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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald returns with, "Glenn Greenwald Interviews Democratic Primary Challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Of New York."

Uri Avnery wonders, "Are YOU Brainwashed?"

Glen Ford sees, "Chaos In The Imperial Big House."

Ruth Graham joins us with, "Mike Pence Gave A Trump Stump Speech To A Crowd Of Southern Baptists, And It Didn't Go Over Very Well."

Jim Hightower asks, "Guess Who's Serving The Student Loan Industry?"

John Nichols says, "Anthony Bourdain Knew There Was Nothing More Political Than Food."

James Donahue warns of the, "Growing Threat Of Human Disconnect."

William Rivers Pitt examines, "Winning The News Cycle: Trump's Made-For-TV Singapore Summit."

Heather Digby Parton explores, "Trump's G7 Debacle."

David Suzuki says, "Don't Water Down Marine Protection."

Charles P. Pierce reports, "Disenfranchising Voters Is Not Trumpism, It's Republicanism."

David Swanson warns, "What Took Down ACORN May Take Down The Rest Of Us."

Jane Stillwater finds, "There's A Whole Foods In Harlem Now...."

Peter Navarro wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich concludes, "The Constitutional Crisis Is Now."

Chris Hedges considers, "Scapegoating Iran."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Kim Jong Un Offers To Host Peace Talks Between United States And Canada" but first Uncle Ernie follows, "That Meeting Between The Two Dictators."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mike Luckovich, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Bill Day, Saul Loeb, Hal Yeager, Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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That Meeting Between The Two Dictators
By Ernest Stewart

"Regardless of what happens in that meeting between the two dictators, what we are seeing right now, this is history."" ~~~ Anthony Scaramucci - former tRump aide

"Global warming isn't a prediction. It is happening!" ~~~ James Hansen

"Maybe the American president doesn't care about being isolated today, but we don't mind being six, if needs be. Because these six represent values, represent an economic market, and more than anything, represent a real force at the international level today." ~~~ Emmanuel Macron ~ French President

We who are young, should now take a stand
Don't run from the burdens of women and men
Continue to give, continue to live
For what you know is right
Keep on Keeping On ~~~ Curtis Mayfield

Well "that meeting between the two dictators" has come and gone and as Shakespeare said, it was "Much Ado About Nothing." Do you think I'm joking then read the following statement.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and the DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the U.S.-DPRK summit - the first in history - was an epochal event of great significance and overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations led by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the U.S.-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new U.S.-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

June 12, 2018

Sentosa Island
tRump came away with nothing and Kim Jong Un came away with with legitimacy and a major rise in world status. Nothing was said about Kim's missiles or his A-bombs & H-bombs. Trump was happy getting to meet a real live fascist dictator like his hero Hitler, and not like those G7 weaklings!

In Other News

I see where a group of scientists, including one from the University of Arizona, has new findings suggesting Antarctica's Southern Ocean - long known to play an integral role in climate change - may not be absorbing as much pollution as previously thought!

The old belief was that the "ocean pulled about 13 percent of the world's carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change - out of the atmosphere, helping put the brakes on rising global temperatures."

To reach their conclusion, the team used state-of-the-art sensors to collect more data on the Southern Ocean than ever before, including during the perilous winter months that previously made the research difficult if not impossible. The deeper we go, the worse it looks.

Some oceanographers suspect that less CO2 is being absorbed because the westerlies, the winds that ring the southernmost continent, are tightening like a noose. As these powerful winds get more concentrated, they dig at the water, pushing it out and away.

Water from below rises to take its place, dragging up decaying muck made of carbon from deep in the ocean that can then either be released into the atmosphere in the form of CO2 or slow the rate that CO2 is absorbed by the water. Either way, it's not good. As Meatloaf once sang, "It's always something!"

The Southern Ocean is far away, but "for Arizona, this is what matters," said Joellen Russell, the University of Arizona oceanographer and co-author on the paper revealing these findings. "We don't see the Southern Ocean, and yet it has reached out the icy hand."

"Oceans, rivers, lakes and vegetation can moderate extreme changes in temperature. Southern Arizona has no such buffers, leaving us vulnerable as average global temperatures march upward."

"Everybody asks, 'Why are you at the UA?'"
Russell said about studying the Southern Ocean from the desert at the University of Arizona. She said the research is important to Arizona and the university supports her work.

With global warming "it's always something," everywhere you look, you can see it's effects, if you take the trouble to look. Most humans do, most Americans don't!

And Finally

Did I ever mention that currently the US enjoys a $12 billion dollar trade surplus with Canada? Far from all the lies that tRump tells. That positive trade balance will certainly go away when tRump's tariffs kick in and Canada buys our products from a different source it may well crash our economy! Is this what tRump has in mind, or is he just an incredibly stupid ego maniac?

Meanwhile it doesn't help that tRumps creatures have crawl out from under their rocks to add their two cents worth! After tRumps bullying and chest thumping caused Justin Trudeau to say that Canada would not be "pushed around. I will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests." Yeah, I know, how dare Trudeau say that, how dare he tell the truth? So up from under his rock Peter crawled and made his way to Fox Spews to say:

There's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door. And that's what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference. That's what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes right from Air Force One. He did him a favor. And he was even willing to sign that socialist communique, and what did Trudeau do as soon as the plane took off from Canadian airspace? Trudeau stuck our President in the back." ~~~ Peter Navarro ~ a trade adviser to tRump

Larry Kudlow, tRump's top economic adviser, took things further Sunday morning, saying on CNN's "State of the Union" that Trudeau's comments amounted to a "betrayal."

After their's and tRump's tirades Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Sunday in response to questions about Kudlow and Navarro's comments that she is thankful she is "not responsible for explaining the reasoning behind any comments made by the officials of any foreign government."

Freeland touted Canada's retaliatory measures several times as she referred to Trump's tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum as "illegal and unjustified" and disavowed "ad hominem attacks."

"Canada is very clear," she said. "We are very measured. We used fact-based arguments."

Freeland said of the US tariffs, "The national security pretext is absurd and frankly insulting to Canadians, the closest and strongest ally the United States has had. We can't pose a security threat to the United States, and I know that Americans understand that. So, that is where the insult lies."

European Council President Donald Tusk used Navarro's phrasing in a tweet backing Trudeau later Sunday.

"There is a special place in heaven for @JustinTrudeau. Canada, thank you for the perfect organisation of G7!" Tusk tweeted.

Your tax dollars at work, America!

Keepin' On

Nada in the PO Box again. That's the trouble of catering to the working poor and all those former middle class folks that are now the un-working poor. People as broke as that have little money to give even to a good cause! I know how they feel as I'm in the same sinking boat!

I've often been told that I write pretty good sci-fi/fantasy, so why don't I turn Issues & Alibis into a right wing magazine. If I were to, I'd have no doubt that I'd be fully-funded for years to come; and I could start paying our authors and cartoonists -- not to mention myself a nice salary. Wouldn't it be nice, except that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool radical, and wouldn't feel right wearing reactionary jackboots, no matter how nicely they fit. I've been a radical all of my life; and I'll be a radical when they put me into my pyramid -- well, the potter's field more like.

Ergo, if you appreciate the things that we do for you and yours, please visit our donations page and follow the instructions therein. Please help us keep on, keeping on, for ya'll!


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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) 2018 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.

Glenn Greenwald Interviews Democratic Primary Challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Of New York
By Glenn Greenwald

CONGRESSPERSON JOE CROWLEY, D-N.Y., now seeking his 10th term, has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1999. It has been 14 years since Crowley has faced a primary challenge, which means he's received the Democratic Party nomination automatically every two years since 2004.

During that time, Crowley has risen to the top ranks of the party's House leadership, becoming chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and has simultaneously consolidated his ironclad control over the Queens Democratic Party machine through increasing amounts of corporate donors, as well as his position as chair of the Queens Democratic Party.

This power has earned him the name "King of Queens," and he has become the classic New York machine boss, having obtained both his 1990s seat on the New York City Council and his seat in Congress through a combination of dynastic politics and machine favors. But for the people of the 14th Congressional District that Crowley represents -which covers parts of Queens and the Bronx and is 70 percent nonwhite -it means they have had no Democratic Party alternative in this Democratic safe district for more than a decade.

All of that changed this year as a result of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose primary challenge against Crowley has sparked substantial excitement within her district and then media attention throughout the country. The 28-year-old educator, organizer for Bernie Sanders, and self-described democratic socialist of Puerto Rican heritage produced a video about her life and the reasons she's running that went massively viral.

Unseating an entrenched congressional incumbent is one of the hardest and rarest feats in U.S. politics -especially an incumbent with the funding and stature of Crowley. But Ocasio-Cortez's blunt and defiant style -see, for example, her reaction to last night's endorsement of Crowley by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as her stunningly unflinching denunciation of Israeli violence against unarmed Gazans last month -combined with the obvious seriousness she brings to political organizing, has made many believe that she can pose a genuine threat to Crowley's seat.

I interviewed Ocasio-Cortez about a wide range of topics, including the need for Democratic Party reform, her views on immigration and criminal justice reform, her approach to "identity politics," why she has taken such unusually blunt positions on Israel and Palestine, and the challenges of running against a machine boss politician. The 30-minute discussion can be viewed above.
(c) 2018 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Are YOU Brainwashed?
By Uri Avnery

IT'S FRIGHTENING. Unprincipled psychologists, in the service of a malignant regime, use sophisticated techniques in order to control the mind of a person from afar.

The term "brainwashing" was born in 1950. It is a Chinese word ("xinao", literally wash brain). Originally it served to describe a technique used - so it was claimed - by Chinese masterminds to manipulate the minds of American prisoners in the Korean War. They changed their unconscious mental processes and turned them into agents of sinister forces.

Many books and movies purported to show how this works. For example, the classic film "The Manchurian Candidate" shows how the communists take an American prisoner-of-war in the Korean war, an officer, manipulate his mind and give him an order to kill the US presidential candidate. The American officer does not know that he has been turned unconsciously into a communist agent. He does not remember the order given him under hypnosis and does not know that he acts accordingly.

THIS PLOT is ridiculous, like most of the pseudo-scientific descriptions. In practice, it is much easier to manipulate the minds of people, individuals and collectives.

