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In This Edition

Juan Cole concludes, "Whatever Pompeo Says, There Is No Certainty Iran Mined The Tankers."

Ralph Nader thinks, "It Is Time To Rediscover Print Newspapers."

Glen Ford explains, "How The Democratic Party Strangled Black Politics."

Matt Taibbi reports, "Trump Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign: Get Ready For 'Billionaire Populist II: The Sequel.'"

Jim Hightower says, "Trump To Working Class: Adios Chumps."

John Nichols concludes, "Justice Shirley Abrahamson Set The Record Straight."

James Donahue recalls, "Chief Tecumseh's Curse."

William Rivers Pitt reports, "Allergy Season Is Bad This Year. Thank Climate Disruption."

Heather Digby Parton opens up, "From The Shooting Someone On 5th Avenue Files."

David Suzuki finds, "Women's Rights Offer Best Solution To World's Woes."

Charles P. Pierce reports, "In A Colony Of 40,000, Just Two Penguin Chicks Survived This Year."

David Swanson reminds Nancy, "It's The Emoluments, Stupid. Impeach For Iran."

Jane Stillwater has, "More Thoughts On Ellis Island."

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich says, "Trump's "Deep State" Is Trump's Corrupt State."

Chris Hedges previews, "The Coming Show Trial Of Julian Assange."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Pence Visits Conversion Therapist For Routine Gay-Preventative Checkup," but first Uncle Ernie explores, "Lying Donald's Attack On The Poor, The Sick, And The Elderly."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jerry Holbert, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Jasper Juinen, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Peter Mason, Mark Thiessen, Marc Nozell, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Jane Stillwater, 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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Lying Donald's Attack On The Poor, The Sick, And The Elderly
By Ernest Stewart

"I think it's important to note that the chained CPI was originally a McConnell demand in negotiations back in December. But it was a bad idea then, and it's a really bad idea now." ~~~ Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)

"A doomsday future is not inevitable! But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor. We must act collectively. We need strong, determined leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind." ~~~ Adm. Chris Barrie ~ a member of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change and former chief of the Australian Defence Force

"Perez's doctrine, if followed, would certainly reduce the Democratic Party to permanent minority status. The Democrats can ill afford to lose 24 percent of its membership to either form a third party or to join the Republicans. Perez has forgotten the political truism that elections are won by addition, not subtraction. That means a tolerance of allies who might believe in things that one finds abhorrent, so long as widespread concurrence is present on most importance things." ~~~ Mark Whittington

"When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed." ~~~ Maya Angelou

I see where Lying Donald is about to attack the poor, the sick and the elderly to pay for his trillions of dollars of gifts to the uber wealthy. A new study released Tuesday shows just how insidious Lying Donald's administration's proposal to change the way the federal government measures poverty actually is. In short: millions could lose health and food benefits! They'll do this by replacing Consumer Price Index with the aptly named chained CPI.

Here's part of what the Rethuglicans want to happen...
* More than 250,000 adults would lose health insurance through Medicaid.
* More than 300,000 kids and some pregnant women would lose health insurance through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
* Millions of people would receive fewer subsidies for purchasing health insurance on the Obamacare marketplace, making it more expensive to do so.
* More than 250,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose or receive less access to the Medicare Part D subsidy program, forcing them to pay more for prescription drugs.
* More than 150,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose premium assistance for Medicare Part B, meaning they'd have to pay over $1,500 to see a doctor.
* Over 200,000 people would lose food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
* More than 100,000 students would become ineligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and more than 100,000 would lose free meals but remain eligible for reduced-price lunch.
* About 40,000 infants and young children would lose access to care such as breastfeeding support and healthy food through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
As terrible as that is, it's only the beginning of Lying Donald's plans for the poor, the sick and the elderly and you thought I was joking about those Happy Camps, huh? For the rest, Lying Donald is about to do in Obama Care and replace it with his own money making scheme. The worst is being held back until after he wins, or steals, the 2020 election.

In Other News

Back when I first came aware of the dangers of global warming in the late 1980s science warned that we could start having severe effects by 2100. No cause for alarm as long as we started to control global warming by 2050. By the late 90s scientist warned that if we continued to do nothing we would see the effects by 2050 and the cut off date was set at 2025. Trouble is by the turn of the century those effects were here and growing worse each year. Those effects were hotter days, wetter or drier years depending where your live. More forrest fires, worse floods, more tornadoes and hurricanes, more total climate disruption and it's not 2100 it's 2019 and now a lot of us are hanging on for our lives. Sad to say, it's only getting worse!

Unless nations quickly muster the political and social will to engineer an emissions-free industrial system, the impacts of a warming planet are likely to be so great as to cause "human civilization to collapse by 2050."" That's the scenario put forward in a May 2019 report published by Breakthrough-National Centre for Climate Restoration, a think tank based in Melbourne, Australia.

Calling many reports created for climate policymaking purposes "conservative and reticent" with their risk assessments, (or in Lying Donalds case global warming is just a Chinese plot to destroy our economy) the report's overview declares that "climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilization." It defines an existential risk to civilization as one "posing permanent large negative consequences to humanity which may never be undone, either annihilating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtailing its potential."

The report, "Existential Climate-Related Security Risk: A Scenario Approach," was authored by David Spratt, a research director at Breakthrough, and Ian Dunlop, former chairman of the Australian Coal Association and chair of the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading. They argue the greatest threat lies "disproportionately in the 'fat-tail' outcomes" of the risk curve, i.e., the more extreme possible outcomes-scenarios that had previously been understated.

The 11-page report lays out a scenario by which climate change causes catastrophic impacts to human society. Key to its proposition of a potential 2050 doomsday is inaction by policymakers to take steps between now and 2030 to reduce the degree of warming. Under this scenario, if global human-caused greenhouse emissions continue to climb until 2030, that would cause "at least 3 degrees C of warming" - a rise considered by some scientists to be catastrophic.

Meanwhile, Lying Donald is doing everything in his power to make it happen by getting rid of all the environmental protection laws, just to keep feeding his bottom line no matter the consequences to the entire world. Yes, the rich will live longer than everyone else, but not for long!

And Finally

The DNC is at it again trying snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. You remember the DNC, they're the folks that got Lying Donald elected instead of Bernie Sanders by shoving Hilary down our throats, that worked out well, didn't it?

Well, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is doing two things that may give it all to Lying Donald again! The first is trying to shove Joe Biden down our throats when the base wants Bernie again, the second is totally ignoring the greatest threat that mankind has ever faced, Global Warming.

Biden who is a little to the right of... wait for it... Darth Vader. A man who hates black folks and women and who as a Senator spent his life holding both back while selling his soul to Wall Street and is going to be the Demoncratic nominee for the president if it drives the base away to voting Green or not voting at all, I'm having a deja vu again, are you?

Tom won't allow questions for the would be 20 dealing with Global Warming a thing so dangerous that it may kill us all in 25 to 30 years from now. I ask you WTF, America. Of course, if this puts Lying Donald back in office he may kill us all sooner than that!

Ergo, Tom Perez wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

It looks like our June 21st edition will be our last full magazine. With half a magazine we will continue on until the 2020 election, providing Lying Donald hasn't killed all of us by then. Not only haven't we been able to pay the last of last years bill, but a new bill comes due on June 24th.

You will notice some of your favorite authors will be missing as we have to pay their publishing rights in order to publish them. You'll have to look them up yourselves and may have to pay to read them on their sites. The same goes for some cartoonists.

We'll still keep fighting the good fight like we always have as we're in it to the end. If you think that what we do is important and would like to see us keep on, keeping on, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep telling you the truth!


02-12-1923 ~ 06-15-2019
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So how do you like Trump so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?

Until the next time, Peace!

(c) 2019 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

Despite what the Saudis and blowhards like Benghazi Mike keep alleging, the
Houthis don't take orders from Iran and don't have that much to do with one another.

Whatever Pompeo Says, There Is No Certainty Iran Mined The Tankers
It was clear that Trump warmongers would blame Iran and then use the incident as a springboard to war
By Juan Cole

The mysterious mines that blew up two tankers, one of them Japanese-owned and operated, on Wednesday, sent a frisson of fear through the Gulf, since it was clear that Trump warmongers would blame Iran and then use the incident as a springboard to war.

Despite the confident pronouncements of "Benghazi Mike" Pompeo at his brief news conference, the fact is that US intelligence hasn't had time or access to come to a firm conclusion about the author of the mine attack.

Pompeo's people put out grainy video of some sort of small ship coming alongside one of the tankers and then leaving peacefully. Since this doesn't look very much like an attack, they are alleging that the Iranians were taking away an unexploded mine. That doesn't make any sense at all, and the video again needs to be carefully analyzed.

Pompeo alleged that only the Iranians had the expertise to deploy these mines.

We heard this crock for 8.5 years in Iraq - all shaped charges had to be Iran-backed, even those of al-Qaeda, because Iraqis didn't have the expertise. Shaped charges are a simple WWII technology and the US invaded Iraq out of fears it was so sophisticated that it could construct an atomic bomb. But Iraqi Sunnis couldn't make a shaped charge. Sure. Had to be Iran, helping those hyper-Sunni al-Qaeda. Very likely story.

In Iraq War days I was told that the Rumsfeld Department of Defense put out so much such arrant nonsense as anonymous news articles planted in the Iraqi press that some Defense Intelligence Agency analysts used to read my blog, confident that I would suss our the psyops horse manure and give an accurate picture. The Bush administration produced so much fake news about Iraq that Bush analysts were in danger of being fooled by it and recommending policy on the basis of it!

So about the allegation that no other forces could have deployed mines in the Gulf area.

Just last December, 86 mines were swept in the Red Sea, the planting of which was attributed to the Houthi rebels of Yemen. The Straits of Hormuz might see far away. But once they're already on the sea in a small ship, all they'd have to do pack some mines and ply the waters off southern Yemen and Oman over to the Straits of Hormuz, and they could have easily committed this act.

The Houthis have been intensively bombed for four years, with about a third of the targets having been civilian.. Most of the sorties against them have been flown by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the aggressors in the war on Yemen. They do not have an air force and have had to watch helplessly for 48 months as fire fell on their women and children. Some 233,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war, and while the Houthis are responsible for some of those deaths, the Saudis and UAE are responsible for the lion's share.

