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In This Edition

Nick Turse examines, "A World Of Winless War."

Uri Avnery dares to use, "The Four-Letter Word."

Glen Ford concludes, "If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class."

Eric Alterman returns with, "Alex Jones Is A Practiced Swindler-Just Like His Biggest Fan."

Jim Hightower wonders, "Would Even The Craziest World Leader Behave Like Trump?"

William Rivers Pitt explores, "Ruthless, Soulless, Vicious: Three Reasons the Senate GOP's ACA Replacement Is a Disgrace."

Lee Fang discovers, "EPA's New Water Safety Official Is A Lobbyist With Deep Ties To The Dakota Access Pipeline."

Steven Rosenfeld finds, "GOP Health Care Plan Crushes Working-Class Blacks and Whites, but Not the Middle-Class Whites Who Elected Trump."

Norman Solomon reports, "Democrats Face Failing Russia-Gate Scheme."

David Suzuki exclaims, "Bicycling Never Gets Old!"

Medea Benjamin & Kate Harveston say, "Sorry, Meals On Wheels, Our War Machine Is Hungry."

David Swanson asks, "You'll Never Guess What Losing Democrats All Have In Common."

Michael Winship considers, "Of Caesar, Guns And Trolls: The Evil That Men Do."

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich outs, "The Secret Healthcare Bill."

Seymour Hersh crosses, "Trump's Red Line."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst returns with, "Best Radioactive Spider Ever," but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Now Might Be A Good Time To Invest In Torches And Pitchforks!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Horsey, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Steve Sack, Doug Mills, Bryan R. Smith, Shalan Stewart, Robert S. Pri, Sgt. Harley Jelis, US Army, The New York Times, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Now Might Be A Good Time To Invest In Torches And Pitchforks!
By Ernest Stewart

"A riot is an ugly thing. But I think it is just about time that we had one!" ~~~ Inspector Kemp

"We need to be realistic. There is very little we can do now to stop the ice from disappearing from the North Pole in the Summer. And we probably cannot prevent the melting of the permafrost and the resulting release of methane. In addition, I fear that we may be too late to help the oceans maintain their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. But there is something we can do-and it could make the whole difference and buy us time to develop the necessary low carbon economies. We can halt the destruction of the world's rainforests-and even restore parts of them-in order to ensure that the forests do what they are so good at-in other words storing carbon naturally. This is a far easier, cheaper and quicker option than imagining we can rely on as yet unproven technology to capture carbon at a cost of some $50 per tonne or, for that matter, imagining we can achieve what is necessary through plantation timber." ~~~ Charles, Prince of Wales

"I am extremely disappointed that the speaker of the California Assembly is refusing to allow S.B 562, the single-payer health care bill passed by the state Senate, to come to the Assembly floor for a vote." ~~~ Bernie Sanders

"I got a bad feeling about this." ~~~ Han Solo

According to the Congressional Budget Office, which released its assessment of the Republican healthcare bill in the Senate Monday, 22 million Americans would lose their insurance under the Senate Republicans' healthcare bill just over the next decade. Did I mention they expect to see 28,600 Americans die every year because of Trumpcare. In my mind that's 28,600 Americans murdered by Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the Rethuglicans. In addition, Medicaid would see a $772 billion cut over the next decade, while wealthy Americans would receive $541 billion in tax cuts.

It's the American way to steal money from the the poor, the sick and the elderly to give to the "new gilded age" billionaires much like they did at the turn of the 20th century.

While the current bill probably won't fly as written as some Rethuglicans think that it doesn't steal enough and it might not kill their quota of the elderly and sick, but cheer up after the fourth it will be rewritten to make it worse than Paul Ryan best ever, wet dream.

Speaking for the sane, Bernie said on the Senate floor:
"Mr. President, today's Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Trump-McConnell healthcare bill gives us 22 million reasons why this legislation should not see the light of day. What CBO tells us, in truth, is that this bill really has nothing to do with healthcare. Rather, it is an enormous transfer of wealth from the sick, the elderly, the children, the disabled and the poor into the pockets of the wealthiest people in this country. Mr. President, according to CBO -- and that report just came out a few hours ago -- this bill would throw 22 million Americans off of health insurance, cut Medicaid by over $770 billion, defund Planned Parenthood and substantially increase premiums for older Americans. ... Mr. President, this, in fact, is a barbaric and immoral piece of legislation."
What to do, what to do, America? As Kenneth Mars said in Young Frankenstien, "A riot is an ugly thing. But I think it is just about time that we had one!" So methinks, it maybe time to break out the pitchforks and torches and get to it!

In Other News

I see where a new study reveals that the East Siberian Arctic Sea is thawing more rapidly than previously thought. It thaws at a rate of 14 cm each year, which is much faster for permafrost on land. Of course, this isn't just happening in the arctic sea but all over the planet!

The study was printed in the journal Nature Communications. It was led by researchers from Stockholm University. The study suggests that the thawing of permafrost in the Arctic subsea could lead to the increased global warming as there will be an increase of discharge of methane.

Orjan Gustafsson, the Professor of Biogeochemistry at the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES) and the Bolin Center for Climate Research and co-author of the study, said that "the area that is thawing is about four Baltic Seas." He described it as enormous.

In the study, the scientists have examined the observations taken from 2011 to 2015 in coastal ocean off Northeast Siberia. There was a sea-ice based camp that was formed each year by specialty vehicles and heavy drilling equipment, which was utilized to dig into the permafrost in the seafloor. Meanwhile, the scientists compared the sediment core samples with the calculations taken from the same area 30 years earlier.

The results showed that the ocean floor has rapidly warming. The researchers stated that at the end of the Ice Age, there was about -18 degrees Celsius temperature of the seafloor. They further stated that the permafrost is now thawing at a rate of 14 cm per year for a total of 10 meters in the last 30 years.

They also examined the boundary between frozen and thawed permafrost. They discovered that it was 10 to 30 meters deep and now sinking rapidly.

The thawing of permafrost could generate channels for methane that will contribute to the warming of the planet. Permafrost is a frozen ground composed of decomposing organic material and creates methane by this process. Once the permafrost layer starts to weaken, the methane is discharged. It then rises into the atmosphere and adds to global warming. Like the melting permafrost under the sea, the permafrost on land is melting at an even faster rate than it was, just a few years ago, and is releasing more methane. This is causing havoc on anything that is built on it. For example airports, roads, houses and towns are buckling and crumbling. Things inside the permafrost like the drunken forests of Alaska are falling over or leaning at at various angles, hence the drunken forrest pseudonym, and every day it just keeps getting worse. Remember, Trump thinks global warming is a Chinese plot. Sad!

And Finally

You may have heard how California single payer insurance plan was sailing through the Senate and was expected to sail through the House too? And it would have too, except for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. As head of the Assembly Rules Committee he stopped it in it's tracks. At first glance, one might think it was the dirty work of some Republican Trump stooge. Trump stooge perhaps, but a Democrat Trump stooge, imagine that! Not so hard to imagine, huh?

So you know what I did, right? Let's not see all the same hands! Everyone who said "I bet you wrote him a letter," may stay after class and clean the erasers, there'll be chocolate milk and graham crackers for afters!

Hey Anthony,

Boy did you just screw up, huh? No single payer for California while you're in charge! I'm guessing it's because of the 30 pieces of silver you got from the insurance industry? Now that your political career is over, what next? Could it be lobbying for the insurance industry?

But cheer up, you've just won the coveted Vidkun Quisling award. That's our weekly award for the biggest traitor in America! Have a nice day.

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues and Alibis magazine
PS. Thanks for writing this week's editorial for me!

Do you want to share your thoughts with Anthony too?
His facebook page is:
His government page is:
Oh, and if you do, tell him Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

Just like Han "I've got a bad feeling about this!" In the last month, we got some righteous donations which brought us up to date, and gave us a head start on the next group of bills; but since then, nary a Ducat in the bucket. This does not bode well for the magazine.

In four weeks time, we need to raise a little over $1200, or lose about half of our authors and several of our sources. Sure, we can go on without them; but their loss would be staggering. As is, the magazine is just a shadow of its former self; but that's the cost of telling it like it is. When Bush was committing war crimes and the like, we got all the money we needed and hurrahs for our efforts. When we pointed out the same crimes that Barry was committing, we lost half our readership, practically overnight! I wasn't surprised by this; it goes with the territory of being a soothsayer; most folks don't want to hear the truth; in fact, most folks get downright angry if you persist in breaking their little bubbles; but c'est la guerre!

However, if knowing what is actually going down, versus listening to some overpaid spokes-weasel tell you happy lies, is important to you, and you're currently employed, how about lending a helping hand on paying some of these bills!??! Take a night off from the nudie bar and send us all those dollar bills you were going to give to Crystal and Bambi. Send them to us instead; and we'll put them to work for you and yours!


01-13-1926 ~ 06-27-2017
Thanks for the read!

03-19-1941 ~ 06-28-2017
Thanks for the music!


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.

US Army pilots engage in a training exercise near Camp Buehring, Kuwait

A World Of Winless War
US Special Ops Forces Deployed to 137 Nations in 2017
By Nick Turse

The tabs on their shoulders read "Special Forces," "Ranger," "Airborne." And soon their guidon -- the "colors" of Company B, 3rd Battalion of the US Army's 7th Special Forces Group -- would be adorned with the "Bandera de Guerra," a Colombian combat decoration.

"Today we commemorate sixteen years of a permanent fight against drugs in a ceremony where all Colombians can recognize the special counternarcotic brigade's hard work against drug trafficking," said Army Colonel Walther Jimenez, the commander of the Colombian military's Special Anti-Drug Brigade, last December. America's most elite troops, the Special Operations forces (SOF), have worked with that Colombian unit since its creation in December 2000. Since 2014, four teams of Special Forces soldiers have intensely monitored the brigade. Now, they were being honored for it.

Part of a $10 billion counter-narcotics and counterterrorism program, conceived in the 1990s, special ops efforts in Colombia are a much ballyhooed American success story. A 2015 RAND Corporation study found that the program "represents an enduring SOF partnership effort that managed to help foster a relatively professional and capable special operations force." And for a time, coca production in that country plummeted. Indeed, this was the ultimate promise of America's "Plan Colombia" and efforts that followed from it. "Over the longer haul, we can expect to see more effective drug eradication and increased interdiction of illicit drug shipments," President Bill Clinton predicted in January 2000.

Today, however, more than 460,000 acres of the Colombian countryside are blanketed with coca plants, more than during the 1980s heyday of the infamous cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. US cocaine overdose deaths are also at a 10-year high and first-time cocaine use among young adults has spiked 61% since 2013. "Recent findings suggest that cocaine use may be reemerging as a public health concern in the United States," wrote researchers from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in a study published in December 2016 -- just after the Green Berets attended that ceremony in Colombia. Cocaine, the study's authors write, "may be making a comeback."

Colombia is hardly an anomaly when it comes to US special ops deployments -- or the results that flow from them. For all their abilities, tactical skills, training prowess, and battlefield accomplishments, the capacity of US Special Operations forces to achieve decisive and enduring successes -- strategic victories that serve US national interests -- have proved to be exceptionally limited, a reality laid bare from Afghanistan to Iraq, Yemen to the Philippines.

The fault for this lies not with the troops themselves, but with a political and military establishment that often appears bereft of strategic vision and hasn't won a major war since the 1940s. Into this breach, elite US forces are deployed again and again. While special ops commanders may raise concerns about the tempo of operations and strains on the force, they have failed to grapple with larger questions about the raison d'etre of SOF, while Washington's oversight establishment, notably the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, have consistently failed to so much as ask hard questions about the strategic utility of America's Special Operations forces.