For example, the Nazi "propaganda". It was invented by Adolf Hitler himself. In his book, "Mein Kampf", he describes how, as a soldier on the Western front in WWI, he witnessed the extremely successful British propaganda. The British dropped leaflets over the German trenches and shattered the soldiers' confidence in their leadership.

When Hitler came to power in Germany, he entrusted one of his faithful henchmen, Joseph Goebbels, with the creation of a Ministry of Propaganda. Goebbels turned propaganda into an art form. Among other means he turned all the German media - newspapers and the radio - into government agencies. In German that was called "Gleichschaltung" - connecting all components to one electric line. Thanks to this, Nazi Germany continued fighting long after it was clear that it had lost WWII.

One of the means was the disconnection of the German public from any other source of information. The official propaganda was blared from every medium. Listening to a foreign broadcast was a major crime, punished severely.

Thus it happened that the Germans still believed in their final victory - the Endsieg - even after the Soviets in the East and the Anglo-Saxons in the West had already crossed the borders into Germany.

DOES IT take a dictatorial regime - Nazi or Communist - to turn the media into a brainwashing machine? Common sense says that this is impossible in a democracy. Common sense is wrong.

It will be remembered that Hitler attained power by democratic means. Even now, fanatical nationalists are winning democratic elections in many countries. All their leaders are busy destroying the courts, stuffing the parliaments with useful idiots and - especially - turning the media into brainwashing instruments. In our country, too.

How is this done? It's quite simple, really: one has to suppress all other voices. One has to make sure that the citizen hears only one voice. One that repeats a few messages over and over, endlessly. This way the lie becomes truth.

In such a situation, the ordinary citizen becomes convinced that the official line is really their own personal opinion. This is an unconscious process. When one tells a citizen that they are brainwashed, they are deeply insulted.

This has been happening in Israel over the last few years. The citizen is not conscious that it is happening. He or she absorbs diverse newspapers, TV programs and radio broadcasts, and sees that all these media are freely arguing with each other and even quarreling with each other. The citizen is not conscious of the fact that on the one critical subject of our life - war and peace - all the media are "connected" to one singular line of brainwashing.

DURING THE last few weeks we have been seeing a perfect example of this mechanism. The events on the Gaza Strip border have activated a mechanism of brainwashing that dictatorial regimes in the world can only envy.

Let's examine ourselves: what have we heard over the radio? What have we seen on TV? What did we read in the papers?

Within a few weeks more than a hundred human beings were shot dead, and many thousands were wounded by live fire. Why?

"We were forced to fire at them because they were storming the border fence". And indeed, did the Gazans themselves not proclaim their will to "return home" - meaning, to return to Israeli territory?

But on May 14, "Black Monday", 63 unarmed demonstrators were shot dead and over 1500 wounded by live fire. Every Israeli knows that this was necessary because the demonstrators stormed the fence and were about to swarm into Israel. Nobody paid attention to the simple fact that there was not a single photo showing such an occurrence. Not even one. In spite of the fact that on both sides of the fence there were hundreds of photographers, including Israeli army photographers, who filmed every single detail. Tens of thousands stormed, and not a single picture?

One should notice the use of the word "terror". It has turned into an adjective attached to everything. There are not just tunnels - they are all always "terror-tunnels". There are "terror-activists". There is "the Hamas terror-regime" and there are "terror-bases". Now there are "terror-kites".

Notice: not just "incendiary kites", or "destruction-kites", only "terror-kites". The same every day in all media. Someone has made the terminology decision. Of course, everyone who has the word "terror" attached to his name is "a son of death", as you say in biblical Hebrew. Another proud term of the brainwashing.

The inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are "terrorists". (In Hebrew, a special term has been invented: "Mekhablim"). All of them? Of course, No [No no] question. Especially Hamas members. But Hamas is a political party, which has won democratic elections in all of Palestine. A civilian party which has indeed a military wing. But in our media all party members and supporters are "terrorists", sons of death. Of course.

The use of these terms, hundreds of times every day, clearly constitute brainwashing, without the citizens noticing it. They are getting used to the fact that all Gazans are terrorists, mekhablim. This is a process of dehumanization, the creation of Untermenschen in the Nazi lexicon. Their killing is allowed, even desirable.

In such an atmosphere, even abominable sentences pass unnoticed. For example, this week I heard on one of the TV news programs this sentence from the mouth of a military correspondent, speaking about the coming Gaza demonstration: "Iran wants dead demonstrators, and it seems that they will get them." One has to read this sentence twice to realize what it says: that the Israeli sharpshooters serve Iranian interests.

Or a sentence that is repeated again and again, even by respected commentators: "Iran wants to destroy the State of Israel". I don't know what 80 million Iranians want, nor does the writer. But the sentence itself is ridiculous. Israel is a nuclear power. How does one annihilate a nuclear power (with submarines that can launch nuclear devices in the hour of need). Are the Iranians ready to turn their country - one of the cradles of human civilization - into a graveyard and a desert?

Or a forecast "Friday another violent demonstration will take place". "Violent"? "Another"? There is no argument about the fact that all the demonstrations along the Gaza fence were completely non-violent. The demonstrators did not shoot one single shot, when thousands of them were wounded by live fire, and more than a hundred killed. Yet the lie passes without comment.

Not a single one of the hundreds of TV news program presenters ever corrects such statements by correspondents. Because the directors, presenters, commentators and correspondents are themselves thoroughly brainwashed. The army spokesman knows the truth, of course, but he is a central cog in the brainwashing machine.

EVENTS REACHED a climax with the murder of the 21-year old female paramedic Razan Ashraf al-Najjar, when she was trying to save the life of a wounded demonstrator. The sharpshooter who shot her in the chest saw that she was a medic treating a wounded person. It was a clear war crime.

Was there a public outcry? Did the media demand an investigation? Did the media report this event in their page one headline? Did the Knesset observe a minute of silence? Nothing of the sort. A minor news item in some papers (by no means all). An excellent article by the admirable Amira Hass in Haaretz. And that's that.

A few days passed, and abroad there were outcries. The Argentine soccer team, with the admired Messi, canceled a friendly game against the Israeli team in Jerusalem.

The brainwashers realized that it was impossible not to react. So the army spokesman published a statement saying that an investigation had taken place. What did it discover? Ah, well. It was clearly established that nobody had shot Razan. She was hit by the ricochet of a bullet that had hit the ground far from her. That is such a blatant lie that even the army liar should be ashamed of producing it. It was accepted by the brainwashed public.

One of the hallmarks of brainwashing is a phenomenon that everyone can notice: the total absence of a second opinion. When a commentator voices the official line on an event, does anyone express an alternative version? Is there a debate between the official spokesman and a contrary commentator? In the democratic media, that would be commonplace. Here it is very, very rare.

WHAT CAN be done to counter such brainwashing?

Not much.

First of all: there is a vital need for a second voice. Brainwashing can be efficient only when the official voice enjoys a complete monopoly. That was one of the aims of Haolam Hazeh, the weekly which I edited for 40 years. It met every untrue government version with a contrary version. Although our voice was weak, compared to the powerful government machine (even in those days), the very fact that there are two voices, however unequal, prevents a total brainwashing. The citizen hears two versions and wonders "who is right?"

If all the peace and human rights groups in Israel set up a joint center for information, which will be heard, perhaps the monopoly of official propaganda can be broken. Perhaps.

There is in the country a tiny band of commentators who are not afraid to tell the truth, even when this is considered treason. Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and a few others. We must ensure that their voice is heard. They must be encouraged.

All the media must be pressured to present a variation of views on matters of war and peace, to let the "internal enemy" be heard, so that the citizen is able to form an opinion of their own.

The foreign media must be allowed free access to the sources of information, even when the foreign media are critical, "hostile" and "anti-Semitic". Friends of Israeli-Palestinian peace abroad must be encouraged to pressure the media in their homelands to publish the truth about what is happening here.

I don't like the word "must". But in this context, no other will do.

THE POWER of the truth against a brainwashing machine is always limited. But in the end, even if it takes time, truth will prevail. It needs courage.

The movie "The Manchurian Candidate" has a surprise ending: in the last minute, instead of killing the presidential candidate, the brainwashed man shoots the communist agent who was supposed to take his place.
(c) 2018 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Chaos In The Imperial Big House
By Glen Ford

Donald Trump, the arch racist usurper of the Republican Party, is tearing the ruling class consensus to shreds, inflicting bigger shocks to the imperial system by accident, impulse and ignorance than any conceivable "progressive" elected U.S. president could achieve on purpose. In the space of a few weeks, Trump has 1) threatened to disrupt corporate global supply chains through his in-out stance on NAFTA; 2) forced Washington's European junior imperial partners to reconsider their subservience to U.S. foreign policy and their vulnerability to U.S.-controlled financial institutions, in the wake of Trump's rejection of the Iran deal and his tirades at the G7 summit in Canada; and 3) discarded 70 years of Uncle Sam's "Comply or Die" dictum towards North Korea, thus consigning the whole "axis of evil" designation to the dustbin.

Trump is not causing chaos in the imperial Big House because he wants to hasten the demise of U.S. imperialism. He is an intellectually and emotionally retarded spawn of super-privilege trying to stamp his orange imprint on history -- "Trump did this, and it was the greatest thing ever!" -- like the big "T" on the those buildings he doesn't actually own. The man, literally, knows not what he does -- and, therefore, cannot be counted on to repeat himself, or to follow through on any action with logic and consistency, for good or ill. However, the net effect of Trump's crazed foreign policy has been to raise urgent questions, among foreign elites and general populations alike, of U.S. fitness for global hegemony. Trump's behavior could deliver a coup de grace to an already severely frayed global capitalist consensus on U.S. world leadership, significantly weakening the potency of U.S. imperialism -- even as Trump aligns more closely with the Israeli apartheid state and the Gulf monarchies and conspires to force regime change in Venezuela.

Domestically, the Trump experience has plunged corporate ideology and war rationales into disarray, even as his administration (with Democratic help) has delivered the biggest corporate tax windfalls and military budgets ever.

