention."

Clarke's services to white supremacy became much more marketable with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. He became a regular on Fox News in the aftermath of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. In that sense, he is in debt to Cullors and her comrades for his political fame and new job.

But, let's be clear: the pursuit of upward mobility through cultivation of white folks' political favor is not confined to base and conniving caricatures like David Clarke. Sadly, it has become the main route to political fortune in Black America. The best (or worst) example is Barack Obama, who spent a lifetime making himself acceptable to the more politically correct section of the white ruling class. Obama was not a Black leader; he was the Black politician most acceptable and attractive to white Democrats and moneybags - "articulate and bright and clean" in the whitest kind of way, not "like Jesse Jackson."

What's more dangerous: a Black opportunist that curries favor with the worst elements of the White Man's Party, but whose primary effect on Black politics is to make Black folks more vigilant, or a smooth Black operator who is so good at gaining the confidence of the ruling class that they entrust him to wage war on most of the world, and to impose capitalist austerity at home, knowing his mere presence will pacify Blacks and neutralize them as a force for change?

Neither of these political actors advance the cause of Black political self-determination, and one of them is threat to human survival in general.

Malcolm X would see them as two sides of the same treacherous coin.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Members of the Trump regime clap along like subservient children as
President Donald Trump announces America's withdrawal from the Paris Accord.

Stop Legitimizing 'Conservatism': It's Not An Ideology - It's A Goddam Death Machine
By David Michael Green

There's no end to the maladies that ail American politics these days. It would, indeed, be far easier and quicker to identify what's working than to itemize the travails that bedevil our pathetic polity in 2017. Altogether, if this country was a piece of art it would have to combine the orderliness of Pollock with the perceptual logic of Dali, all rooted in the joyful well-being of Hieronymous Bosch, in order to do justice to our times.

For those of you who for some reason always wanted to know what it looks like when an empire cracks apart, I've got some lovely news for you: A certain North American specimen, not generally known for its generosity, is nevertheless happy to oblige you today. Truly, the full catalog of America's political woes could crash Amazon's entire array of server farms, and most of us are struggling enough with chronic nausea these days such that revisiting all these horror stories again is way too depressing to contemplate. So I won't. But there is one thing that inflames my tortured mind more than any of these items - perhaps because it is the one thing that explains them all.

Here it is: I am sickened to live in a society that treats a malignant illness as just another legitimate point of view, when in fact it's the very disease that is killing us. We don't treat a heroin epidemic as an innocuous choice that some may opt for and some may reject. We don't treat cholera as just another flavor of ice cream that some prefer while others go for strawberry. And we don't welcome Nazism as a legitimate belief system that deserves the same consideration as any other old model of race relations a society might adopt. So why do we treat 'conservatism' like some harmless cup of tea that some choose over Earl Grey or Jasmine?

I'm dead serious. And I mean like, literally, dead serious, because if we're honest about it, that which goes by the name of conservatism today is not an ideology - it's a death machine.

Maybe there was once a responsible, legitimate (if misguided and merely moderately deceitful) ideology by the name of conservatism - I don't know. Regardless, we're not talking about Dwight Eisenhower or Gerry Ford here. We're talking about societal hemlock. And it's been that way for a generation or two, but of course now the threat from this monstrosity is no longer just a moral disaster, it's a full-blown existential crisis, wrapped inside a suicide vest.

Death machine, huh? Maybe you're thinking, "Sure, those Trump idiots are completely bonkers, but calling them a willful agent of the apocalypse is little extreme. I mean, artistic license is a good thing, but c'mon man..." Sorry. I'm not kidding. I'm being quite literal. This is a belief system which is bringing death to thousands-year-old traditions of Western values, to democracy, to the country, to people's lives, to the truth, and to the planet. Because of the threat this represents, we need to stop treating 'conservatism' as just another legitimate ideological choice. It's not. It's a murder weapon metastasized to global proportions.

That this movement is a threat to Western values is transparent. Today's so-called 'conservatives' are the enemy of equality, human rights and liberty (despite their protestations to the exact contrary). They instead embody elitism, bigotry and repression. They don't stand for gay rights any more than they ever did for civil rights back in the day, or equal pay for equal work. They worship power and its use to colonize others abroad while repressing dissent at home. Five minutes at any given Trump rally last year would have made that clear enough. But in case the message was somehow lost, one look at our fearless leader and his fawning relations with the likes of Putin, Erdogan and Duterte, combined with the shattering of the Western alliance with leaders like Angela Merkel and those of other (once-)allied democracies tells you all you need to know.

And no, it's not just one buffoon we're talking about here. While a number of right-wing pundits have - to their partial credit - repudiated Trumpism, there are loads of problems with that alibi for their movement. First, a whole lot of other folks have not disowned the walking crime scene that is the Trump White House. Second, these are pundits - hardly a single Republican officeholder in Washington has found it ethically necessary to distance him or herself from the moral abyss DBA an orange-haired gorilla in a Brioni suit. Most importantly, however, Trump is far less the historical aberration from the tendencies of the last four decades than he is the expression of its logical outcome. The right has been trucking in racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, military aggression, environmental destruction and armed robbery of the 99 percent going back at least as far as William F. Buckley and Ronald (Jesus' Kid Brother) Reagan. Methinks the ladies of the conservative intelligentsia (pardon the oxymoron) doth protest too much when they seek to distance themselves from an administration whose only difference from its Republican predecessors is the grotesque overtness of its toxicity. (Especially when it doesn't take a Svengali to see that this administration is going to jail, and that its place in history will make Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln by comparison. It ain't too brave to want to make sure your name isn't associated with that particular catastrophe.)

Speaking of the rest of the GOP, they are even more liable for the destruction of American democracy than is McDonalds Stump himself. Democracies, of course, are built on such requisite features as constitutions, elections, fixed institutions with defined powers, and so on. But underlying all of that is something of even greater importance, a political culture that forms the fabric and the foundation upon which any democracy must be built. This foundation silently and implicitly stipulates the rules of the game and the boundaries of permissible behavior, and without it, there can be no functioning democracy. It is defined by elements such as a shared national identity that supersedes partisanship, an understanding that certain principles must be protected - even at the cost of one's own political fortunes - in order for the system to survive, and a basic level of trust such that one can hand over the keys of government to the other side without fearing that that new government will become a weapon used against the losers of an election, while at the same time believing that the next election will provide a genuine opportunity to return to power. These are the least tangible aspects of what sustains a functioning democracy, but they are also the most crucial. After all, you can have a formal written constitution or not, you can have a president or a prime minister, you can have two parties or many, you can have powerful states within a national government or not. In all these profound ways the British system differs from the American one, but nobody would claim that the UK is therefore not a democracy. What matters at the end of the day is the political culture of mutual respect and trust, the norms and the self-imposed restraints that form the fabric and foundation of a functioning democratic political culture.

And this is precisely what 'conservatives' have not been conserving for forty years now, but rather instead destroying. The necessity of preserving this crucial political culture is why impeaching a president for lying about a personal sexual relationship matters. It is why five conservative members of the Supreme Court breaking all their own internal rules and supposed principles in order to install their guy in the White House matters. It's why using the country's racial divide to win elections matters. It's why relentlessly employing the filibuster to block every item on the agenda of a president from the other party - even those items that you supported yourself only yesterday - matters. And why it matters when you then alter filibuster rule when it's used in the same way against you. This is why radical gerrymandering matters. This is why targeted voter suppression of the other party's base in order to prevail in elections you couldn't otherwise win matters. This is why refusing to act on a Supreme Court nomination for a year in order to get the nominee you want instead matters. And its why falsely claiming elections are rigged matters.

I have nothing particularly nice to say about the feeble and ineffectual (on a good day) Democratic Party, and especially its last two presidents. But all of the above examples of the undermining of American democracy in our time come from the Republican Party and the supposedly conservative folks who inhabit it. For all the many failings of the Democrats, there is no equivalent to any one of these items on their side of the aisle, let alone an equivalent to all of them. The upshot is that rather than conserving the Founders' democratic system that conservatives are forever cynically clothing themselves in, they are in fact destroying it. This is not death by a thousand cuts, but rather death by relentless saber slashes.

Conservatism is also death in a quite literal sense, as well. Just ask the million or so Iraqis who perished because of the right's war of choice justified by lies. Er, oops, wait a second... Turns out you can't ask them, because they're dead, killed by conservatives. But you could ask the tens of thousands Americans who are alive today because of Obamacare - which conservatives have fought relentlessly - and who may be dead tomorrow if the GOP manages to kill what skimpy health care protections Americans now enjoy. Or you can ask the workers who will be dying because the conservative movement is so determined to remove any sort of workplace safety regulations from providing them even modest protection. Or those who whose lives will be sacrificed in order to destroy the (woefully) basic environmental standards that have been built up over the last half-century. If you want to know what conservatism means for our environment and health, look no further than Flint, Michigan. The story that nobody in the media bothers to tell about that insane catastrophe is why it happened. The reason that 'Flint' has now become shorthand for environmental meltdown and lethal governmental buffoonery is that conservatives in Michigan's government - who fervently 'believe' in local control, mind you - passed legislation allowing the state to simply take over control of municipalities whenever it saw fit, despite the electoral choices of voters in those communities. That's what the conservative Snyder administration then proceeded to do in Flint, and the rest is history. By the way, their justification for doing so was that Flint was being mismanaged, so they - wait for it, now - had to come in and get it right. You can't make this shit up. And if you did, you could never find anyone in Hollywood willing to make a movie out of it, on account of its absurdly ridiculous improbability.

But we're not done yet. Conservatism also means death to the truth. Of course, when it comes to Herr Bloated Pumpkinhead and the current administration, the scale of dishonesty is absolutely epic. It is literally no exaggeration to say that a consumer of any generic statement by this White House would be more likely to know the truth by simply assuming its opposite is the case, than he or she would by accepting any given tweet or Spicerism as fact. No wonder Orwell is selling like hotcakes these days. This is a true "2+2=5" moment, Winston.

