Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reports, "Megyn Kelly Vivisects Bloated Conspiracy Hog Alex Jones."

Uri Avnery rides, "The New Wave."

Glen Ford explains, "Why Bernie Sanders Is An Imperialist Pig."

Ann Wright looks at, "Killer Drones And The Militarization Of U.S. Foreign Policy."

Jim Hightower examines, "Corporate "Repair Prevention" Schemes Steal The Right To Fix Our Own Belongings."

William Rivers Pitt spends, "Father's Day In Mr. Mueller's Garden."

Chris Hedges concludes,"We Can't Fight Climate Change If We Keep Lying To Ourselves."

Steven Rosenfeld reports, "McConnell Finally Releases Summary Of Senate Obamacare Repeal And It's The Biggest Attack On Health Safety Nets In Decades."

Norman Solomon explores what's, "Behind The Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders."

David Suzuki says, "Trump Is A Pariah In The Face Of Climate Crisis."

David Sirota returns with, "Impeach Trump and You'd Get 'Zealot' Pence, Franken Says."

David Swanson orates, "Untrump The World - It Won't Self-Impeach."

Michael Winship watches as, "'Stonewall' Sessions Leads The Charge Of The Trump Brigade."

Con-gressman Steve Scalise wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich finds a "Government By And For Trump."

Lee Fang concludes, "Trump Officials Overseeing Amazon-Whole Foods Merger May Face Conflicts Of Interest."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "Man Ravaged By Amnesia Somehow Able To Hold Down Demanding Legal Job" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Republicans Are The Party Of Schadenfreude."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jerry Holbert, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Married To The Sea, Brendan Smialowsky, Brooks Kraft, Branden Camp, Steve Helber, Ricky Best, Matt Johnson, James K. McCann, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Bookmark and Share

Republicans Are The Party Of Schadenfreude
By Ernest Stewart

"To feel envy is human, to savour schadenfreude is devilish!" ~~~ Arthur Schopenhauer

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

"Since the 1950s, the United States tried to meddle in Iranian affairs by different strategies such as coup d'etat, regime change, and military intervention. These efforts have all failed. The new U.S. government is confused and could be easily manipulated by wrong information." ~~~ Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi

"This is like deja vu all over again!" ~~~ Yogi Berra

Wikipedia defines Schadenfreude as "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is taken from German and literally means "harm-joy". It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. It is also borrowed by some other languages." Who does that put you in mind of?

As soon as Trump picked Pence and then his cabinet I knew that's what Trump had in mind for America. His every pick was people who hated the department they were put in change of and would do everything in their power to destroy it. And with the Rethuglican controll of the House, Senate and Supreme Court the Junta has the ways and means to destroy everything that helped the people and took the money set aside for those programs and gave it all to the 1% with trillion dollar tax cuts for the uber wealthy and other gifts for them as well.

Of course, they know full well what this will do to the sick, elderly and the poor, not to mention the middle class. You may have noticed that during the administrations of Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama the middle class has shrunk more and more and that middle class is all that stands between us and this nation being one of Kings and slaves, and guess which one you're going to be America. And have no doubt that the likes of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Orin Hatch are well aware of the murder and mayhem that they are about to loose on America and you can see the joy in their hearts and in their eyes for the suffering they're about to unleash on us all, even the "Brownshirts" who put them in power will rue the day that they did.

With all three branches of government now firmly in controll of the Rethuglicans you can expect a reign of terror that would make Hitler and Stalin smile and Caligula laugh out loud. As the morons down in Georgia showed Tuesday they want this to happen to themselves, apparently America is on a suicide trip and there is nothing to be done to escape our fate except to get the hell out of Dodge while the getting is good. Trumps wall isn't to keep the Mexicans out, it's to keep us in! Dubya didn't build all those Happy Camps for the fun of it, there was method to his madness!

In Other News

While California is close to ending its 5 year drought, the folks on the other side of those mountain rages are 17 years into their drought, as their source for most of their water, the Colorado river continues to dry up! Arizona risks losing it's water rights because of the drought. And may soon find their water use restricted ranging from farmers' crops to how many households receive water, state water experts say.

I'm sure you've seen those calcium rings around Lake Mead. They tell the story of declining water levels, with cream markings permanently decorating the canyon walls that shows high levels that haven't been seen since 1983. Current surface elevation is at 1,081 feet. If it drops another six feet, water to Arizona will likely be cut, according to an Arizona budget document.

State water officials from Arizona, Nevada and California - which draw water from Lake Mead - have been working with federal officials to reduce consumption and conserve water in other ways, said Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

"Water conservation for Lake Mead and the lower Colorado River relies on all of us," Davis said. "It's you and me in our houses, how farmers are using their water, how businesses implement water conservation, and how we are starting to use reclaimed and re-purposed water."

Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to their east, coast lines from Texas to the Florida panhandle are flooding in some cases waves three feet above flood stage pound the shore while feets of water, tornadoes and water spouts fall from the sky on some spots. That's some of the coming horror of Global Warming that Trump has turned his back on so some of his fellow billionaires can keep adding to global warming in order that they can make an extra buck. Cindy was just a tropical storm and it's causing havoc because of global warming melting the glaciers and ice packs that are causing the ocean to rise. Imagine what force 5 hurricanes will do with that extra sea height!

Around here the Great Lakes are getting lake levels higher than in memory. In fact Lake Ontario where all the waters from Lakes Superior, Lake Michi-Huron, (the lake so nice they named it twice) Lake St. Clair, and Lake Erie are up over three feet above it's previous high set in 1952.

And Finally

I see where old Tillerson Rex was asked on Wednesday whether the United States supports regime change inside Iran. He replied in the affirmative, saying that U.S. policy is driven by relying on "elements inside of Iran to bring about peaceful transition of that government.."

He made the comments in a hearing on the 2018 State Department budget before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson about U.S. policy towards Iran, including whether the U.S. government would sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and whether the U.S. supported "a philosophy of regime change."

"They are doing bad things throughout the world, on behalf of terrorism and destroying human rights of many people," Poe said, referring to the IRGC. "I'd like to know what the policy is of the U.S. toward Iran. Do we support the current regime? Do we support a philosophy of regime change, peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there's Iranians in Iran who don't support the "totalitarian state." So is the U.S. position to leave things as they are or set up a peaceful long-term regime change?"
I wonder does that mean that it's okay for Americans who don't support the Trump totalitarian state to try and overthrow it. Shouldn't what's good for the goose, be good for the gander as well?

Could it be that old Tillerson Rex is longing for all that lovely Iranian oil that Exxon would be most happy to exploit? Do you suppose?

"Well our Iranian policy is under development," Tillerson said. "Its not yet been delivered to the president, but I would tell you that we certainly recognize Iran's continued destabilizing presence in the region, their payment of foreign fighters, their export of militia forces in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, their support for Hezbollah."

How dare they! After all, it's our job to be a destabilizing presence in Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in Africa, In Asia, in Europe, in central America, in South Amerrica, In Mexico, in Cuba, in Canada, in... e.t.c.!

Keepin' On

I'm having those old, "We got no money Blues," again! I seem to get them whenever the cupboard is bare and they hang around until some folks send in some donations to keep us going strong. So far, we've managed to get by, just barely, year after year, decade after decade but sooner or later we'll be gone with the wind and just be a pleasant, though fading memory, of this once great nation.

Don't get me wrong, we're in this to end, provided you can give us a hand. While the folks who put us on the internet and keep us there are kind and understanding there is only so much of this understanding, and no more. If we don't pay our bills their understanding comes up just a bit short and we're cast into the wind as every body except us, is in it for the money, not for what they can do for their fellows.

Ergo, please send in whatever you can, as often as you can; and we'll keep fighting for your rights, and will do our very best to keep you informed with what's really happening, and what it means. If not for us, who ya gonna call, Fox Spews, or the Corpo-rat News Network? If so, good luck with that; oh, and don't worry about being asked for money by them; they have billions in backing from their 1% masters, which you support whenever you by some GMO foods, or practically anything that this country puts out!


10-05-1924 ~ 06-15-2017
Thanks for the laughs!

05-08-1954 ~ 06-16-2017
Thanks for the film!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?

****** We've Moved The Forum Back *******

For late breaking news and views visit The Forum. Find all the news you'll otherwise miss. We publish three times the amount of material there than what is in the magazine. Look for the latest Activist Alerts. Updated constantly, please feel free to post an article we may have missed.


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

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

One of America's greatest goofs ODs on his own self-importance on national TV

Megyn Kelly Vivisects Bloated Conspiracy Hog Alex Jones
NBC aired Megyn Kelly's interview with Alex Jones, of Infowars fame, Sunday evenin
By Matt Taibbi

Last year around election time, I sent a clip of Infowars lunatic Alex Jones to a friend. It was one of the ultimate Jones set pieces: his classic "gay bomb" rant, where the balloon-faced TV host turns baboon-ass red working himself up into a rage about Pentagon-designed hormonal weaponry that supposedly can "turn the frickin' frogs gay!"

"What do you think tap water is?" he croaks, in the broadcast. "It's a gay bomb, baby!"

My friend wrote back. "Who the hell is that?" he said.

Why, I responded, that's Alex Jones, one of the most influential people in the United States.

My friend didn't believe it. "Come on, this is a gag or something," he said. His actual quote was that the Jones show was like a Nazi version of Tommy Boy, which to him was too funny of an idea to have been generated unironically.

This isn't an uncommon reaction. Most sane people can't process Jones. Nor can they deal with the fact that he drew 83 million page views during election month last November, or that Infowars had 5.3 million unique visitors in May of last year.

Jones also has one very specific audience member: Donald Trump. The New York Times reported in February that Jones "is apparently taking on a new role as occasional information source and validator for the president."

Jones, who once insisted the Sandy Hook massacre was a "fake," has the kind of mind with which Trump connects. On November 14th, his Infowars site re-reported a claim that "three million votes in the U.S. presidential election were cast by illegal immigrants." Two weeks later, Trump clearly parroted the report, saying he won the popular vote "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

That influence is why it was so beneficial to see NBC's Megyn Kelly tear Jones to pieces on this past weekend's Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly.

There was a controversy about the show. Some of the parents of Sandy Hook victims were understandably upset that Jones was being given airtime on "legitimate" TV, and protested the interview.

But other groups objected to the report on the more general -and disturbingly prevalent -view that covering a noxious figure somehow equates to empowering that person. Incredibly, even other media organizations contributed to this chorus, with Huffington Post going so far as to denounce Kelly for giving Jones a "platform."

This new media version of the campus "no-platforming" movement believes that news organizations automatically help insidious figures by allowing them to speak extemporaneously, or even to be seen onscreen. In fact, groups like Media Matters went so far as to say that the best part about Kelly's report was that it showed Jones as little as possible:

"The segment benefited from devoting very little time to Kelly's interview with Jones, minimizing his opportunity to appeal to her audience. Instead, through strong voiceover, clips from Jones' program featuring the host spouting conspiracies, and interviews with a conservative commentator who opposes Jones' influence and the father of a child who died at Sandy Hook, Kelly explained how Jones operates, the harassment his targets experience, and his close ties to President Donald Trump."
This is a crazy conception of how media is supposed to work. Judging a report by how tightly it keeps control over whatever you think the desired message is supposed to be is pretty much the opposite of what we're taught to do as journalists. We're describers, not politicians, and the best way to convey the essence of Jones is to let him betray it himself.

Trying to "minimize his opportunity to appeal" to audiences also totally misunderstands how people consume media. If you bend over backwards to keep an interview subject from talking, and stack the deck in your report with negative takes and loads of derisive voice-over, what viewers will perceive -100 percent of the time -is that you're afraid of your subject.

Kelly graphically demonstrated the benefits of not running from your interview subject. She challenged Jones over and over about Sandy Hook statements like, "The whole thing is a giant hoax."

Jones offered a stream of nonsensical answers to these queries, to which Kelly asked brutal and correct follow-ups, like: What happened to the children, if they weren't killed?

To which Jones squirmed and fidgeted and said ridiculous things like, "Listeners and other people are covering this, I didn't create that story."

After four or five exchanges of this sort, Jones in an offhand way suggested that maybe he was just playing "devil's advocate" when he said what he said.

Kelly pounced. "Was that devil's advocate?" She reread his direct quotes, repeating, "The whole thing is a giant hoax. The whole thing was fake."

Jones paused for about five seconds before he answered. You could tell he was trying to a) remember what he'd said then, and b) think of what exactly he could get away with saying now. He was cornered.