The Houthis have in recent weeks tried increasingly to take the fight to the enemy. They droned an oil facility, struck an airport with a rocket, and made incursions over to the Saudi side of the border, claiming, at least, to have taken some villages. That to accompany this pushback and press the Saudis to stop bombing and dicker, they might also try to target some tankers is perfectly plausible.

Despite what the Saudis and blowhards like Benghazi Mike keep alleging, the Houthis don't take orders from Iran and don't have that much to do with one another. Zaydi Shiites like the Houthis don't even have ayatollahs; you can't just read off politics from common Shiism, anyway, but in this case they aren't even from the same sect. It would be like assuming that all Methodists would line up politically behind the Baptists because both are Protestants. Iran has slipped some help to the Houthis, maybe a few million dollars worth. Trump says he's selling $110 billion worth of arms to the Saudis. So US help to Saudis is probably on the order of 10,000 times greater than Iranian aid to the Houthis.

Anyway, I admit that Houthi activity over in the Arabian Sea near the Gulf is a bit of a stretch, but it just isn't impossible.

I don't allege false flag attacks. They are rare, since too many possibilities for someone to blab or blow the whistle exist. But that the Houthis would and could take such an action would make sense.

It could also be by Iran, of course. I disapprove of violence, and denounce the attack on civilian tankers. But any reporter who reports that Iran might be the culprit is dishonest to Trumpan depths if they neglect to mention that that the US is stopping 100% of Iran's oil exports with no warrant of international law, no resolution from the UN Security Council, and in direct contradiction of US obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which Trump breached. A physical blockade of Iran would be an act of war. I don't see why a financial blockade should be looked at as any different. Trump has committed numerous acts of naked aggression on the Iranian people. I don't condone a violent response, but anyone should be able to understand it.

(c) 2019 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

It Is Time To Rediscover Print Newspapers
Ralph Nader

Friends often ask me why I spend so much time reading print versions of newspapers. I respond with the usual general reasons about learning what is happening, worsening or improving, in the world. I also point out that I send people helpful clippings.

Unfortunately, my responses do not get many people to expand their print newspaper reading time. Some recent topics that caught my attention might encourage you to revisit the printed version of your newspapers:

"It's the middle of the night. Do you know who your iPhone is talking to?" The Washington Post's Geoffrey A. Fowler says this is not true. With his screen off, he showed 5,400 hidden app trackers guzzled his data in a single week. Shame Apple and CEO Tim Cook. You lied.

"Take a Page From Kids Who Care" - The Washington Post's Christina Barron starts with the now famous Greta Thunberg's weekly protests on climate disruption before the Swedish Parliament and goes on to reference eight new books "in which kids engage, in ways big and small, to better the world."

"Why I'm Swearing off Trump's Nicknames," by Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post. About time a writer did this. When will reporters stop being Trump's bullhorn for his scornful, ugly nicknames, without printing rebuttals or nicknames coined by Trump critics- like "Draft-dodging Donald," or "Lying Donald," or "Corrupt Donald," for example.

"MacKenzie Bezos Pledges to Give Half of her $36 billion Fortune to Charity," by Washington Post's Rachel Siegel. One very rich couple's divorce may mean better lives and saving lives for many people if Ms. Bezos spends money to promote justice and we might need less charity. Her Foundation is coming.

"The Shadow Banks are back with another Big Bad Credit Bubble," by The Washington Post's incomparable Steve Pearlstein. With weak or no regulation of these speculators/lenders, there may be a replay of the 2008 financial crisis.

"Many teens sleep with their phones, survey finds-just like their parents" by The Washington Post's Craig Timberg. This practice undermines "cognitive function and mental health while increasing obesity rates" and causing household conflicts.

Joshua A. Douglas is out with a key book, Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting. Reclaiming the electoral process is crucial for our democracy and -to improve the quality of life in our country.

"Why We May all Have to Give Up Pork"-letter to the editor of The Washington Post by Patricia E. Perry. She cites documented infectious diseases and Trump's move to sideline federal inspectors and allow even more self-inspection by the meat packers wanting to speed up the slaughter-processing assembly lines. Ugh!

"Hogan Will Not Challenge Trump, Leaving Trump's GOP Critics with Limited Options," by The Washington Post's Robert Costa. Like Maryland governor Larry Hogan, other fearful, viable challengers like Senator Mitt Romney, former Ohio governor John Kasich, Arizona ex-Senator Jeff Flake, and former U.S. trade representative Carla Hills aren't going to challenge Trump. Trump is clearing the Republican primary field with foul mouthed intimidation. No matter these Republican politicians really believe Trump is a clear and present danger to our Republic and to the future of the Republican Party. Only the laid back former governor, William Weld, has his hat in the ring.

"The NFL Has Finally Been Consumed by the Concussion Issue. Why Hasn't the NHL?" by The New York Times' John Branch. Consumed, that is, after years of cover-ups. The Hockey bosses literally stage fights between players kept on the team just to fight for the boisterous crowds. Head injuries have taken the lives and diminished the brain functions of scores of players over their shortened lives. This is criminal and sets a bad example for youthful amateur sports where concussions are not taken seriously enough. See our

"Art Festival is Welcome, But Not the Huge Crowds," by The New York Times'Helene Stapinski. The 13th annual free "Figment Arts Festival" on Roosevelt Island is overwhelmed by 30,000 visitors. "Huge crowds forced the tram to shut down and the bridge to close, overwhelming the subway platform." Makes you wonder why civic conferences, open free to the public, dealing with the most precious matters of livelihood, peace, and justice beg to fill the empty seats.

"If Trump Doesn't Warrant Impeachment, Who Does?" by The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. It's useful to have Robinson list many of Trump's impeachable offenses in one place. He still left out several serious acts such as blatantly, openly dismantling the enforcement of health and safety laws in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the law and conducting illegal wars without Congressional declarations and appropriations.

"The Cybersecurity 202: Democratic Base Fired Up by Effort to Ban Internet-Connected Voting Machines." By Joseph Marks of The Washington Post. Why not an easy solution? While we are at it, why not adopt the Canadian system of paper ballots fully counted by 11pm on election day in that vast country with no proprietary software and corrupt procurement of voting machines.

"When will the Republican Silence on Trump End?" An op-ed by William S. Cohen, former Senator from Maine and Secretary of Defense. Hmm, when will Mr. Cohen decide to practice what he preaches and run against Trump in the Republican primaries?

"Why are so many doctors burning out? Tons of real and electronic paperwork," by Daniel Marchalik in The Washington Post. Physicians are quitting because they have too little time to practice medicine. Not so in Canada where they have Medicare for all and almost no billing nightmares for themselves and their patients.

Newspaper publishers want readers to discover that print versions of newspapers can expose you to content that you don't already agree with or like online. You aren't likely to go searching for an article saying "You can't stop Robocalls, You Shouldn't Have to." The New York Times put Brian Chen's article on this topic on a page for you. By reading the print edition of a newspaper, you might just see something that your online news alerts or search engine algorithms don't automatically present.

(c) 2019 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

How The Democratic Party Strangled Black Politics
By Glen Ford

Nothing changes on the electoral scene, and little at the grassroots level, unless the structure of capitalist hegemony over political discourse in the U.S. -- the corporate duopoly -- is broken.

Long, long ago -- in the late 1970s, to be more precise - I spent a Washington-to-New York AMTRAK ride talking politics with Black Detroit Congressman John Conyers, whom I considered a friend. The Congressional Black Caucus numbered only sixteen members at that time, less than a third its current size, and Conyers was among its most left-leaning members, along with the Bay Area's Ron Dellums and Gus Savage, the former labor activist from Chicago. There were no right wing members of the Black Caucus.

Since Conyers had no problem describing himself as a "socialist," and routinely won re-election with more than 80 percent of the vote in his overwhelmingly Black district, I asked him why he remained in the Democratic Party, which was - then, as now - dominated by warmongering servants of capital. Conyers seemed shocked at the question. "The party would destroy me if I ran outside of it," the Congressman replied, a look of horror on his still-youthful face, as if I had proposed that he go swimming in a shark tank.

I remember that conversation as the moment when a light went out in my head, leaving a deep foreboding. My own journalistic project, which I dubbed, "Merging the Media, the Masses and the Movement" was riding high. "America's Black Forum," the first Black nationally syndicated news interview program on commercial television, which debuted the same week as Alex Haley's Roots miniseries, was making U.S. and global news every week and consistently beating Issues and Answers, Face the Nation and Meet the Press in the Washington, DC ratings, despite -- or more likely because of -- its very Left perspective.. My weekday employer, the Mutual Black Radio Network, provided hourly newscasts to 85 radio stations, about the same number of affiliates as claimed by our competition, the National Black Network. Together, the two networks reached almost the whole of Black America -- a truly national Black information system.

Vietnam had been fully liberated a few years earlier, and Marxist-led movements were triumphing in the former Portuguese colonies of southern Africa, with decisive assistance from Cuba -- victories that were savored and shared by the still-active remnants of the African American liberation movement. The CIA had just been bludgeoned by the Church Committee of the Senate for its role as global hit man, followed by months of House committee hearings on the domestic assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and others. It looked like the spooks had lost their mojo.

But within a decade, one of the radio networks that had filled Black America with hourly news broadcasts would be gone, and the other vastly shrunken. Ultimately, Black radio news would go extinct, replaced by pockets of uniformed talk that young people mistake for news. The Soviet Union tottered and then disintegrated, depriving global socialist movements of sanctuary, aid, arms and international infrastructure. Republican Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 campaign in blood-stained Neshoba County, Mississippi, so that every cracker in the country would know where he stood on the color line. Reagan then proceeded to systematically roll back the New Deal and Great Society, a vandalization joyously joined by the next Democrat to win the White House, Bill Clinton, who kicked off his campaign in the Klan's hallowed ground of Stone Mountain, Georgia. Lest anyone mistake what time it was, campaign photos showed "New Democrat" Clinton with a backdrop of Black prisoners in chains.