It's hardly surprising that a career New York City real estate developer who has spent a lifetime doing little but shameless self-promotion and fabricating scams running the gamut from bottled water to bottled diplomas would be unable to speak truthfully about nearly anything. And of course, when we say 'anything' here, we mean... anything. What's somewhat astonishing and most definitely disturbing, however, is the reaction that his compulsive tendency to lie produces among the roughly forty percent of Americans who form his political base. What has gone so wrong in the lives of these 'conservatives' that they not only tolerate being lied to incessantly, but actually crave it? This is not the place for an extended discussion of that question, but suffice it to say that conservatism's appeal among the public - including many whom it harms the most - cannot be understood outside the realm of political psychology. One might view these 'comfortably numb-nuts' as the rightful inheritors of America's storied Know Nothing tradition, but in fact that's too generous a label, since it turns out that it is actually possible in this world to know less than nothing if you're willing to work hard enough at it. When you believe that Iraq really had WMD, or that cutting taxes on billionaires will get you a sweet job, or that Donald Trump has your back, well then, graduating to the status of being a full-blown Know Nothing truly is something for which you are well-positioned to aspire.

This is where, alas, the Founders got it wrong, with their Enlightenment model of rationally calculating citizens. A good hundred million plus Americans have literally lost their minds in our time and, in order to soothe the resentments torturing their savage souls, they are taking down the country around their heads as they descend into an emotionally satisfying madness.

Or, at least it used to be the country they are taking down. Now it's the world. With the president's destruction of the Paris climate change accord, American conservatism is now bringing it on a planetary scale. Could this possibly be more jaw-dropping in its sheer stupidity? We are talking here about a phenomenon that literally threatens life on this planet, and conservatives - who are otherwise so consumed with fear so much of the time - insist on rejecting slam-dunk scientific evidence and making sure that we perish instead. Again, the pathological psychology of these folks is the only way to understand such a suicide mission, such an act of terrorism on a global scale. The president's speech was entirely laced with the rhetoric of bogus grievance - about how the United States is the laughing stock of the world because we're being duped and cheated by smarter, tougher, more cynical countries, and blah, blah, freaking blah... Apart from the sheer absurdity of this trope on the basis of any sort of actual logic or fact, there remains this outstanding question: Even if it was all true, who the hell cares? If the planet winds up being destroyed, does it really matter whether in the preceding years one country's GDP grew a half-percent slower than that of some other countries? What's that old line about deck chairs...? Could there be any other accurate term for a belief system that so jeopardizes an entire planet than 'death machine'?

We need to stop fooling around with this shit. Smallpox is not just another disease. Totalitarianism is not just another political system. Nuclear war is not just another form of conflict. And what calls itself 'conservatism' today is not just another form of legitimate, maybe-they're-right-maybe-they're-wrong, ideology.

All of these are life-threatening pathologies of epic proportion. It's bad enough that we have to expend so much energy to keep them at bay. But, by treating conservatism and conservatives as reasonable and acceptable we not only legitimize the unspeakable, we massively enhance its likelihood of successfully killing us.

Today's 'conservatism' is not an ideology - it's a goddam death machine. And we should welcome it into our homes and communities every bit as much as we would the Black Plague.
(c) 2017 David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.

A Pan Balance scale with weights.

Where Does Inequality Come From?
By Jim Hightower

The vast inequality that's rending our society is not a natural, inevitable or accidental phenomenon - it's caused intentionally by policy-decisions that corporate and political officials make, often in tandem.

Every now and then, we commoners get a glimpse of inequality in the making, as we did recently when the GOP Boss of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan rammed the awful Trumpcare bill through that chamber. Without allowing any public testimony or even getting an analysis of its cost, Ryan browbeat and cajoled the Republican majority to hold their noses and pass this gob of plutocratic wretchedness. Their bill was so bad that, at most, a mere 17 percent of Americans support it.

The public's distaste for Trumpcare is well-deserved, for it's an inequality machine: It strips at least 23 million people of health coverage; it lets insurance corporations either refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions or to gouge them with extreme price increases; and it lets states eliminate the requirement that insurance policies must at least cover such essential health needs as cancer treatment and maternity care.

And, in a flagrant example of directly widening inequality in America, the Republicans' bill slashes $880 billion out of the Medicaid budget, which provides health care for the poor, the elderly and the disabled. That's not just a cut in dollars, but in people - 14 million needy families would lose their access to healthcare.

But that's only the half of it. Ryan's Trumpcare nastiness also gives a massive new tax cut to health care corporations and wealthy investors. How massive is the cut? Precisely $880 billion.

By taking from the needy and giving to the rich, this one deliberate act by Congress would further widen economic disparity in our country by nearly $1.8 trillion. That is one surefire way inequality happens.

Another way to ensure economic inequality by taking from the needy and giving to the rich is God-awful trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump gloriously pledged last year to scrap the NAFTA trade scam and renegotiate it to provide a "much better" deal for working families. Beautiful! But, like rose blossoms, a politician's promises can be beautiful when they burst into full, glorious bloom - only later to see them fade over time and, petal by petal, fall away.

This particular blossom was the single most-important issue that 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 are getting nothing but more free-trade thorns from him. As revealed in a recently-leaked copy of his NAFTA renegotiation plan, far from scrapping the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, White House negotiators are goosing it up with even more power for multinational corporations. In particular, the plan includes new "investor incentives" to offshore thousands more of our middle-class jobs. Where did this come from? It seems to have been lifted right out of last year's discredited and defeated Trans-Pacific Partnership, a scam intended to enthrone corporate supremacy over people and even over our laws.

Indeed, the 500 corporate executives and lobbyists who essentially wrote the raw TPP deal and tried to ram it down our throats, have quietly been huddling with Trump's team to draft the plan for this "new" NAFTA. Where were representatives of 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 totally in the dark and 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 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. With all of them and that slew of corporate lobbyists at the table - you, me and everyone else are on the menu. And the inequality gap will continue to grow.
(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.

"Do we need all 535 members of Congress to deal with Russia?" asked former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner last week. "Can some of them deal with some domestic issues?"

Dangerous Discourse: When Progressives Sound like Demagogues
By Norman Solomon

The Trump administration has already done enormous harm to the United States and the planet. Along the way, Trump has also caused many prominent progressives to degrade their own political discourse. It's up to us to challenge the corrosive effects of routine hyperbole and outright demagoguery.

Consider the rhetoric from one of the most promising new House members, Democrat Jamie Raskin, at a rally near the Washington Monument over the weekend. Reading from a prepared text, Raskin warmed up by declaring that "Donald Trump is the hoax perpetrated on the Americans by the Russians." Soon the congressman named such varied countries as Hungary, the Philippines, Syria and Venezuela, and immediately proclaimed: "All the despots, dictators and kleptocrats have found each other, and Vladimir Putin is the ringleader of the unfree world."

Later, asked about factual errors in his speech, Raskin floundered during a filmed interview with The Real News. What is now boilerplate Democratic Party bombast about Russia has little to do with confirmed facts and much to do with partisan talking points.

The same day that Raskin spoke, the progressive former Labor Secretary Robert Reich featured at the top of his website an article he'd written with the headline "The Art of the Trump-Putin Deal." The piece had striking similarities to what progressives have detested over the years when coming from right-wing commentators and witchhunters. The timeworn technique was dual track, in effect: I can't prove it's true, but let's proceed as though it is.

The lead of Reich's piece was clever. Way too clever: "Say you're Vladimir Putin, and you did a deal with Trump last year. I'm not suggesting there was any such deal, mind you. But if you are Putin and you did do a deal, what did Trump agree to do?"

From there, Reich's piece was off to the conjectural races.

Progressives routinely deplore such propaganda techniques from right-wingers, not only because the left is being targeted but also because we seek a political culture based on facts and fairness rather than innuendos and smears. It's painful now to see numerous progressives engaging in hollow propaganda.

Likewise, it's sad to see so much eagerness to trust in the absolute credibility of institutions like the CIA and NSA-institutions that previously earned wise distrust. Over the last few decades, millions of Americans have gained keen awareness of the power of media manipulation and deception by the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Yet now, faced with an ascendant extreme right wing, some progressives have yielded to the temptation of blaming our political predicament more on a foreign "enemy" than on powerful corporate forces at home.

The over-the-top scapegoating of Russia serves many purposes for the military-industrial complex, Republican neocons and kindred "liberal interventionist" Democrats. Along the way, the blame-Russia-first rhetoric is of enormous help to the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party-a huge diversion lest its elitism and entwinement with corporate power come under greater scrutiny and stronger challenge from the grassroots.

In this context, the inducements and encouragements to buy into an extreme anti-Russia frenzy have become pervasive. A remarkable number of people claim certainty about hacking and even "collusion"-events that they cannot, at this time, truly be certain about. In part that's because of deceptive claims endlessly repeated by Democratic politicians and news media. One example is the rote and highly misleading claim that "17 U.S. intelligence agencies" reached the same conclusion about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee-a claim that journalist Robert Parry effectively debunked in an article last week.

During a recent appearance on CNN, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner offered a badly needed perspective on the subject of Russia's alleged intrusion into the U.S. election. People in Flint, Michigan "wouldn't ask you about Russia and Jared Kushner," she said. "They want to know how they're gonna get some clean water and why 8,000 people are about to lose their homes."

Turner noted that "we definitely have to deal with" allegations of Russian interference in the election, "it's on the minds of American people, but if you want to know what people in Ohio-they want to know about jobs, they want to know about their children." As for Russia, she said, "We are preoccupied with this, it's not that this is not important, but every day Americans are being left behind because it's Russia, Russia, Russia."

Like corporate CEOs whose vision extends only to the next quarter or two, many Democratic politicians have been willing to inject their toxic discourse into the body politic on the theory that it will be politically profitable in the next election or two. But even on its own terms, the approach is apt to fail. Most Americans are far more worried about their economic futures than about the Kremlin. A party that makes itself more known as anti-Russian than pro-working-people has a problematic future.