Special Ops at War

"We operate and fight in every corner of the world," boasts General Raymond Thomas, the chief of US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM). "On a daily basis, we sustain a deployed or forward stationed force of approximately 8,000 across 80-plus countries. They are conducting the entire range of SOF missions in both combat and non-combat situations." Those numbers, however, only hint at the true size and scope of this global special ops effort. Last year, America's most elite forces conducted missions in 138 countries -- roughly 70% of the nations on the planet, according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by US Special Operations Command. Halfway through 2017, US commandos have already been deployed to an astonishing 137 countries, according to SOCOM spokesman Ken McGraw.

Special Operations Command is tasked with carrying out 12 core missions, ranging from counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare to hostage rescue and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Counterterrorism -- fighting what the command calls violent extremist organizations (VEOs) -- may, however, be what America's elite forces have become best known for in the post-9/11 era. "The threat posed by VEOs remains the highest priority for USSOCOM in both focus and effort," says Thomas.

"Special Operations Forces are the main effort, or major supporting effort for US VEO-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America -- essentially, everywhere Al Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are to be found..."
More special operators are deployed to the Middle East than to any other region. Significant numbers of them are advising Iraqi government forces and Iraqi Kurdish soldiers as well as Kurdish YPG (Popular Protection Unit) fighters and various ethnic Arab forces in Syria, according to Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst with the RAND Corporation who spent seven weeks in Iraq, Syria, and neighboring countries earlier this year.

During a visit to Qayyarah, Iraq -- a staging area for the campaign to free Mosul, formerly Iraq's second largest city, from the control of Islamic State fighters -- Robinson "saw a recently installed US military medical unit and its ICU set up in tents on the base." In a type of mission seldom reported on, special ops surgeons, nurses, and other specialists put their skills to work on far-flung battlefields not only to save American lives, but to prop up allied proxy forces that have limited medical capabilities. For example, an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team recently spent eight weeks deployed at an undisclosed location in the Iraq-Syria theater, treating 750 war-injured patients. Operating out of an abandoned one-story home within earshot of a battlefield, the specially trained airmen worked through a total of 19 mass casualty incidents and more than 400 individual gunshot or blast injuries.

When not saving lives in Iraq and Syria, elite US forces are frequently involved in efforts to take them. "US SOF are... being thrust into a new role of coordinating fire support," wrote Robinson. "This fire support is even more important to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a far more lightly armed irregular force which constitutes the major ground force fighting ISIS in Syria." In fact, a video shot earlier this year, analyzed by The Washington Post, shows special operators "acting as an observation element for what appears to be US airstrikes carried out by A-10 ground attack aircraft" to support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting for the town of Shadadi.

Africa now ranks second when it comes to the deployment of special operators thanks to the exponential growth in missions there in recent years. Just 3% of US commandos deployed overseas were sent to Africa in 2010. Now that number stands at more than 17%, according to SOCOM data. Last year, US Special Operations forces were deployed to 32 African nations, about 60% of the countries on the continent. As I recently reported at VICE News, at any given time, Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special operators are now conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries.

In May, for instance, Navy SEALs were engaged in an "advise and assist operation" alongside members of Somalia's army and came under attack. SEAL Kyle Milliken was killed and two other US personnel were injured during a firefight that also, according to AFRICOM spokesperson Robyn Mack, left three al-Shabaab militants dead. US forces are also deployed in Libya to gather intelligence in order to carry out strikes of opportunity against Islamic State forces there. While operations in Central Africa against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal militia that has terrorized the region for decades, wound down recently, a US commando reportedly killed a member of the LRA as recently as April.

Spring Training

What General Thomas calls "building partner nations' capacity" forms the backbone of the global activities of his command. Day in, day out, America's most elite troops carry out such training missions to sharpen their skills and those of their allies and of proxy forces across the planet.

This January, for example, Green Berets and Japanese paratroopers carried out airborne training near Chiba, Japan. February saw Green Berets at Sanaa Training Center in northwest Syria advising recruits for the Manbij Military Council, a female fighting force of Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen, and Yazidis. In March, snowmobiling Green Berets joined local forces for cold-weather military drills in Lapland, Finland. That same month, special operators and more than 3,000 troops from Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom took part in tactical training in Germany.

In the waters off Kuwait, special operators joined elite forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council nations in conducting drills simulating a rapid response to the hijacking of an oil tanker. In April, special ops troops traveled to Serbia to train alongside a local special anti-terrorist unit. In May, members of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Iraq carried out training exercises with Iraqi special operations forces near Baghdad. That same month, 7,200 military personnel, including US Air Force Special Tactics airmen, Italian special operations forces, members of host nation Jordan's Special Task Force, and troops from more than a dozen other nations took part in Exercise Eager Lion, practicing everything from assaulting compounds to cyber-defense. For their part, a group of SEALs conducted dive training alongside Greek special operations forces in Souda Bay, Greece, while others joined NATO troops in Germany as part of Exercise Saber Junction 17 for training in land operations, including mock "behind enemy lines missions" in a "simulated European village."


"We have been at the forefront of national security operations for the past three decades, to include continuous combat over the past 15-and-a-half years," SOCOM's Thomas told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities last month. "This historic period has been the backdrop for some of our greatest successes, as well as the source of our greatest challenge, which is the sustained readiness of this magnificent force." Yet, for all their magnificence and all those successes, for all the celebratory ceremonies they've attended, the wars, interventions, and other actions for which they've served as the tip of the American spear have largely foundered, floundered, or failed.

After their initial tactical successes in Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, America's elite operators became victims of Washington's failure to declare victory and go home. As a result, for the last 15 years, US commandos have been raiding homes, calling in air strikes, training local forces, and waging a relentless battle against a growing list of terror groups in that country. For all their efforts, as well as those of their conventional military brethren and local Afghan allies, the war is now, according to the top US commander in the Middle East, a "stalemate." That's a polite way of saying what a recent report to Congress by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found: districts that are contested or under "insurgent control or influence" have risen from an already remarkable 28% in 2015 to 40%.

The war in Afghanistan began with efforts to capture or kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Having failed in this post-9/11 mission, America's elite forces spun their wheels for the next decade when it came to his fate. Finally, in 2011, Navy SEALs cornered him in his long-time home in Pakistan and gunned him down. Ever since, special operators who carried out the mission and Washington power-players (not to mention Hollywood) have been touting this single tactical success.

In an Esquire interview, Robert O'Neill, the SEAL who put two bullets in bin Laden's head, confessed that he joined the Navy due to frustration over an early crush, a puppy-love pique. "That's the reason al-Qaeda has been decimated," he joked, "because she broke my fucking heart." But al-Qaeda was not decimated -- far from it according to Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent and the author of Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of Bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State. As he recently observed, "Whereas on 9/11 al-Qaeda had a few hundred members, almost all of them based in a single country, today it enjoys multiple safe havens across the world." In fact, he points out, the terror group has gained strength since bin Laden's death.

Year after year, US special operators find themselves fighting new waves of militants across multiple continents, including entire terror groups that didn't exist on 9/11. All US forces killed in Afghanistan in 2017 have reportedly died battling an Islamic State franchise, which began operations there just two years ago.

The US invasion of Iraq, to take another example, led to the meteoric rise of an al-Qaeda affiliate which, in turn, led the military's secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) -- the elite of America's special ops elite -- to create a veritable manhunting machine designed to kill its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and take down the organization. As with bin Laden, special operators finally did find and eliminate Zarqawi, battering his organization in the process, but it was never wiped out. Left behind were battle-hardened elements that later formed the Islamic State and did what al-Qaeda never could: take and hold huge swaths of territory in two nations. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda's Syrian branch grew into a separate force of more than 20,000.

In Yemen, after more than a decade of low-profile special ops engagement, that country teeters on the brink of collapse in the face of a US-backed Saudi war there. Continued US special ops missions in that country, recently on the rise, have seemingly done nothing to alter the situation. Similarly, in Somalia in the Horn of Africa, America's elite forces remain embroiled in an endless war against militants.

In 2011, President Obama launched Operation Observant Compass, sending Special Operations forces to aid Central African proxies in an effort to capture or kill Joseph Kony and decimate his murderous Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), then estimated to number 150 to 300 armed fighters. After the better part of a decade and nearly $800 million spent, 150 US commandos were withdrawn this spring and US officials attended a ceremony to commemorate the end of the mission. Kony was, however, never captured or killed and the LRA is now estimated to number about 150 to 250 fighters, essentially the same size as when the operation began.

This string of futility extends to Asia as well. "US Special Forces have been providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years, at the request of several different Filipino administrations," Emma Nagy, a spokesperson for the US embassy in Manilla, pointed out earlier this month. Indeed, a decade-plus-long special ops effort there has been hailed as a major success. Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines, wrote RAND analyst Linda Robinson late last year in the Pentagon journal Prism, "was aimed at enabling the Philippine security forces to combat transnational terrorist groups in the restive southern region of Mindanao." A 2016 RAND report co-authored by Robinson concluded that "the activities of the US SOF enabled the Philippine government to substantially reduce the transnational terrorist threat in the southern Philippines." This May, however, Islamist militants overran Marawi City, a major urban center on Mindanao. They have been holding on to parts of it for weeks despite a determined assault by Filipino troops backed by US Special Operations forces. In the process, large swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble.

Running on Empty

America's elite forces, General Thomas told members of Congress last month, "are fully committed to winning the current and future fights." In reality, though, from war to war, intervention to intervention, from the Anti-Drug Brigade ceremony in Florencia, Colombia, to the end-of-the-Kony-hunt observance in Obo in the Central African Republic, there is remarkably little evidence that even enduring efforts by Special Operations forces result in strategic victories or improved national security outcomes. And yet, despite such boots-on-the-ground realities, America's special ops forces and their missions only grow.

"We are... grateful for the support of Congress for the required resourcing that, in turn, has produced a SOCOM which is relevant to all the current and enduring threats facing the nation," Thomas told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. Resourcing has, indeed, been readily available. SOCOM's annual budget has jumped from $3 billion in 2001 to more than $10 billion today. Oversight, however, has been seriously lacking. Not a single member of the House or Senate Armed Services Committees has questioned why, after more than 15 years of constant warfare, winning the "current fight" has proven so elusive. None of them has suggested that "support" from Congress ought to be reconsidered in the face of setbacks from Afghanistan to Iraq, Colombia to Central Africa, Yemen to the southern Philippines. In the waning days of George W. Bush's administration, Special Operations forces were reportedly deployed to about 60 nations around the world. By 2011, under President Barack Obama, that number had swelled to 120. During this first half-year of the Trump administration, US commandos have already been sent to 137 countries, with elite troops now enmeshed in conflicts from Africa to Asia. "Most SOF units are employed to their sustainable limit," Thomas told members of the House Armed Services Committee last month. In fact, current and former members of the command have, for some time, been sounding the alarm about the level of strain on the force.

These deployment levels and a lack of meaningful strategic results from them have not, however, led Washington to raise fundamental questions about the ways the US employs its elite forces, much less about SOCOM's raison d'etre. "We are a command at war and will remain so for the foreseeable future," SOCOM's Thomas explained to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Not one member asked why or to what end.
(c) 2017 Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning investigative journalist, he has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Nation, and is a contributing writer for The Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is

The Four-Letter Word
By Uri Avnery

When a Briton or American speaks about a "four-letter word", he means a vulgar sexual term, a word not to be mentioned in polite society.

In Israel we also have such a word, a word of four letters. A word not to mention.

This word is "Shalom", peace.

(In Hebrew, "sh" is one letter, and the "a" is not written.)

For years now this word has disappeared from intercourse (except as a greeting). Every politician knows that it is deadly. Every citizen knows that it is unmentionable.

There are many words to replace it. "Political agreement". "Separation". "We are here and they are there". "Regional arrangement". To name a few.