Soon, half the Congressional Black Caucus would say Yes to a "crime" bill that greatly accelerated the Mass Black Incarceration regime that was already in high gear when John Conyers and I had our late-Seventies Amtrak chat. Back then, there was no identifiable pro-corporate faction within the Black Caucus because labor union contributions made up the bulk of members' campaign chests. But by the turn of the 21st century, Black incumbents were no longer "safe," as the corporate Right set its sights on Black Democratic districts, ousting Alabama's Earl Hilliard and Georgia's Cynthia McKinney in 2002, replacing them with Black rightwing Democrats, and almost installing the private school voucher-pushing Cory Booker as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. By 2005, the Congressional Black Caucus was voting with the corporate telecomsin greater proportion than the Democratic House Caucus as a whole - and the next year the corporate Right succeeded in putting Booker in Newark's city hall.

John Conyers and about ten other "left-liberals"-- hardly anyone mentioned the word "socialist" anymore -- were a distinct minority in a Caucus that had swollen to more than 40 members (now 53, plus two senators). Black America had achieved numerical representation in the lower chamber of Congress roughly equal to its percentage of the U.S. population, but bearing no resemblance to Black America's actual political makeup. The "representationist" imperative of Black politics -- the desire that Black people be "represented" in all aspects of U.S. society -- had triumphed, but Black left, self-determinationist politics had lost its voice, almost entirely.

When the racialized disaster capitalist Katrina apocalypse uprooted much of Black New Orleans in 2005, Black America was horrified, outraged and ready to fight. Virtually every Black church, civic and social organization sprang forward with a Katrina outreach, aid or protest project. A true national Black political mobilization was possible, but was smothered by the corporate-dominated Democratic Party, which has infested every nook and cranny of the Black polity. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, fearing that a Black national uproar over Katrina would harm the Party's chances of winning control of the House in 2006, not only refused to hold Democratic hearings on Katrina, but ordered the Black Caucus to boycott Republican Katrina hearings, as well. When Rep. Cynthia McKinney - who had briefly recaptured her Atlanta seat -- violated Pelosi's edict, she was shunned and isolated by most of the Black Caucus, including John Conyers, who hoped to assume the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee in a Democrat-controlled House.

Conyers got his chairmanship with the Democratic sweep in 2006, but Black people were now deep into their fourth decade without a grassroots movement. Two generations of Blacks no longer had even a memory of what a mass movement looks like, or how to make a demand. But the worst was yet to come with the advent of the First Black U.S. President. His election was the ultimate achievement of Black "representationist" politics, ironically made possible by the geopolitical disaster in Iraq, which required that U.S. imperialism put on a radically different face (in symbolic racial, not political terms). For the first time since the post-civil rights era, Black Democrats abandoned their old stand-by "Marshal Plan for the Cities" so as not to encumber Barack Obama with even a pro-forma demand. It appeared that Black politics, at least of the kind practiced within the bounds of the Democratic Party, was dead - as if senatorial candidate Obama was being prophetic when he told the 2004 Democratic convention, "...there is no Black America, only the United States of America." (Now that Obama has left the White House, Black Democrats have resurrected the "Marshal Plan.")

Obama proved, in the flesh, that any Black politician deemed acceptable as president by the corporate chiefs of the Democratic Party can get away with more crimes against African Americans and the world in general than white presidents. Obama continued George Bush's wars and started some of his own, completed the military occupation of the African continent, and fielded vast legions of jihadists as U.S. imperial foot soldiers in Libya and Syria, while rescuing the financial criminal class from the ruin of their own creation. He did absolutely nothing to save Black folks, who lost half their collective wealth. Any white Democratic president would probably have responded more positively to the Black economic disaster, if only because Black people would have brought more pressure on a white chief executive.

But a change of color cannot arrest the objective decline of the U.S. imperial order, at home and abroad. Organized discontent did manifest itself in the Obama era, directed at "the 1%" and the cops, the domestic army of Black occupation. The mobilizations of the Occupy Movement and what came to be known as Black Lives Matter both immediately collided with cops nominally overseen by Democrats. Occupy was shut down in 2011 on Obama's orders in coordinated actions of mostly Democratic local governments and the FBI, while most of the sites of Black anti-cop protests were also Democrat controlled. Although the Democratic National Committee made a show of endorsing Black Lives Matter, Black Democrats fought tooth and nail to derail the first Black grassroots movement in two generations. But thanks to these two movements, the legitimacy of the rule of the rich and their police - and of Black Misleadership Class operatives like Al Sharpton - was severely eroded.

In the 1980s, Rep. John Conyers held hearings around the country, tracking police brutality. Today's Black Caucus sleeps, eats and votes with the enemy. Eighty percent of the Caucus voted in 2014 to continue the Pentagon's infamous 1033 program that distributes military weapons, gear and training to local police - a program that President Obama increased 24-fold. Last year, 75 percent of the Black Caucus supported a bill to make police a protected class and treat assaults on cops as hate crimes.

The more Black Democrats get elected to Congress, the worse they get. Except for Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, every Black Democrat elected in 2016 and 2018 is a party hack and servant of capital.

Thanks to the Occupy Movement, an old white leftish politician found his voice and ran for president in 2016 on a New Deal reform program he called "socialist," putting the term back in polite conversation. But you can't "occupy" the oligarch's party; you can only be co-opted by it. The best thing that can come out of Bernie Sanders' second attempt to force the Democratic Party to disobey the Lords of Capital would be a breakup of the Party, leading to significant desertions of leftish activists and rank and file. Nothing changes on the electoral scene, and little at the grassroots level, unless the structure of capitalist hegemony over political discourse in the U.S. -- the corporate duopoly -- is broken.

Sanders' platform - Medicare for All, $15 wage, free public college, Green New Deal - is supported by super-majorities of 80 percent and more. These reforms would bust the austerity regime wide open, an absolutely unacceptable outcome for a ruling class that is trying to prepare the people for a future of mass precarity. That's why the Lords of Capital have allowed/instructed Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and others to pretend to support Medicare for All and other Sanders proposals -- to confuse and dilute super-majority sentiment. Cory Booker took more money from Big Pharma than any other senator in 2014, and will return to his sugar daddies' pockets when his 2020 election season diversion is over.

If four out of five voters support Medicare for All, then upwards of 90 percent of Blacks want to see the program passed into law. But only 32 of the 53 Black lawmakers in the House have signed on to Rep. Pramila Jayapal's companion measure to Sander's Senate bill. And half of them are lying, following Booker's lead, as an election season scam.

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

President Donald Trump, on board Air Force One gestures while speaking to members of the traveling press corps 06 Oct 2018

Trump Kicks Off Re-Election Campaign: Get Ready For 'Billionaire Populist II: The Sequel'
Campaign 2020 is shaping up as a contest of populist visions
By Matt Taibbi

Most coverage of Donald Trump's re-election campaign to date has focused on polls, specifically two: a Fox survey that showed Trump losing to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in a hypothetical one-on-one (but beating other Democrats) and Trump's own internal polling that, to the glee of reporters, leaked, showing him trailing Biden by a ton in a head to head matchup.

The latter revelation was particularly humorous given that Trump later tweeted that "only fake polls" showed him behind the "Motley Crew," his new term for the Democratic field.

Polls aside, Trump's launch is already notable for the themes he's choosing to stress. He released a video Monday re-hashing his 2016 populist formula. It's not often that a sitting president promises to take on Washington, but he did it. "We're taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people," it says. "It's the people, you're the people, you won the election." We should expect more rhetoric along these lines tonight.

Last time, it was an awesome display of chutzpah when the billionaire scion of inherited wealth ran and won as a champion of the common voter. If he manages to repeat the feat this time by running from inside the White House as a political outsider - while doing one-hour ABC specials bragging about how awesome it is to travel by Air Force One and Marine helicopter - it might be time to admit Trump's only peer in the annals of con artistry will be the guy who sold the Eiffel Tower twice.

That Trump continues to present himself as a populist isn't surprising, since it worked last time. What's interesting is that much of the Democratic field appears to be gearing up to use the same strategy. This would be a departure from 2016, where the battle lines coalesced around a theme that ultimately cut against Democrats: experience and competence versus change and upheaval. Trump ran on blowing it all up and won.

This time around, Democratic campaigns seem to recognize voters are still in detonation mode. Yahoo Finance just ran a piece describing the 2020 race as likely to be "competing visions of economic populism between Senator Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump."

This doesn't mean the general election will be between Trump and Sanders. It does however suggest that the substantive issues of next summer's national debate will revolve around whose campaign provides the most plausibly sweeping corrective to the failures of modern American capitalism.

As Yahoo puts it: "In a development that experts say is a reflection of the public's increasingly fraught relationship with unfettered free markets, virtually all major Democratic contenders have pushed populist platforms."

If there's an early theme to the Democratic stumpery in places like Iowa, it's been the idea of using the government to intervene in the markets to correct systemic inequities, using policies that would have been non-starters just a few years ago.

With the proposal of his "Economic Bill of Rights," Sanders has planted a flag firmly on one side of the debate, offering guarantees for housing, a job with a $15 per hour fair wage, single-payer health care, and retirement.

Numerous candidates have proposed some version of a "Green New Deal," with Washington governor Jay Inslee stressing the issue the most. His spokesperson Jamal Raad calls Inslee's plan a "full-scale mobilization of the federal government to defeat climate change," one that includes a plan to create 8 million jobs over 10 years.

Former Housing Secretary JuliAn Castro toured a trailer park in Waukee and talked about spiking rents, promising relief.>Calling affordable housing a "human right," Castro has proposed tax cuts for anyone paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing.

On the education front, 18 of the 23 Democratic candidates have come out in favor of some form of free college tuition, with Castro, Elizabeth Warren, and Sanders promising free tuition at all public higher institutions. Multiple Democratic candidates have endorsed a federal jobs guarantee program, with Sanders, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and New Jersey's Cory Booker being the most vocal. This comes on the heels of polls showing majorities of voters in all 50 states being in favor of some kind of jobs guarantee program - even states won by Trump.