Today, 15 years after George W. Bush's "axis of evil" oratory set the stage for ongoing military carnage, politicians who traffic in unhinged rhetoric like "Putin is the ringleader of the unfree world" are helping to fuel the warfare state-and, in the process, increasing the chances of direct military conflict between the United States and Russia that could go nuclear and destroy us all. But such concerns can seem like abstractions compared to possibly winning some short-term political gains. That's the difference between leadership and demagoguery.
(c) 2017 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Antonio Gramsci And The Battle Against Fascism
By Chris Hedges

Editors note: Chris Hedges gave this talk Friday at the Left Forum in New York City. Click here to see a video of the address; the introduction of Hedges begins at the 7:30 mark.

Antonio Gramsci wrote his "Prison Notebooks" at a time not dissimilar to our own. The political parties led by the liberal class, because they had detached themselves from the working class, were weak or irrelevant. The radical left had been neutered and had failed to articulate a coherent alternative vision to capitalism. There was a "crisis of authority." Fascism was ascendant and state repression was becoming steadily more severe and totalitarian.

Benito Mussolini's regime claimed, like our corporate state, to be implementing a government based on efficiency, meritocracy, the management of society by experts and specialists and the elimination of class conflict through mediation. It too celebrated "heroic" military values, traditionalism and a mythical past that stretched back, in the case of fascist Italy, to ancient Rome. It also rewarded conformism and loyalty, denigrated the humanities and culture in favor of vocational and technical training, spectacle and patriotic kitsch. It preached a relentless positivism, ridiculed the concept of the public good by trumpeting a hyper-individualism and defanged the press. Dissent and criticism were condemned as treason. Gramsci when he was arrested in 1926 and imprisoned technically had parliamentary immunity, but by then the rule of law was meaningless. From this bleak political landscape we get the [Gramsci] dictum you have all heard, "Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will."

Gramsci, like Leon Trotsky, was an intellectual but also a journalist. And it was Trotsky who lamented that by the time Gramsci set out to build the Italian Communist Party, the business elites, allied with the fascists, had put into place such draconian forms of repression that effective organizing was all but impossible.

Gramsci deviated from the Marxist belief that the inherent contradictions of capitalism would of themselves usher in socialism. He was opposed to the iron control of a Leninist revolutionary vanguard. Revolution, he wrote, would only be achieved when the masses had gained enough consciousness to exert personal autonomy and see through the mores, stereotypes and narratives disseminated by the dominant culture. Revolutionary change required the intellectual ability to understand reality.

Hegemony, for Gramsci, refers to how ruling elites, through the organs of mass culture, manipulate our understanding of reality to promote their interests. The passive consumers of mass culture see the world not as it is but as it is interpreted for them. Mass culture, including the press, schools and systems of entertainment, demonizes all those the ruling elites scapegoat and fear-in our case people of color, the poor, Muslims, undocumented workers, anti-capitalists, labor unions, intellectuals, liberals and dissidents. The corporate elites use mass culture to transform legitimate economic and social grievances into psychological and emotional problems-hence the drumbeat throughout our consumer society to believe in ourselves, work hard, be obedient, heed positive psychologists and self-help gurus, get an education, focus on excellence and believe in our dreams. This mantra, which in essence assures us that reality is never an impediment to what we desire, is accompanied by the fostering of a false camaraderie with the so-called corporate family, if we work for a corporation, or a hypernationalism.

Gramsci presciently saw that the capitalist manager was not only tasked with maximizing profit and reducing the cost of labor. The manager had to build mechanisms of indoctrination to ensure social integration and communal solidarity in service to capitalism, hence the constant evaluations, promotions and demotions along with the gathering of employees at meetings to instill groupthink. Along with this indoctrination come mini security and surveillance states in our workplaces where every movement and every word spoken are taped or filmed in the name of customer service. Corporations function as tiny totalitarian states, models for the larger corporate state.

Gramsci saw mass culture as the primary tool for submission. The more mass culture infects the thinking and attitudes of the population the less the state has to use harsher forms of coercion for domination. Gramsci described mass culture, or civil society, as the trenches and permanent fortifications that defend the core interests of the elites. Revolutionary change will occur only after a prolonged series of attacks, what Gramsci called a "war of position," on these outer ideological defenses. It was, in his eyes, a type of siege warfare that requires "patience and inventiveness." Once the ruling ideology loses credibility, once mass culture is no longer effective, its institutional structures collapse. A counter-hegemony, in short, comes before power.

"Every revolution," he wrote, "has been preceded by an intense labor of criticism, by the diffusion of culture and the spread of ideas. ... The same phenomenon is being repeated today in the case of socialism. It was through a critique of capitalist civilization that the unified consciousness of the proletariat was or is still being formed, and a critique implies culture, not simply a spontaneous and naturalistic evolution. ... To know oneself means to be oneself, to be master of oneself. ... And we cannot be successful in this unless we also know others, their history, the successful efforts they have made to be what they are, to create the civilization they have created and which we seek to replace with our own."

Revolutions were first and foremost a battle of ideas.

"A main obstacle to change is the reproduction by the dominating forces of elements of their hegemonic ideology," Gramsci wrote. "It's an important and urgent task to develop alternative interpretations of reality"

Noam Chomsky boils this down to "Tell the truth."

And as Gramsci seconded, "To tell the truth is revolutionary."

The core of neoliberalism is the absurd idea that the living standards of the global working class will rise by deforming societies to slavishly serve the dictates of the market.

We have reached a moment in human history when the reigning ideology has lost its credibility. All of neoliberalism's promises have proven false. The abolishment of national residency requirements for corporations has been used to legalize corporate tax boycotts. The middle class-the bedrock of any capitalist democracy-is withering away and has been replaced by an angry, disenfranchised working poor. Workers are forced into two or three jobs and 70-hour workweeks to stay solvent. Medical bills, student loans, subprime mortgages and credit card debt trigger crippling bankruptcies. The corporate managerial class, meanwhile, collects billions in bonuses and compensation and uses its money and lobbyists to destroy democratic institutions. It has cemented into place a system the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls "inverted totalitarianism." As these lies become transparent we are thrown into what Gramsci calls an interregnum-a time when the reigning ideology has lost efficacy but has yet to be replaced by a new one. "The crisis consists," Gramsci wrote, "precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born, [and] in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." Hence political mutations such as Donald Trump, or in Gramsci's time Mussolini.

The acceleration of deindustrialization by the 1970s created a crisis that forced the ruling elites to create a new political paradigm, as Stuart Hall [with co-writers] explains in his book "Policing the Crisis." This paradigm, trumpeted by a compliant media, shifted its focus from the common good to race, crime and law and order. It told those undergoing profound economic and political change that their suffering stemmed not from corporate greed but from a threat to national integrity. The old consensus that buttressed the programs of the New Deal and the welfare state was attacked as enabling criminal black youth, welfare queens and social parasites. The parasites were to blame. This opened the door to an authoritarian populism, begun by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which supposedly championed family values, traditional morality, individual autonomy, law and order, the Christian faith and the return to a mythical past, at least for white Americans.

Mass culture is a potent and dangerous counterrevolutionary force. It creates a herd mentality. It banishes independent and autonomous thought. It destroys our self-confidence. It marginalizes and discredits nonconformists. It depoliticizes the citizenry. It instills a sense of collective futility and impotence by presenting the ruling ideology as a revealed, unassailable truth, an inevitable and inexorable force that alone makes human progress possible.

Mass culture is an assault that, as Gramsci wrote, results in a "confused and fragmentary" consciousness or what Marx called "false consciousness." It is designed to impart the belief to the proletariat that its "true" interests are aligned with those of the ruling class, in our case global corporatism.

We are a product not of nature, Gramsci wrote, but of our history and our culture. If we do not know our history and our culture, and accept the false history and culture manufactured for us, we will never surmount the forces of oppression. The recovery of memory and culture in the 1960s by radical movements terrified the elites. It gave people an understanding of their own power and agency. It articulated and celebrated the struggles of working men and women and the oppressed rather than the mythical beneficence of the oppressors. It exposed the exploitation and mendacity of the ruling class. And that is why corporatists spent billions to crush and marginalize these movements and their histories in schools, the culture, the press and in our systems of entertainment.

"Not only does the people have no precise consciousness of its own historical identity," Gramsci lamented under fascism, "it is not even conscious of the historical identity or the exact limits of its adversary."

If we do not know our history we have no point of comparison. We cannot name the forces that control us or see the long continuity of capitalist oppression and resistance. Once a democracy fails, as Plato warned, it creates the conditions for tyranny based on popular support. This is what happened in fascist Italy. It is what happened with the election of Trump. When a right-wing populism or fascism takes power, the goal is not, as Gramsci said, to rouse "the civic consciousness of the nation" but to nurture and re-create a civic consciousness that has been lost. This is where we are historically. And it was where Gramsci was when he wrote his voluminous "Prison Notebooks."

Democracy throughout most of the history of the West was an anomaly. After the collapse of Athenian democracy in 322 B.C.-and this democracy was only for men and excluded slaves-it was 2,000 years before another democratic government came into existence. It has only been in the later part of the 20th century that democratic governments, now under assault from protofascist movements, were able to flourish, however imperfectly. Our own system of government, if one takes into consideration the exclusion of African-Americans, Native Americans, men without property and women, could not be defined as a full democracy until the middle of the last century. And we, like fascist Italy, are rolling back towards a more familiar despotism.

There is a reason the capitalist state seeks to keep workers unconscious. No worker will ever receive the full benefit of his or her labor under a capitalist system since this would destroy capitalism itself. And any worker who truly grasped his or her interests would be dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism.