And here comes Donald Trump and brings the word up again. Trump, a complete ignoramus, does not know that in this country it is taboo.

He wants to make peace here. SH-A-L-O-M. So he says. True, there is not the slightest chance that he really will make peace. But he has brought the word back into the language. Now people speak again about peace. Shalom.

PEACE? WHAT is peace?

There are all kind of peaces. Starting from a little peace, a baby-peace, to a large, even mighty peace.

Therefore, before opening a serious debate about peace, we must define what we mean. An intermission between two wars? Non-belligerence? Existence on different sides of walls and fences? A prolonged armistice? A Hudna (in Arabic culture, an armistice with a fixed expiry date)?

Something like the peace between India and Pakistan? The peace between Germany and France - and if so, the peace before World War I or the peace prevailing now? The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, or the Hot Peace between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump?

There are all kinds of peace situations. What kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace are we talking about? The peace between a horse and its rider? The peace between a people of masters and a people of slaves? Something like the peace between the South African Apartheid regime and the Bantustans it had created for the Blacks? Or a quite different kind of peace, a peace between equals?

It's about this peace I would like to speak. Not "real" peace. Not "perfect" peace. Not "complete" peace.

About peace. Peace pure and simple. Without qualifications, please.

WHEN DID it all start? The conflict that now dominates the lives of the two peoples, when did it begin?

Hard to say.

It is easy to say: it started when the first Jewish immigrant reached these shores.

Sounds simple. But it is not altogether true.

It seems that the pre-Zionist Bilu immigrants, who came here in the early 1800s, did not arouse hostility.

I have a theory about that: some time before the Bilu (short for "House of Jacob, Go!") came here, a religious German sect, the Templers, settled in this country. They had no political aims, just a religious vision. They set up model villages and townships, and the locals were grateful. When the first Jews arrived, the locals assumed that this was more of the same.

Then came the Zionist movement, which definitely had political aims. They spoke only about a "national home", but the founder, Theodor Herzl, had previously written a book called "The Jewish State" (or, more accurately, "The Jewstate"). The aim was hidden for a time, because the country belonged to the Ottoman Empire.

Only very few of the local population realized right from the beginning that this was a mortal danger for them. A large majority of the Muslims saw the Jews only as an inferior religious community, which the Prophet had commanded them to protect.

So when did the conflict start? There are various theories about that. I adhere to the theory of the almost-forgotten historian Aharon Cohen, who pointed to a particular event. In 1908, the revolution of the "Young Turks" broke out. The Islamic Ottoman Empire turned into a nationalist state. As a reaction, there arose in Palestine and the neighboring countries an Arab national movement, which called for the "decentralization" of the empire, giving autonomy to its many peoples.

A local Arab leader approached the Zionist representative in Jerusalem with a tempting offer: if the Jews support the Arab movement, the Arabs will support Zionist immigration.

In great excitement, the Zionist representative rushed to the then leader of the Zionist world movement, Max Nordau, a German Jew, and urged him to accept the offer. But Nordau treated the offer with contempt. After all, it was the Turks who were in possession of the country. What did the Arabs have to offer?

It is difficult to know how history would have evolved if such a Zionist-Arab cooperation had come into being. But a European Jew could not even imagine such a turn of events. Therefore the Zionists cooperated with the Turkish - and later with the British - colonial regime against the local Arab population.

Since then, the conflict between the two peoples has intensified from generation to generation. Now peace is further away than ever.

BUT WHAT is peace?

The past cannot be obliterated. Anyone who suggests that the past should be ignored and that we "start again from the beginning" is dreaming.

Each of the two peoples lives in a past of its own. The past shapes their character and their behavior every day and every hour. But the past of one side is totally different from the past of the other.

This is not just a war between two peoples. It is also a war between two histories. Two histories which contradict each other in almost every particular, though they concern the very same events.

For example: Every Zionist knows that until the 1948 war, the Jews acquired land with good money, money contributed by Jews around the world. Every Arab knows that the Zionists bought the land from absentee landlords who lived in Haifa, Beirut or Monte Carlo, and then demanded that the Turkish (and later the British) police evict the fellahin who had tilled the land for many generations. (All the land had originally belonged to the Sultan, but when the empire was bankrupt the Sultan sold it to Arab speculators.)

Another example: Every Jew is proud of the Kibbutzim, a unique achievement of human progress and social justice, which were frequently attacked by their Arab neighbors. For the Arabs, the Kibbutzim were just sectarian instruments of displacement and deportation.

Another example: Every Jew knows that the Arabs started the 1948 war in order to exterminate the Jewish community. Every Arab knows that in that war, the Jews evicted half the Palestinian people from their homeland.

And so forth: nowadays the Israelis believe that the Palestinian Authority, which pays a monthly salary to the families of "murderers", supports terrorism. The Palestinians believe that the Authority is duty-bound to support the families whose sons and daughters have sacrificed their lives for their people.

And so forth, without end.

(By the way, I am very proud of having invented the only scientifically sound definition of "terrorist", which both sides can accept: "Freedom fighters are on my side, terrorists are on the other side.")

THERE WILL never be peace if the two peoples do not know the historical narrative of the other side. There is no need to accept the narrative of the opponent. One can deny it totally. But one has to know it, in order to understand the other people and respect it.

Peace does not have to be based on mutual love. But it must be based on mutual respect. Mutual respect can arise only when each people knows the historical narrative of the other side. When it understands that, it will also understand why the other people acts the way it does, and what is needed for peaceful co-existence.

That would be much easier if every Israeli Jew learned Arabic, and every Palestinian Arab learned Hebrew. That would not solve the problem, of course, but it would bring the solution much closer.

When each of the two peoples understands that the other side is not a bloodthirsty monster, but acts from natural motives, it will discover many positive points in the culture of the other side. Personal contacts will be established, perhaps even friendships.

This is already happening in Israel, though on a small scale. In the academic world, for example. And in the hospitals. Jewish patients are often surprised to discover that their nice and competent doctor is an Arab and that Arab male nurses are frequently more gentle than the Jewish ones.

That cannot replace dealing with the real problems. Our two peoples are divided by real, weighty controversies. There is a problem about land, about borders, about refugees. There are problems of security and innumerable other issues. A war of more than a hundred years will not end without painful compromises.

When there is a basis for negotiations between equals, a basis of mutual respect, insoluble problems will suddenly become soluble problems.

BUT THE precondition for this process is the return of the four-letter-word to the language.

It is impossible to do something big, something historic, if there is no belief that it is possible.

A person will not plug an electric cord into a wall if they do not believe that they will be connected to electricity. They must believe that the lights will go on.

Nobody will start peace negotiations if they believe that peace is impossible.

The belief in peace will not make peace certain. But at least it will make peace possible.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class
By Glen Ford

Donald Trump's vicious demonization of exiled Black Panther Assata Shakur, spat out in the course of his partial reversal of his predecessor's "opening" to Cuba, shows once again that imperialism is a system, not a face or a political party -- and that the U.S. version of imperialism is inseparable from the white settler origins of the State. Near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama sought to ease the terms of Washington's half-century long, self-defeating blockade of the socialist island, while simultaneously increasing U.S. regime change efforts against Cuba's ally, the socialist government of Venezuela. But it was Obama's FBI that, three years ago, doubled the state of New Jersey's $1 million bounty on Shakur's head -- an inducement to kidnap or assassination that Obama could have withdrawn with the stroke of a pen, but did not. Obama was prepared to adjust a policy that had resulted in the isolation of the U.S., rather than Cuba -- and which was opposed by major sectors of corporate America -- but would not yield an inch on Washington's demand that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.

Assata represents the continuity of the centuries-long U.S. war against its Black population, a conflict that was taken to "a higher level," as folks used to say, with the Black rebellions of the Sixties, the imposition of a mass Black incarceration regime, and the designation of the Black Panther Party as Public Enemy #1. Three generations and tens of millions of prisoners later, the Mass Black Incarceration State is more entrenched than ever; heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations; and Assata Shakur is the only woman on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

She was placed there by the nation's First Black President, with "not a peep" from "a single black mayor or member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Not Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and certainly not the presidential lap dog Al Sharpton," as BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon wrote, in 2013.

A year later, in June of 2014 -- just two months before Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman -- four out of five Black Caucus members voted to continue massive transfers of Pentagon weapons and equipment to local police. As (white) Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, sponsor of the bill to outlaw the arms transfers, stated:

"These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets. Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority."

Among the 80 percent of the Black Caucus that voted to continue the Pentagon-to-local-police arms pipeline, was Michael Brown's "mis-representative" in Congress, William Lacy Clay.

A study conducted two years later, in 2016, revealed that Barack Obama had used the 1033 Pentagon transfers program to oversee "the biggest escalation in the history of the one-sided war against Black America." As we wrote:

"The value of military weapons, gear and equipment transferred to local cops did not exceed $34 million annually until 2010, the second year of the Obama administration, when it nearly tripled to more than $91 million. By 2014...Obama was sending three quarters of a billion dollars, more than $787 million a year, in battlefield weaponry to local police departments. In other words, President Obama oversaw a 24-fold (2,400%) increase in the militarization of local police between 2008 and 2014. Even with the scale-back announced in 2015, Obama still managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to the cops -- 14 times as much weapons of terror and death than President Bush gifted to the local police at his high point year of 2008."
By the numbers, Obama qualifies as "the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States -- bigger than Bush, Clinton and all his predecessors since the genesis of the Black mass incarceration regime in the late Sixties."

The 1033 program was enacted in 1997. A year later, the U.S. House unanimously passed a resolution requesting that Cuban leader Fidel Castro extradite Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, to the United States. Two Black California congresswomen, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, claimed they voted for the resolution by mistake, not recognizing that Chesimard and Shakur were the same person. Waters then released a statement opposing the extradition:

"I support the right of all nations to grant political asylum to individuals fleeing political persecution. The United States grants political asylum to individuals from all over the world who successfully prove they are fleeing political persecution. Other sovereign nations have the same right, including the sovereign nation of Cuba....

"The second reason I oppose this measure, is because I respect the right of Assata Shakur to seek political asylum. Assata Shakur has maintained that she was persecuted as a result of her political beliefs and political affiliations. As a result, she left the United States and sought political asylum in Cuba, where she still resides.

"In a sad and shameful chapter of our history, during the 1960s and 1970s, many civil rights, Black Power and other politically active groups were secretly targeted by the FBI for prosecution based on their political beliefs."

If Waters can break away from her 24-7 tirades against imaginary Russian subversion of U.S. "democracy," she should compose a similar letter to Trump. But no such statement can yet be found on the Internet.

In December of 2014, attorney Martin Garbus told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that he was sure Shakur "will not be returned. Fidel Castro, when she came there, said that she would be allowed to stay in Cuba indefinitely. I had a meeting about a month ago with five congresspeople, including Representative Barbara Lee, and they were also absolutely clear that they would oppose any attempts on the United States to succeed that would get Assata Shakur back. So, to me, it's absolutely clear she's not coming back."

We have yet to hear from the five Congressional Black Caucus members in the wake of Trump's Miami announcement in Miami, and there is no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump's persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba - despite their hatred of the Orange Menace in the White House. As a Caucus, they are easy to rile against phantom Russians, but worthless -- or worse -- when it comes to opposing U.S. wars at home and abroad. The Congressional Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bill Clinton's 1994 anti-crime (pro-mass Black incarceration) bill, and all but a few CBC members supported the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act with its 100-to-1 penalties for crack cocaine.

The Black Misleadership Class has proven, over the 40 years of its political hegemony in Black America, that its loyalty is to the Democratic Party and its corporate sponsors, and to the imperial system.