On health care, many of the candidates claim to be in favor of Medicare-for-All, including Booker and California's Kamala Harris, both co-sponsors of a Sanders Medicare-for-All bill (although those two have walked back their support somewhat).

A few candidates have gone to places even Sanders has not. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang's plan is to pay $1000 a month in Universal Basic Income or, as he calls it, a "freedom dividend."

"Who can be against a freedom dividend?" he's said. "What kind of asshole do you have to be?"

The Trump version of interventionist populism is a little less ideological and a little more opportunistic, similar to an Asiatic khan who hands out camels when he hears grousing inside a tent. Earlier this year, Trump was on his way to visit an LNG plant in Louisiana and had to cross a bridge over the Calcaisieu River. Unimpressed with what he saw, he ended up offering Louisianans money for a new bridge if elected. He just signed a bill for $19 billion in disaster relief for the Florida panhandle, and when his trade war with China resulted in a threat of retaliatory tariffs against American agribusiness, Trump doled out $16 billion in aid to farmers.

Trump's populist credentials owe a lot to his omnivorous borrowing from the rhetoric of countless anti-establishment campaigns, past and present - from the anti-interventionism of Ron Paul, to the "outside the box" campaign of fellow non-politician Herman Cain, and even to Sanders, whom he often praised on the trail, seemingly as a way to tweak Hillary Clinton (Trump said at one point in April of 2016 that Bernie was "telling the truth" about Hillary).

Since becoming president, Trump has been touting his commitment to "forgotten Americans," a theme ironically culled from another insurgent campaign that targeted angry white middle class voters: the late 2008 primary run of Hillary Clinton. The Mark Penn-designed "invisible America" stump theme helped Hillary win Pennsylvania and nearly turn things around against Barack Obama.

"Invisible Americans" was itself an echo of Bill Clinton's "forgotten middle class" concept, which in turn was an echo of Richard Nixon's "silent majority," etc. Campaign faux-populism is so constantly recycled, it's often difficult to trace the original author of the false promises.

In 2015-2016, Trump's prescriptions for change often involved pledges to get on the phone and alter history with the force of his Trumpiness. The Ford motor company planning to move a plant to Mexico? "I wouldn't let it happen," candidate Trump promised.

Trump also promised to take on the Wall Street guys who were "getting away with murder," and jack up their taxes. "The hedge fund people make a lot of money and they pay very little tax," he said as a candidate. "I want to lower taxes for the middle class." He went after both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for ties to Goldman Sachs.

Years later, we know how a lot of this turned out. He didn't raise taxes on the rich, but did the opposite, giving them a historic tax break (middle class voters will see some cuts, just not as much). Soon after election, he put a slew of the same Goldman execs he railed against as a candidate in his White House. As a result you'll see a lot of quotes like one from former Obama official Karine Jean-Pierre, who said voters "just won't buy" Trump as an outsider going forward.

But there's been so much upheaval, conflict, and overall weirdness in America in the last two years that Trump may end up benefitting just from the perception of things being different. A CNN poll from earlier this year showed 76 percent of Americans believed Trump created "significant changes" in the country, and the split on whether those changes were positive versus negative was blurrier than you'd guess - 33 percent in favor, 37 percent against.

Those numbers don't sound all that great for Trump, until one considers that voters last time consistently said they supported change even if they didn't know what the change in question would be. Trump, just by being Trump, has a path to winning the "change agent" mantle in any theoretical general election matchup.

It's why people like Trump campaign manager Tim Murtaugh are able to say, without irony, that Trump "promised to go to Washington and shake things up, and he certainly has." If Barack Obama offered Hope and Change, Trump mostly just offers change - but his underestimated strength as a politician is that he's always understood a lot of America is crazy, pessimistic and depressed enough to settle just for that.

Democrats in 2016 ran on not being Donald Trump, which seemed at the time like it should be enough. There are polls out already this time suggesting the same strategy could work this time. That's probably dangerous thinking. Democrats promising radical action meanwhile are probably on to something, not just as a way to re-take the White House, but because the country needs and wants it. Major structural reform is long overdue in America, and if Democrats don't promise it, just watch tonight - Donald Trump will.

(c) 2018 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

Trump To Working Class: Adios Chumps

By Jim Hightower

We have a president who mistakes price for value. Thus, to measure America's economic health, he simply checks the price of corporate stocks. And that tells him the economy is great, for since he's been in office, Wall Street has been whizzing!

Unfortunately, though, it's whizzing on you and me. That's because Wall Street is an inequality machine. One, its rules allow top executives to jack up their own wealth by artificially inflating their corporation's stock prices; two, big investors favor corporations that offshore jobs, cut wages, and otherwise knock down workers.

Worse, while he pretends to be a champion for America's workers, he's been a one-man working-class wrecking crew, systematically destroying employee rights and protections against the abuses of corporate bosses. On everything from overtime pay and minimum wage to workplace safety and the right to form a union, Trump & Company has sided with corporate interests over working stiffs - essentially saying to workers: You're on your own. Adios, chumps.

So, the economic "boom" that he so vaingloriously talks about is actually the sound of the middle-class crashing. That thunderous boom-boom-boom represents millions of Americans who're living paycheck to paycheck, who have little or no savings and inadequate health coverage, who can't afford the ripoff drug prices Big Pharma is being allowed to charge, who're sinking in debt - and all they're getting from Trump are his vapid political rallies, shouting "MAGA,"" Make America Great Again.

Inequality doesn't just happen - it's caused by the deliberate actions of power elites. Far from reducing inequality, Trump has intentionally escalated the corporate war on working-class Americans. Under his regime, nearly half of all new income today is going to the wealthiest 1 percent. Political sloganeering aside, America won't be great again until all Americans - not just millionaires - are actually doing great.

(c) 2019 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

Justice Shirley Abrahamson

Justice Shirley Abrahamson Set The Record Straight
By John Nichols

Retiring Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson was recognized by other justices in May after the conclusion of her last oral arguments. In honoring her colleague, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley noted Abrahamson was listed among 100 "Great American Judges" in a 2003 book of the same name alongside historical figures such as John Marshall and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

At the door to the chamber where the Supreme Court of the great state of Wisconsin convenes itself, there is a bust of Edward George Ryan, the Irish immigrant who was one of the ablest lawyers in the Wisconsin Territory, an essential delegate to the first state constitutional convention and the chief justice of the high court.

Ryan is honored for several reasons but, primarily, for a prophetic address that he delivered to the graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1873, on the eve of his appointment to the Supreme Court. In that address, Ryan warned: "There is a looming and new dark power ... The accumulation of individual wealth seems to be greater than it ever has been since the downfall of the Roman Empire. The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economic conquests only, but for political power. For the first time really in our politics money is taking the field as an organized power."

Ryan urged the students to consider the fact that "an aristocracy of money is essentially the coarsest and rudest, the most ignoble and demoralizing, of all aristocracies." And he counseled: "Here it comes, a competitor for social ascendancy. It is entitled to fear, if not respect. The question will arise, and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine. Which shall rule - wealth or man; which shall lead - money or intellect; who shall fill public stations - educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?" Lawyers and jurists would be called, he said, to guard against a circumstance where "mere money, the gamblers stake in Wall Street" might prevail over "justice truly administered."

In the audience that day was a young Robert Marion La Follette, who answered Ryan's call by forging a progressive movement that declared "the will of the people shall be the law of the land." That movement made Wisconsin over as America's "laboratory of democracy" and shaped most of what is good and noble about this state. In the history and myth of the movement, Ryan achieved an iconic status. He was the secular Jeremiah, the judicial prophet, who saw plutocracy coming and urged young lawyers to "put on your professional armor" in defense democracy.

I came of age in a family that revered Ryan, so I was a bit surprised when former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who was also revered in my family, raised an eyebrow as we considered the bust of her predecessor on a summer afternoon many years ago. If there was anyone who had served on the court with so righteous a faith in justice as Ryan, I thought, it has to be Abrahamson. What could she possibly have against Edward Ryan? While he had anticipated the rise of corporate special interests, she explained, he had not anticipated her.

Abrahamson recalled the case of Lavinia Goodell, the first woman admitted to practice law in Wisconsin. When Goodell applied in 1876 for permission to argue cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Ryan rejected her - and all women. He argued that allowing women to practice law would be a "departure from the order of nature."

Ryan worried that admitting Goodell to practice before the court would "emasculate the constitution itself and include females in the constitutional right of male suffrage and male qualification. Such a rule would be one of judicial revolution, not of judicial construction."

The former chief justice was wrong, and Abrahamson was right to raise an eyebrow. As the first woman ever to serve on the state Supreme Court, as the first woman to serve as chief justice, and as one of the ablest of all interpreters of the state and national constitutions, the jurist who will step down this summer after serving for 43 years years on the high court has always recognized the nuances and the complexities of her position. She has struck many balances. And she has done so with regard to that bust of Ryan. She has understood that the pioneering justice was prescient, on some issues, and that he earned himself an honored place in the arc of Wisconsin history. Yet she also understood that it was inappropriate to heap unquestioning praise on the man.

A few years ago, Abrahamson told Inside Track, the newsletter of the State Bar of Wisconsin, that she always says a silent "hi" when she passes the bust of Ryan. "And I hope he's saying 'hi' back and smiling," she added. Ryan, she explained, was a "very, very able justice of this court."

As regards his wrongheaded response to Lavinia Goodell's application, well, Abrahamson said, "I hope that he would be convinced now" that women can and should be lawyers - and chief justices of state and national supreme courts.

There will be many honors accorded Shirley Abrahamson in the days, weeks and months to come - including a program at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18, in the rotunda of the state Capitol. All of these honors will be deserved. But I am rather hoping that, someday, a bust of the greatest chief justice in this state's history will be placed opposite that of her predecessor. Ideally, Justice Abrahamson will stand just a bit higher, in recognition of the clarity and grace with which she has proven Edward Ryan wrong.

(c) 2019 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.

Chief Tecumseh's Curse
By James Donahue

There are some spooky historical events hovering over the office of the United States President that go beyond natural explanation.