"Yes," he finally answered, and quickly rifled through the drawers of his mind to shake loose something like a plausible explanation for that "yes":

"Because I remember, even that day, to go back from memory, then saying, 'But then, some of it looks like it's real..."

Jones couldn't defend his work in a legitimate setting. He wasn't able to argue, as he once did in a child custody hearing, that he is just a "performance artist." Forced to come up with a non-ridiculous explanation for his rants, he was completely exposed.

It's ironic, given that she worked for so long at Fox, but Kelly's report on Jones pulled the lid back on the easiest and most profitable con in our business: winding up angry middle-aged white guys. Jones is just the latest model in a long line of bloviating conservative media hucksters whose job it is to stoke middle-class paranoia for fun and profit.

The original offerings in this product line, like Bob Grant and Barry Farber, were too polished, over-subtle and often too-transparently schticky. Many were former actors, scholars or comedians who took up being shouty drive-time douchebags only as lucrative late-career options.

Until the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated in 1987, remember, anchors and disc jockeys couldn't get hired by just by being vituperative finger-wagging blowhards. A lot of those people had gotten on the air because they had good voices, or the gift of gab, or senses of humor.

Rush Limbaugh, who was a little-known Pittsburgh top-40 DJ working under the name "Jeff Christie," was an early example. (Listen to Rush/Jeff slickly intro-ing Stevie Wonder's classic "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" on this clip, for a laugh.)

The problem is that whatever sliver of talent or humor or erudition gets these characters on the air in the first place ultimately betrays them in the hate-vendor game.

If there's no real monster underneath, and you're instead just a financially desperate comedian or actor spinning up audiences with wild tales about scissors-bearing feminists or hordes of diseased Mexicans Headed This Way, sooner or later, listeners who want the real thing will be able to tell.

Take Glenn Beck. He made an all-out assault on the angry-dude market by selling breathlessly baroque conspiracy theories miles beyond what the likes of Bill O'Reilly would ever have the brains to invent.

But Beck just wasn't quite mean enough underneath. His insult-and-rage game was weak. Listen to him scream, "Get off my phone you little pinhead!" in this clip.

That's 100 percent a put-on riff by a professional radio guy who's been in the business since he was 15 (I can almost hear him saying, "Hey, did you like my hangup in hour 3 today?"), not a genuine rage addict. Beck was far more likely to fall to pieces and start crying on the air than blow his dome and start punching walls.

Not Alex Jones. He is the inevitable end to these decades of mis-evolution, the Nexus 6 of tantruming conservative spleen merchants.

Unlike Rush, who clearly wanted to be a comedian -Limbaugh's riffs on Louis Farrakhan-style numerology were wannabe Poconos material all the way -Jones has no sense of humor, as in literally none. Sean Hannity is funnier than Jones, which is really saying something.

Jones is not an aspiring linguist like Farber, or an ex-lefty intellectual like Mike Savage, or an actor like Fred Thompson, or a wannabe rock star like Mike Huckabee.

Jones is just angry. There's nothing else to his act. There's no riffing, no jokes, no cleverness: just pure, uncut middle-aged bile for his 78 percent male audience, to whom Jones hilariously hawks masculine supplements.

He's an epic dingbat, but one of tremendous power and influence. People need to understand how acts like his work and why. No effort to consign him to the margins is going to be successful, because he's already burst way beyond those parameters.

I understand the Sandy Hook parents wanting him off the air. But media figures should know that the fastest way to heighten the influence of people like Jones is to boycott them from "polite" company. In exactly the same way even the dullest book becomes a smash hit once it's censored, we make inadequate losers like this look like giants by pretending they don't exist.

Props to Kelly for showing that challenging jackasses works. And God help us if the press ever stops believing that.

'Infowars' host Alex Jones claims he recorded pre-interview chat with Megyn Kelly to protect himself from misrepresentation.

(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

The New Wave
By Uri Avnery

WHEN I was young, there was a joke: "There is no one like you - and that's a good thing!"

The joke applies now to Donald Trump. He is unique. That's good, indeed.

But is he unique? As a world-wide phenomenon, or at least in the Western world, is he without parallel?

As a character, Trump is indeed unique. It is extremely difficult to imagine any other Western country electing somebody like that as its supreme leader. But beyond his particular personality, is Trump unique?

BEFORE THE US election, something happened in Britain. The Brexit vote.

The British people, one of the most reasonable on earth, voted democratically to leave the European Union.

That was not a reasonable decision. To be blunt, it was idiotic.

The European Union is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. After many centuries of internal warfare, including two world wars, with uncounted millions of casualties, good sense at long last prevailed. Europe became one. First economically, then, slowly, mentally and politically.

England, and later Britain, was involved in many of these wars. As a great naval power and a world-wide empire, it profited from them. Its traditional policy was to instigate conflicts and to support the weaker against the stronger.

These days are, alas, gone. The Empire (including Palestine) is but a memory. Britain is now a mid-ranking power, like Germany and France. It cannot stand alone. But it has decided to.

Why, for God's sake? No one knows for sure. Probably it was a passing mood. A fit of pique. A longing for the good old days, when Britannia ruled the waves and built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land. (Nothing very green and pleasant about the real Jerusalem.)

Many seem to believe that if there had been a second round, the British would have reversed themselves. But the British do not believe in second rounds.

ANYHOW, THE "Brexit" vote was considered a sharp turn to the Right. And right after, there was the American vote for Trump.

Trump is a Rightist. A very rightist Rightist. Between him and the right wall there is nothing, except, perhaps, his Vice. (Vice in both meanings of the word.)

Taken together, the British and the American votes seemed to portend a world-wide wave of rightist victories. In many countries, rightists and outright fascists were flexing their muscles, confident of success. Marine Le Pen was scenting victory, and her equivalents in many countries, from Holland to Hungary, hoped for the same.

History has known such political waves before. There was the wave started by Benito Mussolini after World War I, who took the old Roman fasces and transformed them into an international term. There was the Communist wave after World War II, which took over half the globe, from Berlin to Shanghai.

So now it was the great right-wing wave, that was about to submerge the world.

And then something quite different happened.

NOTHING SEEMED as stable as the political system of France, with its old established parties, led by a class of old experienced party hacks.

And there - lo and behold - appears a nobody, a practically unknown non-politician, who with a wave of the hand clears the entire chessboard. Socialists, fascists and everybody in between are swept to the floor.

The new man is Emmanuel Macron. (Emmanuel is a good Hebrew name, meaning "God with us".) He is very young for a president (39), very good looking, very inexperienced, except for a short stint as an economic minister. He is also a staunch supporter of the European Union.

A quirk, party functionaries comforted themselves. It will not last. But then came the French parliamentary elections, and the flood became a tsunami. An almost unprecedented result: already in the first round Macron's new party gained an astounding majority, which will surely grow in the second round.

EVERYBODY NEEDED to think again. Macron was obviously the very opposite of the New Rightist Wave. Not only about European unity, but about almost everything else. A man of the center, he is more left than right. A modest person, compared to the American Trump. A progressive, compared to the British May.

Ah, Theresa May.

What got into her? Put in power after the brexit vote, with a comfortable majority, she was restless. Seems she wanted to prove that she could get an even larger majority just by herself. These things happen to politicians. So she called for new elections.

Even poor me, with my limited experience, could have told her that this was a mistake. For some reason, people don't like untimely elections. It's like a curse of the Gods. You call, you lose.

May lost her majority. There was no obvious coalition partner in sight. So she is compelled to court the most obnoxious right wingers: the Northern Irish protestants, compared to whom Trump is a progressive: no rights for gays, no abortions, no nothing. Poor May.

Who was the big winner? The most unlikely of unlikely persons: Jeremy Corbyn, (Another one with a good Hebrew first name. Jeremy was a major Biblical prophet.)

Corbyn is as unlikely a near-winner as you get them: ultra-left, ultra-everything. Many members of his own party detest him. But he almost won the elections. In any case, he made it impossible for Theresa May to rule effectively.

Corbyn's achievement brings to mind again that something very similar happened in the US elections within the Democratic Party. While the official candidate Hillary Clinton aroused widespread antipathy in her own party, a most unlikely alternative candidate stirred a wave of admiration and enthusiasm: Bernie Sanders.

Not the most promising candidate: 78 years old, a senator for 10 years. Yet he was feted like a newcomer, a man half his age. If he had been the candidate of his party, there is little doubt that he would be President today. (Even poor Hillary got a majority of the popular vote.)

SO DO all these victories and near-victories have something in common? Do they add up to a "wave"?

On first sight, no. Neither did the Left win (Trump, Brexit) nor did the right (Macron, Corbyn, Sanders).

So there is nothing in common?

Oh yes, there is. It is the rebellion against the establishment.

All these people who won, or almost won, had this in common: they smashed the established parties. Trump won despite the Republicans, Sanders fought against the Democratic establishment, Corbyn against the Labour bosses, Macron against all. The Brexit vote was, first of all, against the entire British establishment.

So that is the New Wave? Out with the establishment, whoever it is.

AND IN Israel?

We are not yet there. We are always late. The last national movement in Europe. The last new state. The last colonial empire. But we always get there in the end.

Half of Israel, almost the entire Left and Center, is clinically dead. The Labor party, which for 40 years held power almost single-handedly, is a sorry ruin. The right-wing, split into four competing parties, tries to impose a near-fascist agenda on all walks of life. I just hope that something will happen before their final success.

We need a principled leader like Corbyn or Sanders. A young and idealistic person like Macron. Somebody who will smash all the existing occupation-era parties and start right from the beginning.

To adapt Macron's slogan: Forward, Israel!
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Why Bernie Sanders Is An Imperialist Pig
By Glen Ford

Leftish Democrats insist they can reform the corporate-run, Russia-obsessed Democratic Party from the inside, but most pay little attention to war. However, "War is not a side issue in the United States; it is the central political issue, on which all the others turn." Some think Bernie Sanders should run with the Peoples Party. But, "Sanders is a warmonger, not merely by association, but by virtue of his own positions."

The United States is a predator nation, conceived and settled as a thief, exterminator and enslaver of other peoples. The slave-based republic's phenomenal geographic expansion and economic growth were predicated on the super-exploitation of stolen African labor and the ruthless expropriation of native lands through genocidal wars, an uninterrupted history of plunder glorified in earlier times as "Manifest Destiny" and now exalted as "American exceptionalism," an inherently racist justification for international and domestic lawlessness.

Assembled, acre by bloody acre, as a metastasizing empire, the U.S. state demands fealty to its imperial project as a substitute for any genuine social contract among its inhabitants - a political culture custom-made for the rule of rich white people.

The American project has been one long war of aggression that has shaped its borders, its internal social relations, and its global outlook and ambitions. It was founded as a consciously capitalist state that competed with other European powers through direct absorption of captured lands, brutal suppression of native peoples and the fantastic accumulation of capital through a diabolically efficient system of Black chattel slavery - a 24/7 war against the slave. This system then morphed through two stages of "Jim Crow" to become a Mass Black Incarceration State - a perpetual war of political and physical containment against Black America.

Since the end of World War Two, the U.S. has assumed the role of protector of the spoils of half a millennium of European wars and occupations of the rest of the world: the organized rape of nations that we call colonialism. The first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama, was among the most aggressive defenders of white supremacy in history -- defending the accumulated advantages that colonialism provided to western European nations, settler states (like the U.S.) and citizens -- having launched an ongoing military offensive aimed at strangling the Chinese giant and preventing an effective Eurasian partnership with Russia. The first phase of the offensive, the crushing of Libya in 2011, allowed the United States to complete the effective military occupation of Africa, through AFRICOM.

The U.S. and its NATO allies already account for about 70 percent of global military spending, but Obama and his successor, Donald Trump, demand that Europeans increase the proportion of their economic output that goes to war. More than half of U.S. discretionary spending -- the tax money that is not dedicated to mandated social and development programs -- goes to what Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago called the "demonic, destructive suction tube" of the U.S. war machine.

The United States does not have a national health care system worthy of the name, because it is in the war business, not the health business or the social equality business. The U.S. has the weakest left, by far, of any industrialized country, because it has never escaped the racist, predatory dynamic on which it was founded, which stunted and deformed any real social contract among its peoples. In the U.S., progress is defined by global dominance of the U.S. State -- chiefly in military terms -- rather than domestic social development. Americans only imagine that they are materially better off than the people of other developed nations -- a fallacy they assume to be the case because of U.S. global military dominance. More importantly, most white Americans feel racially entitled to the spoils of U.S. dominance as part of their patrimony, even if they don't actually enjoy the fruits. ("WE made this country great.") This is by no means limited to Trump voters.