Shakur was more likely to reach a sympathetic ear with the Pope, whom she wrote in 1998:

"To make a long story short, I was captured in New Jersey in 1973, after being shot with both arms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I was convicted in a trial that can only be described as a legal lynching.

"In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.

"The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see me brought to 'justice.' But I would like to know what they mean by 'justice.' Is torture justice? I was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men's prisons. Is that justice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I was tried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years. Is that justice?"

It is correct and commendable to point out the hypocrisy of the United States, which offers a bounty on Shakur while harboring scores of real terrorists that have committed ghastly crimes against Cuba as agents of the U.S. It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers, including Shakur co-defendant Sundiata Acoli, now 80 years old. (Sekou Odinga, who was charged with helping Shakur escape, spent 33 years in prison before his release in 2014.) Moreover, since the Mass Black Incarceration State was created to crush the Black Liberation Movement, it is a political weapon, conveying a political character to all of its Black prisoners. The Black Misleadership Class has been complicit in the rise of this Black Incarceration State, as recently explored in James Foreman Jr.'s book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.

Many in the broad Black Lives Matter movement express great love and admiration for Assata Shakur. Yet, release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations -- which tends to indicate that most participants don't anticipate that they might wind up becoming long term political prisoners, themselves.

The political activist's only real defense lies with the people for whom she risks her life and freedom. In the end, it's all on us.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Alex Jones speaks at a Trump rally near the RNC in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 18, 2016.

Alex Jones Is A Practiced Swindler-Just Like His Biggest Fan
Jones felt burned by his treatment on Megyn Kelly's show, but the Infowars "performance artist" should have known their interview had nothing to do with journalism.
By Eric Alterman

Somebody is "putting chemicals in the water that turn the frickin' frogs gay." The Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax perpetrated by a group of pro-gun-control parents who faked the murder of their own children. The September 11 attacks, too, were somehow a sham-never mind for what purpose or by whom. FEMA is planning to force God-fearing Americans into concentration camps. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is a "fairy" and a "cocksucker...sucking globalist dick." Hillary Clinton secretly ran a child sex-trafficking ring out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, DC.

Such are the musings of the Infowars impresario, Alex Jones. But if you think Jones is merely crazy, he's got you fooled, too. Like his most prominent fan, who currently resides in the Oval Office, Jones is a practiced grifter who specializes in preying on the ignorance and insecurity of his customer base. Sweaty outbursts and erratic gesticulations aside, Jones brings to his swindle a coldly calculating eye and a genuine talent for shameless manipulation.

As a lengthy Buzzfeed profile demonstrated earlier this year, Jones's unhinged rants are closely tied to the products he hawks in his Infowars store to the kind of losers and lunatics who fear the presence of fluoride in their toothpaste. (I'm not kidding: He sells fluoride-free toothpaste.) According to the former Infowars employees that Buzzfeed interviewed, it was the job of his staff to find failing products, negotiate sweetheart deals, and then make up nonsensical threats to frighten gullible rubes into buying this worthless crap. ("I've seen him undercut a company that sells survival straws for $25, force them down to $10, and sell them at $50," yet another ex-employee told Buzzfeed.) When Jones was forced in a recent child-custody case to explain what he was up to, his lawyer admitted that his client was merely practicing "performance art."

One might say much the same about Donald Trump, though we can't know for sure. Both he and Jones enjoy a genius-like talent for finding words that reach into the hearts and minds of America's surprisingly large lunatic fringe, not only playing them for big bucks, but also weaponizing them against common sense, social peace, and democracy itself.

Sometimes they operate as a tag team. In late 2015, Trump appeared on Jones's show and called the host's reputation "amazing," while Infowars' Hillary for Prison T-shirts proved a popular fashion statement at Trump's rallies. On election night, Trump fixer (and fellow Roy Cohn protege) Roger Stone clinked champagne glasses with Jones as Frank Sinatra's rendition of "My Way" played on the air.

Another high-profile fan, Matt Drudge, frequently links to Jones's latest screeds and thereby magnifies his voice many times over, far beyond the 5 million listeners and viewers he claims. On occasion, the falsehood in question will make its way to Trump, and from Trump to the wider world. In November 2016, Drudge pushed Infowars' lies about alleged illegal voting in the US presidential election by 3 million people. Thirteen days later, Trump tweeted the baseless claim. Jones explains how this works: "I put out a video, a message to Trump, and then two days later he lays out the case. It's like sending up the bat signal." Any serious journalist who honestly wanted to examine the dangers that this particular form of mass insanity, led by a psychopathic president and a professional provocateur, poses to public life would have to ask how statements so obviously ridiculous could command the assent of so many. Unfortunately for America, Megyn Kelly-the former Fox News anchor who conducted a much-hyped interview with Jones for her new show on NBC-is not such a journalist. As I've had all too many occasions to observe in this column, Kelly is only marginally less irresponsible than Jones, Drudge, and Trump. Deeply committed to the "verifiable fact" that Santa Claus was white, and that the New Black Panther Party is a threat to white people's voting rights (the subject of 45 separate Kelly File reports back when she was on Fox News), NBC's new star hire also thinks the kind of pepper spray used on student protesters is "a food product," and that the community-activist group ACORN was in the business of sending "child rapists" to conduct the United States Census. It's not hard to understand why Kelly would say to Jones, as she did on a tape he leaked, "I've always been a fan of yours until everything happened." In her shameless suck-up to Jones, Kelly also promised not "to portray [him] as some kind of bogeyman," and even offered to let him see which clips of their conversation she planned to use before the interview ran.

That neither Kelly and her producers nor NBC executives saw how damaging it would be to treat Jones's violent delusions as just another point of view shows how thoroughly Fox News has corrupted the idea of truth in our society, and how little a sense of social responsibility burdens the consciences of the executives who run network news. What was perhaps most interesting about the whole affair was how quickly NBC caved in to complaints that the feature would likely celebrate Jones rather than expose him. According to a "Page Six" story in the New York Post (which none of the relevant parties has denied), Kelly's segment on Jones was "completely overhauled" as a result. The sole reason for this, apparently, was the Sandy Hook business. Kelly reportedly called several of the victims' families and invited one father of a murdered child on the show to share his pain. Kelly's interview with Jones barely appeared in the segment at all.

At least we now know where the line is drawn when it comes to promoting crazy, destructive right-wing propaganda on network news. One may not deny the reality of a massacre of schoolchildren-so long as the massacre occurs in the United States and is not perpetrated abroad by "our side." We also now see how easy it is to "work the refs" from the left, just as the right has been doing for decades. Consider how far NBC went to assuage the anger that the network experienced before the broadcast. Jones had every right to feel seduced and abandoned by Kelly and NBC. But he should have known better than anyone that the entire exercise had next to nothing to do with journalism. Rather, it was yet another piece of "performance art" designed to hawk a product-just one with a prettier face and better production values.
(c) 2017 Eric Alterman is Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism, Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He is also the "Liberal Media" columnist for The Nation, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC, and the Nation Institute and the World Policy Institute in New York, as well as former columnist for The Daily Beast, The Forward, Moment, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, the Sunday Express (London), etc. Alterman is the author of 10 books, including the national bestseller What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News. He has been called "the most honest and incisive media critic writing today" in the National Catholic Reporter and author of "the smartest and funniest political journal out there" in The San Francisco Chronicle. A winner of the George Orwell Prize, the Stephen Crane Literary Award, and the Mirror Award for media criticism, he has previously taught at Columbia and NYU and has been a Hoover Institution Media Fellow at Stanford University. Alterman received his PhD in American history from Stanford, his MA in international relations at Yale, and his BA from Cornell. He lives with his family in Manhattan, where he is currently at work on a book about the history of the Israel/Palestine debate in the United States for Basic Books. More information is available at

Would Even The Craziest World Leader Behave Like Trump?
By Jim Hightower

What's the matter with these people? The Trumpsters in the White House and Congress, I mean.

Start with The Donald himself. What's wrong with him that he would require the top officials of his government to humiliate themselves publicly, making them try to outdo each other in a groveling Worship-a-thon of praise for his magnificence? On June 12, at the first meeting of his full cabinet - including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State, and all the other supposedly-powerful luminaries of the Government of the United States of America - all were called upon to say their name, then meekly offer their smarmiest praise of Trump's integrity, agenda, and manly leadership. He even had it televised! This spectacle of forced adulation of "The Leader" was so eerily insane that even North Korea's Kim Jong-un would've been too embarrassed to orchestrate it!

Yet, Trump wasn't satiated by superlatives from his cabinet of sycophants. Instead, he publicly stroked his own ego with the fanciful claim that Americans are "seeing amazing results" from his presidency. Shifting into overdrive, the chief proclaimed that "never has there been a president - [except maybe] FDR - who's passed more legislation, who's done more things than what we've done."

Uh... no, Mr. President. Not actually. Not even close. I realize you don't "believe" in facts, but here's one to sober you up: The Trump White House has produced no major legislation. None. Zero.

You're right, however, that we Americans are seeing truly "amazing results" from your six months on the job: We're amazed that in such a short time your so-called presidency is mired in conflicts of interest, constitutional quagmires, erratic behavior, ideological arrogance, tweeted ignorance, lame policy proposals, and - let's admit the obvious - your own incompetence.
(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. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell departs a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill,
in Washington, DC, June 22, 2017. Senate Republicans took a major step Thursday toward
repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, unveiling a bill that would make
deep cuts to Medicaid and leave possibly millions of people without health insurance.

Ruthless, Soulless, Vicious: Three Reasons the Senate GOP's ACA Replacement Is a Disgrace
By William Rivers Pitt

The Senate's answer to the House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- cheerily titled "The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" -- hit my desk like a bag of dung late Thursday morning. As I read through its largely inscrutable text, I started flashing back to junior high school and the first time I tried to read Shakespeare in the raw. Take, for one example, this nugget from p. 74, sec. 1903A, lines 18-24: "1903A ENROLLEE. -- The term '1903A enrollee' means, with respect to a State and a month and subject to subsection (i)(1)(B), any Medicaid enrollee (as defined in paragraph (3)) for the month, other than such an enrollee who for such month is in any of the following categories of excluded individuals..."

Clear as mud, Mr. McConnell. After a couple of false starts, I found my groove and with slowly dawning horror realized I was reading one of the most ruthless, soulless, vicious documents ever put to print. While not as bloodthirsty as the House version it seeks to correct, the Better Care Reconciliation Act is a genuinely cruel piece of work that will deliver millions of people to the gutter or the grave.

1. The Dismantling of Medicaid

Let's start with a baseline: Some 20 percent of Americans are enrolled in Medicaid; 39 percent of children in the US are enrolled in Medicaid; 49 percent of births are covered by Medicaid; and a full 64 percent, or nearly two-thirds of nursing home patients, are covered by Medicaid.

Here's the treatment Medicaid gets in this reconciliation bill: "Beginning with fiscal year 2020, any State (as defined in subsection (e)) that has an application approved by the Secretary under subsection (b) may conduct a Medicaid Flexibility Program to provide targeted health assistance to program enrollees."

And: ''(A) FEDERAL PAYMENT. -- Subject to sub-paragraph (D), the Secretary shall pay to each State conducting a Medicaid Flexibility Program under this section for a fiscal year, from its block grant amount under paragraph (2) for such year, an amount for each quarter of such year equal to the Federal average medical assistance percentage (as defined in section 1903A(a)(4)) of the total amount expended under the program during such quarter, and the State is responsible for the balance of the funds to carry out such program." The Better Care Reconciliation Act is a genuinely cruel piece of work that will deliver millions of people to the gutter or the grave.