Back in 1811 William Henry Harrison, then serving as a general in the army, got into a skirmish with a Shawnee tribe at Tippecanoe Creek, Ohio, that was attempting to break away from the reservation and return to their old ways. Those Shawnees were led by Chief Tecumseh, who later led a band of 2000 warriors against the Americans in the War of 1812.

The union troops won both battles. Chief Tecumseh held such a grudge that when Harrison declared his candidacy for the presidency in 1840, the old chief cursed him. Tecumseh declared that if Harrison won the office "he will not finish his term. He will die in office. And when he dies you will remember my brother. You think that I have lost my powers. I who caused the sun to darken and Red Men to give up firewater. But I tell you Harrison will die. And after him, every Great Chief chosen every 20 years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people."

Harrison was the ninth elected president and just as Tecumseh predicted, he became the first president to die in office. His term lasted only one month. He became ill and on April 4, 1841, shortly after taking office, and died.

The death list continued right on cue for the next 120 years.

--Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. He was murdered in 1865.

--James Garfield, elected 1880, took office in 1881, assassinated Sept. 19, 1881.

--William McKinley, elected to his second term in 1990, assassinated on Sept. 14, 1901.

--Warren G. Harding, elected 1920, died of a heart attack on Aug. 2, 1923.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected 1940, died of ill health on Apr. 12, 1945.

--John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, assassinated Nov. 22, 1963.

Kennedy was the last American president to die in office, thus his murder appears to have ended the old Tecumseh curse. But the Kennedy assassination and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln have jolted historians with a long list of synchronicities that have been hard to explain:

--Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846. John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.
--Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860. John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.
--Both wives lost a child while living in the White House. Both wives were with their husbands when they were shot.
--Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.
--Both Presidents were shot in the head.
--Both men were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.
--Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808. Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.
--Both alleged assassins were themselves assassinated before they were tried.
--Both alleged assassins are remembered by their three names.
--Lincoln was shot at the Ford Theater. Kennedy was shot in a Lincoln car made by the Ford Motor Company.
--Lincoln was shot in a theater and his assassin fled to a warehouse. Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and his assassin ran into a theater.
--Ugly conspiracy theories have evolved around both assassinations.
In a book "Mysteries of the Unexplained," published by Reader's Digest, 1982, we found another interesting synchronicity linked to the Kennedy assassination:

--A federal mint in Dallas issued a dollar bill just two weeks before Kennedy was shot there. It is now known as the Kennedy assassination bill. Since Dallas is the location of the 11th of 12 Federal Reserve Bank districts, the bill has the letter K, or the 11th letter of the alphabet, printed on its face. Also the number 11 appears in each corner. The serial number of this bill begins with K and ends with A, suggesting "Kennedy Assassination." Kennedy was shot on the eleventh month of the year. Adding the two elevens on either side of the bill makes 22, the date of the shooting. The series number is 1963, the year Kennedy died.

(c) 2019 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

We all need to breathe. Climate disruption is making that more difficult.

Allergy Season Is Bad This Year. Thank Climate Disruption
By William Rivers Pitt

If you think allergy season this year is especially severe, you are not wrong. Even people who do not normally deal with pollen allergies are suffering, and those with serious allergies or other respiratory issues are under siege by a marauding army of windblown dots of pollen. This is on top of the smoke pouring into the U.S. from Canadian wildfires. As with so much else today, the stark reality of climate disruption is playing a part in our misery.

More than half the states in the continental U.S. are enduring pollen counts ranging from "High" to "Very High." Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas are an inland sea of allergens, and every Southern state from Mississippi to South Carolina and up through Virginia are painted yellow and orange with the misery-inducing spores. The story is the same out West from Washington State to California, and from Idaho to Arizona and New Mexico. Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois are likewise feeling the sting.

Harsh allergy seasons are nothing new in the human experience, and I am certainly not trying to pull a Reverse Inhofe by claiming climate disruption is to blame for your car looking like someone slathered it in cake batter every morning. The science here, however, is entirely straightforward.

"For the first time in human history, on May 13, Earth's concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 415 parts per million (ppm). Before the 19th century's industrial revolution, the CO2 concentration was at about 280 ppm," writes Dahr Jamail for Truthout. "The current dramatic rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is unparalleled in Earth's history dating back hundreds of thousands of years, based on ice-core data."

Put plainly, C02 is plant food. The more plant food there is in the air, the more pollen trees and other plants will produce. Combine that with the historically wet spring season felt by the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest, and all the ingredients for a pollen explosion are in place.

"If you remember your basic biology from elementary school," writes meteorologist Dave Epstein for the Boston Globe, "you'll recall that carbon dioxide is what plants take in, while they give off oxygen. If you increase the carbon dioxide, you essentially give plants more food and many of these are responding in kind ... The projections moving forward are for even more pollen production. By the time we get to the middle of the 21st century, carbon dioxide is expected to be near 600 parts per million, and this will rapidly increase the amount of pollen being produced by all plants."

Exacerbating an already wheezy season is the smoke pouring out of Canada from wildfires that are unprecedented in both size and number. One such, the Chuckegg Creek Fire in Alberta, is almost the size of Rhode Island. In seven Canadian provinces and two territories, at least 87 other wildfires are burning.

Here in the U.S., a swath of states from Washington State to Maine and down to Oklahoma are hacking their way through a thick cloud of Canadian woodsmoke. Smoke from the Alberta wildfires is so vast that it is painting the sunsets in Great Britain, an entire ocean away.

As with the brutally high pollen count, climate disruption is playing a distinct role in Canada's worsening fire seasons.

"As the Canadian north grows warmer and drier for longer periods, the destruction is expected to get worse," writes Amanda Coletta for The Washington Post. "Wildfires are now scorching more than 6 million acres of land here per year. That's twice what they burned in the 1970s - and it's projected to double again by the end of the century ... More broadly, analysts say, intense wildfire activity is increasing, and fire seasons are getting longer. They say climate change is at least partly to blame."

The problem of climate-driven drought and fire is, of course, not relegated solely to Canada. "As western states like California continue to reel from last year's onslaught of fires, South Asia is in the midst of a staggering heat wave," reports E.A. Crunden for ThinkProgress. "Areas within the Arctic circle, meanwhile, are shattering their own heat records."

More than 25 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma. Many of them live in poorer communities that are more likely to be saddled with the industrial pollution that is helping to disrupt the climate in the first place.

Another 14 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Millions more endure various other respiratory distress syndromes. With the pollen count and the smoke from wildfires continuing to enter the atmosphere at an increasing rate, the threat to the health of those with chronic respiratory conditions is acute.

We all need to breathe. Climate disruption is making that more difficult for everyone. Donald Trump can suggest we cut down all the trees, as he did in response to last year's California conflagration, but that will not solve the problem, because there is no solving the problem. (Also, notably, killing plants is the fastest way to end the world - and forest regeneration is a key tool in combatting climate change.)

So, how can we address respiratory dangers? We can mitigate the situation somewhat if we act now to eliminate fossil fuels and take other immediate, global measures to lessen the blow. One roadmap has already been laid out in detail within the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts). However, in the final analysis and given all the damage that is already baked into the atmosphere, all these new perils are merely heralds of what is to come.

(c) 2019 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.

From The Shooting Someone On 5th Avenue Files
By Heather Digby Parton

GOP senators say that if the House passes articles of impeachment against President Trump they will quickly quash them in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has broad authority to set the parameters of a trial.

While McConnell is required to act on articles of impeachment, which require 67 votes - or a two-thirds majority - to convict the president, he and his Republican colleagues have the power to set the rules and ensure the briefest of trials.

"I think it would be disposed of very quickly," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

"If it's based on the Mueller report, or anything like that, it would be quickly disposed of," he added.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell's leadership team, said "nothing" would come of impeachment articles passed by the House.

Given the Senate GOP firewall, Cornyn, who's also a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he doubts that Democrats will commence the impeachment process.

"It would be defeated. That's why all they want to do is talk about it," he said. "They know what the outcome would be."

Graham is the only one who qualified that by referring to the Mueller investigation. And he didn't mean it. What they are all saying is that nothing discovered in an impeachment inquiry will result in a conviction no matter what it is. They are making that quite clear.

There was a time when Senators would say something like, "nothing I've heard so far adds up to an impeachable offense as far as I'm concerned, but of course, I will look at all the evidence before I render a judgment" (because I at least pay lip service to our constitution and legal system to show I'm not a total hack.) They don't bother with such niceties anymore --- the old "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue" thing is dead and buried. It's pure partisan power playing now accompanied by WWE style trash talk.

That's why worrying about whether or not Trump is convicted in the Senate is so absurd. Republicans will not even attempt to put on some kind of a real trial. People know what a fair process looks like and they will see that the fix was in. Sure, hardcore Republicans will cheer their team. But that's only about 40% of the public at best. For the rest of the country, they will be exposed for what they are. Democrats should not be afraid of that.

(c) 2019 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Women's Rights Are Human Rights poster at rallyWomen's rights are necessary for stabilizing
population growth, creating a better world and ensuring the well-being and survival of our species.

Women's Rights Offer Best Solution To World's Woes
By David Suzuki

What's the top solution for resolving the human-caused climate crisis? According to Paul Hawken, it's educating girls and improving family planning.

Hawken is the author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. "Drawdown" is "the point at which levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and then steadily decline, ultimately reversing global warming."

For the book, now grown into a project and website, Hawken and a team of researchers used peer-reviewed evidence to find the top 100 solutions to climate disruption under seven categories: energy, food, women and girls, buildings and cities, land use, transport and materials. Solutions range from solar and wind power to farmland restoration and marine permaculture.

The study looked at three scenarios. "Plausible" solutions

"are adopted at a realistically vigorous rate over the time period under investigation, adjusting for estimated economic and population growth." "Drawdown" considers adoption of solutions optimized to achieve drawdown by 2050. "Optimum" is when "solutions achieve their maximum potential, fully replacing conventional technologies and practices within a limited, competitive market."

Although the top single solution is, surprisingly, refrigerant management, the best result comes from >combining two related solutions, educating girls and family planning, which fall at 6 and 7, respectively, on the list. Drawdown finds these measures could reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by 120 gigatonnes and human population by one billion by 2050.