Race relations in the U.S. cannot be understood outside the historical context of war, including the constant state of race war that is a central function of the U.S. State: protecting "American values," fighting "crime" and "urban disorder," and all the other euphemisms for preserving white supremacy.

War is not a side issue in the United States; it is the central political issue, on which all the others turn. War mania is the enemy of all social progress -- especially so, when it unites disparate social forces, in opposition to their own interests, in the service of an imperialist state that is the tool of a rapacious white capitalist elite. Therefore, the orchestrated propaganda blitzkrieg against Russia by the Democratic Party, in collaboration with the corporate media and other functionaries and properties of the U.S. ruling class, marks the party as, collectively, the Warmonger-in-Chief political institution in the United States at this historical juncture. The Democrats are anathema to any politics that can be described as progressive.

Bernie Sanders is a highly valued Democrat, the party's Outreach Director and therefore, as Paul Street writes, "the imperialist and sheep-dogging fake-socialist Democratic Party company man that some of us on the 'hard radical' Left said he was." Sanders is a warmonger, not merely by association, but by virtue of his own positions. He favors more sanctions against Russia, in addition to the sanctions levied against Moscow in 2014 and 2016 for its measured response to the U.S-backed fascist coup against a democratically elected government in Ukraine. Rather than surrender to U.S. bullying, Russia came to the military aid of the sovereign and internationally recognized government of Syria in 2015, upsetting the U.S. game plan for an Islamic jihadist victory.

Back in April of this year, on NBC's Meet The Press, Sanders purposely mimicked The Godfather when asked what he would do to force the Russians "to the table" in Syria:

"I think you may want to make them an offer they can't refuse. And that means tightening the screws on them, dealing with sanctions, telling them that we need their help, they have got to come to the table and not maintain this horrific dictator."
Of course, it is the United States that has sabotaged every international agreement to rein in its jihadist mercenaries in Syria.

Sanders is a regime-changer, which means he thinks the U.S., in combination with self-selected allies, is above international law, i.e., "exceptional."

"We've got to work with countries around the world for a political solution to get rid of this guy [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and to finally bring peace and stability to this country, which has been so decimated."
During the 2016 campaign, Sanders urged the U.S. to stop acting unilaterally in the region, but instead to collaborate with Syria's Arab neighbors -- as if the funding and training of jihadist fighters had not been a joint effort with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, all along.

According to Politico, "As late as 2002," Sanders' campaign website declared that "the defense budget should be cut by 50 percent over the next five years." But all the defense-cutting air went out of his chest after Bush invaded Iraq. Nowadays, Sanders limits himself to the usual noises about Pentagon "waste," but has no principled position against the imperial mission of the United States. "We need a strong military, it is a dangerous world," Sanders told voters in Iowa, during the campaign.

Like Paul Street said, he's an "imperialist...Democratic Party company man."

At last weekend's People's Summit, in Chicago, National Nurses United executive director RoseAnn DeMoro endorsed Sanders for a mission he finds impossible to accept: a run for president in 2020 on the Peoples Party ticket. Sanders already had his chance to run as a Green, and refused. He is now the second most important Democrat in the country, behind the ultra-corrupt Bill-Hillary Clinton machine -- and by far the most popular. On top of that, Sanders loves being the hero of the phony left, the guy who gimmick-seeking left-liberals hope will create an instant national party for them, making it unnecessary to build a real anti-war, pro-people party from scratch to go heads up with the two corporate machines.

Sanders doesn't even have to exert himself to string the Peoples Party folks along; they eagerly delude themselves. However, a Sanders-led Party would still be an imperialist, pro-war party.

The U.S. does need a social democratic party, but it must be anti-war, otherwise it commits a fraud on social democracy. The United States is the imperial superpower, the main military aggressor on the planet. Its rulers must be deprived of the political ability to spend trillions on war, and to kill millions, or they will always use the "necessity" of war to enforce austerity. The "left" domestic project will fail.

For those of us from the Black Radical Tradition, anti-imperialism is central. Solidarity with the victims of U.S. imperialism is non-negotiable, and we can make no common cause with U.S. political actors that treat war as a political side show, an "elective" issue that is separate from domestic social justice. This is not just a matter of principle, but also of practical politics. "Left" imperialism isn't just evil, it is self-defeating and stupid.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Members of the New York Air National Guard's 1174th Fighter Wing Maintenance Group place chalks on a MQ-9 Reaper
after it returned from a winter training mission at Wheeler Sack Army Airfield, Fort Drum, N.Y., Feb. 14, 2012.

Killer Drones And The Militarization Of U.S. Foreign Policy
In the eyes of many around the world, diplomacy has taken a back seat to military operations in U.S. foreign policy. The drone program is a prime example.
By Ann Wright

The militarization of U.S. foreign policy certainly didn't start with President Donald J. Trump; in fact, it goes back several decades. However, if Trump's first 100 days in office are any indication, he has no intention of slowing down the trend.

During a single week in April, the Trump administration fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into a Syrian airfield, and dropped the largest bomb in the U.S. arsenal on suspected ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan. This 21,600-pound incendiary percussion device that had never been used in combat-the Massive Ordinance Air Blast or MOAB, colloquially known as the "Mother of All Bombs"-was used in the Achin district of Afghanistan, where Special Forces Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar had been killed a week earlier. (The bomb was tested only twice, at Elgin Air Base, Florida, in 2003.)

To underscore the new administration's preference for force over diplomacy, the decision to experiment with the explosive power of the mega-bomb was taken unilaterally by General John Nicholson, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In praising that decision, Pres. Trump declared that he had given "total authorization" to the U.S. military to conduct whatever missions they wanted, anywhere in the world-which presumably means without consulting the interagency national security committee.

It is also telling that Pres. Trump chose generals for two key national security positions traditionally filled by civilians: the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor. Yet three months into his administration, he has left unfilled hundreds of senior civilian governmental positions at State, Defense and elsewhere.

An Increasingly Shaky Ban

While Pres. Trump has not yet enunciated a policy on the subject of political assassinations, there has so far been no indication that he plans to change the practice of relying on drone killings established by his recent predecessors.

Back in 1976, however, President Gerald Ford set a very different example when he issued his Executive Order 11095. This proclaimed that "No employee of the United States government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination."

He instituted this prohibition after investigations by the Church Committee (the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, chaired by Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho) and the Pike Committee (its House counterpart, chaired by Rep. Otis G. Pike, D-N.Y.) had revealed the extent of the Central Intelligence Agency's assassination operations against foreign leaders in the 1960s and 1970s.

With a few exceptions, the next several presidents upheld the ban. But in 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered an attack on Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi's home in Tripoli, in retaliation for the bombing of a nightclub in Berlin that killed a U.S. serviceman and two German citizens and injured 229. In just 12 minutes, American planes dropped 60 tons of U.S. bombs on the house, though they failed to kill Gaddafi.

Twelve years later, in 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered the firing of 80 cruise missiles on al-Qaida facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan, in retaliation for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Clinton administration justified the action by asserting that the proscription against assassination did not cover individuals whom the U.S. government had determined were connected to terrorism.

Days after al-Qaida carried out its Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush signed an intelligence "finding" allowing the Central Intelligence Agency to engage in "lethal covert operations" to kill Osama bin Laden and destroy his terrorist network. White House and CIA lawyers argued that this order was constitutional on two grounds. First, they embraced the Clinton administration's position that E.O. 11905 did not preclude the United States' taking action against terrorists. More sweepingly, they declared that the ban on political assassination did not apply during wartime.

Send in the Drones

The Bush administration's wholesale rejection of the ban on targeted killing or political assassinations reversed a quarter-century of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy. It also opened the door to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct targeted killings (a euphemism for assassinations).

The U.S. Air Force had been flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), since the 1960s, but only as unmanned surveillance platforms. Following 9/11, however, the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency weaponized "drones" (as they were quickly dubbed) to kill both leaders and foot soldiers of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The United States set up bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan for that purpose, but after a series of drone attacks that killed civilians, including a large group gathered for a wedding, the Pakistani government ordered in 2011 that the U.S. drones and U.S. military personnel be removed from its Shamsi Air Base. However, targeted assassinations continued to be conducted in Pakistan by drones based outside the country.

In 2009, President Barack Obama picked up where his predecessor had left off. As public and congressional concern increased about the use of aircraft controlled by CIA and military operators located 10,000 miles away from the people they were ordered to kill, the White House was forced to officially acknowledge the targeted killing program and to describe how persons became targets of the program.

Instead of scaling the program back, however, the Obama administration doubled down. It essentially designated all military-age males in a foreign strike zone as combatants, and therefore potential targets of what it termed "signature strikes." Even more disturbing, it declared that strikes aimed at specific, high-value terrorists, known as "personality strikes," could include American citizens.

That theoretical possibility soon became a grim reality. In April 2010, Pres. Obama authorized the CIA to "target" Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and a former imam at a Virginia mosque, for assassination. Less than a decade before, the Office of the Secretary of the Army had invited the imam to participate in an interfaith service following 9/11. But al-Awlaki later became an outspoken critic of the "war on terror," moved to his father's homeland of Yemen, and helped al-Qaida recruit members.

On Sept. 30, 2011, a drone strike killed al-Awlaki and another American, Samir Khan-who was traveling with him in Yemen. U.S. drones killed al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al- Awlaki, an American citizen, 10 days later in an attack on a group of young men around a campfire. The Obama administration never made clear whether the 16-year-old son was targeted individually because he was al-Awlaki's son or if he was the victim of a "signature" strike, fitting the description of a young militaryage male. However, during a White House press conference, a reporter asked Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs how he could defend the killings, and especially the death of a U.S.-citizen minor who was "targeted without due process, without trial."

Gibbs' response did nothing to help the U.S. image in the Muslim world: "I would suggest that you should have had a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children. I don't think becoming an al-Qaida jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business."

On Jan. 29, 2017, al-Awlaki's 8-year-old daughter, Nawar al-Awlaki, was killed in a U.S. commando attack in Yemen ordered by Obama's successor, Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the media continued to report incidents of civilians being killed in drone strikes across the region, which frequently target wedding parties and funerals. Many inhabitants of the region along the Afghan-Pakistan border could hear the buzz of drones circling their area around the clock, causing psychological trauma for all those who live in the area, especially children.

The Obama administration was strongly criticized for the tactic of "double-tap"-hitting a target home or vehicle with a Hellfire missile, and then firing a second missile into the group that came to the aid of those who had been wounded in the first attack. Many times, those who ran to help rescue persons trapped inside collapsed buildings or flaming cars were local citizens, not militants.

An Increasingly Counterproductive Tactic

The rationale traditionally offered for using drones is that they eliminate the need for "boots on the ground"-whether members of the armed forces or CIA paramilitary personnel-in dangerous environments, thereby preventing loss of U.S. lives. U.S. officials also claim that the intelligence UAVs gather through lengthy surveillance makes their strikes more precise, reducing the number of civilian casualties. (Left unsaid, but almost certainly another powerful motivator, is the fact that the use of drones means that no suspected militants would be taken alive, thus avoiding the political and other complications of detention.

Even if these claims are true, however, they do not address the impact of the tactic on U.S. foreign policy. Of broadest concern is the fact that drones allow presidents to punt on questions of war and peace by choosing an option that appears to offer a middle course, but actually has a variety of long-term consequences for U.S. policy, as well as for the communities on the receiving end.

By taking the risk of loss of U.S. personnel out of the picture, Washington policymakers may be tempted to use force to resolve a security dilemma rather than negotiating with the parties involved. Moreover, by their very nature, UAVs may be more likely to provoke retaliation against America than conventional weapons systems. To many in the Middle East and South Asia, drones represent a weakness of the U.S. government and its military, not a strength. Shouldn't brave warriors fight on the ground, they ask, instead of hiding behind a faceless drone in the sky, operated by a young person in a chair many thousands of miles away?

Since 2007, at least 150 NATO personnel have been the victims of "insider attacks" by members of the Afghan military and national police forces being trained by the coalition. Many of the Afghans who commit such "green on blue" killings of American personnel, both uniformed and civilian, are from the tribal regions on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan where U.S. drone strikes have focused. They take revenge for the deaths of their families and friends by killing their U.S. military trainers.

Anger against drones has surfaced in the United States as well. On May 1, 2010, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad attempted to set off a car bomb in Times Square. In his guilty plea, Shahzad justified targeting civilians by telling the judge, "When the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't see children, they don't see anybody. They kill women, children; they kill everybody. They're killing all Muslims."