In short, control of Medicaid will devolve to the states, essentially ending the program as we have known it. States will not be allowed to expand Medicaid after three years, a large sticking point for several GOP senators who are still on the fence. States will be responsible for at least a portion of the costs beyond what is provided by a federal block grant, and as described in later language, can opt out of the whole thing whenever they choose. The amount of that block grant will diminish over time after 2021, which lessens the immediate impact on Medicaid but does far more damage to the program in the long run. Medicaid itself will essentially cease to exist after 2025.

That last piece is a clever bit of sleight-of-hand often practiced on 42nd Street in New York City by guys with three nutshells and a pea: Stretching out the attack on Medicaid over a longer time period leavens the headline-grabbing conclusions that will be reached by the Congressional Budget Office's score, which is slated to be released on Monday. Any way you slice it, tens of millions of people will take it right in the teeth, and many of them are the poorest and neediest among us.

2. Attacks on Elderly People, Women and Working People

Under this new reconciliation, insurers will be allowed to charge older policyholders as much as five times more than younger policyholders. Tax credits for insurance will be based on age, geographic location and income, but will only be applied to the shabbier plans available, and will end in 2020 if President Trump doesn't cancel them sooner, which he will have the power to do. States will be allowed to alter the definition of an "essential health benefit," so services like emergency care and prenatal care could face the chopping block.

In the bill, Planned Parenthood is stripped of federal funding, a direct attack on basic, necessary reproductive health care. This amounts to yet another front in the GOP's long-standing quest to relegate women to second-class status in the US, and if successful, will represent a huge victory for the anti-choice right wing. Planned Parenthood, crucially, offers abortion, but it also addresses many other needs. It performs cancer screening and offers birth control, along with a wide assortment of other health care services, often for women who cannot afford health insurance or OBGYN care. If this provision is allowed to stand, it will be a devastating blow.

One woefully under-reported aspect of this bill is the fact that the employer mandate to provide insurance is gone. This has the potential to do grave damage to the middle-class and working-class families who depend on employer-provided insurance. With no financial incentive to provide employee coverage, and plenty of financial incentive to denude or do away with employee coverage entirely, look for a grim number of businesses, large and small, taking advantage of this provision to the detriment of millions.

3. The Loot

And then, of course, there is the loot. Beyond the $800 billion that will be stripped from Medicaid over time and shuttled to the rich, the guts of this reconciliation bill are bursting with repealed taxes that will favor the wealthy and the health care industry itself. To the delight of John Boehner and presumably Trump as well, p. 29, line 17, sec. 118 repeals the "Tanning Tax," but a whole battalion of other tax repeals follow like the tolling of a dinner bell for the ravenous few.

This reconciliation bill is so ruthless that it inspired former President Obama to denounce it in a large Facebook missive on Thursday afternoon. "Simply put," he wrote, "if there's a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family -- this bill will do you harm. I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there's a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it's to make people's lives better, not worse."

The latter sentiment reminded me of a recent comment by Charles P. Pierce regarding President Obama and the Republicans: "This may be the final example of the worst part of the Obama presidency," wrote Pierce, "namely, his persistent, unfounded belief in the rationality of his political opposition." Anyone who reads and comprehends the core nature of this bill must, I fear, be forced to agree. Nice people did not draft this thing, and the tiny slice of the public the drafters are serving with it couldn't give less of a damn about the damage that will be done by it -- in fact, many of them will benefit from it.

Will It Fly?

Now that the cat is finally out of the bag, the central question remains: Will this thing fly? McConnell has bet every chip he has that moderate Republicans who are wary of the Medicaid restrictions and conservative Republicans who see this as too much like the ACA will eventually fall in line, lest the whole thing collapse in ignominy and wind up around their necks like a rancid albatross in 2018. McConnell has already made it abundantly clear that if this reconciliation fails, he intends to move on to other matters. One woefully under-reported aspect of this bill is the fact that the employer mandate to provide insurance is gone.

It's a very tall gamble. Conservatives like Rand Paul have already attacked the thing, and moderates like Shelley Capito, Rob Portman and Susan Collins remain very leery over the current version of the bill. As of Thursday evening, Paul, along with fellow senators Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and Mike Lee, had voiced their grave displeasure with the bill as currently constituted and threatened to vote "No" on anything they deem to be "Obamacare Lite." They may mean it, or they could just be positioning themselves for negotiations on the final language that are almost certainly already underway.

McConnell has 52 Republican senators in his caucus and needs 50 votes, with Vice President Pence waiting in the wings to cast a tie-breaking vote if need be. He can't lose more than two. It will be a close shave. The CBO scoring will hit on Monday, and McConnell has vowed to bring the bill to the floor next week whether or not he has the votes.

Bear in mind, of course, that in this day and age, the words "moderate" and "Republican" seldom find each other comin' through the rye. A "moderate" Republican today is akin to the snipe, a mythical creature that has been hunted by millions to no avail. Provisions to address the opioid crisis and to elongate the assault on Medicaid both made it into the bill as a sop to these wavering "moderates." There's a lot of talk coming from that quarter right now, but I suspect these fence-sitters will eventually line up with the majority leader. It will likely be the hard-liners like Paul who will decide if this thing lives or dies. The margin is indeed miniscule if, as expected, no Democrats vote in favor. It will likely be the hard-liners like Paul who will decide if this thing lives or dies.

The fate of millions now stands upon the fulcrum of the coming week. This reconciliation was drafted in total secrecy, and in the light of day stands as little more than a smash-and-grab robbery favoring the wealthy and powerful at the brutal expense of the poorest and weakest among us. With the removal of the employer mandate, middle-class and working-class families likewise face a future of uncertainty and pain. That this bill exists at all is an embarrassment to the nation. The "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017" must be cast out with the refuse like the bag of dung it is.
(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.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) confront
bulldozers working on the new oil pipeline in an effort to make them stop near Cannon Ball, North Dakota on September 3, 2016.

EPA's New Water Safety Official Is A Lobbyist With Deep Ties To The Dakota Access Pipeline
By Lee Fang

Dennis Lee Forsgren, a former lobbyist recently tapped to lead the Environmental Protection Agency office in charge of water safety, has deep ties to a fossil fuel advocacy group engaged in the promotion of the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as controversial offshore drilling efforts.

The appointment signals a victory for industrial opponents of clean water regulations. The department that Forsgren will now help oversee, the EPA's Office of Water, is in charge of implementing the landmark Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts passed in the early seventies. In that capacity it studies the toxic effects of fracking on groundwater safety, the downstream consequences of industrial pollutants, and the environmental impact of oil spills.

Before arriving at the EPA, Forsgren was an attorney for HBW Resources, a fossil fuel lobbying firm known for orchestrating campaigns on behalf of industry clients.

The public-facing side of Forsgren's lobbying firm is the Consumer Energy Alliance, an astroturf advocacy organization managed by HBW Resources that works aggressively to build support for contentious oil and gas projects around the country.

CEA portrays itself as the "voice of the energy consumer," providing "sound, unbiased information on U.S. and global energy issues." However, tax filings show that the organization shares office space in Houston with HBW Resources, HBW's staff simultaneously serve as CEA's staff members, HBW is registered to lobby for CEA, and CEA transfers the bulk of its funding to HBW for "management" fees.

Moreover, the group relies heavily on funding from the corporate interests which benefit the most from their advocacy. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, the trade group for the nation's largest oil refineries, provided significant financing to CEA. Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for building the Dakota Access pipeline, is listed as a corporate member of CEA.

CEA played a significant role in the energy industry's attempt to build support for the Keystone XL, sponsoring a study on the economic benefits of the pipeline, providing draft letters used by members of Congress to endorse it, and setting up a special website to mobilize thousands of petitions to pressure the State Department to approve the project.

Similar tactics were deployed by the CEA and HBW to win support for offshore drilling efforts stalled because of public backlash. Letters filed with regulators in support of Shell Oil during its bid to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic used language provided by CEA. In another case, metadata from a letter signed by several governors in support of drilling efforts in the Atlantic Ocean off the Eastern Seaboard revealed that a staffer with HBW had authored the document.

Over the last year, CEA and HBW have worked to build approval for the Dakota Access pipeline, which would bring fracked oil from North Dakota to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

In 2016, the group launched a campaign called "Pipelines for America," which included grassroots events and advertisements designed to push back against growing opposition to the Dakota Access. The group also appeared in the media to sharply criticize protests at Standing Rock, the encampment for activists opposed to the Dakota Access. David Holt, the president of both HBW and CEA, was quoted last fall claiming that Standing Rock protesters have no interest in "protecting the environment" and are instead motivated by an interest in "shutting down the American economy."

In response to the decision by President Donald Trump to approve pipeline projects delayed by the previous administration, Holt issued a statement stating, "CEA has strongly supported both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines for many years and we enthusiastically applaud President Trump's decision today to move ahead with these long-delayed projects."

The deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Water, the position awarded to Forsgren, does not require Senate confirmation, meaning that he can start his job right away. The announcement was made through an EPA staff email obtained by The Intercept.

As we've reported, the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt has become the perhaps the greatest nexus for industry influence in the entire Trump administration.

The official tapped to lead the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Nancy Beck, is a former chemical industry lobbyist. Susan Bodine, nominated to lead the EPA's enforcement office, previously worked as a lobbyist for industrial paper and forestry clients cited for hundreds of EPA violations. Justin Schwab, appointed as a senior attorney at the EPA, previously worked for utility industry interest to oppose the EPA's climate change regulations. Even the EPA's new legislative outreach staff includes a former industry lobbyist who worked previously for a power plant trade group tasked with repealing the EPA's Clean Air Act rules.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment about whether Forsgren has signed an ethics waiver, and if he will recuse himself from any issues related to HBW or CEA advocacy.

In recent months, the EPA's Office of Water has been busy dealing with the lead-poisoning water scandal in Flint, Michigan, as well as complying with President Trump's executive order to help find "existing regulations that could be repealed, replaced or modified to make them less burdensome."
(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.

GOP Health Care Plan Crushes Working-Class Blacks and Whites, but Not the Middle-Class Whites Who Elected Trump
Contrary to the media narrative, wealthier whites, not poorer ones, formed the GOP's 2016 voter base.
By Steven Rosenfeld

As the drama crests this week surrounding possible Senate passage of an extraordinarily punitive health care bill, we should ask, why is the GOP so heartless? Why are Republicans bent on cutting access to care for the most vulnerable people, especially the poor-including the white working-class voters who were said to be a pillar of Trump's base?

After the election, many in mainstream and progressive media said that Trump's base, and indeed the wave that lifted the GOP into its congressional majority today, were white working-class voters who abandoned Democrats en masse. The Atlantic heralded Trump's "blue-collar" rise on "class, not ideology." The AP pointed to "both parties' working-class whites." Thomas Frank-whose 2004 book, What's the Matter With Kansas, traced the rise of white conservatives-described Trump's base as mostly "working-class whites" worried about the economy.

It turns out that most of the Americans who helped elect Trump and the GOP are white, but they are not poor. In his crusade to dismantle Obamacare and cut Medicaid's future appropriations by a quarter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not turning on his voters; according to recently released national survey data, those who voted for Trump and the GOP in 2016 are overwhelmingly white, yes; but the majority of them are not poor and not working class.

"A few weeks ago, the American National Election Study-the longest-running election survey in the United States-released its 2016 survey data. And it showed that in November 2016, the Trump coalition looked a lot like it did during the primaries," blogged Duke University's Nicholas Carnes and Vanderbilt University's Noam Lupu for the Washington Post. "Trump's voters weren't overwhelmingly poor. In the general election, like the primary, about two-thirds of Trump supporters came from the better-off half of the economy."

"In short, the narrative that attributes Trump's victory to a 'coalition of mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters' just doesn't square with the 2016 election data," they said, explaining that most pollsters incorrectly assumed that the 70 percent of Americans who don't have college degrees were working class and poorer-and many are not.