Gramsci edited the paper in Turin, Ordine Nuovo (The New Order), during the labor uprisings in 1919 that saw workers take over factory floors and form workers councils. He and the other writers on the paper-who inexplicably ceased publication at the height of the unrest to devote themselves to organizing-did not advocate positions until they had canvassed and spoken at length to the workers councils. These councils, Gramsci wrote, not only gave workers power over their work lives but broke down the wall barricading the private citizen from participation in political life.

Revolutionary policy for Gramsci did not come from above but from below. It was organic. And the failure, in his eyes, of revolutionary elites is that they were often as dictatorial and disconnected from workers as capitalist elites. The masses had to be integrated into the structures of power to create a new form of mass politics-hence his insistence that all people are intellectuals capable of autonomous and independent thought. A democracy is only possible when all of its citizens understand the machinery of power and have a role in the exercising of power.

Gramsci [1891-1937] would have despaired of the divide in the United States between our anemic left and the working class. The ridiculing of Trump supporters, the failure to listen to and heed the legitimate suffering of the working poor, including the white working poor, ensures that any revolt will be stillborn. Those of us who seek to overthrow the corporate state will have to begin locally. This means advocating issues such as raising the minimum wage, fighting for clean water, universal health care and good public education, including free university education, that speak directly to the improvement of the lives of the working class. It does not mean lecturing the working class, and especially the white working class, about multiculturalism and identity politics.

Revolt, however, without an alternative political vision, Gramsci knew, was doomed. Workers are as easily mobilized around anti-democratic ideologies such as fascism and racism. If they lack consciousness, they can become a dark force in the body politic, as we have seen at Trump rallies and with the rise of hate crimes.

"But is it enough that a revolution be carried out by proletarians for it to be a proletarian revolution?" he asked. "War too is made by proletarians, but it is not, for this reason alone, a proletarian event. For it to be so, other, spiritual factors must be present. There must be more to the revolution than the question of power: there must be the question of morality, of a way of life."

This insistence on a vision of a new order set Gramsci against the anarchists and the labor unions. The state could deal with unrest, even revolt, he knew, as long as it was sporadic and localized and did not articulate a program to replace the structures that kept the ruling elites in power. "The socialist state cannot be embodied in the institutions of the capitalist state... ," he wrote. "The socialist state must be a fundamentally new creation. The institutions of the capitalist State are organized in such a way as to facilitate free competition: merely to change the personnel in these institutions is hardly going to change the direction of their activity."

Gramsci, a sickly child who, after being dropped by a servant down some stairs at the age of 4, developed a hunchback and was as an adult 4 foot 6 inches tall, grew up in Sardinia, an impoverished island in the south. He lived in extreme pain most of his life and, when his father was imprisoned on corruption charges, poverty. He was, physically, temperamentally and geographically, an outcast. This gave him a natural sympathy for the marginalized and the forgotten. He was disturbed by the schism between the [Italian] agrarian and underdeveloped south and the industrialized regions in the north, especially in Turin, where he attended university.

The Italian elites promoted, like many during this era, the idea of the biological inferiority of certain races. The peasants in the south were poor not because they were treated little better than serfs by the large landowners but because they were genetically handicapped. This racism, which seeped into the thinking of the left, infuriated Gramsci. His writings on the divisions between the industrial north and the agrarian south were seminal for Edward Said when he wrote "Orientalism." Said, like Gramsci, saw how the racist stereotypes disseminated by the global north were used to justify the policies of exploitation and oppression in the global south.

"The entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only justifies and maintains its dominance, but manages to obtain the active consent of the governed" has to be made clear to the public, Gramsci wrote.

Gramsci's understanding of how ruling elites manufacture consent separated Gramsci from Marx. Marx saw critical theory as preliminary to the construction of an egalitarian and just society. In the just society, critical theory, like the state, would, however, wither away. Gramsci knew that the elites would continually reproduce conditions and ideologies to maintain or take control. This required the constant vigilance of the critical, revolutionary theorist. There would be a never-ending battle of ideas, those spun out by the elites to justify their privileges and the radical theorists who would expose the ideas as tools of repression and hold up a socialist alternative.

Gramsci held up human agency-breaking again with Marx-as essential. History is made, he said, by human will. It is not predetermined. How we gain consciousness and how we achieve revolution cannot be understood by solely examining the means of production. We cannot, he warned, predict the course of history. We can go backwards as well as forwards. We must, therefore, create a vibrant counterculture that ultimately makes revolution possible. This makes Gramsci, as we too recoil from the onslaught of corporate fascism, our contemporary.
(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

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright Despised And Decried Demagoguery
By John Nichols

We celebrated the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth at Taliesin Saturday night, with an event that recalled the great dinners where America's greatest architect brought together thinkers and doers in the last years of his remarkable life.

Born in 1867, Wright lived until 1959 - witnessing, and shaping, his country's great transit from the Civil War era to the Space Age.

Wright is well recalled, and well regarded, for his contributions to our understanding of an organic architecture that can exist in harmony with nature. But he was, as well, a wise and worldly commentator on the political, economic and social debates of his day. This was especially true in the last years of his life, when Wright and his dear friend William T. Evjue, the founder and longtime editor of The Capital Times, did battle with the demagogues of their day.

So it was fitting that many of the discussions Saturday night turned to Donald Trump attacks on the free press as an "enemy of the people," assaults on Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation between church and state," rejection of facts and science, and disregard for the basic premises of American democracy. There were plenty of opinions at Taliesin on Trump and Trumpism, and on what Wright might have thought about the moment into which the country has descended.

Wright was surely an iconoclast, and he could be a bit of a contrarian.

But he had deeply held politically opinions, most of which extended from the Wisconsin progressive tradition of governor and U.S. Sen. Robert M. La Follette, his sons Sen. Robert M. La Follette Jr. and Gov. Phil La Follette, and the great southwestern Wisconsin progressive populist Gov. John Blaine.

The La Follette progressives and their political heirs disdained the demagogues of their era - foreign and domestic. And they were horrified at the rise of Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy, the crudely fearmongering "red baiter" who used his position to practice a dishonest politics of personal destruction that came to be known as "McCarthyism." A New Yorker column from last year observed, "The model for Donald Trump's media relations is Joseph McCarthy," and many historians have made the connection between McCarthyism and Trumpism.

While we do not know precisely what Wright would have thought of Trump, we do know exactly what the great architect thought of McCarthy. He regularly ripped into McCarthy the man and McCarthy the ism, warning of a threat that was "most dangerous to our democratic system." The senator, he announced, was "a political pervert."

In 1952, Evjue and The Capital Times crusaded against McCarthy's re-election. The paper urged Republicans to reject the senator in the Sept. 9, 1952, Republican primary. When that didn't work, the paper immediately began urging voters from all parties and political persuasions to support Democrat Tom Fairchild's November challenge to McCarthy.

On Sept. 22, 1952, the paper's front page featured a fiercely anti-McCarthy column by Wright: "Wake up, Wisconsin!"

"Fear is the real danger in any democracy. Our worst enemy now is this craven fear managed by conscienceless politicians," wrote Wright.

The "democratic heart of the state" was being replaced by "demagoguery at the mobocratic level" - and by politicians who invented and inflated a supposed threat with their "lists" of supposed "reds" and "fellow travelers." Wright portrayed McCarthy and his compatriots as political charlatans: "These fighters of communism! Do they really know what communism means? Ask them. Their answers will make you laugh. Do they know what democracy means? Ask them and weep."

Recalling the days when La Follette and the progressives made Wisconsin America's "laboratory of democracy," Wright wrote, "Not so long ago, Wisconsin had the reputation as a great and noble state." It had been "marked by great names of noble statesmen and famed as the home of great individuals."

Writing just days after McCarthy's Republican primary win had earned national headlines, Wright argued, "Today, by the popular electoral record, Wisconsin is a stench in the nostrils of decency everywhere." The great name of Wisconsin had come, he wrote, "to stand more for damage to America (than that of) any other state." He bemoaned the fact that the state of his birth was now understood as a haven for "inciters of a scared people."

McCarthy needed to be voted out of office in order to remove the stench of demagoguery, to overcome the fear and division, and to renew democracy.

When the danger was removed, Wright wrote that "as an architect," he was prepared "to submit a simple design for a suitable and perhaps salutary memorial for the chief demagogue."

"Here it is: At all principal crossroads in the state set up, on a solid concrete base, a large caste-iron pot of simple but chaste design, say six feet in diameter. Pour into it a powerful charge of hydrogen sulfide or carbon dioxide. On the birthday of the chief demagogue," Wright wrote, "over the entire area of the state light a blaze under every pot and raise such a prodigious stink that the true character of such a 'patriot' would be brought to the noses of the voters ... by their own nausea. This realistic celebration to continue for 24 hours or for long enough to bring to the voters realization of the character of such 'patriotism.'"

That was classic Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a refined and dignified architect, to be sure. But he was, as well, a proud and passionate American who never hesitated to raise his voice against demagoguery and the tyranny that extends from it.
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

President Trump at the White House on Monday.

Trump Is Out Of Control!
By Eugene Robinson

The statements President Trump issued on Twitter in recent days lead to a chilling conclusion: The man is out of control.

I know that is a radical thing to say about the elected leader of the United States, the most powerful individual in the world. And I know his unorthodox use of social media is thought by some, including the president himself, to be brilliant. But I don't see political genius in the invective coming from Trump these days. I see an angry man lashing out at enemies real and imagined - a man dangerously overwhelmed.

On Monday, he started at 6:25 a.m. to comprehensively undermine his own legal team in its quest to win Supreme Court approval for a travel ban targeting Muslims. I can call it that, without legalistic hemming and hawing, because the president did so. Emphatically.

"People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN," Trump wrote.

Maybe he thinks that tweets, somehow, don't count. But of course they do. These are written statements typed by the president himself, and as such should carry more weight than a processed release from the White House press office, not less. Trump's lawyers - arguing in support of the blocked measure, which would bar visitors from six majority-Muslim countries - contend it is not a "travel ban" as such. Attorneys on the other side will surely use Trump's own words against him.