As of 2012 the U.S. Air Force was recruiting more drone pilots than pilots for traditional aircraft-between 2012 and 2014, they planned to add 2,500 pilots and support people to the drone program. That is nearly twice the number of diplomats the State Department hires in a two-year period.

Congressional and media concern over the program led to the Obama administration's acknowledgment of the regular Tuesday meetings led by the president to identify targets for the assassination list. In the international media, "Terror Tuesdays" became an expression of U.S. foreign policy.

Not Too Late

To many around the world, U.S. foreign policy has been dominated for the past 16 years by military actions in the Middle East and South Asia, and large land and sea military exercises in Northeast Asia. On the world stage, American efforts in the areas of economics, trade, cultural issues and human rights appear to have taken a back seat to the waging of continuous wars.

Continuing the use of drone warfare to carry out assassinations will only exacerbate foreign distrust of American intentions and trustworthiness. It thereby plays into the hands of the very opponents we are trying to defeat.

During his campaign, Donald Trump pledged he would always put "America First," and said he wanted to get out of the business of regime change. It is not too late for him to keep that promise by learning from his predecessors' mistakes and reversing the continued militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
(c) 2017 Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience."

Corporate "Repair Prevention" Schemes Steal The Right To Fix Our Own Belongings
By Jim Hightower

When I was a boy, I loved spending time with my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Eula on their small northeast Texas farm. They pulled a frugal living from their 50 acres, raising a little of everything: cotton and corn (their cash crops), hay, watermelon, blackberries, vegetables, chickens, a hog or two, a milk cow-and a family. Doing a lot with a little to make ends meet, Ernest and Eula operated on principle of frugality expressed in an old country rhyme: Use it up/ Wear it out/ Make it do/ Or do without.

This meant that when their tractor broke down, they fixed it themselves, even forging metal parts with the bellows, hammer, and anvil in their small blacksmith shed. Likewise, if their old Zenith console radio went on the fritz, they didn't just order a new one-they brought out their tool kit and fixed it.

Of course, that was decades ago, and our country is very different today.

Or, is it? While the media and political powers seem blissfully ignorant of (and uninterested in) the "lifestyles" of America's commoners, most families are struggling financially and (like Eula and Ernest) are making do or doing without. For this poor-to-middle class majority, frugality is not some old-world virtue, but a household necessity, and the "fix-it" ethic is central to their lives. Add to them the millions of do-it-yourselfers who like to tinker or refuse to be a part of the corporate system's throw-away economy.

Venture into the ungentrified neighborhoods of our cities, drive through working class suburbs or rural America's back roads, and you'll come across multitudes who depend on our nation's huge "repair economy." You'll see folks doing a brake job on a jacked-up car, taking apart a household appliance to make some internal gizmo hum again, or prying apart a smartphone to goose up performance or extend its life. (It was, of course, designed to be obsolete in only a couple of years.) But while planned obsolescence has long been a consumer expense and irritation, brand-name profiteers are pushing a new abuse: Repair prevention. This treacherous corporate scheme doesn't merely gouge buyers. Using both legal ruses and digital lockdowns, major manufacturers are quietly attempting to outlaw the natural instinct of us humanoids to fiddle with and improve the material things we own. Indeed, the absurdity and arrogance of their overreach is even more basic: They're out to corporatize the very idea of "owning."

Today, just about every manufactured product containing software - from an electric toothbrush to an SUV-has no-repair clauses and/or digital locks. It's now standard industry practice for manufacturers to insert a spurious claim into their sales agreements that the company retains legal possession of key components of the products they sold to us, and only it can make repairs. To see how insidious this is, let's go back to the farm with Ernest and Eula.

My aunt and uncle would've been thunderstruck that a tractor company like Deere & Company, one of the world's largest, can now embed a ban on do-it-yourself repairs in the fine-print legalese gobbledygook of its sales contracts. Manufacturers call these devious clauses "End User License Agreements"-EULA! (If Aunt Eula were still alive, she'd sue those bastards for criminal irony and defamation of character.)

Although buyers technically "own" the Deere tractor, the EULAs define the software that runs them as its "intellectual property" and asserts "proprietary rights" to certain parts. Therefore, if "unqualified individuals" (a.k.a. farmers) tinker with their purchases, they can be held in violation of federal copyright laws.

As the Lowdown goes to press, the Supremes weigh in-for consumers! On May 30, the Supreme Court dealt a partial set-back to corporate repair-prevention schemes, ruling 8-0 that printer maker Lexmark couldn't invoke patent law to stop other companies from refurbishing and refilling Lexmark ink cartridges to sell at a discount. Victory! But don't breathe too easy. According to Fortune, "The court concluded that Lexmark could not use patent laws to stop the cartridge refills, but could sue its customers for breach of contract." Hmm. Let's see them try that.

Hog stuff! Which syllable in the word "own" don't they understand? If you bought it, it's yours-you control it. Period. Congress has passed no laws barring buyers from opening up, ripping out, adding in, fixing, rewiring, upgrading, or tying bells onto stuff they've bought. Deere's claim to have a controlling power over people who own its products is a ridiculous perversion of language, logic, and law. Far worse, though, are the multiple harms done to farmers and others who've been led to believe that Deere's repair prevention clause is the law:

First, just hauling your multi-ton tractor to one of the few and far-flung dealerships or authorized repair shops can cost beaucoup bucks and invaluable time.

Second, while Deere will sometimes dispatch a technician for an on-site fix, the key question is: When? And the usual vague answer is: "As soon as we can." But Mother Nature doesn't operate on a corporate schedule. A few days' delay, especially during planting and harvesting, can crash a farmer's bottom line.

Third, "city prices" for even a simple repair force farmers to cover the dealership's advertising budget, multiple levels of managers, and other add-ons that a DIY farmer or local repair shop doesn't incur.

Fourth, when Deere's "do-not-touch" proprietary software goes haywire-leaving a farmer in the lurch with a broken down tractor, a crop that needs tending, and big repair bill on the way-it's not Deere's fault. Ever. To assure this immunity, the corporation's slick lawyers added language to its sales agreement declaring that farmers cannot sue the manufacturer for "crop loss, lost profits, loss of good will, [or] loss of the use of equipment."

Fifth, Deere's licensing scheme is an artificial, corporate imposed, private "law" that will squeeze independent shops out of business and allow Deere to dominate the US tractor repair market, siphoning money and skilled jobs out of rural communities and ultimately leaving farmers at the mercy of a monopolist.

Deere's claim of a proprietary right to control the repair of your tractor is no more grounded in law than the snake oil flimflammers of yesteryear were grounded in science. Yes, Deere owns the copyrights, patents, and trade secrets involved in creating the software, but you're not tampering with, pirating, altering, or trying to sell any of those intellectual properties-you're just repairing your tractor, and it's none of the manufacturer's business. It's your absolute right to do so.

Another maneuver that big manufacturers use to monopolize the repair market is simply hoarding the manuals, computer codes, and replacement parts that independent shops need to fix a product. Nikon USA, the subsidiary of the Japanese camera giant, has been a leader in this particular repair-prevention game. In January 2012, it sent a letter to local US camera businesses curtly ending their access to factory-made repair parts. Sayonara, chumps.

It was very bad news for independent fix-it shops, many of which got a substantial share of their business from Nikon camera owners. Nikon was not only forcing its US customers to ship their cameras to Nikon USA or one of only 22 authorized American repair stations (meant to cover all 50 states!)-thereby costing money, time, and, for professional photographers, lost business-they were also forcing their independent competitors out of business.

The outcry was so loud that the corporation made a conciliatory, image-buffing gesture in 2013, offering Nikon owners the chance to buy non-essential pieces (lens covers, straps, nameplate decals, etc.), but none of the camera's crucial guts. Meanwhile, your local repair shop-if it's still in business-can order parts directly from Japan, with a two-week wait, or be locked out by the $7-billion-a-year giant.

Maybe you don't own a Deere tractor, but chances are you've bought an Apple iPad, Chevy Malibu, Amazon Kindle, Samsung TV, GE Frigidaire, or some other brand-name consumer product equipped with a dazzling array of digital doo-dads. And that you unwittingly consented to the corporation's repair-prevention gotcha tucked into its license agreement. But in addition to deceiving and/ or intimidating buyers into believing they're legally required to trek to the high-dollar Corporate Tech Genius Store for routine maintenance (for instance, just replacing a battery), powerhouse corporate marketers are increasingly forcing customers to bring all their repair business to them.

Apple to customers: Screw you. This caper began in 2009, when DIY repairers of mega-giant Apple's products first noticed a seemingly inconsequential change: a new screw. Opening up an iPhone, for example, used to be easy-use a standard Phillips screwdriver to remove two screws, slide off the back cover, and voila. Then, suddenly, new phone covers were secured by "pentalobulars," odd 5-point screw "enhancements" with one purpose: to force customers into an Apple Store or to one of its authorized service outfits (which must pay Apple a fee to be corporate-designated repairers). Of course, determined techies ultimately rigged their own tools to bypass the corporate screw job, but many other owners were effectively shut out of their own devices and herded into Apple's corporate corral.

Shutting out customers is one thing, but Apple took its anti-repair ethic to a new low a couple of years ago with a truly evil corporate assault on hundreds of thousands of its iPhone 6 buyers. Known by victims worldwide as "Error 53," the people hit by this were among those who had downloaded Apple's latest software upgrade for their phone. Unbeknownst to them, their "new-and-improved" software included the ability for the iPhone 6 to completely disable certain fingerprint-enabled phones when unauthorized techies attempted repairs.

If owners made a repair themselves or had an unauthorized shop do it (which would be far cheaper than the corporation's), "Error 53" flashed on their screen and then-yikes!-their $600 phone died. As in kaput. Finito. The End. Victims even had a verb for it, saying Apple had "bricked" their phones, rendering them useless for anything but doorstops. With no warning and no way to restart, owners also lost access to their phones' memories-emails, records, photos, and all other stored information died with the devices. Meanwhile, Apple officially insisted that this malfunction was neither intentional nor the result of any malicious corporate motive (such as, heaven forbid, forcing independent competitors out of business).

Despite being deluged with a hurricane of consumer complaints, Apple initially hunkered down in hopes the storm would blow over. Corporate officials initially rejected all blame, gave no explanation, and proffered no fix (except "buy a new phone"). The storm of outrage was so strong it sparked a class-action lawsuit, a fix (wherein a system update brought the dead phone back to life, but not the photos or other personal data that were on it), and an apology replete with corporate mumbling that the shutdowns were just a well-intentioned security effort gone awry.

Such a concerted attack on individual and independent fixers is unprecedented-with cabals in industry after industry asserting their ownership control far after sales. This explosive, defining issue of the people's democratic authority over corporate behavior has received little media coverage, is not on the radar of either major political party, and it is not widely understood-even by people who rely on the repair economy. But that lack of public awareness is about to change. Consumer advocates, small businesses, farm groups, computer activists, and environmentalists are coming together in a unified, bipartisan, full-throated rebellion: The "Right-to-Repair" Movement.

This challenge to the collective might of many of the richest corporations on the globe has a solid chance of succeeding because (1) the targets are well-known marketers of brand-name products whose sales are highly vulnerable to public outrage; (2) this particular corporate power grab is so absurd and greedy that average folks can easily grasp it and instantly be outraged; and (3) in addition to anger, this corporate overreach stirs a visceral reaction: The profiteers are not merely messing with our stuff, but with us-our sense of ourselves as self-reliant, in-charge people. The rebels who support the right to repair are taking two major approaches to break the monopolists' grip:

Legislation. This year, the grassroots groups got lawmakers in 11 state legislatures to introduce and begin pushing various versions of "Fair Repair" bills. This show of strength has startled the likes of Apple, Deere, and IBM, flushing their policies from the shadows and leading the companies to mount massive, public lobbying campaigns to protect their greed. Imagine, though, the hoots of bitter laughter from farmers and mom-and-pop repair shops when Deere told Kansas lawmakers that their repair monopoly is "a matter for the different commercial interests to address through the market place, not through legislation."

The manufacturers' influence peddlers have killed this year's right-to-repair bills in Minnesota and Nebraska, and punted Tennessee's into the 2018 legislative session. But efforts are still alive in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Wyoming. It's not likely that any bill but New York's will pass this year, but each attempt is a terrific organizing tool to expand the coalition, raise public awareness, extend the effort into other states, and come back stronger next year.