Contradictions abound -- but, of course, the accumulation of contradictions is what ultimately erodes the whole edifice. Donald Trump, incapable of perceiving beyond surface appearances, thinks a "strong" foreign policy means blood-curdling threats. So he threatens North Korea with "fire and fury." When Kim Jong-un comes to the table with his South Korean partner, as they collaborated to do, Trump believes his threat has worked, and that the U.S. acted from strength. And then he agrees to "leave the past behind" and to enter what will become years-long negotiations on "denuclearization," with "security guarantees" for the North, while immediately halting U.S.-South Korean military exercises that Trump called "provocative." Trump looks forward to an eventual withdrawal of troops from the South. "At some point I hope it will be, but it's not right now."

If the leader of North Korea -- the original "pariah" state demonized and placed beyond the pale of U.S.-decreed legitimacy -- is now just another negotiating partner, and U.S. troop withdrawal from the South is a principled goal, then the "axis of evil" era is over and the rationale for U.S. troops and bases virtually everywhere in the world collapses -- as is well understood by U.S. imperial strategists, who are in deep distress.

So are the Democrats. Since Trump won the GOP nomination, they have become overt partisans of the War Party. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, sounded like some cracker mistress in the Big House, carping that Trump had "elevated North Korea to the level of the United States while preserving the regime's status quo." Pelosi showed her racist, imperialist inner core, recoiling at the very idea of equality among nations and peoples, and condemning Trump for appearing to abandon the goal of regime change in the North. (See Ajamu Baraka, "The Democrats Out-Right the Right on North Korean Summit .")

Pelosi and her House minions have long voted to fund Republican and Democratic wars, while pretending to be peaceniks. Trump's capture of the GOP presidential nomination drew them out of the closet, in full armored gear, screaming "Russia, Russia, Russia" like banshees -- a clear indication of crisis among the Democrats' ruling class masters.

Trump campaigned in 2016 for normal relations with Russia, an end to the U.S. regime change offensive, and opposition to so-called "free" trade, thus uniting most of the ruling class against him. It turned out that Trump's wholly unexpected appeal for peaceful relations with Russia did not deter huge majorities of Republicans from voting for him in the primaries and the general election. The political conclusion was inescapable: If white Republicans were not wedded to the permanent war agenda -- or cared more about maintaining white supremacy at home than funding endless hostilities abroad -- then where was the mass constituency for the bipartisan War Party? If Trump's "deplorables" weren't wedded to the War Party, then who was?

Trump's surprise election threw the bulk of the elite, the corporate media, the military-industrial complex, and the spooks of the intelligence agencies, into panic, as they confronted a crisis of legitimacy for the Warfare State. Now firmly aligned with Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, their response was to pre-empt Trump's threatened rapprochement with Russia with a massive anti-Putin campaign. The elites realized they had to recreate -- on the fly, with no factual basis -- a war fervor that no longer existed among the masses of people, through Russiagate. In the chaotic process, they have further delegitimized virtually every U.S. institution, all the while putting the onus for the damage on the Vladimir Putin.

(They have even made the term "oligarchs" a household word -- one that can just as easily be applied to the U.S. ruling class as to Putin's rich friends in Russia. In the long term, this is not a good thing for rich capitalists, as a class.)

Trump has vacillated on "free trade," speaking out of whichever side of his mouth works quicker. But his ambivalence and profound ignorance have put the NAFTA negotiations in total disarray. According the New York Times, Trump sent "a 24-year-old deputy to meet with a delegation that was expected to include representatives from more than 50 of the largest American companies and organizations, including Walmart, U.P.S., the Walt Disney Company, General Electric, General Motors, Caterpillar and Boeing" -- the titans of industry to whom both corporate parties pay homage, but whom Trump is disrespecting, big time. Corporate supply chains affecting trillions of dollars and millions of (mostly Global South, super-exploitive) jobs hang in the balance. The National Association of Manufactures, whose pronouncements were gospel to Republicans and most Democrats in previous eras, can't make a NAFTA wheel turn in Trump's administration. Much more crucially, the advent of Trump has revealed the stark reality that there is no mass base for "free trade"-- a euphemism for allowing the ruling class to do whatever they want with their money and everyone's jobs. Support for "free trade" is an illusion conjured by the two corporate parties, who are writhing in a crisis of legitimacy.

But such crises don't bring down the system, on their own. Only a people's movement can do that.

The real crisis for the War Party arrives when masses of people show up in the streets to demand an end to the Permanent Warfare State.

The real crisis for the Black Mass Incarceration State arrives when the targeted population no longer recognizes the legitimacy of the police, and moves to resist and replace the cops with their own security forces.

The real crisis for the Lords of Capital arrives when the people demand nationalization of the banks and the permanent dethroning of finance capital, the actual ruling class.

Trump, of course, wants none of that. But, under his presidency, the contradictions of late stage imperial capitalism are becoming both much more intense, and more obvious to folks on the ground. And that's scaring the hell out of the ruling class -- which will make them a lot meaner.
(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Mike Pence Gave A Trump Stump Speech To A Crowd Of Southern Baptists, And It Didn't Go Over Very Well
By Ruth Graham

Vice President Mike Pence spoke to thousands of Southern Baptists on Wednesday morning at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. His appearance had been announced just a few days earlier and was met with unusual resistance by the overwhelmingly conservative audience of pastors and other church leaders.

Republican presidents and administration officials have been appearing at SBC meetings since Gerald Ford spoke to the convention in 1976. That was shortly before the denomination's turn toward uniform conservatism, and GOP officials and presidents have spoken to SBC audiences frequently over the years. But the announcement earlier this week about Pence's appearance at the Dallas meeting provoked a remarkable pushback from attendees. Five pastors made formal attempts to pass motions to prevent the vice president from speaking or to bar politicians from speaking at future meetings. A Florida pastor offered a proposal to replace Pence's appearance with a session of prayer, because the appearance would hurt "our minority brothers and sisters" and confuse the denomination's Christian message. The measure did not go up for an official vote, but observers in the hall estimated that at least 30 percent of attendees supported it. Another pastor proposed that Pence's speaking slot be taken by H.B. Charles Jr., a black pastor in Florida.

Trump's election has exposed serious divisions in the country's largest Protestant denomination. The denomination's influential policy head, Russell Moore, has been an outspoken critic of the president. Beth Moore, a hugely popular Southern Baptist author and Bible teacher, has also spoken consistently against the president's approach to women. But the denomination's old guard, who tend to be more loyally Republican, have largely embraced Trump. Moore's predecessor, Richard Land, joined Trump's evangelical advisory council. One of the president's most vocal Christian supporters, Robert Jeffress, is pastor of a large Southern Baptist church.

The vice president's speech on Wednesday morning was a rather boilerplate recitation of the president's achievements, starting with this week's attempts at diplomacy in North Korea. He also listed the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the passage of the tax bill, and Trump's nomination of judges including Neil Gorsuch. "It's been 500 days of action, 500 days of accomplishments," Pence told the crowd. "It's been 500 days of promises made and promises kept."

As Pence often does in evangelical settings, he emphasized Trump's respect for Christians' beliefs and his appreciation of their prayers, rather than the president's personal faith. If you aren't listening carefully, you could come away from these speeches believing Pence has firmly vouched for the president's Christian bona fides. In reality, he largely relies on distancing phrases like this one, from Wednesday: "I've witnessed the deep respect our president has for this nation of faith."

More interesting than the speech, however, was the response in the convention hall. True, there were many moments of sustained applause and several standing ovations at red meat like "defund Planned Parenthood." Early on, someone in the crowd of pastors yelled out "FOUR MORE YEARS!" But panning shots of the thousands of people in the room also captured many people sitting with their arms crossed through many applause lines. North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear, the denomination's newly elected president, tweeted that the speech sent a "terribly mixed signal."

There are other signs of change emerging from the annual meeting of thousands of Southern Baptist delegates. On Tuesday, delegates overwhelmingly elected Greear as the their next president. At 45, Greear is the denomination's youngest president in decades. He is theologically conservative and studied under Paige Patterson, the Southern Baptist conservative icon recently deposed from his seminary position because of his approach to women's issues. But he does not share all the old guard's priorities, and he has spoken about the need to increase racial diversity within the denomination. In the wake of Patterson's disgrace, women's issues have become a major topic at the meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Meanwhile, although Pence barely mentioned immigration in his speech on Wednesday, the delegates on the floor overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for immigration reform, affirming the dignity of immigrants, and condemning "any form of nativism."

Resolutions aren't the same thing as revolution. The denomination remains firmly committed to a "complementarian" approach to gender roles, for example, meaning that it believes women are unfit to lead churches. When I tuned in briefly to a presentation Wednesday morning by a Baptist seminary head, his assertion that "we're not going to have a female as a preaching professor, that's just not going to happen" drew sustained applause. But it's still significant that the SBC is being forced to grapple publicly with sexual abuse, domestic violence, and misogyny. The seminary head only made his comment in the first place because a woman in the audience has asked about how he was working to develop female leadership in his institution.

A breeze within the SBC sometimes foreshadows dramatic gusts throughout conservative evangelicalism. As Washington Post reporter Michelle Boorstein reminded readers on Twitter, the denomination took no official position on abortion in the immediate wake of Roe v. Wade. Then Patterson's conservative resurgence remade the denomination, and abortion became a litmus test with an enormous impact on elections, policy, and culture. The SBC's priorities are a good indication of evangelicalism more broadly. Republicans who count on white evangelical votes ought to pay attention to the vice president's cool reception this week in Dallas.
(c) 2018 Ruth Graham lives in New Hampshire.

Guess Who's Serving The Student Loan Industry?
By Jim Hightower

Question: What do you get when you combine ignorance, imperiousness, and incompetence? Answer: Betsy DeVos.

She's Donald Trump's multi-billionaire Education Secretary who hates public education and loves the plutocratic idea of corporate rule over democracy. DeVos is so bad that she's winning the contest for worst member of Donald Trump's cabinet (a little like winning the title of ugliest toad in the swamp). She has been a shameless shill for one of the ugliest parts of the financial services industry - the Wall Street-backed network of for-profit colleges, rip-off lenders, and ruthless collection agencies.

Some 5 million students - largely single moms, veterans, and other low-income people - have been forced to default on their student loan debt and have had their credit ratings and job improvement prospects destroyed by this profiteering private education system that DeVos carelessly promotes. Her latest favor for the industry was to assert unilaterally that her agency can pre-empt any state laws designed to stop the blatant lies and abuses of this predatory network of corporate education. Her bureaucratic claim is that state efforts to protect student borrowers undermines "uniform administration" of student loans. In her shriveled world of laissez-fairyland values, you see, the uniform gouging of students trumps such basic human values as economic fairness and social justice.