And he had plenty more to say:

"The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C. [Supreme Court]"

"The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court - & seek much tougher version!"

"In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!"

Let that last one settle in for a moment. Has a president ever publicly dismissed the entire judicial branch of our government as "slow and political," even in a moment of pique? Does Trump grasp the concept of separation of powers? Has he even read the Constitution he swore to preserve, protect and defend?

Whether Trump's statements during the campaign - calling for a surely unconstitutional blanket ban on Muslim visitors from anywhere - should be taken into account by courts considering the current "watered down" version is debatable. His written statements as president, however, are clearly germane. Opponents of the ban might want to send him flowers.

Trump first let the cat out of the bag Saturday night, following the terrorist attack in London, when he wrote, "We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!"

He went on to express compassion and support for "London and the U.K." But by Sunday he was off the rails: "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'"

What rational head of state attacks the mayor of a city that has just been hit by terrorists? Why would Trump do such a thing, in the process taking Mayor Sadiq Khan's words out of context in a way that totally changed their meaning? Because last year Khan, perhaps the highest-profile Muslim public official in a non-Muslim country, criticized then-candidate Trump, saying that his "ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe."

What Khan actually said Sunday was that the public had "no reason to be alarmed" about an increased police presence on the streets - not, as Trump suggests, that they should be nonchalant about terrorism. Khan's stoic and defiant response is in the tradition of Churchill's during the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, and Thatcher's during the Irish Republican Army's terrorism campaign. Londoners have rallied around him. Trump, by contrast, sounds like a ridiculous Chicken Little squawking about the coop.

Words have consequences. Trump's may hurt British Prime Minister Theresa May in Thursday's election. Assuming she survives, she will have learned a lesson about getting too close to a volcanic president who might at any minute erupt.

We already knew that Trump had a narrow mind and a small heart. Now we must wonder about his emotional stability, his grasp of reality, or both.
(c) 2017 Eugene Robinson writes a regular column for The Washington Post.

World Environment Day Reminds Us To Reconnect With Nature
By David Suzuki

The notion that we must conquer or dominate nature has governed human behaviour for a relatively short period of our 150,000-year history on this 4.5-billion-year-old planet. It's an understandable impulse. Our intelligence and foresight allowed us to develop complex societies, and gave us a sense of control over our existence in the face of powerful, often threatening natural forces.

Unfortunately, our lack of attention to the intricate and interconnected ways of nature has led to widespread devastation that now threatens the very systems that support human health and survival. We have become disconnected from our own true nature.

The more science reveals about the natural world, the more we learn what many indigenous peoples have long known: that everything is interconnected and interdependent - from the tiniest microbes to the largest carnivores, from plants that sequester carbon, prevent flooding and feed us to the carbon, hydrologic and other large cycles that keep the planet in balance.

There's no going back to simpler times, but our survival does depend on respecting our place in this miraculous world. To heal the disconnection, we must reconnect. It's fitting, then, that the theme of this year's World Environment Day on June 5 is "Connecting People to Nature."

Renowned American ecologist Edward O. Wilson used the term "biophilia" to describe the innate kinship people share with all other life forms. Because we are more likely to care for the things we love and see as important, we must rekindle this biological imperative if we are to protect the biosphere that keeps us healthy and alive.

How do we accomplish that when many of us are moving further from our natural connections daily - when the average North American child spends less than 30 minutes a day playing outside, but more than seven hours in front of a TV, computer or smartphone screen, and when many adults spend their days driving to and from work where they sit in front of computers for hours on end?

Understanding the benefits of time in nature is a start. Studies show time outdoors can reduce stress and attention deficit disorder; boost immunity, energy levels and creativity; increase curiosity and problem-solving ability; improve physical fitness and coordination; and even reduce the likelihood of developing near-sightedness!

It also builds memories. I was fortunate in many ways to have grown up before televisions, computers, smartphones and other electronic distractions. My greatest memories are of fishing with my dad, exploring swamps and bogs to collect bugs, frogs and salamander eggs, and hiking in the mountains. Even the time my family spent in an internment camp in the British Columbia wilderness during the Second World War holds fond memories of playing by rivers filled with fish and exploring forests where wolves, bears and deer roamed.,P> In Japan, the term shinrin-yoku - "forest bathing" or "taking in forest air" - describes the beneficial effects of connecting with the natural world. Japanese researchers have found people who breathe forest air lower their risk for diabetes and experience improved mood and lower stress hormone production compared to people exercising on indoor treadmills.

Even getting dirty is good. In their upcoming book The Secret Life of Your Microbiome, Alan C. Logan and Susan L. Prescott explore the importance of microbes and microbiomes - the microbial communities on and in our bodies and all around us. Microbes break down food and produce vitamins in our guts. They coat our skin, protecting us from attacks by harmful microbes. The air we breathe, the soil we dig and the outdoor plants we come into contact with include a variety of microbes - many of them beneficial - that may be absent in indoor and built environments.

Planting pollinator-friendly native plants in your garden, making a mud pie, taking photos of wildlife in the forest or sleeping under the stars are all healthy activities - and they connect you with the natural world and open your eyes and heart to the amazing, intricately interconnected biosphere of which we are all a part. Getting outside, especially with the children in your life, is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your family and friends, and the planet. World Environment Day reminds us of the importance of connecting with nature every day!
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

President Trump arrives to announce his decision to withdraw the United States from the
Paris climate accords, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2017.

Trump's Climate Withdrawal Is An Impeachable Offense
By Marjorie Cohn

When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, he acted in concert with 22 Republican senators, who collectively receive $10,694,284 in contributions from the coal and oil industries.

These 22 senators wrote to Trump, asking him to pull out of the accord. The president and the senators put their own political and economic interests above the safety, security and indeed survival of the American people and the entire planet.

The climate accord is a landmark deal, in which 195 countries responsible for 95 percent of carbon emissions worldwide agreed to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in order to slow down global warming.

Under the pact, the Obama administration promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 29 percent lower than 2005 levels by 2025.

But according to the Rhodium Group, Trump's new policies will only cut emissions 15 percent to 19 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, considerably lower than the commitment made by the Obama administration.

The United States is the second largest purveyor of fossil fuels. China, which is first, and India, third, made significant commitments to cut their emissions as well. China is shutting down coal mines and plants and replacing them with solar plants and wind turbines. India is substituting solar panels for expansion of its coal companies.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a consortium of four European research organizations, determined that "without any further action, the [United States, under the Obama pledge] will miss its commitment 'by a large margin.'" The 2015 Clean Power Plan, which would shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction on new ones, and replace them with new wind and solar farms, was one of the most significant programs in US climate action, according to the CAT.

But Trump signed an executive order in March, directing the Environmental Protection Agency to begin withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan.

Both China and India, on the other hand, are on track toward meeting their emissions goals, CAT found.

A study by the Grantham Research Institute concluded that the existence of the Paris climate agreement has caused dozens of countries to pass new laws requiring the use of clean energy.

The United States is now only one of three countries in the world that will not be party to the climate accord. Nicaragua did not join because the agreement wasn't strong enough. Syria did not join because it is embroiled in a war and operates under a severe sanctions regime.

Withdrawing From the Climate Agreement Is a Political Offense

Trump's withdrawal from the climate agreement constitutes an impeachable offense.

The Constitution provides for impeachment of the president when he commits "High Crimes" and misdemeanors. They include, but are not limited to, conduct punishable by the criminal law.

Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist No. 65 that offenses are impeachable if they "proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust."

"They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself."

"The Abuse or Violation of Some Public Trust"

No individual embodies the trust of the public more than the president, who is elected by the people. When the people choose their president, they are entrusting that person with their security, well-being and survival. The voters trust the president to act in their best interests and protect them from harm. By withdrawing from the climate agreement, Trump is violating the trust that "We the People" have placed in him.

Timothy Wirth, under secretary of state in the Clinton administration, told The Nation that Trump's withdrawal from the pact was "a stunning moral abdication of responsibility to future generations."

"Injuries Done Immediately to the Society Itself"

"We've watched Arctic sea ice vanish at a record pace and measured the early disintegration of Antarctica's great ice sheets," Middlebury College environmental studies professor Bill McKibben wrote in the New York Times. "We've been able to record alarming increases in drought and flood and wildfire, and we've been able to link them directly to the greenhouse gases we've poured into the atmosphere."

In his analysis for Truthout, Dahr Jamail cites a recently published study showing that "the depletion of dissolved oxygen in Earth's oceans is occurring much faster than previously believed." Thus, he writes, anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) "is now recreating the conditions that caused the worst mass extinction event on Earth, the Permian mass extinction that took place approximately 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of life. Dramatic oceanic warming and acidification were key components of this extinction event, and these conditions align with what we are seeing today."

Jamail adds, "Scientists have said that the US withdrawal [from the climate accord] could add up to 3 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis."

If the climate continues to change at a rapid rate, society itself will be injured. As the glaciers melt and the oceans swell, the land will recede. Crops will die. Mosquitos will increasingly carry diseases. The Earth will be hit with massive floods, devastating heat waves and drought. Polar bears will become extinct. People will lose their lands, their homes and their lives. Indeed, life as we know it will come to an end.

"To refuse to act against global warming is to condemn thousands of people to death and suffering today and millions more tomorrow. This is murder," Mark Hertsgaard wrote in The Nation.

A Crime Against Humanity

Moreover, by withdrawing the United States from the climate accord, Trump has committed a crime against humanity, which also constitutes a High Crime.

Trump has been aided and abetted in his crime against humanity by the following 22 GOP Senators: Inhofe (Oklahoma), Barrasso (Wyoming), McConnell (Kentucky), Cornyn (Texas), Blunt (Missouri), Wicker (Mississippi), Enzi (Wyoming), Crapo (Idaho), Risch (Idaho), Cochran (Mississippi), Rounds (South Dakota), Paul (Kentucky), Boozman (Arkansas), Shelby (Alabama), Strange (Alabama), Hatch (Utah), Lee (Utah), Cruz (Texas), Perdue (Georgia), Tillis (North Carolina), Scott (South Carolina) and Roberts (Kansas).