A measure of that political potency is that ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the nefarious corporate front group, was rushed into the nationwide state legislative fray in March by its corporate funders (including the Koch brothers and a who's who of manufacturing interests). Screeching that "fair repair policies are governmental mandates on innovators," ALEC added that interfering with monopolies created by brand-name marketers "is exceedingly dangerous for consumers."

Gosh, how can you mock a group that's so determined to make such a mockery of itself?

Grassroots subversion. This is the fun stuff. Populist mavericks are now joyously disobeying the corporate order, teaching the rest of us how to become hands-on disrupters of the repair monopoly. One very helpful group is, a jack-of-all trades wiki that demystifies technology and repair tasks. obtains and posts repair manuals for every Apple product made in the last decade. It also publishes step-by-step repair guides for thousands of products, from trucks to toasters; invites skilled people to help write open-source repair manuals; shows novices hacks like using a guitar pick as a cheap, effective tool for fixing electronics; hooks people up with local "bike kitchens" and repair collectives; and promotes the fixit-yourself culture through such means as "repair fairs," with kids joining in the fun of taking apart broken items and making them work again.

People have been fixing stuff ever since stuff was invented. Tinkering is us-it is a natural expression of the human spirit- and it is folly (not to mention insulting) for corporate executives to think that even their enormous monopoly power will be enough to crush that spirit. As awareness of this attempt by manufacturers to steal such a basic right spreads across grassroots America, so will people's understanding of the rapacious nature of the unrestrained corporate beast-and that knowledge will fuel the people's determination to rein the beast in. The corporatists' narcissistic arrogance could explode in their faces.
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller, visits the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Oct. 6.

Father's Day In Mr. Mueller's Garden
By William Rivers Pitt

I will likely be spending this Father's Day wrist-deep in dirt, because my daughter is now a farmer of sorts. Her preschool class started growing lima beans in little Dixie cups, and when they sprouted, she was allowed to take her three plants home. We transplanted them into one of the Earth Boxes we have on the back deck, right next to the lettuce, onions, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, herbs and cherry tomatoes. She helped plant them all, wearing my farmer's hat like a restaurant tray on her head.

She says the same thing every evening after school: "Daddy, let's watch my beans grow!" And so out we go to stand over her imperceptibly growing lima beans as the setting sun lights the western tree line on fire. After, we inspect everything else for signs of progress. There is always some; this looks to be a potent growing season again. She is tremendously excited by the whole process. Me? I'm the only person on the Eastern seaboard who actually likes lima beans as far as I know, so it's win-win all around.

She hasn't had a chance to work the big garden out in the yard yet, but the day is coming. Out there are the big beefsteak tomato plants, the pepper plants, the cucumbers, zucchini and squash plants, along with more beans and some snap peas for good measure. It's a budget of work getting all that squared away, digging all the holes and doing the planting, staking and tying up the tomatoes so they don't droop, watering everything without drowning it all, watching for slugs and other marauders, and all under a hot summer sun. It's not breaking rocks in a gravel mine, but my back tells me about it whenever I finish a task. That, too, is a good feeling.

Getting my daughter involved with our annual gardening may prove, in time, to be among the more fateful and important decisions we've made regarding her upbringing. The lessons she is learning are so elemental, yet so vital. When we started, she thought her beans would fly out of the box in a few minutes. Having to wait and watch, she is learning the value of patience. She is learning you don't eat if you don't lend yourself to the labors. She is learning that it is not only acceptable, but mandatory, to get good and dirty every now and again. When she smells the soil on her hands, she smiles a secret smile. I don't ask her about it; that smile and the feelings behind it are her treasure alone.

The juxtaposition between my garden and my work as a political observer is cracking me up these days, especially in regard to the ongoing Russia investigation. I sat through former FBI Director James Comey's testimony like everyone else and came away thinking it was a big nothingburger: No major revelations. Nothing spectacular beyond someone finally calling Trump a liar in an official capacity. All the really important questions left unanswered.

As it turns out, I needed to re-learn the first rule of gardening -- patience -- because the nation, and indeed the world, are watching a different kind of crop grow in Washington, DC, and the yield could be substantial in the fullness of time.

Remember these names: Aaron Zebley, James Quarles, Jeannie Rhee, Andrew Weissman, Michael Dreeben and Lisa Page, the latter of whom enjoys world-class experience in running down money launderers. These are the people special counsel Robert Mueller has tapped to join his team investigating any and all Russia connections to Trump, his staff and his presidential campaign. While they are not yet household names nationally, they are the varsity when it comes to the law, and everyone in DC knows it.

In short, Mr. Mueller is not screwing around. That became abundantly clear on Tuesday afternoon when The Washington Post dropped another brick: Mueller is, in fact, investigating Trump for possible criminal obstruction of justice. This inspired the predictable Twitter tirade from the president, but 24 hours later had kicked loose yet another interesting tidbit: Vice President Mike Pence has retained his own outside counsel to deal with all the Russia inquiries that are now popping off like a string of firecrackers (the Senate Judiciary Committee recently joined the party by opening an investigation into the Comey firing). A smart move, as Pence was in charge of the transition team that let all of Trump's tainted brigands pass the gates in the first place.

Trump's lawyer has even hired a lawyer. Beat that with a stick.

There are a lot of balls in the air right now, and this is a massive investigation spanning multiple jurisdictions and crossing international borders. The issues at hand involve politics, technology, who talked to whom, who is willing to flip for a deal, and of course, following the money (paging Lisa Page). It will not be over in a week, or a month, or a year. Even if it were, nothing would come of it, because the current GOP-controlled House of Representatives would sooner leap from the Capitol dome wearing wax wings than impeach a sitting Republican president, no matter how egregious his crimes.

My feelings about Donald Trump are no secret: He and his cadre are a menace, and they need to go … and if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs. I'm going to buy a 2018 calendar and look at it once a day, because I believe that is the year in which we will learn many new things about electoral politics and political corruption at the highest levels of government. 2018 is when the Augean stables get cleaned out. If I were in Vegas, that's where I'd place my chips.

It's a long time until then, and a lot can happen for good or ill. So I will help my daughter tend our garden, and watch as it and she grow together. I will do it again next year in the same fashion. I will watch her learn the lessons of patience, work and the need to get dirty from time to time. I will try to remember those lessons myself. Most of all, I will hope Mr. Mueller has taken all three of them very closely to heart.

Happy Father's Day. Let your garden grow.
(c) 2017 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.

The sun sets at Juliette, Ga., behind the coal-fired facility known
as Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters.

We Can't Fight Climate Change If We Keep Lying To Ourselves
By Chris Hedges

We must embrace a despair that unflinchingly acknowledges the bleak future that will be created by climate change. We must see in any act of resistance, even if it appears futile, a moral victory. African-Americans understand, in a way perhaps only the oppressed can grasp, that our character and dignity will be measured by our ability to name and resist the malignant forces that seem to hold us in a death grip. Catastrophic climate change is inevitable. Our technology and science will not save us. The future of humanity is now in peril. At best, we can mitigate the crisis. We cannot avert it. We are fighting for our lives. If we do not rapidly build militant movements of sustained revolt, movements willing to break the law and attack the structures of the corporate state, we will join the 99.9 percent of species that have vanished since life first appeared on earth.

"In these circumstances refusing to accept that we face a very unpleasant future becomes perverse," Clive Hamilton writes in "Requiem for a Species." "Denial requires a willful misreading of the science, a romantic view of the ability of political institutions to respond, or faith in divine intervention."

Tens of millions of human beings, especially in the global south, are being herded into the climate furnaces for immolation. And we in the north are soon to follow. The earth's temperature has already risen by more than 1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century. And it is almost certain to rise a few more degrees-even if we stop all carbon emissions today. The last time the earth's temperature rose 4 degrees, the polar ice caps disappeared and the seas were hundreds of feet above their current levels.

"[Climate change] is interacting with two previously existing crises," Christian Parenti, author of "Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence," told me in an interview. "On the one hand, the legacy of neoliberal economic restructuring has weakened states in the global south so they don't have the capacity to pave the roads, educate the population, to help farmers who are in distress. On the other hand, much of the global south is littered with cheap weapons and veterans of previous conflicts who know how to use those cheap weapons. In this comes the extreme weather of climate change. [In] states that have been systematically reduced to the point where they can't respond even if they wanted to, how do people adapt to climate change? How do they adapt to the drought and floods? Very often, you pick up surplus weaponry. You go after your neighbor's cattle. Or you blame it on your neighbor's ideology or ethnicity. Underneath a lot of these ethnic and religious conflicts we see there is a climate element."

"The great danger in climate change is that at a certain point [you will see] the collapse of natural ecosystems, the dying of tropical forests, which are currently carbon sinks-they pull CO2 out of the atmosphere," Parenti said. "But if they die and all that wood burns or rots, they can become net emitters of greenhouse gases. There are the huge deposits of methane, frozen methane in the Arctic. These are already beginning to come out."

"The fear is that at a certain point we cross the line and there's a tipping point," he said. "The primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions will become the breakdown of these natural systems, and then it really is out of our control."

We have the technology to build alternative energy and food systems, but the fossil fuel industry, the most powerful industry in the world, has blocked all meaningful attempts to curb fossil fuel extraction and reduce energy consumption. And meat, dairy and egg producers, responding to consumer demand, are responsible for the emission of more greenhouse gases than the entire global transportation sector. Livestock generates enormous amounts of methane, which is 86 times more destructive than CO2. Livestock also produces 65 percent of nitrous oxide resulting from human activity, a gas that has 296 times the "Global Warming Potential" of carbon dioxide. The massive animal agriculture industry, like the fossil fuel industry, receives billions of dollars in subsidies from the U.S. government. And corrupt and pliant politicians who do the bidding of these industries receive millions in return from lobbyists. It is legalized bribery. And it won't stop until this political system is destroyed.

The nonprofit Project Drawdown, which compiles research from an international coalition of scientists, says that "a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change." Adopting such a diet should be our first act of revolt. The second should be carrying out civil disobedience to disrupt the extraction of fossil fuels, along with massively reducing our consumption of those fuels. The third, through mass mobilization, should be to overthrow the corporate state and nationalize the energy sector, the banking industry, utilities and public transportation in addition to dismantling a war machine that in waging futile and unwinnable wars consumes nearly half of all government expenditures. It is a lot to demand. But if we do not succeed, the human race will disappear.

Governments, if they were instruments of the common good, would end subsidies to the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries, retrofit government vehicles and buildings to use clean energy, ban the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries from public lands, end the externalization of the true costs of these industries, and impose taxes so heavy that extraction of fossil fuels would be unprofitable and the purchase of animal food products economically unsustainable-just as those foods are environmentally unsustainable. But with state power being held captive by corporations, short-term profit takes precedence over human health and even human survival.

"The technology exists to strip CO2 out of the atmosphere," Parenti said. "The problem is it's extremely expensive. And how do you store it? As a gas, it can leak out. But it can also be turned into basically baking soda. But the costs are so expensive. So this technology currently exists. It's proprietary. Private companies are using it to facilitate further oil extraction. If civilization was serious about survival, governments will seize or buy that technology. Make it open source. And invest in whatever was necessary to strip CO2 out of the atmosphere artificially, along with [extraction by] plants and forests etcetera."

Parenti stressed that collapse will be defined not only by rising temperatures but a series of social and infrastructure failures. It will be nonlinear. He noted that food prices, including the prices for basic grains, surged shortly before the 2010-2013 uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

"You had the Black Sea drought, affecting grain harvest in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan," he said. "This ripples through world markets. Bread prices spike in Tunisia and Egypt. People are out in the street protesting this mukhabarat [secret police] state they've lived in for 30 years. But it's also about the price of bread. That's one way that a climate crisis appears. It doesn't appear like a climate crisis at first. You have to think about the interconnections of the world economy."

The civil war in Syria was preceded in 2006 by the worst drought in 900 years, as well as an austerity program that weakened government support systems. Farmlands were transformed into arid dust bowls. Livestock perished. Food prices skyrocketed. Over 1.5 million desperate people from the countryside fled to urban areas, many packing themselves into the shantytowns and slums set up by refugees during the war in Iraq. And into the chaos walked Islamic State. The war, which has taken half a million lives, created 4.8 million refugees and internally displaced 7 million people in Syria. The refugee crisis that resulted in Europe is the worst since the end of World War II. The influx to Europe has empowered nationalist and protofascist movements and touched off a rise in hate crimes. Climate change is the unseen hand in unrest, social disintegration, chaos and war.