This is Jim Hightower saying...Heavens to Betsy, what's wrong with this lady? Our nation's student loan debt has ballooned to $1.4 trillion, threatening to blow another big hole in our economy, yet she's stupidly conspiring in her department's back rooms with Wall Street's fast-buck educational exploiters to enrich them at the expense of students, taxpayers, and the public interest. DeVos is the one who needs an education - both in economics and ethics.
(c) 2018 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

Anthony Bourdain Knew There Was Nothing More Political Than Food
The chef and author demanded that we consider the humanity of so many who were wrongly portrayed by the rest of the media.
By John Nichols

Anthony Bourdain took his Emmy Award-winning CNN series Parts Unknown to places where most media do not go. He was, ostensibly, telling tales about the preparation and eating of food. But Bourdain deepest fascination was with diverse cultures and the human experience reflected in them. That involvement was professional, and personal, and political. He said he was a storyteller, not a journalist. But the globetrotting chef was invariably a clearer commentator on geopolitics than the pundits who seem always to be conspiring against understandings of our shared humanity.

The chef and author, who has died at age 61, sought to expand those understandings. He did so by traveling to conflict zones and by inviting viewers to go with him to the markets, the kitchens, and the tables of families whose kindness and decency was rarely reflected in media coverage of countries that are at odds with themselves, with their neighbors and with the United States. He did this in Kurdistan, Congo, Libya, Myanmar, and, famously, Iran. But it was his visit to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem in 2013 that brought his most powerful assessment of the challenges and the possibilities of the work he did.

"There's no hope, none, of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off," he announced, as he introduced that Parts Unknown episode. "By the end of this hour I will be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an orientalist, socialist, fascist, CIA agent, and worse."

The hour of cable television that Bourdain presented was so honest and so respectful in its portrayal of Palestinians that the Muslim Public Affairs Council honored the host with its Voices of Courage and Conscience in Media award in 2014.

Bourdain's response was a pointed critique of media that fail to reflect the whole story of diverse peoples and their exquisite cultures:

I was enormously grateful for the response from Palestinians in particular for doing what seemed to me an ordinary thing, something we do all the time: show regular people doing everyday things, cooking and enjoying meals, playing with their children, talking about their lives, their hopes and dreams.

It is a measure I guess of how twisted and shallow our depiction of a people is that these images come as a shock to so many. The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity. "People are not statistics," Bourdain concluded. "That is all we attempted to show. A small, pathetically small step towards understanding."

It was, perhaps, a small step. But it was certainly not a pathetic one.

It mattered, as did everything that Anthony Bourdain sought to teach us-in his books, in his programs of various cable networks, and in the documentary work that he had begun to embrace with projects such as the remarkable 2017 documentary, WASTED: The Story of Food Waste-about the politics of preparing and consuming food.

Bourdain leapt boundaries of location and practice. And, of course, this did not always meet with approval.

"I hear it a lot, you know, 'Stick with food, man. Stop talking about politics,'" the chef said in 2017.

His response to every attempt to narrow his focus, and his humanity, forms a vital portion of the legacy that Anthony Bourdain prepared for us.

"There's nothing more political than food," he told Food & Wine. "Who eats? Who doesn't? Why do people cook what they cook? It is always the end or a part of a long story, often a painful one. Look, I travel around the world asking people, 'What makes you happy, what do you eat and what would you like your kids to eat ten years from now?' and I get some really interesting and complicated answers in places like Beirut, Iran, Vietnam, and even Detroit."
(c) 2018 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.

Growing Threat Of Human Disconnect
By James Donahue

Not many years ago I flew from California to my home in Michigan. The trip involved an eight-hour layover in Chicago O'Hare International Airport, so I was forced to experience a lengthy exposure to a lot of people over a long day.

As a retired news reporter and trained sociologist, I am naturally an outgoing person who takes a keen interest in the people around me. What struck me during this trip was that very few of the people I came in contact with were interested in personal communication with those around them.

Everybody appeared preoccupied with what was then the new I-Pads, Kindle reading and game devices, portable telephones and text message devices, portable laptop computers and music and telephone devices that plug into their ears.

My own laptop was carefully packed away in the luggage compartment over my head and I have never chosen to own a cell phone or texting device so my time was mostly spent watching the behavior of the other travelers and airport personnel.

I succeeded on two occasions to get people to open up in conversation. Most of my time was spent watching a crowd of spaced-out people caught up in conversations with people they probably didn't even know at the other end of an electronic device.

Because I am a writer and because I spent a good deal of my time researching information and writing on my laptop, my wife has complained for years about having to live alone. I don't think I really understood what she meant until making that flight. I fear that our society has, indeed, fallen into a strange electronic communication jungle that is tearing them away from reality.

Has the reality of our lives become so unbearable that we find some degree of solace texting with total strangers posing as friends? And if this trend continues, what can we expect to become of us?

A recent story in National Geographic about advancement in robotics that may soon lead to humanoid robots, or androids that look, act and react just like humans, suggests what may be a total disconnect lying just around the corner.

The story by Chris Carroll said the robots already being produced in places like China and Japan "not only possess human-like physical characteristics, but also eerily realistic attitudes and social mannerisms."

The story quotes Reid Simmons, professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon, as predicting that within "five or ten years robots will routinely be functioning in human environments."

So how shall we use this new crop of humanoid appearing machines? Will they be household servants, slaves in the workplace, soldiers on the battlefield and sexual partners in our bedrooms?

These were some of the disturbing questions raised by Carroll's article. And he is quite right. If so many people can be so caught-up in simple texting devices that they are affecting the way they live, operate their vehicles and even lose their need to learn handwriting, how will a crop of android servant machines impact the world?

As a long-time science fiction buff, I can personally imagine a wide range of scenarios. None of them are anything to look forward to.
(c) 2018 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands following a signing ceremony during their historic
US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Winning The News Cycle: Trump's Made-For-TV Singapore Summit
By William Rivers Pitt

Probably the most vapid phenomenon in modern American politics is something known as "winning the news cycle." The thinking goes that if your version of events dominates the media coverage during a given news cycle, you "win" that day. Stack up enough days, continues the theory, and you win the week, the month, the year, the next election, and so forth.

It's an utterly substance-free tactic -if your "version of events" is a ball of brazen lies, as it all too often is, you still "win the day" if the media is carrying your water -that has never been more vividly on display than it was this week in Singapore. Donald Trump was not seeking peace when he met Kim Jong Un on Tuesday. He wanted the handshake picture so he could set his mighty spin machine to "11" and turn it loose. He wanted to "win the news cycle," and credit where credit is due, he did exactly that.

The joint statement signed by Kim and Trump after the summit, however, fell far short of the fanfare afforded it within the news cycle. While Trump made concessions that some anti-war activists have hailed as a positive de-escalation of tensions and possibly the beginning of a peace process -including announcing an end to the joint military drills in South Korea -he did not extract any concessions worth noting in return. While the joint statement called for "complete denuclearization," it fell far short on some vital details: A timeline for disarmament, a process for verification, and what other nations, if any, will be involved. "We'll talk about talking about talking about stuff" was the agreement he came away with. Pretty flimsy in the main.

In order to establish the proper context for Tuesday's events, please watch this video. It was put together by the National Security Council, and Trump played it for Kim on a tablet during their remarkably tiny meeting. "Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity," intones the narrator over a montage of disjointed images. "A new story, a new beginning. One of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny. A story about a special moment in time, when a man is presented with one chance which may never be repeated. What will he choose? To show vision and leadership? Or not?"

"This trailer has everything," reports Ryan Koronowski for ThinkProgress, "including a man dunking a basketball, drones delivering packages, speedboats, babies, Sylvester Stallone in the Oval Office, children in bumper cars, horses running through the water, missile launches, CAT scans, waterslides, Kim and Trump acting like world leaders, and that special effect where the celluloid of the film appears to burn up to signify serious military consequences."

Some moments beggar description. Give me a thousand chances and I would not be able to adequately explain how perfectly insipid this bit of tablet-borne propaganda is, nor could I properly quantify the seamless strangeness of its use as some sort of bargaining tool. It looks for all the world like something an intrepid high school AV club might knock together before The Big Game.

Trump was right about one thing, certainly. With that video in hand, he didn't have to prepare for the summit much at all. Watch this, Kim, and then let's talk about beachfront property.

There was a time when comparing a political leader to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain constituted a mortal insult. Chamberlain looked into Adolf Hitler's eyes and basically handed him the bulk of Europe with a piece of paper. That's a tough track record to match, but at least Chamberlain meant well; he honestly believed he was stopping a war.

The same cannot be said for Donald Trump, who should be barred from ever leaving the District of Colombia again, lest he give further aid and comfort to every strongman dictator on Earth while setting our relationships with centuries-old allies on fire.

Kim Jong Un is not Hitler, but he is a dangerous menace who treats his people like cattle in line for the slaughterhouse. The crimes of the North Korean regime "entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation," according to a 2014 United Nations report. According to Amnesty International, "North Korea is in a category of its own when it comes to human rights violations."

It's not surprising that Trump would find common cause with such a regime, given his avowed devotion to the practice of torture and his ruthless separation of children from their parents at the southern border. The North Korean regime is accused of, among other things, the "forcible transfer of populations." That sounds an awful lot like what ICE is up to all across the US, at Trump's behest. In Singapore, birds of a fascist feather were indeed flocking together.

For Trump, the grim human rights abuses endorsed by Kim were merely speed bumps on the way to a photo opportunity. Referring to North Korea's long record of brutal human rights abuses, Trump explained, "It's a rough situation over there, there's no question about it. It's rough in a lot of places by the way, not just there." Speaking of the estimated 100,000 political prisoners in North Korea currently enduring torturous conditions, he said, "I think they are one of the great winners today."

In an interview with Greta Van Susteren, Trump said of Kim, "Really, he's got a great personality. He's a funny guy, he's very smart, he's a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I'm surprised by that, but he loves his people." When pressed on the subject of North Korea's human rights record, Trump said, "Look, he's doing what he's seen done, if you look at it." In other words, blame Daddy. Having rotten fathers is definitely something Trump and Kim have in common.