According to Project Drawdown, "Access to education and voluntary family planning are basic human rights and should be secured simply because they are, yet significant gaps remain around the world today." Advancing these rights affects fertility rates and population growth, which drive "demand for food, transportation, electricity, buildings, goods, etc., all with attendant emissions." In addition to education and family planning, Project Drawdown includes addressing inequity in agriculture, mainly through equal access for women smallholders to "a range of resources, from land rights and credit to education and technology."

Educating girls would result in "improved livelihoods, delayed onset of marriage, delayed childbearing, and fewer children than peers with less education." Family planning, "including access to contraception and reproductive health resources," would reduce fertility rates and slow population growth. Providing "resources, financing, and training to women smallholder farmers around the world" would improve agricultural yields and reduce deforestation.

Drawdown team member Katharine Wilkinson notes that climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable people, including women. "There's greater risk of displacement, higher odds of being injured or killed during a natural disaster," she said at a TEDWomen talk in California last year. "Prolonged drought can precipitate early marriage, as families contend with scarcity. Floods can force last-resort prostitution as women struggle to make ends meet. These dynamics are most acute under conditions of poverty."

Education, family planning and women's rights are extremely important for many reasons - avoiding climate catastrophe is just one - but many forces worldwide, especially religious, have prevented women from being treated equally and with respect. In many parts of the U.S., a growing backlash against all forms of birth control, including abortion, is threatening hard-fought rights women have gained over many years.

Over the past 50 years, as exponential population growth has increasingly strained Earth's resources, the globally influential Catholic Church has remained steadfast in its opposition to all but "natural" birth control. That's despite Pope Francis's powerful 2015 encyclical regarding the need for change in the face of ecological crises such as human-caused global heating.

We've seen progress, but some is more in word than deed. The UN notes 143 countries had recognized constitutional equality between women and men by 2014, but 52 countries had not and, "Stark gender disparities remain in economic and political realms."

The UN also says many of its recent 17 sustainable development goals recognize "women's equality and empowerment as both the objective, and as part of the solution." There's no single solution to climate disruption and other environmental crises we've created. Our refusal to take necessary action for so long, even though we knew about the problems, means we have to urgently employ every means possible. Women's rights - including education, family planning and equal opportunity in all aspects of society - are necessary for stabilizing population growth, creating a better world and ensuring the well-being and survival of our species.

(c) 2019 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co_founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae, chick begging for food from parent, Antarctic Peninsula

In A Colony Of 40,000, Just Two Penguin Chicks Survived This Year
The planet is sounding all sorts of alarms-including with the mass death of birds.
By Charles P. Pierce

In A Colony Of 40,000, Just Two Penguin Chicks Survived This Year The planet is sounding all sorts of alarms-including with the mass death of birds. Here's a cheery thought to start the week. All over the world, for the past few years, birds have been starving to death. Some of it is attributable to those clever Chinese climate hoaxsters. Some of it also is attributable to general and casual environmental vandalism. But birds are starving to death all over the world.

(H/t to Ben See-@ClimateBen-on the electric Twitter machine for collecting all the stories.)

They've been starving in Alaska. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The birds, all of a species known as the common murre, appear to have starved to death, federal wildlife officials say, suggesting disruptions to the supply of herring and other fish that make up the birds' diet. A survey by wildlife officials over the weekend counted more than 8000 dead murres on the shores of one beach near Whittier, about 100 kilometres south-east of Anchorage. Local news video showed bodies of the black-and-white birds scattered on the beach and floating in the water offshore.

Wildlife officials say it's not yet known why the birds are starving. One possible explanation is that the birds' usual food supply - the schools of herring and other small fish usually found near the coast - have not materialised this year, perhaps because of changing climate or this year's extreme El Nino weather pattern. While generally plentiful elsewhere in Alaska, herring populations have been depressed in the Prince William Sound, scene of the 1983 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

They've been starving in Antarctica. From the Guardian:
The awful news that all but two penguin chicks have starved to death out of a colony of almost 40,000 birds is a grim illustration of the enormous pressure Antarctic wildlife is under. The causes of this devastating event are complex, from a changing climate to local sea-ice factors, but one thing penguins, whales and other marine life don't need is additional strain on food supplies.
Alaska Bird Deaths, Whittier, USA

Dead common murres lie washed up on a rocky beach in Whittier, Alaska. Federal scientists in Alaska are
looking for the cause of a massive die-off of one of the Arctic's most abundant seabirds, the common murre.

They've been starving in Australia. From the BBC:
Seabirds are starving to death on the remote Lord Howe Island, a crew filming for the BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic has revealed. Their stomachs were so full of plastic there was no room for food..."These birds are generalist predators," explained marine biologist Jennifer Lavers who works with the shearwater colony. "They'll eat just about anything they're given. That's what's allowed them to thrive - a lack of pickiness."

But when you put plastic in the ocean, it means they have no ability to detect plastic from non-plastic, so they eat it." Parent birds unwittingly feeding plastic to their chicks means that the birds emerge from their burrows with stomachs filled with plastic, and with insufficient nutrition to enable them set out to sea and forage for themselves.

They've been starving in the Netherlands. From
On the line was a coast-watch volunteer calling to tell him of reports of hundreds of dead guillemots washing up along the country's shores. "The next morning, my phone rang red-hot from callers all over reporting dead birds," Leopold, based at Wageningen University's marine research department in the northern port city of Den Helder, told AFP. "Alarm bells started ringing." Since early January, more than 20,000 dead guillemots have washed up dead on Dutch beaches-from the northern Wadden Islands to southwestern Zeeland..."All the birds show signs of severe starvation and we don't know why," said Leopold.
The planet is sounding all sorts of alarms, and the effects of the climate crisis are only the loudest. Birds are starving, all over the world.