"Many analysts have argued that the partisan divide between more and less educated people is bigger than ever. During the general election, 69 percent of Trump voters in the election study didn't have college degrees. Isn't that evidence that the working class made up most of Trump's base? The truth is more complicated: many of the voters without college educations who supported Trump were relatively affluent," they wrote.

In the survival-of-the-fittest world of American capitalism and GOP politics, there's no shortage of right-wingers bashing the poor, whether they are white or not. That mindset clearly has spilled over into those promoting the GOP's health care bills, where a schism is emerging between the voters in the GOP's 2016 base and those McConnell's bill is targeting.

A typical example emerged this weekend on CBS-TV's Face the Nation, where Ben Domenech, the Federalist's founder and publisher, smeared Ohio's Medicaid disability recipients as unworthy of public benefits.

"When Governor Kasich, you know, pushed for the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, he ended up having to throw 34,000 disabled people off of the program because it incentivized adding these working, able-bodied adults over people who actually were in the system who had disabilities or had other dependence," he said, repeating the GOP's old trope of deadbeats on welfare.

There's nothing new about this undercurrent in the GOP. Last year, writing in the National Review, Kevin D. Williamson went after poor whites (drawn to Trump) as people who could do the nation a favor by dying.

"The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die," he wrote. "Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs....The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles."

How much of this attitude is reflected in the Republicans' health care bills? The answer is plenty. The House-passed bill takes $820 billion out of future Medicaid appropriations over the next decade, rapidly phases out government subsidies for insurance premiums bought by individuals on government exchanges and deregulates insurance without any coverage requirements or price controls. While those policies will cause chaos across the economic spectrum, including the middle class, the poor are the hardest hit.

The Senate bill has even harsher elements than the House bill. It would cut Medicaid more by turning it into a rationed-care system where states receive grants, and adopt a stingy new formula for annual increases. Health policy experts have noted McConnell's plan wants "lower-income people to pay more." Its use of tax credits to offset premium increases and deductibles will be of little use to the working-class poor and lower-income seniors, a new analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found.

Just as mainstream media mischaracterized those who elected Trump and the GOP, it's likely they are missing the same ingredient in who would be hurt most by the GOP's health care proposals: non-GOP voters. It's not just blue states that would see the largest rollbacks-as they are the states that most aggressively embraced Obamacare and its expansion of Medicaid. It's also poorer people, working-class whites and non-whites, who, as the American National Election Study notes, didn't elect Trump and the GOP.

Where McConnell's plan is likely to fall off the rails is from the chaos it would bring to more middle-class and affluent whites-or red rural states like Alaska and Maine with high health care costs. That is, if his efforts to please corporate health care interests are seen as backfiring on Tea Partiers who infamously yelled, "Hands off my Medicare." (Late Monday's release Congressional Budget Office analysis may provide that catalyst, projecting the Senate bill will leave 22 million Americans uninsured by 2026.)

But as policy experts dug into the Senate bill on Monday, their analyses seemed to confirm that McConnell's bill wasn't targeting his party's better-off base. One newly discovered provision would lock out anyone who missed an insurance payment from buying a new policy for six months. One-third of those with pre-existing conditions had this coverage gap in the past two years, but they tend to be poorer. Another report found the bill could push seniors out of nursing homes paid by Medicaid, as a subsidy of Medicare.

Those likely to be hardest hit include working-class whites, but they were not Trump's voters, the analysis by Duke University's Nicholas Carnes and Vanderbilt University's Noam Lupu underscored. "According to the [American National] Election study, white non-Hispanic voters without college degrees making below the median household income made up only 25 percent of Trump voters. That's a far cry from the working class-fueled victory many journalists have imagined."

No one ever accused McConnell of not knowing what he is doing.
(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).

President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017.

Democrats Face Failing Russia-Gate Scheme
The plan for Democrats to run against Russia may be falling apart.
By Norman Solomon

After squandering much of the last six months on faulting Russians for the horrific presidency of Donald Trump... After blaming America's dire shortfalls of democracy on plutocrats in Russia more than on plutocrats in America... After largely marketing the brand of their own party as more anti-Russian than pro-working-people... After stampeding many Democratic Party-aligned organizations, pundits and activists into fixating more on Russia than on the thousand chronic cuts to democracy here at home... After soaking up countless hours of TV airtime and vast quantities of ink and zillions of pixels to denounce Russia in place of offering progressive remedies to the deep economic worries of American voters...

Now, Democrats in Congress and other party leaders are starting to face an emerging reality: The "winning issue"of Russia is a losing issue.

The results of a reliable new nationwide poll - and what members of Congress keep hearing when they actually listen to constituents back home - cry out for a drastic reorientation of Democratic Party passions. And a growing number of Democrats in Congress are getting the message.

"Frustrated Democrats hoping to elevate their election fortunes have a resounding message for party leaders: Stop talking so much about Russia," The Hill reported over the weekend. In sharp contrast to their party's top spokespeople, "rank-and-file Democrats say the Russia-Trump narrative is simply a non-issue with district voters, who are much more worried about bread-and-butter economic concerns like jobs, wages and the cost of education and healthcare."

The Hill coverage added: "In the wake of a string of special-election defeats, an increasing number of Democrats are calling for an adjustment in party messaging, one that swings the focus from Russia to the economy. The outcome of the 2018 elections, they say, hinges on how well the Democrats manage that shift."

A Big Disconnect

Such assessments aren't just impressionistic or anecdotal. A major poll has just reached conclusions that indicate party leaders have been operating under political illusions. Conducted last week, the Harvard-Harris national poll found a big disconnect between the Russia obsession of Democratic Party elites in Washington and voters around the country.

The poll "reveals the risks inherent for the Democrats, who are hoping to make big gains - or even win back the House - in 2018," The Hill reported. "The survey found that while 58 percent of voters said they're concerned that Trump may have business dealings with Moscow, 73 percent said they're worried that the ongoing investigations are preventing Congress from tackling issues more vital to them."

The co-director of the Harvard-Harris poll, Mark Penn, commented on the results: "While the voters have a keen interest in any Russian election interference, they are concerned that the investigations have become a distraction for the president and Congress that is hurting rather than helping the country."

Such incoming data are sparking more outspoken dissent from House Democrats who want to get re-elected as well as depose Republicans from majority power. In short, if you don't want a GOP speaker of the House, wise up to the politics at play across the country.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch, a progressive Democrat, put it this way: "We should be focused relentlessly on economic improvement [and] we should stay away from just piling on the criticism of Trump, whether it's about Russia, whether it's about Comey. Because that has its own independent dynamic, it's going to happen on its own without us piling on."

Welch said, "We're much better off if we just do the hard work of coming up with an agenda. Talking about Trump and Russia doesn't create an agenda."

Creating a compelling agenda would mean rejecting what has become the rote reflex of Democratic Party leadership - keep hammering Trump as a Kremlin tool. In a typical recent comment, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pounded away at a talking point already so worn out that it has the appearance of a bent nail: "What do the Russians have on Donald Trump?" In contrast, another House Democrat, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, said: "If you see me treating Russia and criticisms of the president and things like that as a secondary matter, it's because that's how my constituents feel about it."

Betting on a Lame Horse

But ever since the election last November, Democratic congressional leaders have been placing the party's bets heavily on the Russia horse. And it's now pulling up lame.

Yes, a truly independent investigation is needed to probe charges that the Russian government interfered with the U.S. election. And investigators should also dig to find out if there's actual evidence that Trump or his campaign operatives engaged in nefarious activities before or after the election. At the same time, let's get a grip. The partisan grandstanding on Capitol Hill, by leading Republicans and Democrats, hardly qualifies as "independent."

In the top strata of the national Democratic Party, and especially for the Clinton wing of the party, blaming Russia has been of visceral importance. A recent book about Hillary Clinton's latest presidential campaign - Shattered by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes - includes a revealing passage. "Within 24 hours of her concession speech," the authors report, campaign manager Robby Mook and campaign chair John Podesta "assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn't entirely on the up-and-up."

At that meeting, "they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument."

In early spring, the former communications director of the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign, Jennifer Palmieri, summarized the post-election approach in a Washington Post opinion piece: "If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they'll be with us."

Polling data now indicate how wrong such claims are. Initially in lockstep this year, Democrats on Capitol Hill probably didn't give it a second thought if they read my article published by The Hill nearly six months ago under the headline "Democrats Are Playing With Fire on Russia." At the outset, I warned that "the most cohesive message from congressional Democrats is: blame Russia. The party leaders have doubled down on an approach that got nowhere during the presidential campaign - trying to tie the Kremlin around Donald Trump's neck."

And I added: "Still more interested in playing to the press gallery than speaking directly to the economic distress of voters in the Rust Belt and elsewhere who handed the presidency to Trump, top Democrats would much rather scapegoat Vladimir Putin than scrutinize how they've lost touch with working-class voters."

Nuclear War Risks

But my main emphasis in that Jan. 9 article was that "the emerging incendiary rhetoric against Russia is extremely dangerous. It could lead to a military confrontation between two countries that each has thousands of nuclear weapons."

I noted that "enthusiasm for banging the drum against Putin is fast becoming a big part of the Democratic Party's public identity in 2017. And - insidiously - that's apt to give the party a long-term political stake in further demonizing the Russian government."

My article pointed out: "The reality is grim, and potentially catastrophic beyond comprehension. By pushing to further polarize with the Kremlin, congressional Democrats are increasing the chances of a military confrontation with Russia."

Here's a question worth pondering: How much time do members of Congress spend thinking about ways to reduce the risks of nuclear holocaust, compared to how much time they spend thinking about getting re-elected?

In political terms, The Hill's June 24 news article headlined "Dems Push Leaders to Talk Less About Russia" should be a wakeup call. Held in the thrall of Russia-bashing incantations since early winter, some Democrats in Congress have started to realize that they must break the spell. But they will need help from constituents willing to bluntly tell them to snap out of it.

If there is to be a human future on this planet, it will require real diplomacy between the U.S. and Russia, the world's two nuclear-weapons superpowers. Meanwhile - even if the nuclear threat from continuing to escalate hostility toward Russia doesn't rank high on the list of Democrats' concerns on Capitol Hill - maybe the prospects of failure in the elections next year will compel a major change. It's time for the dangerous anti-Russia fever to break.
(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."

Bicycling Never Gets Old!
By David Suzuki

Two hundred years ago this month, an environmental and fuel crisis inspired one of our greatest inventions - a device so simple, efficient and useful that it's turning out to be part of the solution to today's environmental and fuel crises.

As a Treehugger article explains, the eruption of Indonesia's Mount Tambora in April 1815 spewed so much ash and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere that it blackened skies, and 1816 became known as the year without summer in much of Europe and North America. The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history led to widespread crop failure and famine. Livestock died because there was little to feed them, and they became food themselves. The costs of fuel for horses, mostly oats, soared.

German forester Baron Karl von Drais needed a way to inspect tree stands without relying on horses. In June 1817, he built a simple wooden two-wheeler, without pedals, that he called the Laufsmaschine, or "running machine" - although it came to be known as a draisine. His invention led to the first conflicts between cyclists and users of other transportation modes, including pedestrians. Carriage ruts in unpaved roads made manoeuvring on two wheels difficult, and cyclists started riding the brakeless bikes on sidewalks, which led to widespread complaints and bans in some countries, including Germany. Many people were simply opposed to the newfangled devices and their riders.

These conflicts diminished popularity of the early two-wheeler. The later pedal-powered penny farthing, with its huge direct-drive front wheel and small back wheel, suffered a similar backlash. But technological advances - such as rear chain drives, ball bearings, pneumatic tires and freewheels - eventually made bicycles a more viable transportation mode. Today, technologies like lighter frames and better gearing, as well as electric bikes and share programs, are making cycling accessible to more people.