Crimes against humanity can be committed even without a state of war. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines crimes against humanity as "inhumane acts ... intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health." They must be "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack."

Since taking office, Trump has mounted a methodical assault on the people of the United States. He has systematically endeavored to destroy the social safety net, including the rights to healthcare, public education and a clean environment, as well as the rights of workers, immigrants, women and LGBTQ people.

By withdrawing from the climate agreement and refusing to shoulder the United States' share of responsibility for slowing climate change, Trump has intentionally committed an inhumane act that will ultimately cause great suffering to the people of the world.

Although the ICC cannot directly prosecute and try climate crimes, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC said in a policy paper last year that it would construe crimes against humanity more broadly to include "destruction of the environment" and make prosecution of those crimes a priority.

According to the Center for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), a new nonprofit established to support the ICC prioritization of environmental crimes, "Climate crimes are criminal activities that result in, or are associated with, the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). The CCCA does not aim to criminalize GHG emissions per se. Most emissions are legal. However, a significant share of GHG emissions results from, or is associated with, conduct that violates existing criminal law."

The CCA notes, "Climate crimes are often intertwined with other serious international crimes. As a result of this link, as well through their impact on climate change, climate crimes may represent a threat to international peace and security and potentially affect all of humankind and the very foundations of civilization."

Richard Harvey, a specialist in international criminal and environmental law, told Truthout, "Given what the ICC prosecutor and the Center for Climate Crime Analysis consider environmental crimes against humanity, Trump's attempt to renege on this international agreement is a clear invitation to his Big Carbon cronies to continue policies designed to consign humanity to the greenhouse gas chamber. Is that conspiracy to commit a crime against humanity? You be the judge."

By pulling out of the climate accord, Trump "makes himself guilty of what looks like a grave crime against humanity, the planet Earth, and future generations," Uffe Elaek, former Danish minister of culture and leader of Denmark's Green Party, said.

Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch calls the "system of destruction on a planetary scale ... the ultimate 'crime against humanity. It is becoming a 'terracide.'"

The House of Representatives Should Impeach Trump

It takes 51 percent of the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Republicans control a majority of the seats in the House. But imperiling the planet should not be a partisan issue.

The fact that virtually every other country in the world, as well as US states and cities, corporations and activists worldwide are taking steps on their own to slow the changing climate does not absolve Trump from his crime.

It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to vote for the impeachment of Trump.

Meanwhile, we must, and will, continue to build the global climate justice movement.
(c) 2017 Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website: Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

The Quotable Quote...