(c) 2019 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote-

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government ~ lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
~~~ Patrick Henry

It's The Emoluments, Stupid. Impeach For Iran
By David Swanson

The constitutional ban on receiving gifts or benefits while in office from the U.S. government or state governments (domestic "emoluments" - Article II, Section 1) is absolute, not waivable by Congress, and not subject to proving any particular corrupting influence.

President Trump's lease of the Old Post Office Building in Washington D.C. for his Trump International Hotel violates the General Services Administration lease contract which states: "No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom." The GSA's failure to enforce that contract constitutes an emolument. A January 16, 2019, report by the GSA Inspector General confirmed this.

The paragraphs above are derived from the first of 21 articles of impeachment that RootsAction has drafted for Donald Trump. RootsAction launched this campaign on the day Trump was inaugurated, over two years ago. It may be finally gaining traction.

Not only is Trump unconstitutionally owning and profiting from his hotel in the Old Post Office Building, as well as numerous less prominent emoluments from state governments and the federal government, but he is also using his hotel for further corruption.

When representatives of foreign governments book rooms at Trump's hotel, he violates the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the domestic one. Lobbyists for the Saudi government paid for at least 500 nights at Trump's hotel in just a three-month period and Trump is now violating the will of Congress to ship deadly weapons to the Saudi government for use in the catastrophic war on Yemen.

When a wealthy Iraqi - with a record of receiving undisclosed sums from the CIA in exchange for "faulty" so-called "intelligence" that helped launch the war on Iraq - recently paid for 26 nights at Trump's hotel, as Nahro al-Kasnazan did, we may get another war out of it. Kasnazan is lobbying Trump for a war on Iran. This is out in the open, published prominently by the Washington Post.

Recently CBS News President Susan Zirinsky was asked why journalists are failing to hold Trump accountable as Nixon was held accountable during the Watergate era. As awful as U.S. corporate media often are, it's hard to argue with her response, which was basically this: Without a judiciary or a Congress that's taking action, journalism of the sort that removed Nixon has no impact anymore.

Of course, if we go back to the Lyndon Johnson era to the time when the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, while serious journalists like I.F. Stone were on the job, the corporate media was as useless as it is right now on lies about Iran.

What is it with warmongers and lies about ships? Everyone forgets FDR's lies about the Greer and the Kearney, and Dick Cheney's proposal to dress up Navy Seals as Iranians and shoot at them, but many remember the Lusitania, and many Remember the Maine! Of course, back in those days the video quality was superior to the Pentagon's latest film from the Persian Gulf. Still, the good old reliable "fog" of war has always allowed for plenty of "mishaps."

But the question is always the wrong one. What if Iran had attacked ships? Then prosecuting Iran in court for that crime would be appropriate. Committing a much, much larger crime after screaming about Iran's crime for a little while would simply be the commission of an enormous crime.

But crime is a daily occurrence with U.S. presidents who've been promised immunity from impeachment.

My personal view of impeachment is this: for every Latin American child who dies in a cage, for every Middle Eastern home that's bombed, for every year that's taken off the habitability of the earth's climate, you can take your bullshit theories of electoral justifications for not impeaching Trump and shove them up your assignment book. And if Iran is destroyed, you will have destroyed it. You will have blood up to your elbows. And I am not going to stand by and let you try to wash it off.

(c) 2019 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.

More Thoughts On Ellis Island
Looking forward, not back...
By Jane Stillwater

After my recent visit to Ellis Island, I sometimes find myself actually starting to feel jealous of all those poor downtrodden immigrants coming to America -- both in days gone by and right now. From yesterday's Ellis Island to today's southern border, these hopeful immigrants have all arrived here either by escaping from horrid 19th-century shtetls and 20th-century concentration camps in Europe, from that modern-day American-made nightmare in Honduras or from the squalid ICE-run concentration camps of Texas, Oklahoma or Mississippi.

Why? Why should I envy them? The poorest of the poor? The very meekest on earth?

Why? Because these poor, tattered and vulnerable immigrants living at the very bottom of humanity's social scale all possess something precious that the rest of us either don't have or have lost long ago: A reason, a purpose, a destination for their lives -- and it's not just to buy the latest iPhone or to make the next trip to Walmart or to spend hours online hating on anyone who doesn't look exactly like them.

These immigrants have true grit -- they are not just dogs in a manger, stuck in some rut where materialism is God, sucking up to their bosses, happily throwing the teaching of Jesus or even basic morality out the window if it causes even the slightest blister in their shoes -- souls filled with xenophobia, parroting every racist or corporatist lie they hear on TV, becoming mere dollar-store imitations of real men and women with actual beating hearts.

Like their European, Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian, Palestinian, Yemeni, African and American Indian counterparts before them, these modern-day immigrants from Honduras have been forced the hard way to know what is true and what's not. To quote the indomitable Mma Ramotswe, "They have a point to their lives." What is our point? We can only make Endless War for so long -- before the entire world falls apart. Is that our point?

Americans blindly look backwards to the imaginary wonderland of the 1950s, back when so many of us had been disingeniously rubber-stamped into an assembly-line conformity dominated by the Cold War and Joe McCarthy constantly telling us to "keep your mouth shut."

Immigrants from Honduras are on the move today, looking northward in search of the ideals of American "Democracy" and American "Freedom" that they have been constantly told about -- while most Americans who are already supposed to be living the dream are now all looking backward toward a dream that never was. Looking back to the days when their financial security came at a very steep price -- the price of Freedom and Democracy. "Keep your nose to the grindstone and your mouths shut."

Americans have come to believe their own myths. Instead of the truth. This is never a good thing.

But now it's time for us too, like the Hondurans and all the other immigrants to America before them, to throw everything that we can, especially "our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor," into also seeking true democracy. True freedom. Can Hondurans find this heroic Declaration of Independence hidden away in some American concentration camp on our southern border? Maybe. Can we ourselves find it in Washington DC or at Walmart? Definitely not.

Americans can never ever experience a true democracy or live in true freedom -- not in a country where we have concentration camps at our southern borders, where any kind of planned parenthood is not allowed, where we are constantly being mugged and frisked by the new income tax laws, where voter suppression is rampant, where we go into individual bankruptcy because we believe that TV commercials are more important than the Eye of a Needle and into national bankruptcy because our imperialistic military machine is stretched too thin because all our savings and future hopes and dreams are swallowed up by Death Eaters waging "Endless War" and where we all know for sure that the NSA is reading our mail.

0 Both our Honduran asylum-seekers of today and the ghosts of our Ellis Island survivors back in the day have one thing in common. They have nothing to lose -- and yet they still have hope. I'm so jealous of that. But we Americans? We have already lost all that -- and yet we don't even know that it's gone.

(c) 2019 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-

Heil Trump,

Dear Vorsitzende Perez,

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 plans to ram Biden down our throats while dismissing Global Warming, 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 "Political 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 07-13-2019. We salute you Herr Perez, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Trump's "Deep State" Is Trump's Corrupt State
By Robert Reich

Trump has been ramping up his "Deep State" rhetoric again. He's back to blaming a cabal of bureaucrats, FBI and CIA agents, Democrats, and "enemies of the people" in the mainstream media, for conspiring to remove him from office in order to allow the denizens of foreign shi*tholes to overrun America.

But with each passing day it's becoming clearer that the real threat to America isn't Trump's Deep State. It's Trump's Corrupt State.

Not since Warren G. Harding's sordid administration have as many grifters, crooks and cronies occupied high positions in Washington.

Trump has installed a Star Wars Cantina of former lobbyists and con artists, including several whose exploits have already forced them to resign, such as Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, and Michael Flynn. Many others remain.

When he was in Congress, the current White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from payday lenders, then proposed loosening regulations on them. Trump appointed Mulvaney acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of all things.

When he was Trump's special adviser on regulatory reform, Wall Street billionaire Carl Icahn sought to gut EPA's rule on ethanol credits which was harming his oil refinery investments.

Last week it was reported that a real estate company partly owned by Trump son-in-law and foreign policy advisor, Jared Kushner, has raked in $90 million from foreign investors since Kushner entered the White House, through a secret tax haven run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands. Kushner's stake is some $50 million.

All this takes conflict-of-interest to a new level of shamelessness.

What are Republicans doing about it? Participating in it.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who also happens to be the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has approved $78 million in grants for her husband's home state of Kentucky, including a highway-improvement project that had been twice rejected in the past. Chao has even appointed a special liaison to coordinate grants with McConnell's office.

Oh, did I say, McConnell is up for reelection next year?

News that a Cabinet secretary is streamlining federal funding for her husband's pet projects would be a giant scandal under normal circumstances. But in the age of Trump, ethics are out the window.

Congressman Greg Pence, who just happens to be the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, has spent more than $7,600 of his campaign funds on lodging at the Trump International Hotel in Washington since he was elected in November, although federal election law forbids politicians from using campaigns dollars to cover housing costs.

The Corrupt State starts with Trump himself, giving new meaning to the old adage about a fish rotting from the head down.

When foreign governments aren't currying favor with Trump by staying at his Washington hotel, they're using state-owned companies to finance projects that will line Trump's pocket, like China's $500 million entertainment complex in Indonesia that includes a Trump-branded hotel.

Trump claims the Deep State allows foreigners to take advantage of America. The reality is Trump's Corrupt State allows Vladimir Putin and his goon squad to continue undermining American democracy.

"I'd take it" if Russia again offered campaign help, Trump crowed last week, adding that he wouldn't necessarily tell the FBI about it. Just days before, Trump acknowledged "Russia helping me get elected" the first time.

Despite evidence that Russia is back hacking and trolling its way toward the 2020 election, Republican defenders of Trump's Corrupt State won't lift a finger.

Mitch McConnell refuses to consider any legislation on election security. He and Senate Republicans even killed a bill requiring campaigns to report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI and federal authorities.

The charitable interpretation is McConnell and his ilk don't want to offend Trump by doing anything that might appear to question the legitimacy of his 2016 win.

The less charitable view is Republicans oppose more secure elections because they'd be less likely to win them.

Trump and his Republican enablers are playing magicians who distract us by shouting "look here!" at the paranoid fantasy of a Deep State, while creating a Corrupt State under our noses.

But it's not a party trick. It's the dirtiest trick of our time, enabled by the most corrupt party in living memory.

(c) 2019 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

The Coming Show Trial Of Julian Assange
By Chris hedges

LONDON-On Friday morning I was in a small courtroom at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. Julian Assange, held in Belmarsh Prison and dressed in a pale-blue prison shirt, appeared on a video screen directly in front of me. Assange, his gray hair and beard neatly trimmed, slipped on heavy, dark-frame glasses at the start of the proceedings. He listened intently as Ben Brandon, the prosecutor, seated at a narrow wooden table, listed the crimes he allegedly had committed and called for his extradition to the United States to face charges that could result in a sentence of 175 years. The charges include the release of unredacted classified material that posed a "grave threat to human intelligence sources and the largest compromises of confidential information in the history of the United States." After the prosecutor's presentation, Assange's attorney, Mark Summers, seated at the same table, called the charges "an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights."

Most of us who have followed the long persecution of Assange expected this moment, but it was nevertheless deeply unsettling, the opening of the final act in a Greek tragedy where the hero, cursed by fortuna, or fate, confronts the dark forces from which there is no escape.

The publication of classified documents is not a crime in the United States, but if Assange is extradited and convicted it will become one. Assange is not an American citizen. WikiLeaks, which he founded and publishes, is not a U.S.-based publication. The message the U.S. government is sending is clear: No matter who or where you are, if you expose the inner workings of empire you will be hunted down, kidnapped and brought to the United States to be tried as a spy. The extradition and trial of Assange will mean the end of public investigations by the press into the crimes of the ruling elites. It will cement into place a frightening corporate tyranny. Publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian, which devoted pages to the WikiLeaks revelations and later amplified and legitimized Washington's carefully orchestrated character assassination of Assange, are no less panicked. This is the gravest assault on press freedom in my lifetime.

The WikiLeaks publisher was trapped for nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had been granted political asylum. He feared being sent to Sweden to face sexual offense allegations, which he has denied, and then extradited to the United States. Two months ago, although diplomatic missions are considered sovereign territory, he was physically dragged out of the embassy by British police when the new government of Ecuador revoked his asylum and the Ecuadorian citizenship that had been granted to him. (Assange retains his Australian citizenship.) He was transported to court within three hours of his arrest, given 15 minutes to prepare a defense and summarily handed a 50-week sentence for a dubious bail violation. He was sent to Belmarsh, a notorious high-security prison in southeast London.