That hardly explains Trump's complete dismissal of North Korea's gruesome treatment of its own people, however. What does?

The New York Times editorial board took a crack at the question: "Whatever he does or does not understand about history or policy or statecraft, Mr. Trump has a keen sense of how to engage authoritarian thugs who crave respect and legitimacy. It's how he's wired. Mr. Trump has a deep and abiding fondness for strongmen. The more ruthlessly they have had to act to hold on to power, the more he respects them. The world sneers at strongmen like Mr. Kim, Mr. Putin and Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines ...and Mr. Trump feels similarly disrespected. Dispositionally speaking, these are Mr. Trump's people."

Trump's fondness for strongmen like Kim is having immediate consequences. Trump's decision to cancel the joint military exercises planned between Seoul and the United States shocked and dismayed the leaders of South Korea, other US allies in the region and his own Pentagon. "Mr. Trump's promise to end joint military exercises with Seoul left many South Koreans stunned," reported Eric Schmitt. "The annual exercises have been an integral part of the alliance, forming the bulwark of South Korea's defense against North Korea and Seoul's sense of security among bigger powers in the region."

Spokespeople for the US military were equally gobsmacked. "We will continue with our current military posture," said one, "until we receive updated guidance from the Department of Defense." Put another way, the president just contradicted our standing orders at the last minute out of a clear blue sky, so we're just going to wait for the next brick to drop. This is no way to run an army.

Trump's explanation for cancelling exercises South Korea depends on for its continued existence is, shall we say, unique in the annals of diplomacy. This is best read out loud for full effect:

Yes, we've done exercises for a long period of time working South Korea. And we call them war games, that I call them war games, and they're tremendously expensive, the amount of money that we spend on that is incredible. And South Korea contributes but not a hundred percent, which is certainly a subject that we have to talk to them about also. And that has to do with the military expense and also the trade. So, we're doing that, we actually have a new deal with South Korea in terms of the trade deal. But we have to talk them, and we have to talk to many countries about treating us fairly.

But the war games are very expensive, we pay for a big majority of them, we fly in bombers from Guam, I said it when I first started, I said, where do the bombers come from? Guam, nearby, I said, Oh, great. Nearby. Where is nearby? Six and a half hours. Six and a half hours? That's a long time for these big massive planes to be flying to South Korea to practice and then drop bombs all over the place and then go back to Guam. I know a lot about airplanes, it's very expensive.

Peeling a trillion dollars in revenue from the federal budget and giving it to rich people is totally in line with proper budgetary priorities, but paying for military exercises in South Korea is a bridge too far? Trump knows a lot about airplanes, though, so that settles that.

Meanwhile residents of Seoul continue to endure the reality that some 15,000 rockets and artillery pieces are aimed at them only 35 miles away, under the control of a nuclear-armed leader who cares as much for human life as Donald Trump cares for the truth.

Korean peace activists have strained to sound positive in the aftermath of the Singapore summit. "While understandably lean on details," said Kevin Martin, President of Peace Action and Coordinator of the Korea Peace Network, "the Singapore summit statement commits North Korea to denuclearization, with corresponding, as yet unspecified security guarantees for North Korea, returning the remains of US soldiers, and a new relationship between the US and North Korea."

Christine Ahn, international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, sounded a similarly hopeful note: "Although the document signed by Trump and Kim is thin, it is bold in its direction of re-orienting relations between historic adversaries. The compass has been set, now it is time to ensure that these principles are followed through with concrete action, and this is where it is crucial for civil society, especially women's groups, to step in."

I had reasonably high hopes myself for this summit before it began. War with North Korea is simply unthinkable. Dismantling its nuclear program is equally untenable: The project is spread across dozens of sites involving hundreds of buildings staffed by thousands of people, and we don't know where most of all that actually is. Simply put, to the great gall of war-first neocons like John Bolton, North Korea is a nuclear state. They did it, and now we're stuck with it, and that is how it is.

Negotiation is the only way out of this incredibly dangerous snare, and I will confess it freely: I hoped Nixon could go to China. The idea of Donald Trump playing peacemaker with one of the most vicious regimes on the planet was just weird enough to be plausible, and in any event, there is no shame in trying.

This was not trying, however. Singapore could have had much deeper impacts for the people involved, not to mention the entire world, but instead Trump produced another episode for his ongoing reality show, starring Kim Jong Un as the surprise guest who wins the big prize at the end. Kim's prize: Legitimacy, international standing, and a pat on the back for his handling of the "rough situation" in North Korea. Trump and his people claim they are not finished yet. After witnessing this farce, I am not at all hopeful.

Donald Trump "won" the news day, but North Korea's nuclear arsenal remains untouched and out of reach. What happens next is anyone's guess.
(c) 2018 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

Trump's G7 Debacle
By Heather Digby Parton

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? I'm speaking, of course, of the frolics over the weekend between our president and the rest of the world. If you wanted a president who would tell his friends to go pound sand, then Donald Trump fulfilled your every wish. He went to Quebec for the G7 summit meeting with the intention of putting American allies in their place. They were to understand who was in charge and who makes the rules: The Trump States of America. On the White House lawn prior to taking off in Marine One for the Canadian summit he made it clear:

We're going to deal with the unfair trade practices. If you look at what Canada, Mexico, the European Union, all of them have been doing to us for many, many decades, we have to change it. And they understand it's going to happen . . . European Union treats us very unfairly. Canada, very unfairly. Mexico, very unfairly.

(If you don't understand why this is nonsense, read this from Paul Krugman, who won his Nobel Prize for his work on international trade.)

Trump showed up late and left early and declared victory over his allies in a rambling press conference on his way out the door:

The European Union is brutal to the United States. They don't - and they understand that. They know it. When I'm telling them, they're smiling at me. You know, it's like the gig is up. It's like the gig is up. They're not trying to - there's nothing they can say. They can't believe they got away with it. Canada can't believe it got away with it . . . But a lot of these countries actually smile at me when I'm talking. And the smile is - we couldn't believe we got away with it. That's the smile. So it's going to change. It's going to change.

They have no choice. If it's not going to change, we're not going to trade with them.It was an astonishing press conference, with Trump pretty much rubbing America's allies' faces in the dirt while strutting around figuratively pounding his chest and proclaiming his dominance. He warned the other countries not to "retaliate" against his attacks or they would be sorry. Nobody knew at that moment if he was going to sign the usual allied communique or not. It was impossible to tell. When the word came that the administration planned to sign it, a sense of relief was felt around the the world.

And then all hell broke loose. This picture was released on Twitter and Trump went nuts:

It's impossible to know if that's what triggered Trump into a vituperative rage and a refusal to sign the G7 communiqué, but it doesn't make sense that it was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's anodyne press conference in defense of his nation. After all, Trump had trash-talked Canada in his press conference on his way out of town. If he expected Trudeau to simply say, "Yes, sir, may I have another?" he was mistaken. Trudeau has voters too.

No, it was the picture. It was Angela Merkel looming over Trump, with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face, looking all the world like a five-year-old, that made him lose his mind. Like the cowardly sandbox bully he is, he turned on his closest ally:

Everyone probably would have just chalked that up to Trump being Trump, which is to say an embarrassment and a fool. But instead of letting it go, his team decided that this was their chance to give Rudy Giuliani a run for his money as the most unhinged sycophant of the Trump administration.

Last week I noted that Giuliani seemed to be under the influence of Red Bull and Limoncello in his Great Israel Adventure, but he was as sober as Oliver Wendell Holmes compared to Larry Kudlow on the Sunday morning shows. It's hard to know what was afflicting the president's top economic adviser, but something was. Kudlow's performance on CNN's "State of the Union" will be remembered for decades.

Kudlow slurred and rambled in defense of his boss in a thoroughly unconvincing manner, trying to say that the G7 had negotiated in bad faith because Trudeau said in a press conference that the Canadians would not be pushed around. In fact, he pretty much had a hysterical fit over it on national television. Trump's extremist trade adviser, Peter Navarro, got down and dirty, suggesting "there's a special place in hell for Justin Trudeau." They seemed to be competing for how far up Trump's royal robes each of them could get.

Kudlow, who should know better but seemed somewhat "under the weather," didn't recognize the total absurdity of such pearl-clutching in light of the thuggish threats his boss has been issuing for months. But somewhere in the middle of his bleary tantrum he opened a new front, indicating to Jake Tapper that the G7 countries had been expected to kowtow to Trump and allow him to dominate their industry and trade, as a way to impress North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with Trump's manly superiority. He portrayed their unwillingness to sacrifice their own voters to make Trump look like a Real Man as a betrayal of world peace.

Kim may have led a cloistered life, but he's not that dumb. He has already shown that he largely has Trump's number, and what he didn't know before, Chinese President Xi Jinping has surely shared with him in their meetings leading up to this summit. All Trump has done is degrade the alliances between the U.S. and its closest allies for reasons that only he knows.

I didn't even bring up the fact that aside from Trump's trade war against U.S. allies, the one big thing about which he was most adamant was his desire for Russia to be readmitted to the G7 because, as he said, "We have a world to run." I don't know who voted for Trump and Vladimir Putin to run the world, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a majority of Americans.
(c) 2018 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Hudson Bay estuaries host the world's largest beluga whale calving area. More
than 55,000 - about a quarter of the world's population - migrate there every year.

Don't Water Down Marine Protection
By David Suzuki

Will Canada finally inspire a wave of celebration on World Oceans Day, June 8? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to lead G7 nations on global marine protection during Canada's presidency this year, a welcome change after decades of inaction left just one per cent of our oceans formally safeguarded.

The government is charging ahead to meet its 20 international Convention on Biological Diversity conservation targets. Canada met the 2017 goal to increase ocean protection to five per cent and is moving to protect at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.

That included creating marine protected areas on all three coasts: Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam in Northwest Territories, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound Glass Sponge Reefs in British Columbia, and St. Anns Bank in Nova Scotia. Canada also has two marine conservation areas on Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence River, and two others off B.C.'s northern coast near completion, including Gwaii Haanas.

Canada has the longest coastline in the world, bordering three oceans, but has left many globally significant biodiversity areas without protection. Hudson Bay estuaries host the world's largest beluga whale calving area. More than 55,000 - about a quarter of the world's population - migrate every year from their winter ranges to the mouths of the Seal, Nelson and Churchill rivers. Warm-water estuaries shelter calves and provide fish and shellfish for them to eat. Migratory birds also rely on these estuaries, and the ecotourism benefits for Manitoba further strengthen the protection rationale. Inuit traditional knowledge about hunting areas for bowhead and beluga whales, narwhal, walrus and polar bears helped identify this area in need of protection.