"Big money and big business, corporations and commerce, are again the undisputed overlords of politics and government. The White House, the Congress and, increasingly, the judiciary, reflect their interests. We appear to have a government run by remote control from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute. To hell with everyone else!"
~~~ Bill Moyers

A Portrait Of The CIA In Prison
By David Swanson

John Kiriakou's Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison paints a disturbing portrait of a U.S. prison in which Kiriakou spent time as retribution for having admitted that the CIA used torture. His ongoing whistleblowing on the state of U.S. prisons, as well as on the ways in which the U.S. government has gone after him, is as valuable as his opposition to CIA torture.

The prison as described in the book is largely unaccountable to the rule of law. Prisoners in need of medical attention are simply allowed to die, or hastened along toward death by sadistic or incompetent malpractice. Education for prisoners is nonexistent. Rehabilitation efforts are nonexistent. Slave labor is universal. Those who leave, leave having acquired additional skills and attitudes of criminals. This prison system serves not to protect, not to rehabilitate, not to compensate or make restitution, and not to reduce crime.

Kiriakou also paints what I find a disturbing portrait of himself. In his view, prison requires vicious and manipulative behavior to survive. Perhaps it does. And perhaps it is an act of significantly brave honesty for Kiriakou to show himself to us degraded by such behavior. Perhaps it is all the more so to the extent that he depicts himself enjoying it. Yet he describes his prison-survival techniques as having come straight out of his CIA work, which he engaged in for years and about which he claims unmitigated pride. In addition, Kiriakou describes his approach to writing and publishing as self-serving and manipulative, and repeatedly urges us to never trust anyone, all of which leaves one wondering.

Kiriakou is proud of having volunteered to fight in the War on Terror. His view of foreign policy, as his view of prison conduct, seems to condone killing, but not torturing. His prison skills include threatening various people with murder, but never torture. That neither murder nor torture is legal or moral, and that neither "works" on its own terms, is a blind spot in U.S. culture, not something unique to John Kiriakou.

Kiriakou claims that threatening to kill one fellow prisoner scared him into ceasing to slander Kiriakou, except for on one occasion when Kiriakou was present and the other prisoner unaware of it. But it could be the man was scared into slandering Kiriakou only when he wasn't around, which was exactly what he'd been doing to begin with.

Anyway, it's hard to find morality in the killing / torturing distinction. Maybe that's the point. All is gray. Kiriakou writes that in his CIA work he didn't mind "bending some rules," just not the one on torture. And his prison conduct continually echoes the behavior of the government he is trying to reform.

When Kiriakou asked Senator John Kerry, for whom he had worked, to ask President Obama to commute his sentence, Kerry's reply was "Do not ever attempt to contact me again." When a fellow prisoner revealed to Kiriakou that he was a pedophile, Kiriakou's reply was "Don't ever try to speak to me again. Never. Understand?"

When the CIA proposed to in-source and escalate the use of torture, Cofer Black described what happened as "the gloves came off." When Kiriakou wanted to escalate his attacks on a fellow prisoner, he says "it was time to take the gloves off."

Kiriakou describes Middle Eastern countries he "served" in as "dumps." He describes prisoners as "the scum of society," "filthy pig," "white trash," "filthy midget rat," and similar dehumanizing terms. But when Kiriakou explains why his CIA background came in so handy in prison, he refers to conflict among CIA employees, not between the CIA and foreign "enemies":

"The CIA is full of aggressive alpha personalities. So is prison. The CIA is full of people constantly plotting against each other. So is prison. The CIA is full of people who are always jockeying for some better situation than the one they are currently in. So is prison. I'm the first to admit that in prison I was a serious jerk. I was arrogant, manipulative, and opinionated. But I was also adaptable to changing situations. I could think quickly, and I possessed a certain degree of ruthlessness necessary for self-preservation."
That may very well be true. But was it always true in each of the examples related in the book? When Kiriakou frames a fellow prisoner for a charge of attempted escape, it's because the prisoner is seriously annoying. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," Kiriakou writes, but desperation is an emotion, not an analysis of the seriousness of a threat. The punishment Kiriakou earns the man he frames is solitary confinement for months - something that much of the world considers torture. Likewise, when Kiriakou writes that he loathed all child molesters in prison, that's an emotion, not a survival technique.

One of the survival rules that Kiriakou borrows straight from U.S. foreign policy is: "If stability is not to your benefit, chaos is your friend." This is working out oh so well in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, et cetera. Kiriakou seems to model the same approach in prison. He confronts a prisoner named Schaeffer over his having lied about not being a child molester. When Schaeffer responds by spreading lies about Kiriakou, Kiriakou acts as if this were the first sign of trouble, as if he'd previously been uninvolved. This is the same worldview that must dominate CIA thinking in which presumably blowback does not exist. "Afghanistan? Where's that? Saddam, who? Never met the man!" Later, as things escalate between Kiriakou and Schaeffer, the "time to take the gloves off" arrives, framed as defense against irrational and inexplicable aggression. "Why do they hate us?"

Maybe it was inexplicable. One could hardly get through a prison sentence without encountering irrational aggression - short of doing time in a civilized prison in Norway or someplace. But is it always unavoidable? It seems in Kiriakou's account to often be enjoyable. Kiriakou writes: "Sometimes there is real satisfaction in passive-aggression." "Sweet revenge." "I just wanted to see the guy lying in a pool of his own blood." Etc.

Torture is different: "At the CIA, employees are trained to believe that nearly every moral issue is a shade of gray. But this is simply not true. Some issues are black and white - and torture is one of them," writes Kiriakou. Under great pressure in prison, of a sort I've never faced, Kiriakou never writes that he had to repress any urge to torture anyone, only to murder them.

What are we to make of an account of the brutality of prison by someone who claims to have survived it by mastering its brutality, yet seems to have taken pride in that and to have learned his brutality working on secret operations we aren't supposed to know about for a government that is supposed to somehow represent us? It's very hard to say.

One technique Kiriakou recommends for eliciting information is stating something false in order to be corrected. Yet he notes that in prison this often fails, because you can say the craziest things and people will simply nod. Kiriakou's next paragraph includes this:

"Near the end of my sentence, Russia sent troops into Ukraine and captured the Crimean Peninsula."

Is the author trying his techniques on us in print? I don't know, but I do know that most readers in the United States will simply nod.
(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.

Why I'm Launching A Site For Trump Whistleblowers
Patriotic Americans need an outlet to help protect their country from tyranny.
By Michael Moore


I need one of you to help me. It might get dangerous. It may get us in trouble. But we're running out of time. We must act. It's our patriotic duty.

From the time you opened this letter to the time you get to the bottom of it, there's a decent chance that our President will have violated the constitution, obstructed justice, lied to the American people, encouraged or supported acts of violence, or committed some horrible mistake that would've ended any other politician's career (or sent you or I to jail). And just like all the times he's done so in the past, he will get away with it.

Donald Trump thinks he's above the law. He acts like he's the above the law. He's STATED that he's above the law. And by firing Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and James Comey (3 federal officials with SOME authority to hold him accountable) he's taken the first few steps to make it official.

And yet, we keep hearing the same reaction to President Trump that we heard with candidate Trump after every new revelation or screw up - "He's toast!" "He can't survive this!" "He's finished!"

Make no mistake - Donald J. Trump has NO intention of leaving the White House until January 20, 2025. How old will you be in 2025? That's how long he plans to be your president. How much damage will have been done to the country and the world by then?

And that is why we must act.

As I've said since the election, we need a four-front strategy to end this carnage: 1. Mass Citizen Action 2. Take Him To Court Nonstop 3. YOU Run for Office 4. An Army of Satire.

I'm doing everything that I can, publicly and privately, to aid this effort and I know that you are, too. And while quietly working on my new movie, I came across an old video that inspired me to write you today to ask for help.

In this video, a former congressman is passionately testifying about the importance of whistleblowers and need to protect the First Amendment. He stated: Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, we all know, are these words: Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. The freedom of speech and the press form the bedrock of our democracy by ensuring the free flow of information to the public. Although Thomas Jefferson warned that, "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that limited without danger of losing it," today this freedom is under attack. The young congressman went on to decry the harassment, legal threats and even jailing of American journalists. He continued:

Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular, compelling reporters to reveal the identity of confidential sources, intrudes on the newsgathering process and hurts the public. Without the assurance of confidentiality, many whistleblowers will simply refuse to come forward, and reporters will be unable to provide the American public with the information they need to make decisions as an informed electorate. But with all this focus on newsgathering, it is important that we state clearly: Protecting a journalist's right to keep a news source confidential is not about protecting reporters; it is about protecting the public's right to know.
Indeed, the power and the importance of whistleblowing is part of the American tradition and as old as the republic itself. On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress voted unanimously for the first whistleblower legislation in the U.S: "Resolved, That it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge."

This legislation came in response to the first known act of whistleblowing in our country's history, when in 1777, 10 revolutionary sailors decided to blow the whistle on a powerful naval officer who participated in the torture of captured British soldiers.

The sailors paid a price. They were sued and jailed for their courageous actions. But in the end, our Founding Fathers agreed that the sailors were doing their patriotic duty by reporting this crime. They made sure their legal fees were covered, protected them from retaliation and unanimously passed the 1778 whistleblower protection law.

Since then, courageous American men and women have put their careers, their freedom and even their lives on the line to report government and corporate wrongdoing. From Karen Silkwood (nuclear safety), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Jeffrey Wigand (tobacco) in corporate America to Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden revealing government lies, the American whistleblowing tradition remains strong, despite constant attempts to intimidate and stifle these truth tellers.

And this is where I need one of you to help me.

Today, I'm launching TrumpiLeaks, a site that will enable courageous whistleblowers to privately communicate with me and my team. Patriotic Americans in government, law enforcement or the private sector with knowledge of crimes, breaches of public trust and misconduct committed by Donald J. Trump and his associates are needed to blow the whistle in the name of protecting the United States of America from tyranny.

We've put together several tools you can use to securely send information and documents as well as photographs, video and/or audio recordings. While no form of digital communication is 100% secure, the tools we're using at TrumpiLeaks provide the most secure technology possible to protect your anonymity (and if you don't require anonymity, you can just email me here.

I know this is risky. I knew we may get in trouble. But too much is at stake to play it safe. And along with the Founding Fathers, I've got your back.

As for the former congressman quoted above, he's moved on to bigger and better things. His name is Michael Richard Pence, the Vice President of the United States. Who knows, he might even back you up on this, too...


Michael Moore
(c) 2017 Michael Moore, TrumpiLeaks

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Trump,

Dear Deputy Fuhrer Price,

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 use faith-based healing methods for 23 million Americans that Tom plans to remove from Obamacare with Trumpcare, 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 Price, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Art Of The Trump-Putin Deal
By Robert Reich

Say you're Vladimir Putin, and you did a deal with Trump last year. I'm not suggesting there was any such deal, mind you. But if you are Putin and you did do a deal, what did Trump agree to do?

1. Repudiate NATO. NATO is the biggest thorn in your side - the alliance that both humiliates you and stymies your ambitions in the Baltics and elsewhere. Trump almost delivered on this last week by pointedly not reaffirming Article 5, which states that an attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all.

2. Antagonize Europe, especially Angela Merkel. She's the strongest leader in the West other than Trump, and you'd love to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Germany. Your larger goal is for Europe to no longer depend on the United States, so you can increase Russia's influence in Europe. Trump has almost delivered one on this, too. Merkel is even saying Europe can no longer depend on America.

3. Take the U.S. out of the Paris accord on the environment. This will anger America's other allies around the world and produce a wave of anti-Americanism - all to your advantage. Nothing would satisfy you more than isolating the United States. Trump has already delivered.

4. Then unravel the accord. Russia is the world's second-largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia, and biggest exporter of natural gas. And the oil and gas industry contributes about half the revenues to your domestic budget. The last thing you want is for the world to shift to wind and solar, so you'd love for the whole Paris accord to unravel. Trump has promised to help.

5. Embark on a new era of protectionism. Or at least anti-trade rhetoric. This will threaten the West's economic interdependence and loosen America's economic grip on the rest of the world. Trump is on the way to delivering on this one.

6. End the economic sanctions on Russia imposed after the annexation of Crimea and Russian backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Oil production on land is falling, so you want to tap the vast petroleum and gas reserves offshore in the Arctic. In 2011, you and ExxonMobil's Rex Tillerson, signed a $500 billion deal to do this. But sanctions imposed in 2014 by that damned Obama administration stopped the project. Tillerson, now secretary of state, and Exxon lobbied against the sanctions. Trump has promised to lift the sanctions, so you can get on with oil and gas extraction in the Russian Arctic.

No delivery on this as yet, but you understand why. Trump has got to cope with all the suspicions in America about his deal with you. (Why can't he stop all those leaks?) Once that business dies down, he'll end the sanctions. In the meantime - as a symbolic down payment - he'll hand back to you two diplomatic compounds in America that were taken by the U.S. government in late December as punishment for Moscow's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

And what did you agree to do in return, Vladimir? What was your side of the deal? Two things: You'd help him win the presidency. You'd also shut up about your help so Trump wouldn't be impeached and convicted of treason.

In other words - if you did do a deal (and I'm not suggesting you did, Vlad) - Trump has delivered part of it but is still in the process of delivering the rest. And you've delivered part but are also still delivering the rest. That way, each of you can maintain pressure on the other. It's what's so beautiful about the art of the deal.
(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

Why Trump's So-Called Infrastructure Plan Is Good For Wall Street But Bad For America
By Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump's so-called infrastructure plan is a huge giveaway to Wall Street that fails to create the millions of jobs we need to modernize our roads, bridges, water systems, rail, airports, levees and dams.

At a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers says we need to spend $2 trillion above current spending levels just to get our infrastructure back to a state of good repair, Trump actually cuts direct federal spending on our crumbling infrastructure by nearly $145 billion over the next decade. This would force state and local governments to shoulder more of the financial burden for our infrastructure needs at a time when they can least afford it.

Just like Trump's "health care" bill is actually a $231 billion tax cut for the top 2 percent, his infrastructure plan would create $200 billion in new tax loopholes and other giveaways for wealthy investors, and it would reward corporations that have stashed their profits overseas with huge tax cuts.

Under Trump's proposal, billionaires on Wall Street, wealthy campaign contributors and even foreign governments would receive hundreds of billions in tax breaks to purchase our highways, airports, and water treatment plants. They would then be allowed to impose huge new tolls and fees on the backs of American commuters and homeowners.

The reality is that Trump's plan to sell off our nation's highways, bridges, and other vital infrastructure to Wall Street, private investors, and foreign governments is an old idea that does not work.

Trump's plan to rebuild America relies heavily on the use of public-private partnerships to finance infrastructure projects with private equity capital. Such financing, whether through private equity or traditional tax-exempt municipal bonds, is repaid by ordinary citizens through a combination of taxes and user fees. Private equity financing is markedly more expensive than traditional government financing, however - by as much as three to six times. Considering the scale of infrastructure development under consideration, that difference could be enormous. For example: the charge for a $100 million-dollar investment using traditional government bond financing (at 3 percent, over 30 years) is about $90 million. For private equity capital, at a 15 percent return, the total skyrockets to $450 million.

For example, in Chicago, a private investor group led by Morgan Stanley will collect $11 billion as part of its 75-year contract to run the city's parking meters. Not only have they raised parking prices by as much as 800 percent in some neighborhoods but incredibly, the city has been forced to pay $31 million and counting to cover lost revenue whenever a street is temporarily closed for maintenance. Chicago is already struggling with high crime and unfunded teachers' pensions, yet it is diverting resources to pad the bottom line of these investors.

In Indiana, tolls on a privatized road more than doubled this month as commuters wait in long lines and visit unsanitary rest stops. In Bayonne, New Jersey, many homeowners are at risk of foreclosure because they cannot afford water bills that have spiked dramatically after the water system was taken over by a private equity firm. In Atlanta, after taking over the water system in 1999, the new private operators fired 400 workers and cut training for those who remained. The result? More water main failures, and water quality declined.

In California, Texas, and South Carolina, privately-owned toll roads went bankrupt or were foreclosed because of exaggerated projections from investors. Time and again, these private companies who take over public infrastructure showed they do not represent the public's best interests.

In addition to the obvious siphoning of public resources that Trump's tax breaks and private equity financing entail, his Administration has been pushing "asset recycling," i.e., selling off existing assets, like airports, bridges, and highway rest stops, to private investors and using the revenue ("recycling" it) to fund new facilities.

It is important to note, moreover, that weak investment in America's infrastructure is not due to lack of access to financing, but because of constraints associated with insufficient state and local government revenue. Trump's public-private partnership model does not address this problem, and in fact, exacerbates it by increasing overall costs to taxpayers. And because smaller-scale projects, like those in rural areas, may not be profitable enough to attract private equity investors, his model risks leaving many parts of the country behind.

But Donald Trump wants to hand over more critical public infrastructure to private investors who will squeeze profits from the American people by putting up new tolls and exorbitant users' fees. That would be unacceptable. We shouldn't be selling off public assets to billionaires to make huge profits on the backs of working people.

Trump's plan is the exact opposite of what we should be doing as a nation. Instead of creating more tax giveaways to corporate America and Wall Street, we should be eliminating tax loopholes that allow profitable corporations to stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. And we should be using this revenue to directly invest $1 trillion to modernize our nation's infrastructure, a plan that would put 15 million Americans back to work in good-paying jobs.

Today, the United States spends less on infrastructure, as a percent of GDP, than at any time in the past twenty years. The reality is that every day, Americans drive to work on potholed roads and rundown bridges. They ride in overcrowded buses and subways, and journey through shabby airports. Children struggle to concentrate in dark, overcrowded classrooms; and in some parts of the country, their schools lack adequate heat and basic cleanliness. The structures that most Americans don't see are also in disrepair from spotty broadband and an outdated electric grid, to toxic drinking water and dilapidated levees and dams. This is what happens when a nation underfunds the physical infrastructure on which its people and economy depend. We need to be spending more on infrastructure, not less. And we should not be providing more tax breaks to fund risky privatization schemes.

The failure of privatization plans transferring control of public infrastructure to private interests that Trump would double down on can be seen across the country.


1. Chicago Parking Meters

In 2008, the city of Chicago sold the right to manage the city's parking meters for 75 years to Morgan Stanley and its financial partners for $1.15 billion.

From 2009 to 2013, parking rates in Chicago increased by as much as 800 percent.

While working people in Chicago are paying more for parking, the Wall Street and foreign investors that own the parking meters are making enormous profits. Morgan Stanley and its investors will likely collect $11 billion from Chicago as part of this deal, all on the backs of its residents.

Even as Chicago runs yearly budget deficits over $100 million, they have been forced to pay Morgan Stanley $31 million to cover their lost revenue every time streets are closed in the city.

Because of this public-private partnership, not only are Chicagoans paying more to get to work, but taxpayers are on the hook for a bad deal that Wall Street will profit off of for decades.

2. Indiana Toll Road

In 2006, Indiana signed a 75-year lease for a 175-mile highway for $3.8 billion with investors from Spain and Australia.

That company went bankrupt in 2014 partly because its risky financial deals left investors debt-ridden. That lease was then sold to Australian investors after the original investors went bankrupt in 2014.

While the debt held by this project increased by $2 billion before the bankruptcy, the Australian parent company is doing extraordinarily well. They reported record profits for the last fiscal year, and their CEO is among the highest paid in Australia.

This month, E-Z Pass drivers on the toll road saw their rates double when a state rebate program from the privatization deal expired. Since the road was privatized in 2006, all drivers of two-axle vehicles have seen the maximum toll rise from $4.65 to $9.70

Today, the toll road is deteriorating, and travelers often wait in long lines at toll plazas, and use rest stops that are unsanitary.

3. Bayonne, NJ Water Deal

In 2012, Bayonne, NJ leased its municipal system to a multinational corporation and private equity firm in exchange for an up-front payment of $150 million.

For the residents of Bayonne, this deal has come with a significant cost. Water rates have skyrocketed nearly 28 percent since the system was leased to private interests. This is after the city told residents when negotiating the deal that rates would stay frozen for four years.

Bayonne residents are not able to afford these high rate increases, and the amount of government liens against properties increased from 200 in 2012 to 465 in 2015. People should not be at risk of losing their homes because a private company's profits were more important than the needs of consumers.

4. Norfolk, Virginia Midtown Tunnel

In 2011, Virginia signed a contact with a private consortium to expand and extend the Norfolk, Virginia Midtown Tunnel. In exchange, they allowed the private investors to receive toll profits from the tunnel for 58 years.

In addition to instituting new tolls on a road that had been free to use since the 1980s, the private operator created a predatory pricing scheme that caused some low-income drivers to rack up debts as high as $18,000 from the tolls. The pricing scheme charges higher rates and fees to non-E-Z Pass drivers, who are more likely to be low-income people who cannot afford to fill an E-Z Pass account.

Like similar P3 agreements, Virginia's contains a non-compete clause that will make it more difficult for the state to improve the tunnel and freeway, and ensures that the private investors make a healthy profit at the expense of working families.

5. Atlanta Water

In 1998 the city of Atlanta signed an agreement for United Water, part of a French conglomerate, to operate their water system for twenty years.

After taking control of the system, United Water fired nearly 400 workers and dramatically reduced job training for its remaining employees tasked with keeping water safe for the people of Atlanta.

Water service in Atlanta suffered as United Water could not keep up with the system's maintenance needs. After United Water took over water-main breaks increased and the city needed to issue occasional "boil only" alerts when water wasn't drinkable out of the tap.

United Water is another example of a company that poorly managed our critical infrastructure, harming both taxpayers and workers in the process.

6. Chicago Skyway

A Spanish and Australian investment consortium paid Chicago $1.83 billion to operated and collect tolls on the Chicago Skyway.

To cut costs, the private entity cut wages for its Skyway jobs from at least $20 an hour to as low as $12 an hour.

The agreement to operate the Skyway included ballooning interest rates, like many of the risky mortgages that caused the great recession.

After cutting ages for working people, these investors cashed out to another private entity less than 10 years into the 99-year lease, showing yet again that private entities running public infrastructure projects are only interested in their profits, not serving the public and treating their workers fairly. The majority owners of the Skyway project, the Spanish company Ferrovial, pocketed $269 million from the sale.

7. State Highway 130

Texas contracted out the construction and operations of toll road State Highway 130 to a private company for $245 million in toll revenue.

During their ownership of the road, the private company was cited by the Texas Department of Transportation for poor road maintenance. In addition to problems resulting from the deteriorating road, the area around the toll road began to flood following its construction.

The private consortium that owned the project declared bankruptcy last year, while still owing the federal government $430 million from an infrastructure loan program. The toll road was taking in much lower revenue than expected because traffic was 70 percent lower than expected.

8. SR-91 Express Lanes in Orange County

In 1995 California built express lanes on SR-91 in Orange County through mostly private dollars from three corporations.

Because of a non-compete clause in the agreement, California was unable to expand the roads to better serve commuters. Instead of looking out in the best interest of Orange Country residents, this deal made sure these corporations profited at their expense.

9. South Bay Expressway

In 2003, a toll road owned by an Australian investment firm opened in Southern California. The project was touted as a successful TIFIA loan that demonstrated the benefit of public private partnerships.

However, seven years later the firm went bankrupt and imposed a 42% loss on the taxpayers from the TIFIA loan. Taxpayer dollars should not be put at risk so that private investment firms have a chance to profit on public infrastructure.

10. Capital Beltway Hot Lanes

In Virginia, a private consortium constructed new High Occupancy Traffic lanes on Interstate 495 in exchange for toll revenue for the next 80 years

While reducing congestion and encouraging carpooling are worthy goals for this project, under the partnership Virginia taxpayers could pay this private consortium millions of dollars anytime carpoolers are over a quarter of the drivers on the road. This deal values the bottom line of its investors over the environment and the commute times of Virginia workers.
(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.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Greenberg ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Preisdent Trump's Sress Disorder
By Will Durst

An epidemic is sweeping the nation, causing sufferers to experience feelings of hopeless doom, certain annihilation and cataclysmic collapse. It's an existential plague manifesting itself by enveloping the stricken in a black cloud of despairing suicidal thoughts. The malady that is striking down innocent citizens left and lefter is... the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is literally making people sick.

Many doctors have taken note of this disturbing trend and some are calling it PTSD2, President Trump Stress Disorder. Definitely not to be confused with the much more serious Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That is a condition afflicting those that have survived a past dire and/ or life- threatening experience. Not a single thing funny there. Don't even look. Nope. Not close to humorous. Keep moving. Nothing to see.

Rather, PTSD2 is a condition that afflicts people from mostly urban areas or anyplace with a museum or library, who are worrying about a future they may or may not survive. Many safe bubbles were shaken and popped by last year's election and the soapy fallout is being felt on psychiatric couches from here to Vienna. And you can bet nobody at any of the Big Pharmaceuticals is complaining either.

Victims of PTSD2 find themselves alternately shocked and alarmed and surprised and angry and scared and anxious and confused and amused and amazed and nervous and depressed and worried and this close to eye - gouging panic. Both their own eyes and other peoples' eyes.

An equal almost opposite reaction is affecting an entirely different group of Americans, and that is unbridled joy and spontaneous dancing and the drinking of many frosty adult beverage toasts. Mostly Bud Light. Surprisingly, both these phenomena are being alternately heightened and exacerbated through copious self - administered treatments of medicinal cannabis. In order to determine whether you are suffering from the debilitating effects of this harrowing disease known as PTSD2, please consult the following.


Inability to sleep or sleep disturbed by recurring nightmares. Most involve a second or third term.
Flashbacks to a simpler time when Trump was a goofy reality TV star.
When using any word that rhymes with Trump you become sick to your stomach.
Steadfast refusal to watch the news. Too much like enabling him.
Find yourself saying to no one in particular "Imagine if Hillary had said that?
For no apparent reason you will start screaming at your cat. Or Alex Trebek.
If and when somebody mentions Obama Care you start weeping and, or, pulling hair from your head.
Constantly replay your movements on November 8, 2016, wondering what you could have done to change the course of events.
The phrase "wake and bake" has reentered your lexicon.
Inability to recall anything that happened during transition.
Emotionally numb to the point of not caring whether the Giants win or lose.
Find yourself saying to no one in particular "Imagine if Obama had done that?"
Laughing hysterically at Garfield cartoons.
Intense feelings of guilt for just not liking Hillary enough.
Hearing his name makes you put your hands over your ears and go "la- la- la- la- la."
Confronted with difficult choices you respond, "Aaah, the hell with it. What difference does it make?"
Lately the term "moderation" means no tequila shooters before noon.
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former bus boy at Dante's Sea Catch at Pier 39. Go to for info about his new one-man show "BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG," and the documentary "3 Still Standing." Follow Will Durst on Twitter:

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 21 (c) 06/11/2017

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