"At one level, this is a war about ethnicity and religion and opposing the foreign occupation," Parenti said of the war in Afghanistan. "But on another level, this is about farmers who are dealing with the worst drought in living memory, which is occasionally punctuated by extreme flooding, growing the only crop they can grow in those conditions-[heroin] poppies. The poppy happens to use about one-fifth or one-sixth the amount of water that wheat and other traditional Afghan crops use. So farmers have to grow poppy if they're going to survive. Which side of the conflict will help them do that? The Taliban. There are subtle and important interconnections to all ongoing conflicts."

"In India, you have the Naxalites, a Maoist guerrilla movement that has been going for over 40 years," he said. "It progresses with the drought. District by district, where there is drought, there are Naxalites. The key there is the state has withdrawn from the credit markets. Farmers have to go to moneylenders. The moneylenders will only lend them money to grow cotton because they can't eat cotton. The more money they borrow, the worst the drought, the more the cotton is produced, and the lower the cotton price will go. You have mass suicides. You can imagine if you're a farmer on the verge of drinking poison to kill yourself, and the Naxalites come along and say, 'Hey look, we have a short-term and a long-term solution for your problems. The short-term is when the moneylender comes to town you stop his car and we kill him. When the cops come, we ambush them. In the long term, it will be better.' "

Failed states, proliferating in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, are ruled by phantom governments. "There's a mythology of the central state that operates when the police stop you and demand some paperwork," Parenti said of failed states. "But really, there is no central database. [These are the] twitching limbs severed from a spider. These offices are used for basic survival. They can hold up travelers and demand a $50, $100 bribe from them in the name of some centralized state that did, in fact, exist 10, 20, 30 years ago. That's a part of how states fail-the corruption and re-privatization of the means of administration and the means of repression. [Max] Weber's argument is [that] the modern state is about detaching the leader of a bureaucracy from the ownership of a bureaucracy. State failure begins with the re-privatization of the bureaucracies, particularly the repressive bureaucracies of the police and military.

"In a place like Afghanistan, cops pay to have those jobs," he said. "They pay the head cops. They pay the dues so they can shake down traffic on the roads. That's spreading all over the world. Its uniforms, insignia, paperwork, ministries and officialdom all exist, but exist for the personal gain of whoever is wearing that uniform."

"The possibility of a progressive, civil, left politics is curtailed in a world where drug-addled teenagers run the checkpoints," he said. "That's really important to keep in mind. Then the immediate response in the West is to justify further military intervention, which in every case is the immediate cause, or trigger, of state collapse. Of course, there are older, deeper problems that set it up. Libya is a perfect example. The NATO bombing campaign created that failed state. Iraq is a semi-failed state. Yemen is a semi-failed state. Half of Syria is a failed state. U.S. and Western intervention has been pretty instrumental in a lot of that. The great irony is there's further justification for an overdeveloped military. That's bad for democratic politics here."

"In the long run, it won't work," he warned. "The process of state failure spreads and spreads. What we see in response is also a hardening of democratic regimes in the north. We've got xenophobic politics in the U.S. Southwest in response to a migration crisis [and that kind of politics also] is happening in Europe across the Mediterranean. There are all sorts of great humanitarian responses. But there's also a very clear shift to the right. France has this state of emergency that's still in effect. Right-wing politics are doing well all across Europe. One of the great dangers of state failure in the global south in the short term is the hardening and drift towards increasingly authoritarian, xenophobic, quasi-fascist type of politics in the global north and developing states."

On one July night in 1977 the power went out in New York City. There were citywide riots. Arsonists started 1,037 fires. Looters smashed their way into 1,616 stores. There was over $300 million in damage. This Hobbesian nightmare will become normal in more and more parts of the globe as we traverse the sixth great mass extinction, brought on by the activity of human beings.

The greatest existential crisis of our time is to at once accept the tragic reality before us and find the courage to resist. It is to acknowledge that the world as we know it will become harsher and more difficult, that human suffering will expand, but that we can, if we fight back, perhaps reconfigure our lives and our society to mitigate the worst savagery, dramatically reduce our carbon footprint and save ourselves from complete annihilation. The power elites will do nothing to save us.

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic," historian Howard Zinn wrote. "It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

The inability to see what is in front of our eyes replicates the blindness of all past civilizations that celebrated their eternal glory at moments of precipitous decline. The difference is that life across the whole planet will go down this time. It is comforting to pretend this is not happening, to foster false hopes and fool ourselves with the myth of human progress, but these illusions only tranquilize us at a moment when we should be rising in collective fury against those who are orchestrating our doom.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

McConnell Finally Releases Summary Of Senate Obamacare Repeal And It's The Biggest Attack On Health Safety Nets In Decades
The Senate GOP leader is trying to spin it as a gentler version of kicking millions off health care.
By Steven Rosenfeld

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a summary of the latest Obamacare repeal legislation late Wednesday, ending a Washington waiting game after secret drafting sessions, but depicting a bill that will have dire consequences for much of America.

McConnell's summary tries to put a softer spin on the Republicans' most strident attack on health safety nets in decades. It preserves most of the features of the House-passed bill, which repeals Obamacare, shrinks future Medicaid funding by a quarter and rewards the rich with tax cuts. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would leave 24 million Americans without health care while increasing insurance costs and reducing coverage for almost everyone apart from healthy young adults.

Unlike the House, the Senate bill phases in the cuts to federal health spending over the next few years, instead of immediately pulling the carpet out from millions of Americans who were resting a little easier because they had some measure of health security. It will "rejigger" Obamacare subsidies for lower-income people buying private insurance, while gradually limiting their eligibility.

That's the takeaway as first reported by the Washington Post. On Thursday morning, McConnell is to meet with "wary senators," the Post reported, adding he will likely tinker with the bill's details to try to get to 51 votes to pass it.

"The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes," the Post said. "While the House legislation pegged federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income as the ACA [Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare] does. The Senate proposal cuts off Medicaid expansion more gradually than the House bill, but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also removes language restricting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, which may have run afoul of complex budget rules."

It's likely many nasty details will come to light as interest groups, health policy experts, Senate Democrats and their staff parse the legislative language, as opposed to McConnell's talking points.

In many respects, McConnell's revisions are not a surprise. They resemble the anti-Obamacare bill he shepherded in late 2015, which included closing government health care exchanges, scrapping subsidies for premiums, repealing Medicaid expansion in 30 states, ending tax penalties for people who don't buy insurance and employers who don't offer it, repealing its taxes on businesses, individuals and medications, and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood. Variations of those features have been resurrected in the new Senate bill, although there is new language giving states some flexibility in how they will draw down their Medicaid spending. The brunt of that may not take effect until 2020. But the end result is the same: Republicans have used the rallying cry of repealing Obamacare not just to gut the law, but to structurally change and shrink Medicaid and give wealthy people a tax cut.

Earlier Wednesday, the Post reported other details that were leaking out. The Senate would make deeper cuts to Medicaid than the $820 billion taken out of the program by the House. It would do so by converting it into a per-capita block grant program, which will push states to ration current levels of care unless they raised their taxes. The Senate would also tie future funding increases to a stingier inflation index, pleasing fiscal conservatives.

The pending cuts in Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies will be phased in over the next few years, not immediately. That means the numbers of people receiving premium subsidies would gradually shrink as the maximum qualifying income is lowered. All of the Obamacare taxes will vanish, except for those people with the priciest "Cadillac" plans.

Andy Slavitt, who ran Medicare and Medicaid programs for the Obama administration, has noted that the House-passed bill would not just prompt 24 million people to lose coverage over the next 10 years. Those who keep their coverage will see costs rise 15 to 20 percent, or more if you're older or live in rural areas. The Medicaid cuts, one-quarter of its future budget, will mean fewer kids, seniors, people with disabilities and poor people will be covered, he said. Some 7 million people who now get coverage through their employer will lose it. If you have elderly relatives in need of nursing home care (the part of Medicare paid by Medicaid), that coverage also will be reduced, he explained.

The House bill also repealed minimum coverage requirements, which means insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles will rise, whereas what's covered in policies will shrink. Early analyses of the Senate bill said that approach was retained. "Essential benefits & value of benefits no longer protected in Senate bill—gutting pre-ex[isting] protections," Slavitt tweeted.

Democrats Weren't Idly Waiting

Democratic senators had been anticipating McConnell's bill. That's why they started slowing down the Senate's business. They also held a series of hearings to emphasize who would be hurt, especially in red states. The Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, led by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, held a hearing Wednesday on how the bill "would devastate rural America." On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Robert Casey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin issued a report with police saying they were worried about how the bill would hurt efforts to fight the opioid epidemic. Meanwhile, consumer groups and medical associations have been holding forums around the country to hear the public explain how Obamacare has helped them, especially people with pre-existing conditions who could not previously get health insurance. Center-left groups like Indivisible were staging sit-ins in Senate offices of Republicans who expressed reservations about the Medicaid rollbacks.

People who have been watching Republicans rant about repealing Obamacare for years had a pretty good idea of what McConnell was about to drop in everyone's lap. The broad contours are unchanged. Twenty-something million Americans will lose private coverage. Those on Medicaid—most of whom are women, children and the disabled—will see services cut by a quarter or more. And just about everyone in America who is not among the top 2 percent will see more money vanish from their paychecks and savings, as insurance executives, hospital corporations and drug makers get richer.
(c) 2017 Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Corporate-owned media hostility toward Sanders and the progressive base has been conspicuous and well-documented

Behind The Media Surge Against Bernie Sanders
By Norman Solomon

It's routine for right-wing outlets like Fox to smear progressive activists under the guise of "news" coverage. But why the New York Times? And why the special venom for Bernie Sanders?

After the horrific June 14 shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and three other participants in a Republican baseball practice, the media floodgates opened for slimy innuendos. Before the day was done, a major supplier of the political sewage was the New York Times, which prominently published a left-blaming article that masqueraded as news reporting.

The media watch group FAIR pointed out that the Times piece "started with a false premise and patched together a dodgy piece of innuendo and guilt-by-association in order to place the blame for a shooting in Virginia on 'the most ardent supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders.'"

It would be a mistake to think that the Times story was only the result of bias inflamed by the grisly shooting spree. A few days earlier, the newspaper had front-paged another "news" story hostile to grassroots political forces aligned with Bernie-a de facto editorial masquerading as news coverage, headlined: "Democrats in Split-Screen: The Base Wants It All. The Party Wants to Win."

In a bizarre disconnect from electoral reality, the article portrayed a party establishment that had lost election after election, including a cataclysmic loss to Trump, as being about winning. And the article portrayed the party's activist base as interfering with the establishment's winning ways.

Such Times stories are now operating under a heightened sense of journalistic impunity since the newspaper abolished its 14-year-old ombudsperson position of "public editor" more than two weeks ago-further insulating its reporters and editors from accountability. More than ever, calling the shots at the Times-the most influential news outlet in the United States-means never having to say you're sorry, or even justify what you've done.

Corporate-owned media hostility toward Sanders and the progressive base has been conspicuous and well-documented. That hostility started early in his campaign and never let up, sometimes manifested as giving him scant coverage. When the momentum of the Bernie campaign gained powerful traction as a threat to the corporate order, big media efforts to trash him went over the top.

At a key political moment last year, as FAIR analyst Adam Johnson wrote, "the Washington Post ran 16 negative stories on Bernie Sanders in 16 hours, between roughly 10:20 PM EST Sunday, March 6, to 3:54 PM EST Monday, March 7 -- a window that includes the crucial Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, and the next morning's spin." The day after this onslaught, Sanders stunned the elite pundit class by winning the Michigan primary.

Now, in mid-2017, with no presidential election in sight, why is the corporate media hostility toward Sanders so prone to surface?,

Consider, as an example, this structural reality: Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, has just unveiled plans for his company Amazon to buy Whole Foods. And Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician in the United States according to polls, is strongly opposed to allowing such huge consolidations of corporate power.

For good reasons, media powerhouses like the New York Times and Washington Post are averse to Donald Trump. At the same time, they remain quite cozy with Hillary Clinton's political orientation and especially with the sectors of the corporate-military establishment that she represents. Like so much of the mass media, those outlets see Sanders as dangerously anti-corporate and way too willing to challenge Wall Street, big insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry and the like.

On a political level, the Clinton wing of the party has been running on the equivalent of dumpster-fire fumes since the disastrous loss in November. The party's establishment, entwined with Wall Street and an agenda of continuous military intervention overseas, was just barely able to shoehorn its handpicked choice, Tom Perez, into becoming the new chair of the Democratic National Committee.