Effectively safeguarded biodiverse areas limit human activities such as shipping, mining, oil and gas exploration, and destructive fishing practices. Although research shows they should exclude extractive activities, the federal government recently approved offshore oil exploration on Canada's East Coast in an area designated as a marine protected area only a few months earlier.

Ocean conservation can be achieved through marine protected areas, Indigenous conserved and protected areas, marine zones, protected networks, conservancies and "other effective area-based conservation measures." Regardless of the moniker, protection must be based on sound ecological principles and ecosystem needs. Standards must be meaningful and affirm Indigenous rights and involvement in planning and governance.

Many countries - from the U.S. to Brazil to Britain - are creating large marine protected areas to meet international conservation targets. But as the state of overfished, warmer, acidified oceans cluttered with plastics becomes more perilous, some scientists question prioritizing the size of the protected area over its quality.

Drawing lines on a map to meet targets doesn't increase biodiversity. We should create protected areas where science says they're needed most. Some argue it's more effective to focus on smaller areas where fish spawn and feed and where threats from human activities are highest.

Coastal waters have a greater diversity of species and face more immediate threats from energy extraction, tourism, development, habitat degradation and overfishing than open oceans. For example, coral reefs cover less than 0.1 per cent of the ocean floor but are home to 25 per cent of all marine species.

Signs of hope for Canada's oceans are emerging. Proposed amendments promise to strengthen Canada's flagship ocean law, the Oceans Act. With growing support for sustainable fishing practices that include using non-destructive gear, fisheries management should shift to targeting only abundant fish and setting clear quotas. There's hope that recently proposed Fisheries Act changes will again secure requirements for fish habitat protection.

Challenges loom on our ocean horizon. All marine life along Canada's Pacific coast is vulnerable to greater risks of oil spills from the sevenfold increase in tanker traffic that would come with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Greater attention must be given to Indigenous rights and meaningful co-governance in marine areas, as is happening in northern and central British Columbia. The 76 remaining resident orcas on B.C.'s South Coast need immediate measures, such as chinook fisheries closures, better stream habitat protections for salmon and reduced shipping noise.

Moving on all fronts to protect oceans couldn't be more important. This World Oceans Day, let's remember they are essential to life, providing most of the oxygen we breathe, along with food for the body and mind.
(c) 2018 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Disenfranchising Voters Is Not Trumpism, It's Republicanism
And yet his administration* is particularly keen on it.
By Charles P. Pierce

Over the weekend, we had an extraordinary look into the fundamental moral and political corruption of this administration*, and into how it stems from the fundamental moral and political corruption of conservative Republican politics that has been festering for four decades now, and began long before the current president* was a sparkle in Vladimir Putin's third eye. You may recall that, last March, the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the department would be adding a "citizenship question" to the 2020 census. (The last time this type of question was asked was in 1950.) This raised all kinds of holy hell, and more than two dozen states and local municipalities are currently suing the administration over it.

On Friday, as part of this litigation, the Justice Department-Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, presiding-released over 1,300 documents having to do with Ross's decision, and those documents are an extensive archive on the subject of how to disenfranchise inconvenient populations, and how to minimize the influence of inconvenient political opinions. They also make Ross look like even more of a stooge. A lot of shebeen favorites also play important roles. From NPR:

In a July 2017 email to Ross's chief of staff, Wendy Teramoto, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says Steve Bannon - the former White House strategist - directed Kobach to speak on the phone with Ross in 2017 during the early months of the Trump administration about the then lack of a citizenship question on the census. Kobach had once helped lead Trump's now-dissolved voter fraud commission. Neither Kobach nor Bannon have responded to NPR's requests for comment about this email. A Commerce Department spokesperson would not provide any details about the phone call between Kobach and Ross. "The Kobach email is one out of over 500 pages of stakeholder records produced in the administrative record," the spokesperson wrote in an email. "The notion that Secretary Ross decided to reinstate the citizenship question in response to a single email is clearly disproved by the robust administrative record."
Bannon to Kobach to Ross. This is the Tinker to Evers to Chance of political disenfranchisement, and the conservative commitment to that exercise dates back at least as far as the fight to keep the Poll Tax, and the fight to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and it certainly includes the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts to declare the Day of Jubilee and gut that act.

Trump with Kobach

Roberts didn't need any coaxing, or the eventual election of Donald Trump, to do that. He'd been at that game since he was a baby lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, which also went to court to preserve the tax-exempt status of racially segregated Christian academies in the South. This later was the main goal of Karl Rove when he engineered the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys because they wouldn't pursue phony voter fraud cases on behalf of the Bush White House. The Republican Party didn't need Donald Trump to play fast and loose with the disenfranchisement of people in this country. It's been committed to that for years.

I am occasionally told, and by people I respect, that I should not be too hard on the Republican apparatchiks now doing pale public penance on the cable news shows. But, without a serious reckoning with everything they did to make this president* inevitable, the deeper problems with American politics never will be solved. There was a system in place that produced a John Roberts, and a Karl Rove, and a Kris Kobach, and Donald Trump didn't create it. It was a system that worked very well at winning elections, and the price for all that success was the prion disease that now has eaten away most of the party's higher intellectual functions and has damaged the country's institutions, possibly beyond repair.

These documents, and not some glowing nostalgia for Reagan-era photo ops and Mike Deaver stage design, are what conservative Republicanism always has been about: exclusion from the American experiment, and a ferocious desire to choke off any avenue of redress available to the victims of that exclusion. Apologize for that, folks, and then we can talk.
(c) 2018 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote...