On Thursday, the day before Assange appeared in court, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid advanced the process for his removal to the United States by signing an extradition request. It is a clear signal to the courts where the British government stands.

We know what will be done to Assange. It has been done to thousands of those we kidnapped and then detained in black sites around the world. Sadistic and scientific techniques of torture will be used in an attempt to make him a zombie. Assange, in declining health, was transferred two weeks ago to the hospital wing of the prison. Because he was medically unable to participate when the hearing was initially to be held, May 30, the proceeding was reset. Friday's hearing, in which he appeared frail and spoke hesitantly, although lucidly, set the timetable for his extradition trial, scheduled to take place at the end of February. All totalitarian states seek to break their political prisoners to render them compliant. This process will define Assange's existence over the next few months.

Listen to Chris Hedges' 2013 interview with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Assange's psychological and physical state, which includes a dramatic loss of weight that was apparent Friday, came as Nils Melzer, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, spoke out after he, with two physicians, went to Belmarsh Prison to assess Assange. Melzer said Assange had undergone prolonged psychological torture. He went on to criticize what he called the "judicial persecution" of Assange by Britain, the United States, Ecuador and Sweden. He warned that Assange would face a politicized show trial in the United States if he were extradited to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act, each carrying a potential sentence of 10 years, for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic cables, documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. An additional charge that he conspired to hack into a government computer carries a maximum sentence of five years.

At last week's hearing, Assange spoke only briefly.

He does not have access to a computer, and his attorneys have complained that the heavy restrictions imposed upon him make it nearly impossible for him to prepare his case.

"I know there has been an indictment brought against me," Assange said through the video conference system. "My lawyers have not yet given me the paperwork."

He raised objections to the prosecutor's charge that he and WikiLeaks attempted to hack into a U.S. government computer, insisting "WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher." The United States has charged him with offering to hack into a government computer to help Chelsea Manning-who passed the files and documents to WikiLeaks-conceal her identity. The government concedes, however, that no such hack ever took place.

"The prosecution attorney told the BBC yesterday I was wanted in the U.S. for computer hacking," he said. "This is unquestionably false. Even the U.S. admits there was no hack. No passwords were broken. There is no evidence that I, WikiLeaks or Chelsea Manning engaged in hacking. I have 175 years of my life at stake. This is a signal that the prosecution will misrepresent the charges to mislead the press."

The judge, Emma Arbuthnot, cut him off, saying "this is not the time to go into this."

Commenting in 2018 when Assange's lawyers requested that the warrant for his arrest be dropped, Arbuthnot said, "I accept that Mr. Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but, absent any evidence from Mr. Assange on oath, I do not find that Mr. Assange's fears were reasonable,"

This statement by the judge captures the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of the judicial persecution of Assange. She dismisses as unreasonable Assange's fears that if he voluntarily left the Ecuadorian Embassy he would be arrested by British police and extradited to the United States because he did not appear in court to express them. And yet, she is now presiding over his extradition trial.

This circular logic is not the only disturbing aspect of Judge Arbuthnot's overseeing of the Assange case. She is married to James Arbuthnot, who sits in the House of Lords, is a British Conservative Party politician, was the minister of state at the Ministry of Defense and for nine years was the chairman of the Defense Select Committee in the House of Commons, a committee that oversees the operation of the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces. Arbuthnot, who was reprimanded while a member of Parliament for diverting public funds to maintain his two homes, is a director at SC Strategy, established by John Scarlett, the former head of the British foreign intelligence service MI6. The politician also is on the advisory board of Thales UK, a huge arms manufacturer whose corrupt business practices, which included massive bribes to heads of state in exchange for arms contracts, were exposed when some of its internal documents were published by WikiLeaks.

The judge "has a strong conflict of interest," Melzer said from Vienna when I interviewed him by video link for my television show, "On Contact." "Her husband had been exposed by WikiLeaks."

Assange's lawyers have asked the judge to recuse herself. She has refused. > "I was able to visit Mr. Assange in Belmarsh Prison," Melzer said in the interview. "I was accompanied by two medical experts-a forensic expert and a psychiatrist. Both of them were specialized in identifying, examining and documenting psychological and physical torture. What we found was Mr. Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for a person who has been exposed to prolonged psychological torture. What we're talking about is severe traumatization. Chronic anxiety. Intense, constant stress, and an inability to relax or focus, to think in a structured, straight line. Someone who is in a constant, hyper-stimulated stage and can no longer relax."

"Psychological torture can have various consequences," Melzer continued. "It is difficult to predict exactly how the situation will evolve. What you see now, during my visit, was already alarming. What we have seen since then, his state of health has dramatically deteriorated as predicted by the psychiatrist who accompanied my visit. What can happen during the prolongation is it can have irreversible damage, even on the physical level. First on the psychological and emotional level. But then also on the physical level it can lead to a nervous breakdown and to cardiovascular damage that is no longer reversible."

Melzer, who is an attorney, closely examined the 2010 Swedish allegations against Assange. He said he found a series of disturbing judicial anomalies and indications that the sexual assault charges were being manipulated by Swedish authorities to extradite the publisher to the United States. When legal proceedings were initiated against Assange, for example, they were immediately made public. Assange learned about the allegations in the press.

"He was in Sweden at the time," Melzer said. "He immediately went to a police station himself and said, 'Could I please make my statement and participate in this?' Sweden law prohibits the publication of the name of the complainant and the suspected offender in a sexual offense case. His statement was taken. Two or three days later, the prosecutor closed the case, saying, 'There was no evidence of any crime being committed at all.' "

But a few days later the case was reopened by a different prosecutor.

"Mr. Assange voluntarily stayed on in Sweden for three weeks, saying, 'I'm at the disposal of the prosecution for any questions you have to ask,' " Melzer said.

Assange had a commitment in Britain and, Melzer noted, received permission from the prosecutor to leave Sweden. Once he arrived in the United Kingdom, however, Sweden issued an arrest warrant, claiming he was trying to avoid questioning.

"They asked him to come back to Sweden for questioning," Melzer said. "Then Mr. Assange became a little bit suspicious. 'I thought we had dealt with this. What is the issue?' He was afraid that he was being called back so Sweden could surrender him to the U.S."

Sweden has on several occasions surrendered foreign nationals to the CIA without due process, including handing over two Egyptian nationals, Mohammed al-Zari and Ahmed Agiza, to CIA operatives on Dec. 18, 2001, for transfer from Stockholm to Cairo. The men were seeking asylum in Sweden. Once returned to Egypt they were imprisoned and tortured. Sending asylum seekers to countries that are known to engage in torture is a violation of international law.

When Assange's lawyers asked for a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the United States, Swedish authorities refused. Assange's lawyers said he would be willing to undergo questioning by video link from Britain, a proposal Sweden rejected despite having used this procedure in past criminal cases. Assange proposed to be questioned by Swedish officials in Britain. This offer, too, was rejected. The Swedish authorities insisted he return to Sweden.

"That is why Mr. Assange looked for refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy once the extradition proceedings to Sweden didn't go in his favor at the Supreme Court in the U.K.," Melzer said.

"What is called a rape allegation [in the Swedish case] is not what would be called a rape in English or Swedish or any other language in the world," Melzer said. "I know what I'm talking about because I speak Swedish. What the rape allegation refers to is an offense that doesn't involve any violence. He has been alleged of intentionally ripping a condom during consensual intercourse with a woman. She said it was intentional. He said it was an accident. Predictably, this is something no one will ever be able to prove. The piece of evidence submitted to the prosecution, the condom, was examined and did not have any DNA on it from him, or from the complainant, or anyone else."

"There is no evidence that he committed a sexual offense ... ," Melzer said. "This whole narrative is extremely important. It dominated his presence in the Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years."

A leaked email exchange between Swedish judicial authorities, who sought to drop the case four years before they formally abandoned proceedings in 2017, and Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, handling the Assange case, included a message to the Swedes warning them not to "get cold feet!!!" Assange's 50-week sentence is for violating his bail conditions by refusing to surrender to the British authorities and accept extradition to Sweden. After he requested and took political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, the British government refused him safe passage to the airport, trapping him in the Ecuadorian compound. The Swedish judiciary, which conveniently reopened its case against Assange the moment he was taken from the embassy, has since dropped its extradition request, clearing the way for his extradition to the United States.

In 2017 Lenin Moreno was elected president of Ecuador. He sought to mend relations with the United States and agreed, apparently in exchange for debt relief, to unilaterally revoke Assange's asylum status and the Ecuadorian citizenship he had been granted under the previous administration. Ecuador was given a $4.2 billion debt relief package by the International Monetary Fund three weeks before Moreno authorized British police to enter the embassy in London.

Judge Michael Snow called a disheveled Assange "a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own self-interest" when he appeared in court three hours after being dragged out of the embassy April 11. The only words Assange spoke during that hearing were "I plead not guilty." The 50-week sentence he received for bail violation is only two weeks short of the maximum provided by law.

"This shows the disproportionate sentencing and bias against him," Melzer said. "Normally a bail violation would end in a fine and perhaps in a very grave case a short prison sentence [much less than 50 weeks]."

Melzer said he is convinced Assange cannot "get a fair trial in the United States" after nearly a decade of "unrestrained public mobbing, intimidation, calls for his assassination and instigation to violence against him."

"He has been exposed to public ridicule, including by serving officials and former officials of government, by prominent personalities," Melzer said.

"A fair trial requires legality-that he's actually being charged for something that is punishable," Melzer said. "Seventeen out of the 18 charges are under the Espionage Act. All of them relate to activities that any investigative journalist would conduct and would be protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 18th charge, the so-called hacking charge, doesn't relate to him. The U.S. doesn't claim he actually hacked a computer to receive information. He obtained all of the information he published [from] someone who had full clearance. He received this information. He may have perhaps encouraged the source, as any journalist would do, to give him the information and then published it. The hacking charge relates to him unsuccessfully attempting to help the source break a password that would have allowed her to cover her tracks. But he didn't succeed."

"I don't see any possibility that Mr. Assange would be acquitted in the U.S. or that he would receive a very light sentence of six weeks in prison," Melzer said. "That is utterly unrealistic, especially under the so-called espionage court, in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he has been charged. There has been no defendant that has been acquitted there of national security charges."

"A fair trial requires equality before the law," Melzer said. "When a government prosecutes a whistleblower, let alone a journalist, for having exposed serious crimes by government agents-we're talking about war crimes-and then these war crimes are not being prosecuted [this is not equality before the law]."

"There is no longer the rule of law," Melzer said. "There is no longer equality before the law. There are no longer transparent court proceedings when you have a secret grand jury and a secret session debating classified evidence. These are proceedings skewed against the defendant. I don't think Julian Assange would get a fair trial."

"Britain, Sweden and Ecuador have violated the convention against torture," Melzer said. "They should release Mr. Assange. They may question him in response to the sexual offenses. Frankly, I don't think there is much behind that. If there is, I think he has suffered more than his share already through that ill treatment. He should be released. He should be compensated and rehabilitated by those states."

(c) 2019 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jerry Holbert ~~~

To End On A Happy Note-

Have You Seen This-

Parting Shots-

Pence Visits Conversion Therapist For Routine Gay-Preventative Checkup
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Sitting in the waiting area while ignoring the screams he heard emanating from the exam room, Vice President Mike Pence reportedly visited his conversion therapist Thursday for a routine gay-preventative checkup.

"I feel completely heterosexual right now, but I still like to visit the doctor every six months or so to just to be safe," said Pence, noting that he didn't enjoy receiving electric shocks on his genitals while staring at photos of naked men, but it was worth it to ensure he didn't come down with a case of full-blown gayness later on.

"Maybe I'm a hypochondriac when it comes to contracting homosexuality, but I'm a busy guy and I'd rather have a spiritual intervention early on than risk missing work to recover from being attracted to men. Plus, now that it's June it seems like everyone is gay so I need to be extra careful. I'm so lucky my insurance covers yearly gay-prevention appointments."

At press time, Pence was preparing to be lobotomized in an effort to fully immunize himself from dangerous homosexual thoughts.

(c) 2019 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 19 # 25 (c) 06/21/2019

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