In a classic joint interview with MSNBC two months ago, Perez and Sanders showcased just how different their politics are. Perez mumbled platitudes, Sanders was forthright. Perez spoke about victims of an unfair economy, but he refused to denounce or even name their corporate victimizers-while Sanders was glad to do so.

The U.S. media establishment often conflates "populism" of the right and the left, as though Trump and Sanders are somehow symmetrical as anti-establishment figures. And, as in the case of the New York Times article that appeared hours after the GOP baseball tragedy, the Times has sometimes jumped at the chance to draw far-fetched parallels between Trump's violence-tinged, pseudo-populist messaging from the right and Bernie's humane, inclusive messaging from the left.

Like it or not, the battle over the future of the Democratic Party-including what kind of presidential nominee the party should have in 2020-is already underway. Overall, the top echelons of corporate media are oriented toward promoting the Clinton wing while denigrating the Bernie wing. The forces that brought us the disastrous 2016 Clinton campaign are not about to give up.
(c) 2017 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Trump is a pariah in the face of climate crisis

Trump Is A Pariah In The Face Of Climate Crisis
By David Suzuki

In withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, U.S. President Donald Trump demonstrated monumental ignorance about climate change and the agreement itself. As Vox energy and climate writer David Roberts noted about Trump's announcement, "It is a remarkable address, in its own way, in that virtually every passage contains something false or misleading."

From absurd claims that the voluntary agreement will impose "draconian financial and economic burdens" on the U.S. to petty, irrational fears that it confers advantages to other countries to the misguided notion that it can and should be renegotiated, Trump is either misinformed or lying.

The agreement to limit global temperature increases that every country except Syria and Nicaragua signed in December 2015 (the latter because it doesn't go far enough!) is an astonishing achievement. Despite a relentless, massively funded campaign of denial, the world's nations came together and agreed to reduce the risk of climate chaos.

Scientists warn of overshoot, of exceeding greenhouse gas emissions beyond a level to which human society can adapt. As global average temperature rises, warming ocean waters could release immense amounts of methane frozen in Arctic waters. The potent greenhouse gas could take us into unknown territory where human survival is questionable. With Trump's single-minded focus on propping up outdated, polluting industries, he's unlikely to lead us out of this mess - but that doesn't mean we should give up hope.

In science fiction stories about aliens invading Earth, the U.S. president gets on the phone with Russian, Chinese, European and other leaders. They unite to confront a threat that endangers them all. National borders mean nothing to the common enemy.

Today, we face a threat not only to our species but also to much of life on the planet. This time, the invasion isn't from outer space; it's the result of the collective effects of human activity. It still requires united effort to head off its most dire effects. Climate change and our response to it will be the defining moment of humanity's relatively brief history.

Human boundaries around property, cities, provinces and countries matter enormously to us but mean nothing to nature. Salmon, monarch butterflies, grizzly bears, air and water pay no attention to borders. In 1986, when fire broke out in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Swedish scientists were the first to alert the world to a catastrophic release of radioactive particles. Debris from the 2011 tsunami at Fukushima, Japan, reached Canada more than a year later. Although constructs like the economy, markets and corporations have huge significance for human affairs, their perpetuation depends entirely on the state of the biosphere.

Life on Earth was made possible by the blanket of greenhouse gases enveloping the planet. They regulated temperature and kept it from fluctuating drastically between day and night and through seasons. As life evolved, photosynthesis became the planet's primary means of capturing and using the sun's energy, eventually producing and maintaining atmospheric oxygen. Plants mediated the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen, but the rise of fossil fuel-driven industrialization has pushed carbon dioxide beyond plants' capacities to utilize it. We have steadily altered the chemistry of the air beyond levels that developed over several million years.

Scientists have anticipated the crisis of catastrophic climate change from human activity for decades, but despite their warnings, political and economic agendas have, with a few exceptions, trumped real action to reduce fossil fuel use.

The problem didn't appear suddenly. Industrialized nations have been the major greenhouse gas contributors, spurred by the American economy's spectacular growth. Signatories to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 recognized that countries responsible for the problem should cap and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while allowing poorer nations to develop economically until leaders could enact another all-inclusive treaty.

If there's a bright side to Trump's decision, it's that climate change has received more serious media coverage than ever before, and people around the world - from municipal, state and business leaders in the U.S. to heads of state everywhere - have agreed to increase their efforts, to lead where Trump has failed.

People from all walks of life are joining forces to confront the common threat. The leader of the most powerful nation is not among them. Sad!
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Impeach Trump and You'd Get 'Zealot' Pence, Franken Says
In terms of domestic policy, Pence "certainly would be worse than Trump."
By David Sirota

If Donald Trump were impeached, as some Democrats would like, Mike Pence "would be worse" for domestic policy than the current president, U.S. Sen. Al Franken told International Business Times. But the vice president would be less dangerous on foreign policy, said Franken.

Franken made the comments in an interview with IBT during a stop on his book tour in Denver. During the wide-ranging discussion, the Minnesota Democrat said his party could use the so-called "nuclear" option to try to block the Trump administration's health care bill. On a contentious environmental issue, Franken parted ways with many progessive Democrats in saying that natural gas from fracking is helping "transition" America to cleaner energy. He also said the Democratic Party is less divided than Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives think.

One of his party's highest-profile lawmakers, Franken has pressed law enforcement officials to step up their scrutiny of Trump's finances and has said "everything points to" collusion between Trump's team and the Russian government. But he warned that the outcome of impeachment would not be the answer to Democratic dreams.

"Pence ran the transition and some of the very worst nominees, I felt - [EPA chief Scott] Pruitt, [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos, [HHS Secretary Tom] Price, [Budget director Mick] Mulvaney - were Pence selections, clearly, I think," Franken told IBT. "He's ideological, I consider him a zealot, and I think that in terms of a lot of domestic policy certainly would be worse than Trump."

Franken added that he believes Pence would be better able to manage foreign policy matters.

"If you're talking about how we handle North Korea or something like that, I'd probably be more comfortable with Pence ultimately making those decisions than Trump, because of Trump's personality and character," he said. "I think that [Trump] is so outside the norm in his behavior that that actually does concern me, and it concerns me that I don't know what he will do if he looks like he's going to be impeached and he wants to deflect. I don't know what he's capable of, and that really does concern me."

Trump's health care bill may be the next test for Franken's party. Senate Democrats in the minority have the power to withhold unanimous consent - which can grind the Senate to a halt. Vox reported last week that despite pressure from progressive groups, some Senate Democrats are resisting using this so-called "nuclear" option in their fight to stop GOP legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act. The Senate version of that legislation remains shrouded in secrecy. Franken said that if Republicans do ultimately bring a repeal bill out of committee and to the full Senate for a vote, he expects Democrats to use all of their power to try to stop legislation.

"I don't know if we're there yet," he said of the nuclear option. "I want to see, first, if they come up with something. I'm not sure they're gonna get 50 votes for something, and then that would change what we're doing. I think then we...could do regular order, we'd have hearings, et cetera. But if they actually bring something out of this secret group and they get 50 votes, then I think we'll be fighting with every tool we have."
(c) 2017 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist, a staff writer at PandoDaily and the best"selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E"mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

The Quotable Quote...