"I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.""
~~~ John Adams

What Took Down ACORN May Take Down The Rest Of Us
By David Swanson

In Seymour Hersh's new account of his career, Reporter: A Memoir, he recalls that Martin Luther King Jr. told him upon the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that he planned to register 900,000 Negroes to vote. King would go on to oppose war and organize poor people across racial lines before being killed.

In a new film called ACORN and the Firestorm we're told that ACORN registered 833,113 poor people to vote in 2008. For some background on ACORN and its destruction, see my review of John Atlas' book Seeds of Change.

I've lately been trying to buy ads supporting peace and opposing war. The Washington, D.C., Metro system, the New York subway, and various billboard companies around the United States refuse any such advertisements as "political." To try to improve the world in any way is "political" and shameful and inappropriate and usually considered rude to talk about. To try to make a buck selling anything at all is respectable and acceptable.

ACORN was my first unacceptable job, the first place I worked where the purpose was to make the world a better place. I'd had jobs where I'd tried to do that. I'd had jobs where I'd determined I couldn't do any good. I'd quit them all. Then I got a job at ACORN and all was right with the world. Or, rather, all was right with me because I was able to try to improve the world. And we damn well did. We saved people's homes (tens of thousands of them), we took money from banks and gave it to their victims. We raised wages. We formed unions. We protected immigrants. We trained people to be active decent and completely inappropriate human beings constantly striving to improve things.

ACORN had long hours and high turnover. It had staff-led activities that were presented as member-led, because staff were supposed to stay in the background and empower members. Its nonviolence did not sound Gandhian. It was noisy and aggressive. But it was using nonviolence, never violence. It was building organizations by knocking on doors and getting street lights put in and trash picked up so that people understood what victories were before attempting larger ones. ACORN worked in coalitions but always aimed for its own growth. It made enemies. It compromised for Democrats. It ignored foreign policy and the military budget where all the money that people needed was going.

But I doubt there was a corporation or a bank or a right-wing lobby-think-tank or a political party anywhere with fewer flaws and shortcomings. While the richest corporations get away with cheating on taxes, busting unions, marketing weapons, and all variety of corruption, the people living in poverty and working night and day to help the poor are permitted no sins.

I worked at ACORN from 2000 to 2003 in the Washington, D.C., office as the national communications staff (all of it). Before and after me, ACORN didn't have any fulltime communications people. Some had made the argument for many years that knocking on doors could not compete with infiltrating living rooms through televisions and radios. I don't think there's actually any doubt that that is true. But working well with reporters cannot remotely compete with owning media outlets or sharing the interests of the owners of or advertisers - and those aren't options for poor people.

I was long gone when ACORN was destroyed. It was destroyed by rightwing propaganda, corrupt media, and liberal cowardice. It had some minor help from within ACORN. And it had an assist by an attractive young woman possessing near total ignorance of almost anything, who'd grown up in a right-wing Christian family where one apparently learned that democracy consisted of opposing collective action and that there wasn't really anything one wouldn't be better off having destroyed.

Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe were a prostitute and a pimp. That is, they pretended to be such. Or rather, they pretended to have pretended to be such. O'Keefe filmed himself wearing a goofy pimp costume and lied that he'd worn it into ACORN offices. He edited videos of Giles the "prostitute" so that nobody would know she had asked ACORN for help and claimed that she and some girls were in danger, but made it appear rather that ACORN employees in various offices into which Giles and O'Keefe took a hidden camera were trying to facilitate prostitution. But if prostitution includes selling yourself to the interests of oligarchs, then these two were indeed prostitutes of the first order.

An ACORN employee who phoned the police to report Giles and O'Keefe as soon as they left his office was himself fired by ACORN for what he'd said while apparently playing along with them, not knowing he was being filmed. He should have guessed he was being filmed, as everyone should guess now everywhere all the time. ACORN should have found out the full story and made it public instantly, and immediately demanded the release of the full videos, not edited bits. Everyone should now know that that is what one must do, that video can be misleadingly edited, that it can even be falsely generated in the first place. Shirley Sherrod and the Washington Post and various later targets of O'Keefe's scams knew this. Video literacy is progressing.

But what about the ACORN employee who suggested that Giles lie on a home loan form and call prostitution "art"? Here we run up against wrongdoing on the part of someone trying to help others find housing, wrongdoing that will not be tolerated from anyone trying to do good deeds. Only truly evil operations are permitted such flaws. If a CIA agent plotting to overthrow a government or blow up a family at dinner also told a fib about prostitution as a career choice, nobody would blink. When Wal-Mart tells workers to work for a while before clocking in, who cares?

But here was also a culture clash. A young woman for whom prostitution was an evil far greater than war or mass-incarceration or starvation wages ran into an ACORN employee who likely saw someone's need for a house as taking priority over their need to obey a church, and whose attitude toward laws was probably as cavalier as was Giles' and O'Keefe's toward illegally videotaping others or telling blatant lies on Fox News.

The story appealed greatly to the mass media precisely because it involved prostitution but didn't really, and because it allowed them to label ACORN as generally "criminal" (even though nobody at ACORN was charged with any crimes) and then convict ACORN (in the media sense of conviction) of the real crime they were after: "voter fraud." This was the equivalent of claiming that Gadaffi was giving Viagra to troops, even though he wasn't, in order to convict him of being generally "criminal" and then slip under that label the false charge of imminent genocide.

"Voter fraud" was a particularly ridiculous crime. When you register voters, you pay people to go out and collect names. If some of the names look made-up, you can fire the person who gathered them, but you are required to hand them in to the government anyway. It's up to the government to recognize the real and false names and register people accordingly. So, handing in a relatively small number of false names along with hundreds of thousands of real ones is not a crime, while failing to do so would be. And the false names do not end up actually registered. And if they did, they wouldn't actually vote in any elections, unless someone had a way and a plan and an interest and a willingness to risk prison by identifying which names had been registered and attempting to vote as them. Not only was there no evidence that ACORN had ever done any such thing, but there was never even any allegation or any mention that such a thing would have to be done. The media trial and conviction for the crime of "voter fraud" consisted of reporting that ACORN had handed in a sheet of paper with the names of the Dallas Cowboy football players on it.

ACORN is still active in other countries and in the United States under other names as new organizations. But the barrier to power remains. Registering poor people to vote on ACORN's scale is not likely to be tolerated. And fewer and fewer poor people are likely to see anyone worth voting for. Journalism free of the devotion to facts that Hersh writes about is still the norm, and still corrupted by wealth, power, and advertising. If anything, it's getting worse. A political right on the attack and a political center-right cowering in fear is entrenched and accepted practice. The new Poor People's Campaign is a good approach, but what it is up against, the meanness, ignorance, stupidity, dishonesty and open support for corrupt oligarchy that took down ACORN needs to be undone if any other ACORN is ever to grow.
(c) 2018 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.

There's A Whole Foods In Harlem Now...
By Jane Stillwater

I was raised in the suburbs. Back in the Boomer days, suburbs were spozed to be wonderful places where residents could relax, enjoy nature and be happy. Funny how it didn't work out that way. My father commuted to his job Monday through Friday, was gone from 6:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night and also worked a second job on weekends to pay off our suburban mortgage. So much for smelling the flowers. And my college-educated mother was bored out of her freaking mind with her life there as chief maid, cook, bottle-washer and nanny to her mostly-absent husband and two ungrateful brats. Ah, white flight.

There are clearly a whole lot of advantages to living in a city.

However, for Black people who were forced to live in cramped city slums, who had no access to decent employment or education and who were the targeted customers of their drug-dealing CIA sales reps, urban life was a nightmare.

"Wanna change places?" bored suburban commuters and housewives suddenly started asking Black people. "We'll take back Harlem and you can go enjoy the wonders of nature by living in a tent under a bridge." Can you believe it? First Black people were forced into Harlem because nobody else wanted it. Red-lining, slumlords and all that. Crappy schools. Unemployment. Bigotry. 80% of the housing stock in Harlem was under-code and sucked eggs. "But those are genuine brownstones!" the Yuppies and Techies suddenly cried -- and suddenly their race for real estate in Harlem was on.

Black people originally came to Harlem in desperate flight from the extreme brutality of Southern Jim Crow. Seeking their freedom in New York City, they soon discovered that they were living in a concentration camp instead.

Back in those days Harlem may not have been surrounded by barbed wire like Manzanar or Auschwitz or Gaza, but the iron fist of American social norms (not to mention the New York PD's iron fist) kept Black people trapped there just the same. And so they did the best that they could and made this new Harlem concentration camp their home -- "made something out of nothing." But now they don't even have that.

I just got back from a walking tour of Harlem. In Harlem today, signs reading "Condo for Sale" are now a common sight. There is even a freaking Whole Foods located right there on the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and 125th Street. So much for white flight. Goodbye Harlem. It's now called Central Park North.

And when brownstones in Harlem are sold for several million dollars each (one seller was asking over six million bucks), who gets all that money? Does it go to the Black grandmother who had religiously paid her rent every month for the last 50 years? Even though her landlord never made any repairs and yet charged her double the amount that White people were paying for the same sized unit elsewhere in Manhattan?

Or do those millions of dollars go to the slumlord who had already made more profit on each brownstone than is morally possible? What would your educated guess be?
(c) 2018 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The Dead Letter Office...

Charming Peter Navarro!

Heil Trump,

Dear Wirtschaftsberater Navarro,

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 defense of der Fuhrer at all costs, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-27-2018. We salute you Herr Navarro, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Constitutional Crisis Is Now
By Robert Reich

I keep hearing that if Trump fires Mueller we'll face a constitutional crisis.

Or if Mueller subpoenas Trump to testify and Trump defies the subpoena, it's a constitutional crisis.

Or if Mueller comes up with substantial evidence that Trump is guilty of colluding with Russia or of obstructing justice but the House doesn't move to impeach him, we'll have a constitutional crisis.

I have news for you. We're already in a constitutional crisis. For a year and a half the president of the United States has been carrying out a systemic attack on the institutions of our democracy.

A constitutional crisis does not occur suddenly like a coup that causes a government to collapse. It occurs gradually, as a system of government is slowly weakened.

The current crisis has been unfolding since the waning days of the 2016 campaign when Trump refused to say whether he'd be bound by the election results if Hillary won.

It continued through March 4, 2017 when Trump claimed, without evidence, that Obama had wiretapped his phones in the Trump Tower during the campaign.

It deepened in May 2017 when, by his own admission, Trump was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he decided to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading the bureau's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and then admitted to Russian officials that firing Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him "because of Russia," according to a document summarizing the meeting.

A constitutional crisis becomes especially dangerous when a president of the United States tells the public it cannot trust the government of the United States.

Over the last few weeks, Trump has done just this.

First he accused the FBI of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign "for political purposes." Then he issued a "demand" that the FBI investigate the spying - resulting in the Justice Department sharing portions of the FBI investigation with Trump's allies in Congress.

Trump blamed the entire Mueller investigation on a conspiratorial "deep state" intent on removing him from office. He used pardons to demonstrate to those already being investigated that they shouldn't cooperate because he can pardon them, too, and then bragged to reporters that he is considering 3,000 more pardons -thereby anointing himself the judge of what is fair, rather than the judicial branch. <>P He claimed he has the absolute right to pardon himself and can thereby immunize himself from any outcome; and asserted he has the power under the Constitution to end the investigation whenever he wants.

The crux of America's current constitutional crisis is this: Our system of government was designed to constrain power, but Trump doesn't want to be constrained.

Our system was conceived as a means of promoting the public interest, but Trump wants to promote only his own interest.

Our system was organized to bind presidents to the Constitution, but Trump doesn't want to be bound by anything.

The crisis will therefore worsen as long as Trump can get away with it. An unconstrained megalomaniac becomes only more maniacal. He will fill whatever political void exists with his unbridled ego.

The only legal way to constrain Trump is to vote for a Congress, this November, that will stand up to him. And then, in November 2020, vote him and his regime out of office.

If he refuses to accept the results of that election, as he threatened to do if he lost the 2016 election, he will have to be forcefully removed from office.

Friends, we are no longer trying to avert a constitutional crisis. We are living one. The question is how to stop it from destroying what's left of our democracy.
(c) 2018 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is

Scapegoating Iran
By Chris Hedges

NEW YORK-Seventeen years of war in the Middle East and what do we have to show for it? Iraq after our 2003 invasion and occupation is no longer a unified country. Its once modern infrastructure is largely destroyed, and the nation has fractured into warring enclaves. We have lost the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban is resurgent and has a presence in over 70 percent of the country. Libya is a failed state. Yemen after three years of relentless airstrikes and a blockade is enduring one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters. The 500 "moderate" rebels we funded and armed in Syria at a cost of $500 million are in retreat after instigating a lawless reign of terror. The military adventurism has cost a staggering $5.6 trillion as our infrastructure crumbles, austerity guts basic services and half the population of the United States lives at or near poverty levels. The endless wars in the Middle East are the biggest strategic blunder in American history and herald the death of the empire.