"Truth: the most deadly weapon ever discovered by humanity. Capable of destroying entire perceptual sets, cultures, and realities. Outlawed by all governments everywhere. Possession is normally punishable by death."
~~~ John Gilmore

Untrump The World - It Won't Self-Impeach
By David Swanson

Remarks at United National Antiwar Coalition in Richmond, Virginia, June 17, 2017

Did you hear about Trump calling up the mayor of Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay and telling him that, contrary to all appearances, his island is not sinking? I want to focus on one element of this story, namely that the guy believed what he was told, rather than what he saw.

Did you hear about Secretary of War Mattis telling Congress that for the 16th year in a row he would produce a plan for "winning" a war on Afghanistan? Congress either believed it or has been paid to act as if it believes it. Congress members Jones and Garamendi have a bill to defund this endless act of mass-murder. We need a movement that can nonviolently shut down Congressional offices until they do so.

We do have marches in various cities this weekend to ban nuclear bombs, and negotiations underway at the UN to create a treaty that does that. Once most countries on earth have banned nuclear bombs, the US will explain that, as with successful bans on guns, banning weapons is just not physically possible. Your eyes must be fooling you. A large percentage of that small percentage of people in this country who hear about the matter at all will believe what they are told.

Even more will believe what they are not told. Many who care about resisting climate change, completely ignore the growing danger of nuclear apocalypse, because they don't hear about it - some people even going so far as to wantonly demand greater hostility between the US and Russian governments. What could go wrong?

We need radical reforms in our education system that go beyond ending standardized tests, shrinking classrooms, and training and paying teachers. We need courses taught in every school in the subjects of social change, nonviolent action, and refining practical techniques for the successful recognition of bullshit.

Trump says dealing more weapons to Saudi Arabia raises no human rights concerns, but visiting Cuba to drink a mojito on the beach, or allowing Cuban medicines to save US lives, borders on a crime against humanity. Others say that weapons of military mass murder should properly be spread only to nations that murder their domestic prisoners in humane ways, like Arkansas. Meanwhile we can't talk about millions of people on the edge of starving to death in Yemen, we can't build a movement against starvation, of all things, because the starvation is caused by war and war is not to be questioned.

Did you know that over in Charlottesville our city voted to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee that was put up by racists in the 1920s? But we can't take it down because a Virginia state law forbids taking down any war monument. That is a law, if ever there was one, that needs repealing in this capital of the confederacy - or at least amending to require an equal sized peace monument for every monument to war. Imagine what that would do for Richmond's landscape.

Imagine what it would do for our souls. We are in need of a secular and collective resurrection. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift," said Dr. King, "is approaching spiritual death." And "a nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan." We've paid up, all the installments. We've reached spiritual death. We've gone into spiritual decomposition. We're rapidly making our way toward actual extinction.

When the United States wants to start a new war, the number one justification is that some former client "used chemical weapons on his own people," as if using them on someone else's people would be OK, and as if people can belong to someone. When the United States uses white phosphorus as a weapon on human beings, we should understand them as our brothers and sisters, our own people. Our government is an outlaw whose own actions by its own standards justify its overthrow.

Here's what I propose, as a beginning. World flags in place of national flags. Thank yous for their service to everyone engaged in programs of social uplift. Backs turned on national anthems, pledges of allegiance, and war promoters. Peace demonstrations on every war holiday. Peace books promoted at every school board meeting. Picketing and flyering at every weapons dealer. Welcome parties for all immigrants. Divestment from all weapons. Conversion to peaceful industries. Global cooperation in requiring the closing of all foreign bases. Urging every U.S. mayor to endorse the two resolutions coming up before the U.S. Conference of Mayors that tell Congress not to move money from human and environmental needs to the military but to do just the reverse. And nonviolent resistance to business as usual at every local office of every elected official not on board with the radical change needed to protect peace, planet, and people.

Needless to say this requires political independence and principled promotion of policy, not personality. The same people who rigged a primary to nominate one of the only candidates who could have lost to Donald Trump are now targeting Trump with one of the only accusations that can blow up in their faces for lack of proof or in all of our faces in the form of nuclear war. Meanwhile, Trump is openly guilty of illegal wars, illegal prejudicial bans on immigrants, illegal willful destruction of the earth's climate, unconstitutional domestic and foreign profiteering from his public office, and a whole laundry list of crimes from sexual assault to voter intimidation.

Trump opponents, too wise by half, say don't impeach him, his successor would be worse. I respectfully maintain that this position fails to recognize what is needed or our power to achieve it. What is needed is to create the power to impeach, eject, unelect, and otherwise hold accountable anyone who holds public office - something we do not now have, something we must have for whoever comes after Trump whenever they come after Trump, but something that we can only have if we create it.

Nancy Pelosi says to sit back, relax, because Trump will "self-impeach." I respectfully suggest that people no more self-impeach than wars self-end, guns self-ban, police self-reform, energy systems self-convert, schools self-improve, houses self-build, or planets self-protect. The only strategy this mindset leads to is self-destruction. Congress clearly will not self-govern. We have to impose our will. We have to understand what is needed and create it, against the concerted efforts of those in power. Power concedes nothing without a demand, said Frederick Douglass. Let's do some demanding.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

'Stonewall' Sessions Leads The Charge Of The Trump Brigade
The attorney general's testimony before the Senate intelligence committee was more smoke and mirrors.
By Michael Winship

US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions spent Tuesday afternoon up on Capitol Hill trying out his new one-man show based on Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.

In performance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions alternated between the roles of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler, at one moment playing the testy yet coquettish belle shocked - shocked! - at having one's integrity impugned, defending his Southern honor "against scurrilous and false allegations."

Then the next moment, he was the charming Dixie rapscallion Rhett, acting all chummy with his good old boy pals in the Senate - once known as the world's greatest deliberative body, a title that was forfeited several years ago.

"I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you," the former senator from Alabama declared, "and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government, to hurt this country... or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie."

As Scarlett would say, well, fiddle-dee-dee.

Capsule review of his show: Needs work. Petulant at times, evasive and contradictory, Sessions justified his refusal to answer various questions on what many experts agree are rather shaky legal grounds. His memory seemed shaky, too, especially when it came to when and how many times he saw Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Amber Phillips of The Washington Post wrote, "About the only thing Sessions can recall for sure is that he didn't do anything wrong."

It was clear that Sessions' offer to appear before the intelligence committee was not intended as a chance to clear the air but as an opportunity to smog the playing field with protestations of innocence, whether it was knowledge of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia or the extent of his involvement in events surrounding Trump's dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.

For now, Sessions also was able to avoid the judiciary committee, where he would have faced tough grilling from Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and his damn Yankee nemesis Al Franken of Minnesota, the man who triggered much of Sessions' troubles when he asked a question during the attorney general's confirmation hearing and Sessions chose to answer something else, stating, "I did not have communications with the Russians." Which, of course, proved to be, ahem, incorrect.

During his testimony on Tuesday, Democrats tried to put Sessions' feet to the fire, while most of the Republicans opted to use the flames to feed him toasted marshmallows. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas seemed especially obsessed with the idea that James Comey had told Trump that when it came to the allegations of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia, the president was not a subject of investigation. To Cotton, this was proof that there was no substance to any of the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia and that made him cocky and deeply annoying.

But keep in mind that in the opening statement that Comey presented to the intelligence committee, he noted that the FBI had been reluctant to publicly state that Trump was not under investigation "for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change." (My italics.)

And change it has. For as of Wednesday we now know that in the days since Comey's firing, Donald Trump has become a subject of the investigation. As special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry plows relentlessly on, it was reported by The Washington Post that Mueller's team is looking into whether or not the president is guilty of attempting to obstruct justice:

Accounts by Comey and other officials of their conversations with the president could become central pieces of evidence if Mueller decides to pursue an obstruction case. Investigators will also look for any statements the president may have made publicly and privately to people outside the government about his reasons for firing Comey and his concerns about the Russia probe and other related investigations, people familiar with the matter said.
For the moment, as Mueller and investigators work to determine if the Trump campaign was tied at all to Russian interference with our electoral process, if there is anything of which to be glad, it is that with each passing day and revelation there at least is greater bipartisan belief in the reality and gravity of what Russia attempted and doubtless is hoping to do again.

Days after The Intercept website revealed a leaked NSA report that Russian hacking of our voting systems was more extensive than previously known, Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson at Bloomberg Politics quoted a knowledgeable source claiming that the systems of 39 states had been hit. They noted:

Such operations need not change votes to be effective. In fact, the Obama administration believed that the Russians were possibly preparing to delete voter registration information or slow vote tallying in order to undermine confidence in the election. That effort went far beyond the carefully timed release of private communications by individuals and parties.

One former senior US official expressed concern that the Russians now have three years to build on their knowledge of US voting systems before the next presidential election, and there is every reason to believe they will use what they have learned in future attacks.

This news makes it all the more puzzling why the Trump White House continues to be so muted in decrying Russia's attempts to destabilize democracy and yet so vocal in its insistence that there is nothing to any story of possible Trump campaign involvement.
(c) 2017 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers' Journal and is senior writer of

The Dead Letter Office...

Steve gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Unter Fuehrer Scalise,

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 fight to allow gun purchases by the mentally insane, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Government By And For Trump
By Robert Reich

"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," Trump told then FBI Director James Comey in January - even though FBI directors are supposed to be independent of a president, and Comey was only 4 years into a 10 year term.

Comey testified before the Senate that Trump tried to "create some sort of patronage relationship," based on personal loyalty.

After Comey refused and continued to investigate possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, Trump fired him.

Preet Bharara, who had been the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Trump tried to create the same sort of patronage relationship with him that he did with Comey.

Bharara's office had been investigating Trump's secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, and also looking into Russian money-laundering allegations against Deutsche Bank, Trump's principal private lender.

When Bharara didn't play along, Trump fired him.

Bharara said Comey's testimony "felt a little bit like deja vu."

In his first and best-known book, "The Art of the Deal," Trump distinguished between integrity and loyalty - and made clear he preferred loyalty.

Trump compared attorney Roy Cohn - Senator Joe McCarthy's attack dog who became Trump's mentor - to "all the hundreds of 'respectable' guys who make careers out of boasting about their uncompromising integrity but have absolutely no loyalty … What I liked most about Roy Cohn was that he would do just the opposite."

As president, Trump continues to prefer loyalty over integrity.

Although most of his Cabinet still don't have top deputies in place, the White House has installed senior aides to monitor their loyalty. As Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, explained to the Washington Post, "they're functioning as the White House's voice and ears in these departments."

Last Monday, the White House invited reporters in to watch what was billed as a meeting of Trump's Cabinet. After Trump spoke, he asked each of the Cabinet members around the table to briefly comment.

Their statements were what you might expect from toadies surrounding a two-bit dictator.

"We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda," said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. "Greatest privilege of my life, to serve as vice president to a president who's keeping his word to the American people," said Vice President Mike Pence. "You've set the exact right message," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, adding, "The response is fabulous around the country."

When I was sworn in as Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor, I took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." I didn't pledge loyalty to Bill Clinton, and I wouldn't have participated in such a fawning display.

That oath is a pledge of loyalty to our system of government - not to a powerful individual. It puts integrity before personal loyalty. It's what it means to have a government of laws.

But Trump has filled his administration with people more loyal to him than they are to America.

His top advisers are his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

To run his legal defense and be his spokesman on the investigation into collusion with Russian operatives, Trump has hired Marc Kasowitz.

Kasowitz is not an expert in criminal or constitutional law. His only apparent qualification is his utter loyal to Trump.

He's been Trump's personal legal fixer for almost two decades - representing him in his failed libel lawsuit against a journalist, the Trump University fraud case that ended in January with a $25 million settlement from Trump, and candidate Trump's response to allegations of sexual assault by multiple women last year.

Kasowitz called the New York Times article containing interviews with the women "per se libel" and demanded "a full and immediate retraction and apology" (which the Times refused).

Kasowitz has said he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara. Kasowitz told Trump, "This guy is going to get you," according to a person familiar with Kasowitz's account.

Now, Kasowitz is taking on a public role. Bypassing the White House Counsel, he instructed White House aides to discuss the investigation as little as possible, and advised them about whether they should hire private lawyers.

The horrifying reality is that in Trumpworld, there is no real "public" role. It's all about protecting and benefiting Trump.

When loyalty trumps integrity, we no longer have a government of laws. We have a government by and for Trump.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

Trump Officials Overseeing Amazon-Whole Foods Merger May Face Conflicts Of Interest
By Lee Fang

The blockbuster deal by Amazon to purchase Whole Foods rocked financial markets on Friday. Grocery and retail outlet stocks were in a tailspin anticipating how the online shopping giant may move to swallow up the supermarket industry, particularly in the booming online sales market.

The massive $13.7 billion Amazon-Whole Foods merger may also invite government oversight regarding antitrust concerns, a dynamic complicated by potential conflicts of interest from officials tied to the merger.

Officials from both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, the two agencies charged with enforcing antitrust law, have financial ties to the law firms expected to play a major role in managing the deal.

President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, has worked since 2005 as a lawyer and lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a firm that is registered to lobby on behalf of Amazon.

Delrahim, who has worked on merger deals for over a decade and is viewed by legal observers as less likely to pursue aggressive antitrust enforcement as the previous administration, will be in office to review the Amazon-Whole Foods deal soon. He was nominated in March and was been cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, making his appointment imminent.

Delrahim, however, isn't the only official with ties to the merger. Abbott Lipsky, appointed in March as the new acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, which oversees antitrust, previously worked as a partner in the antitrust division of the law firm Latham & Watkins. Lipsky's former law firm has been tapped by Whole Foods' financial adviser, Evercore, to help manage the merger with Amazon, according to Law360.

And finally, Goldman Sachs has stepped up to provide bridge financing for the merger. The investment bank maintains a broad range of connections to multiple officials within the Trump administration, most salient of whom is Gary Cohn, the former chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs. As the chief economics adviser to the president, Cohn will likely weigh in on the contentious merger.

In recent years, Amazon has expanded its influence in Washington, D.C., with a larger rolodex of lobbyists and political advisers, and with chief executive Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post. Jaimie Gorelick, the former Justice Department official in Bill Clinton's White House turned chief outside legal adviser to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, holds a seat on Amazon's board of directors. And the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University, an influential voice that publishes academic papers on antitrust policy, counts Amazon as a corporate donor.

Matt Stoller, who has previously contributed to The Intercept, warned in a column on Friday that the deal "should frighten all of us," pointing to the ways Amazon's market dominance could have a dangerous ripple effect throughout the economy. Moreover, Stoller noted that Amazon's attempt to influence the antitrust environment is encapsulated in a recent job posting by the company for an a "Ph.D. economist-cum-lobbyist 'to educate regulators and policy makers about the fundamentally procompetitive focus of Amazon's businesses.'"

Figures from Capitol Hill are already calling for serious antitrust review of the Amazon-Whole Foods deal. "The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission must undertake a review that considers not just the merger's impact on prices but also the impact on jobs and wages," said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., in a statement to Vice.

Barry C. Lynn, the Director of the Open Markets Program at New America, said on Friday that Amazon "already dominates every corner of online commerce, and uses its power to set terms and prices for many of the most important products Americans buy or sell to one another." Lynn added, referring to the Whole Foods merger, "Amazon is exploiting that advantage to take over physical retail."
(c) 2017 Lee Fang is a journalist with a longstanding interest in how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups and money. He was the first to uncover and detail the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in financing the Tea Party movement. His interviews and research on the Koch brothers have been featured on HBO's "The Newsroom," the documentaries "Merchants of Doubt" and "Citizen Koch," as well as in multiple media outlets. He was an investigative blogger for ThinkProgress (2009-2011) and then a fellow at the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation.

In 2012, he co-founded, a blog to cover political corruption that syndicates content with, Salon, National Memo,, TruthOut, and other media outlets. His work has been published by VICE, The Baffler, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Progressive, NPR, In These Times, and The Huffington Post. His first book, "The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right," published by The New Press, explores how the conservative right rebuilt the Republican Party and its political clout in the aftermath of President Obama's 2008 election victory. He is based in San Francisco.

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...

Man Ravaged By Amnesia Somehow Able To Hold Down Demanding Legal Job
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-An Alabama man whose brain was ravaged by severe amnesia is somehow able to function in an extremely demanding legal job, leading neurologists reported on Tuesday.

The man, whom neurologists are calling a "medical mystery," has performed highly exacting tasks in one of the country's top legal positions despite having virtually no short or long-term memory.

Dr. Davis Logsdon, the chairman of the neurology department at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said that the Alabaman's brain "defies explanation."

"In all the medical literature, we have never seen an example of someone capable of holding down such a high-powered job while having no memory whatsoever of people he met, things he said, places he has been, or thoughts he has had," Logsdon said. "It's the stuff of science fiction."

Logsdon said that his team of neurologists was studying video of the man in the hopes of understanding the paradoxical functioning of his brain, but Logsdon acknowledged that such a task was challenging. "After listening to him talk for hours, your own brain starts to hurt," he said.
(c) 2017 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 24 (c) 06/23/2017

Issues & Alibis is published in America every Friday. We are not affiliated with, nor do we accept funds from any political party. We are a non-profit group that is dedicated to the restoration of the American Republic. All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org.

In regards to copying anything from this site remember that everything here is copyrighted. Issues & Alibis has been given permission to publish everything on this site. When this isn't possible we rely on the "Fair Use" copyright law provisions. If you copy anything from this site to reprint make sure that you do too. We ask that you get our permission to reprint anything from this site and that you provide a link back to us. Here is the "Fair Use" provision.

"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."