Someone has to be blamed for debacles that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead, including at least 200,000 civilians, and millions driven from their homes. Someone has to be blamed for the proliferation of radical jihadist groups throughout the Middle East, the continued worldwide terrorist attacks, the wholesale destruction of cities and towns under relentless airstrikes and the abject failure of U.S. and U.S.-backed forces to stanch the insurgencies. You can be sure it won't be the generals, the politicians such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the rabid neocons such as Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton who sold us the wars, the Central Intelligence Agency, the arms contractors who profit from perpetual war or the celebrity pundits on the airwaves and in newspapers who serve as cheerleaders for the mayhem.

"The failed policies, or lack of policies, of the United States, which violate international law, have left the Middle East in total chaos," the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo, told me when we met in New York City. "The United States, to cover up these aggressive, reckless and costly policies, blames Iran. Iran is blamed for their failures in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon."

The Trump administration "is very naive about the Middle East and Iran," the ambassador said. "It can only speak in the language of threats-pressure, sanctions, intervention. These policies have failed in the region. They are very risky and costly. Let the Americans deal with the problems of the countries they have already invaded and attacked. America lacks constructive power in the Middle East. It is unable to govern even a village in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Syria. All it can do is use force and destructive power. This U.S. administration wants the Middle East and the whole world to bow to it. This is not a policy conducive to sound relationships with sovereign states, especially those countries that have resisted American influence."

"The plan to arm 'moderate' rebels in Syria was a cover to topple [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad," the ambassador went on. "The Americans knew there were no 'moderate' rebels. They knew these weapons would get into the hands of terrorist groups like Daesh [Islamic State], Al-Nusra and their affiliates. Once again, the American policy failed. The Americans succeeded in destroying a country. They succeeded in creating bloodbaths. They succeeded in displacing millions of people. But they gained nothing. The sovereignty of Syria is expanding by the day. It is hard to imagine what President Trump is offering as a strategy in Syria. One day, he says, 'I will move out of Syria very soon, very quickly.' The next day he says, 'If Iran is there, we should stay.' I wonder if the American taxpayers know how much of their money has been wasted in Iraq, Syria and Yemen?"

Trump's unilateral decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, although Iran was in compliance with the agreement, was the first salvo in this effort to divert attention from these failures to Iran. Bolton, the new national security adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, along with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, advocate the overthrow of the Iranian government, with Giuliani saying last month that Trump is "as committed to regime change as we [an inner circle of presidential advisers] are."

"The Iran nuclear deal was possible following several letters by President Barack Obama assuring the Iranian leadership that America had no intention of violating Iranian sovereignty," Ambassador Khoshroo said. "America said it wanted to engage in a serious dialogue on equal footing and mutual interests and concerns. These assurances led to the negotiations that concluded with the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. From the beginning, however, America was not forthcoming in its dealings with us on the JCPOA. President Obama wanted the agreement to be implemented, but he did not want it implemented in its full capacity. Congress, on the day JCPOA was implemented, passed a law warning Europeans that were doing business with Iran. The staffs of companies had to apply for a visa to the United States if they had traveled to Iran for business purposes. This began on the first day. The Americans were not always very forthcoming. OFAC [Office of Foreign Funds Control] gave ambiguous answers to many of the questions that companies had about sanctions, but at least in words the Obama administration supported the JCPOA and saw the agreement as the basis for our interactions."

"President Trump, however, even as a candidate, called the agreement 'the worst deal America ever made,' " the ambassador said. "He called this deal a source of embarrassment for America. Indeed, it was not the deal but America's unilateral decision to walk away from an agreement that was supported by the United Nations Security Council, and in fact co-sponsored and drafted by the United States, that is the source of embarrassment for America. To walk away from an international agreement and then threaten a sovereign country is the real source of embarrassment since Iran was in full compliance while the U.S. never was."

"In 2008, the Israelis told the world that Iran was only some days away from acquiring an atomic bomb," he said. "The Israelis said there had to be a military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. What has happened since? During the last two years, there have been 11 reports by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] clearly confirming and demonstrating Iran's full compliance with the JCPOA. All of the accusations [about] Iran using nuclear facilities for military purposes were refuted by the IAEA as well as by Europe, Russia, China, along with many other countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa. America is concerned about Iranian influence in the region and seeks to contain Iran because the U.S. administration realizes that America's policies in the Middle East have failed. Their own statements about Iran repeatedly contradict each other. One day they say, 'Iran is so weak it will collapse,' and the next day they say, 'Iran is governing several Arab capitals in the Middle East.' "

Iran announced recently that it has tentative plans to produce the feedstock for centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, if the nuclear deal is not salvaged by European members of the JCPOA. European countries, dismayed by Trump's decision to withdraw from the agreement, are attempting to renegotiate the deal, which imposes restrictions on Iran's nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Why go to war with a country that abides by an agreement it has signed with the United States? Why attack a government that is the mortal enemy of the Taliban, along with other jihadist groups, including al-Qaida and Islamic State, that now threaten us after we created and armed them? Why shatter the de facto alliance we have with Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why further destabilize a region already dangerously volatile?

The architects of these wars are in trouble. They have watched helplessly as the instability and political vacuum they caused, especially in Iraq, left Iran as the dominant power in the region. Washington, in essence, elevated its nemesis. It has no idea how to reverse its mistake, beyond attacking Iran. Those both in the U.S. and abroad who began or promoted these wars see a conflict with Iran as a solution to their foreign and increasingly domestic dilemmas.

For example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mired in corruption scandals, hopes that by fostering a conflict with Iran he can divert attention away from investigations into his abuse of power and the massacres Israel carries out against Palestinians, along with Israel's accelerated seizure of Palestinian land.

"The most brutal regime is now in power in Israel," the Iranian ambassador said. "It has no regard for international law or humanitarian law. It violates Security Council resolutions regarding settlements, its capital and occupation. Look at what Israel has done in Gaza in the last 30 days. On the same day America was unlawfully transferring its embassy to Jerusalem, 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli snipers. [Israelis] were dancing in Jerusalem while the blood of unarmed Palestinians was running in Gaza. The Trump administration gives total support and impunity to Israel. This angers many people in the Middle East, including many in Saudi Arabia. It is a Zionist project to portray Iran as the main threat to peace in the Middle East. Israel introducing Iran as a threat is an attempt to divert attention from the crimes this regime is committing, but these too are failed policies that will backfire. They are policies designed to cover weakness."

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, facing internal unrest, launched the war in Yemen as a vanity project to bolster his credentials as a military leader. Now he desperately needs to deflect attention from the quagmire and humanitarian disaster he created.

"Saudi Arabia, as part of [the civil war in Yemen], has a tactical and strategic cooperation with Israel against Iran," the ambassador said. "But the Saudi regime is defying the sentiments of its own people. How long will this be possible? For three years now, Saudi Arabia, assisted by the United States, has bombed the Yemeni people and imposed a total blockade that includes food and medicine. Nothing has been resolved. Once again, Iran is blamed for this failure by Saudi Arabia and the United States in Yemen. Even if Iran wanted to help the Yemenis, it is not possible due to the total blockade. The Yemeni people asked for peace negotiations from the first day of the war. But Saudi military adventurism and its desire to test its military resolve made any peaceful solution impossible. The U.S. and the U.K. provide military and logistical support, including cluster bombs to be used by the Saudis in Yemen. The Emiratis are bombing Yemen. All such actions are doomed to failure since there is no military solution in Yemen. There is only a political solution. Look at the targets of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen: funerals. Wedding ceremonies. Agricultural fields. Houses. Civilians. How do the Saudis expect the Yemeni people to greet those who bomb them? With hugs? The war has cost a lot of money, and Trump responds by saying [to Saudi Arabia], 'Oh you have money. [Paraphrasing here.] Please buy our 'beautiful weapons.' They are killing beautiful children with these 'beautiful' weapons. It is a disaster. It is tragic."

And then there is President Donald Trump, desperate for a global crusade he can use to mask his ineptitude, the rampant corruption of his administration and his status as an international pariah when he runs for re-election in 2020.

"Of course, blaming and threatening Iran is not new," the ambassador said. "This has been going on for 40 years. The Iranian people and the Iranian government are accustomed to this nonsense. United States intervention in the internal affairs of Iran goes back a long time, including the [Iranian] war with Iraq, when the United States supported Saddam Hussein. Then America invaded Iraq in 2003 in their so-called 'intervention for democracy and elimination of WMDs.' Iran has always resisted and will always resist U.S. threats." "America was in Iran 40 years ago," the ambassador said. "About 100,000 U.S. advisers were in Iran during the rule of the shah, who was among the closest allies of America. America was unable to keep this regime in power because the Iranian people revolted against such dependency and suppression. Since the fall of the shah in 1979, for 40 years, America continued to violate international law, especially the Algeria agreements it signed with Iran in 1981." The Algeria Declaration was a set of agreements between the United States and Iran that resolved the Iranian hostage crisis. It was brokered by the Algerian government. The U.S. committed itself in the Algeria Declaration to refrain from interference in Iranian internal affairs and to lift trade sanctions on Iran and a freeze on Iranian assets.

The warmongers have no more of a plan for "regime change" in Iran than they had in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria. European allies, whom Trump alienated when he walked away from the Iranian nuclear agreement, are in no mood to cooperate with Washington. The Pentagon, even if it wanted to, does not have the hundreds of thousands of troops it would need to attack and occupy Iran. And the idea-pushed by lunatic fringe figures like Bolton and Giuliani-that the marginal and discredited Iranian resistance group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which fought alongside Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran and is viewed by most Iranians as composed of traitors, is a viable counterforce to the Iranian government is ludicrous. In all these equations the 80 million people in Iran are ignored just as the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria were ignored. Perhaps they would not welcome a war with the United States. Perhaps if attacked they would resist. Perhaps they don't want to be occupied. Perhaps a war with Iran would be interpreted throughout the region as a war against Shiism. But these are calculations that the ideologues, who know little about the instrument of war and even less about the cultures or peoples they seek to dominate, are unable to fathom.

"The Middle East has many problems: insecurity, instability, problems with natural resources such as water, etc.," Khoshroo said. "All of these problems have been made worse by foreign intervention as well as Israel's lawlessness. The issue of Palestine is at the heart of turmoil in the Middle East for Muslims. Any delay in finding solutions to these wounds in the Middle East exposes this region to more dangerous threats. Americans say they want the Middle East to be free from violent extremism, but this will only happen when the Middle East is free from occupation and foreign intervention. The Americans are selling their weapons throughout the Middle East. They calculate how much money they can earn from destruction. They don't care about human beings. They don't care about security or democratic process or political process. This is worrisome."

"What are the results of American policies in the Middle East?" he asked. "All of the American allies in the region are in turmoil. Only Iran is secure and stable. Why is this the case? Why, during the last 40 years, has Iran been stable? Is it because Iran has no relationship with America? Why is there hostility between Iran and America? Can't the Americans see that Iran's stability is important for the region? We are surrounded by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen. What good would come from destabilizing Iran? What would America get out of that?"
(c) 2018 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

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Mike Luckovich ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Kim Jong Un Offers To Host Peace Talks Between United States And Canada
By Andy Borowitz

SINGAPORE (The Borowitz Report)-One day before his summit with Donald J. Trump, the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, has offered to host peace talks between the United States and Canada.

Speaking to reporters at his hotel in Singapore, Kim said that the rising tensions between the North American neighbors were posing an "intolerable threat to world peace."

In addition to offering to host U.S.-Canada talks in Pyongyang, Kim urged the immediate creation of a demilitarized zone along the border separating the two hostile nations.

"In exchange for Canadian Mounties agreeing to stand down on their side of the border, the United States, in turn, would dismantle its nuclear weapons," Kim said.

Although stating that "North Korea stands ready and willing to be an honest broker" in peace talks between the two countries, he urged Trump to dial back the "inflammatory rhetoric" that he aimed at Canadians over the weekend.

"Violent language and threats have no place in international diplomacy," Kim said.
(c) 2018 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 23 (c) 06/15/2018

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