Bikes and their riders still face backlashes - in part because so much urban infrastructure has been dedicated to motorized vehicles and, to some extent, pedestrians, leaving cyclists to compete for space. As civic leaders and citizens gain a better understanding of the benefits of getting people out of private automobiles - reduced pollution and climate-altering emissions, less gridlock and more human-centred urban design among them - municipal governments and supporters are working to create more, safer spaces for cyclists. Many cities, including my hometown of Vancouver, are expanding separated bike lane networks, and some employers and businesses are providing encouragement through better parking and showers for cyclists.

The benefits of increased cycling go beyond reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Riding a bike is good for your physical and mental health. Bicycles can move more people with less space and are far more efficient than cars. Most of the fuel used to power a car is either lost or used to propel the massive vehicle, whereas fuelling a bike's engine - that's you - requires only a healthy diet. In cities where traffic is heavy, cycling is often faster than driving. It's even more energy-efficient than walking! You can also save a lot of money on fuel, parking, maintenance, insurance and purchase.

Costs to society - and taxpayers - are also lower. Bikes are easier than cars on infrastructure such as roads, help reduce health care costs and can alleviate poverty as people spend less on vehicle-related costs. Streets become more human-centred, and businesses along bike lanes can benefit.

Cycling isn't possible for all people at all times, especially during harsh winters. But as more people get out of their cars, those who need motorized transportation - whether private automobiles, taxis, emergency vehicles or transit - will experience less gridlock and competition for parking, along with greater safety.

Those who fear risking injury or even death from cycling have valid concerns. Collisions with larger vehicles or even other cyclists, breathing pollution from cars and getting caught in inclement weather are all possible. But many of those risks are reduced with better cycling infrastructure, such as separated lanes, and proper clothing, lights and repair kits. Studies have also shown the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks.

Two centuries after their invention, bicycles are still the most efficient and beneficial form of transportation we have. Get out and ride if you can! It's good for you and the planet.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Sorry, Meals On Wheels, Our War Machine Is Hungry
By Medea Benjamin & Kate Harveston

If you think we spend too much on our military as it is (more the next eight countries combined), you might be shocked to hear President Trump has asked for an increase in military spending by 10%, or $54 billion. Where is all this money going to come from? What will it be used for? Since Republicans are not known for wanting to raise taxes, the money has to come from cuts to other allocations in the budget.

On the chopping block are funds that would go to the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal programs -- agencies that serve the needs of the American public.

If Donald Trump really wants to take an "America First" approach, why is he slashing our domestic budget and putting money into a war machine that only continues to inflame tensions around the world? We engage in wars that never seem to end, are tax dollars are squandered, innocent lives are lost in the process and these military interventions are certainly not making us safer at home.

We are involved in military operations all over the world. Many of these conflicts are not easily summarized, but let's take a look at some of America's conflicts and where they stand, through the prism of this proposed military spending increase.


What did we get out of invading Iraq? Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. For that, we lost almost 4,500 American lives. Over 30,000 were wounded. We don't keep track of the Iraqis we killed, but there are estimates.

Major combat operations ended in 2011, but our service members still die there and the war rages on for the Iraqi people. Under Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, sectarian violence was minimized. When we removed him it exploded. The unintended consequence is that we unleashed sectarian violence.

Another unanticipated result of our invasion of Iraq was the creation of ISIS. It was at a US prison in Iraq called Camp Bucca where embittered Sunni prisoners, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, created ISIS. Now we are spending billions trying to defeat the very force we helped to create.


We invaded in late 2001 and are still there. It is America's longest war, and there is no end in sight. We removed the Taliban government, eventually killed Osama bin Laden -- found in "allied" Pakistan -- and set up a government that is at least officially friendly toward us. But there is now a resurgence of the Taliban.

For that, we lost 2,300 service members with about 17,600 wounded. It is not uncommon for our service members to be killed by Afghan soldiers who are supposed to be working with us. Again, this is all paid for by the United States taxpayer. The bill is about the shoot up even more, with the Trump administration sending another 4,000 troops to join in this endless war.


Syria has been reduced to ruins, not only by us but by Russia, ISIS, the Syrian government and other warring factions within and without. The Trump administration's recent cruise missile attack on Assad regime forces, followed by the shooting of a Syrian fighter jet and Iranian drones, puts the US military at even greater risk of direct confrontation not only with Assad but Iran and Russia. The number of Syrians killed, wounded and forced to flee their homes is astronomical, while the idea of a political solution seems more and more remote.

Lost Blood and Treasure

The National Priorities Project (NPP), using information obtained from the United States budget, has drawn some conclusions about how much we pay for these wars. We pay $615,482 per hour for ongoing operations against ISIS. Afghanistan costs us $4 million per hour (without counting the new troops being sent there). The remaining operations in Iraq cost us $117,000.00 per hour. NPP has concluded we pay $8.36 million per hour for all the wars since 2001.

What else could we do with all that money? The NPP illustrates how it could be spent to help our own people and our own economy:

. Millions of teachers could be hired.
. Millions of jobs could be created in poverty-stricken communities.
. Our ailing infrastructure could be remodeled and rebuilt.
Scholarships could be funded for students who can't afford college.
Our military veterans could receive the care they deserve.

The list goes on.

Americans are tired of war, yet Donald Trump's budget sends an unfortunate but clear message. He is willing to cut funds that help the poor, protect the environment, and promote the arts -- things that generally keep us happy and safe -- in order to fund a never-ending, ever-growing war machine. He's taking money from Meals on Wheels to buy billion-dollar bombers.

Fortunately, Trump's budget is only a request. Congress has to approve it. Even though the president enjoys a Republican-majority House and Senate, it does not mean his budget will go through. Members of Congress are under pressure from the administration, the Pentagon and the companies that profit from making weapons. But they are also receiving pressure from their constituents who are demanding that our money goes to community needs, not down a black hole of endless war. You can sign a petition to Congress here. Let's see who they listen to.
(c) 2017 Kate Harveston is a journalist and a member of the CODEPINK communications team.
(c) 2017 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

The Quotable Quote...

"Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of Man, and make gentle the life of this world."
~~~ Robert Kennedy

You'll Never Guess What Losing Democrats All Have In Common
By David Swanson

It was curious to observe how much of Jeremy Corbyn's successful campaign to rebuild the Labour Party was about foreign policy. Wars, he said, make us less safe, not more. Agreeing with him were: the obvious facts of the matter, voters in opinion polls, and apparently voters in their votes.

Also largely agreeing, dragged along by Corbyn's leadership, was the Labour Party, whose new platform - despite many serious flaws - says:

"We will put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy, commit to working through the UN, end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention and back effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour believes Britain's foreign policy should be guided by the values of peace, universal rights and international law. . . . The lessons of the past, including those from the Chilcot Inquiry, show why our response to these challenges must be different. . . . From the Middle East to Africa, in recent years millions of people have been killed, injured or displaced through wars, terrorism and military intervention. . . . We will review all training and equipment contracts with repressive regimes, to ensure that Britain never colludes in the mistreatment of civilians. . . . supporting the right of the Chagos islanders to return to their homelands."
I can't find those statements in the platform of the Democratic Party, though it does admit the existence of foreign policy.

That last one may seem an odd point to make note of. Currently 54% of the money Congress deals out goes to war and war preparations. Under Trump's budget, militarism would rise to 59% of discretionary spending. How could someone run for Congress and not take a position on war or peace or foreign policy of any sort? Well, I'm not sure how, but it happens all the time . . . with Democrats.

Rob Quist, losing Democratic candidate for Congress in Montana in March, included a section called "National Security" on his website. Of the four sentences there, one was about using militarism to produce jobs, two were about veterans, and one was about privacy rights. Another section titled "Veterans" had two more sentences. Which wars would Quist have tried to end, continue, escalate, or start? Who knows!

James Thompson, losing Democratic candidate for Congress in Kansas in April, made "fighting for" and praising and thanking "our veterans" a prominent issue on his website. But did he want to produce more veterans or fewer or none? Did he want to buy more missiles and jets and foreign bases? Did he respect international law? Did he want to convert to peaceful industries? Did he want to bomb villages? Who knows!

Jon Ossoff, losing Democratic candidate for Congress in Georgia in June, included only two policy topics on his entire website: cutting government spending, and running the government more like a corporation. Historically, approximately 98% of politicians who have spoken loudly about cutting government spending have favored increasing government spending on militarism. Did Ossoff? Who knows!

Randy Bryce, Democratic candidate for Congress in Wisconsin next year, is a darling of progressive election aficionados. His website thus far includes no positions on anything at all. His video, which has generated the support for him, does not acknowledge the existence of 96% of humanity, foreign policy, war, peace, militarism, or 54% of the budget that Bryce wants to be in charge of. He does, however, claim to have won a medal "serving" in the U.S. Army in Honduras, a country that - largely thanks to U.S. efforts - has become one of the worst places on earth, not coincidentally sending many refugees north.

Are you spotting any sort of pattern?

Fans of Bryce's video, judging by my twitter feed, are not finding themselves in great agreement with what he would try to do for the world or for the United States or for Wisconsin. In fact, they don't seem to much know or care. Rather, they find themselves convinced that his is a campaign that will win over other people, people easily manipulated by a television ad. And, I guess, he's got the good party label on him instead of the bad one.

Of course, there is a bit of content in Bryce's video. But the closest it comes to a policy position is Bryce's discovery that healthcare in the United States really sucks. What would he do about it? Who knows! But at least he knows it's a topic. Does he want even more of our wealth drained off into wars and weapons? Probably, but who can say? Does he want to bomb every country on earth or just those favored by Democratic Party leaders? How can we tell?

The pretense that the main thing the government does is of no import when campaigning to be elected to the government is not working out very well. Like wars, it loses again and again and again, but just keeps trying.

And, even as the Democrats ape their Republican opponents on many issues, their silence on foreign policy is their own creation for which they deserve the credit. The three Republicans who defeated Quist, Thompson, and Ossoff, all had fear-mongering, pro-war, pro-military, anti-immigrant, and (in two cases) pro-Israel propaganda on their websites. Bryce is running against (or parallel to) an incumbent, so of course his opponent (should he choose to actually oppose him) has an established record of warmongering.

In a country with two pro-war parties, the party that admits what it is out-loud is always going to have an advantage. If you can't imagine a way out of that, ask Jeremy Corbyn for advice.
(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.

People arrive for the opening night of Shakespeare in the Park's production
of Julius Caesar at Central Park's Delacorte Theater on June 12, 2017 in New York.

Of Caesar, Guns And Trolls: The Evil That Men Do
The GOP and right wing will use any diversion to distract us from an agenda of cruelty and madness.
By Michael Winship

Over in New York's Central Park, just a short distance from our offices, the curtain came down last week on The Public Theater's controversial production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Controversial because the actor playing the assassinated Caesar looked and sounded like Donald Trump, right down to the overlong red necktie and clownish orange-blond nimbus of hair.

But the curtain didn't fall because of the outrage that came tumbling from the right - including protesters heckling at a couple of the performances and death threats directed at the production's director (not to mention feverish tweets and emails from confused trolls hurled at any theatre company with the word "Shakespeare" in its name).

Nor did it occur because two of The Public Theatre's corporate donors, Bank of America and Delta Air Lines, pulled their sponsorship of the show, a gutless move of appeasement from two businesses, banking and air travel, so well known these days for their dazzling records of customer satisfaction. (Another company, American Express, didn't yank its cash from The Public but tweeted that its money doesn't fund Shakespeare in the Park "nor do we condone the interpretation of the Julius Caesar play.")

No, the fact is, Julius Caesar always was scheduled to end the night that it did. That was to make way for the summer's second Shakespeare in the Park production - A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Gentle readers will recall that this is the Shakespeare play in which, among a great many other things, a knavish sprite named Puck turns a man into an ass. Such an act once seemed like magic, but given today's political climate, the turning of men into asses has become the rule rather than the exception.

Witness the aforementioned kneejerk reaction of the right, so quick to accuse the left of behaving like snowflakes but themselves so hypersensitive to even the mildest heat that they melt as fast as Frosty the Snowman - that is, if he was a whiny Fox or talk radio host instead of a jolly happy soul.

We've established before that this is not a crowd that embraces a thoroughgoing knowledge of history in general, and it's probably fair to assume a knowledge of theatrical history not at all. Elsewise they might realize that Julius Caesar is not a play that celebrates political violence but loudly condemns it.

In an email, The Public's artistic director (and director of Julius Caesar) Oskar Eustis wrote:

"Those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save. For over 400 years, Shakespeare's play has told this story and we are proud to be telling it again in Central Park."
Back in the day, Queen Elizabeth I herself recognized that the playwright's scripts often were thinly veiled depictions of the current political scene in Britain and even of herself. Apparently, she had a thicker skin than the gang at Delta Air Lines or Bank of America - she kept encouraging Shakespeare with money from the royal purse.

Julius Caesar in particular has always been a play lending itself to parallels with contemporary politics. George Washington hosted an amateur production in Philadelphia during the first full year of his presidency. He didn't seem to take offense. Orson Welles directed and played Brutus in a 1937 staging that drew parallels with the rise of fascism in Europe, even recreating the infamous "Cathedral of Light" at Hitler's Nuremburg rallies.

For the last few years, The Acting Company has been touring the country with a version in which Caesar bears a close resemblance to Barack Obama - no one has protested. And ever since Trump started to dominate the electoral landscape, several productions have used Julius Caesar as a metaphor for the debilitating illness that pervades our body politic.

Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro recently wrote:

"As long as politicians resemble Caesar and as long as their opponents seek to justify their overthrow, 'Julius Caesar' will continue to matter...

"It is the mark of a tolerant society that we don't try to shut down the expression of words or viewpoints that some might find disagreeable, least of all Shakespeare's, whose works we all share.

"We rely on newspapers to learn what is happening in the world. But we turn to productions of Shakespeare to make sense of it."

But none of this stopped the trolls of the right from throwing a major-league hissy about the show, even if very few of them actually attended a performance. Much of the consternation was based on a video of the play's assassination scene that went viral.

Some, Sean Hannity among them, even suggested that the recent wounding of House majority whip Steve Scalise and four others at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, somehow was linked to the production of Julius Caesar. "The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands!" screamed one of those who disrupted a performance. And the president's son, Donald Jr., retweeted conservative commentator Harlan Hill's comment that the shootings were "EXACTLY why we took issue with NY elites glorifying the assassination of our president."

This was and is opportunistic sophistry, an attempt to use tragedy to distract by aiming a fallacious attack at "elites" and the left. The production of Julius Caesar should no more be condemned for its alleged connection to an act of senseless violence than The Catcher in the Rye should be banned because John Lennon's assassin Mark David Chapman was obsessed with the book.

The attack on Scalise and the others was the act of a deeply disturbed man who had made anti-Trump statements on Facebook and elsewhere. And there's no denying that it took place in an atmosphere of elevated hate speech from right and left - but face it, mostly from the right - and violence that has only gotten worse since the election, aggravated by the man now president who egged on his supporters at splenetic campaign rallies.

But let's talk about what also really needs discussing. Not just a production of a classic play that offended some, or the unreasoned words and actions of far too many, including men and women in Congress and the White House.

Since we're talking about the freedom to speak out, let's speak out about guns.

For one, given the mental state of the man accused with the Scalise shooting why was he allowed to have weapons? As my colleague Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times wrote:

"In a country with sensible and intelligent firearms laws, there's no way a person with the history of domestic violence of James Hodgkinson, who has been identified as the shooter, would be permitted anywhere near the weapons he was carrying on June 14 - and which reportedly he obtained legally."
Too soon? Let's pray for Steve Scalise's continued recovery but not forget his A+ rating from the National Rifle Association or, say, his opposition to stricter gun laws after 26 died in the Sandy Hook shootings of 2014. Hiltzik noted:
"To say Scalise deserves to share blame for this situation is not to say that he deserves the punishment of a grave injury. But nor is this an occasion to ignore the policies he espouses and their relationship to the June 14 event and its aftermath...

"Among the bills he has cosponsored is the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, a 2011 measure that would have allowed anyone with a valid state-issued concealed firearm permit to carry a concealed firearm in any other state that issues concealed firearm permits, regardless of the other states' standards for issuing those permits. On Jan. 6, 2016, Scalise could be seen on CNN misrepresenting, and then assailing, President Obama's day-old executive order designed to tighten the rules on background checks of gun buyers."

Counting the Scalise incident, according to the website Mass Shooting Tracker, as of June 25, 2017, so far this year there have been 211 mass shootings in the United States. Guns have killed more than 6,800 in America this year; 13,500 have been wounded, according to Chelsea Parsons, vice president of guns and crime policy at the Center for American Progress. In a recent op-ed, Parsons pointed out out the gun fatality rate in this country is 25 times greater than in other high-income countries.

And yes, as the argument goes, more people might have died in Alexandria if Scalise had not had armed police protection with him, but they were trained professionals, not the amateurs - including members of Congress - who want to run around with concealed carry permits and handguns wherever they choose.

But that's what the GOP wants. Jonathan Martin reported at The New York Times:

"The Republican majorities on Capitol Hill have blocked every attempt to enact significant gun control legislation, most recently after the massacre of 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub last June. Measures to block people on the federal terrorism watch list from buying weapons and to close background-check loopholes failed in the Senate.

"And that was before President Trump was elected with far more help from the National Rifle Association than Mitt Romney got in 2012. Mr. Trump received more money from the NRA than any other outside group."

The counterintuitive argument that the answer to guns is more guns is madness. As Marc Antony says in Julius Caesar, during his famous oration at the funeral of the murdered leader, "O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason." Too soon?
(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...

Anthony gives the corporate salute.

Heil Trump,

Dear Unter Fuehrer Rendon,

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 keep California from having a single payer health system, 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 "Corporate whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 07-29-2017. We salute you herr Rendon, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Secret Healthcare Bill
By Robert Reich

The Senate's bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not a healthcare bill. It's a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, paid for by a dramatic reduction in healthcare funding for approximately 23 million poor, disabled, and working middle class Americans.

America's wealthiest taxpayers (earning more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 for couples) would get a tax cut totaling $346 billion over 10 years, representing what they save from no longer financing healthcare for lower-income Americans.

That's not all. The bill would save an additional $400 billion on Medicaid, which Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump are intent on shrinking in order to cut even more taxes for the wealthy and for big corporations.

If enacted, it would be the largest single transfer of wealth to the rich from the middle class and poor in American history.

This disgrace is being proposed at a time when the nation's rich own a higher percentage of the nation's wealth and receive the highest percent of America's income since the era of the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century.

Almost all of the transfer is hidden inside a bill that's supposed to be a kinder and gentler version of its House counterpart, which Trump called "mean, mean, mean."

Look closely and it's even meaner.

The Senate bill appears to retain the Affordable Care Act's subsidies for poorer Americans. But starting in 2020, the subsidies would no longer be available for many of the working poor who now receive them, nor for anyone who's not eligible for Medicaid.

Another illusion: The bill seems to keep the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. But the expansion is phased out, starting in 2021.

The core of the bill - where its biggest savings come from - is a huge reduction in Medicaid, America's healthcare program for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

This, too, is disguised. States would receive an amount of money per Medicaid recipient that appears to grow as healthcare costs rise.

But starting in 2025, the payments would be based on how fast costs rise in the economy as a whole.

Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They'll almost surely continue to do so - as America's elderly population grows, and as new medical devices, technologies, and drugs prolong life.

Which means that after 2025, Medicaid coverage will shrink.

The nonpartisan Urban Institute estimates that between 2025 and 2035, about $467 billion less will be spent on Medicaid than would be spent than if Medicaid funding were to keep up with the expected rise in medical costs.

The states would have to make up the difference, but many won't want to or be able to.

One final major deception. Proponents of the bill say it would continue to protect people with preexisting conditions. But the bill allows states to reduce insurance coverage for everyone, including people with preexisting conditions.

So insurance companies could technically "cover" people with preexisting conditions for the cost of, say, their visits to a doctor, but not hospitalization, drugs, or anything else they need.

The Senate bill only seems like a kinder, gentler version of the House repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but over time it would be even crueler.

Will the American public find out? Not if McConnell can help it.

He hasn't scheduled a single hearing on the bill.

He's shut out major hospitals, physician groups, consumer advocates and organizations representing millions of patients with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.

McConnell thinks he's found a quiet way not only to repeal the Affordable Care Act but also to unravel Medicaid - and funnel the savings to the rich.

For years, Republicans have been looking for ways to undermine America's three core social insurance programs - Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. The three constitute the major legacy of the Democrats, of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. All continue to be immensely popular.

Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is almost part of that legacy. It's not on quite as solid a footing as the others because it's still new, and some wrinkles need to be ironed out. But most Americans support it.

Now McConnell believes he can begin to undo the legacy, starting with the Affordable Care Act and, gradually, Medicaid.

But he knows he has to do it in secret if he's to be successful.

If this shameful bill is enacted, McConnell and Trump - as well as every Republican senator who signs on - will bear the burden of hundreds of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided, were they not so determined to make rich Americans even richer.
(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

Retaliation: Tomahawk missiles from the "USS Porter" on the way to the Shayrat Air Base on April 6, 2017

Trump's Red Line
By Seymour M. Hersh

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president's determination to ignore the evidence. "None of this makes any sense," one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. "We KNOW that there was no chemical attack ... the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth ... I guess it didn't matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump."

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world's media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad's "heinous actions" as being a consequence of the Obama administration's "weakness and irresolution" in addressing what he said was Syria's past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria's attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction's success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

"The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live - food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops," a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place - a regional headquarters - was on the floor above. "It was an established meeting place," the senior adviser said. "A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center." The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL - a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. "They were playing the game right," the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley - had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House "has abandoned the goal" of pressuring Assad "to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years." White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that "there is a political reality that we have to accept," implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. "It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary - scrub the sked," the senior adviser told me. "Every operations officer in the region" - in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA - "had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They're skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman." The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. "It's like an ops order - 'Here's what you are authorized to do,'" the adviser said. "We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don't do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations. But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what's happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence. If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that's coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility," the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, "we do what we can to help them act on it." "This was not a chemical weapons strike," the adviser said. "That's a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon - you've got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb - would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?"

This photograph by the Syrian opposition (Edlib Media Center) shows the aftermath of a strike against
the town of Khan Sheikhoun. A large building was hit, but it's unclear were the strike took place exactly.

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Medecins Sans Frontieres, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that "eight patients showed symptoms - including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation - which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds." MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there "smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine." In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force - as opposition activists insisted - had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump's aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a "special" weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. "If you've already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb," the adviser said. "Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: 'We have a problem and let's look into it.' He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria."

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. "How many more children have to die before Russia cares?" she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. "We know that yesterday's attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime," she said. There was irony in America's rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria's denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. "What doesn't occur to most Americans" the adviser said, "is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia's strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he's on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?"

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was "horrible, horrible" and a "terrible affront to humanity." Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: "You will see." He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: "When you kill innocent children, innocent babies - babies, little babies - with a chemical gas that is so lethal ... that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . ... That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact ... It's very, very possible ... that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. "He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it." "The answer was, 'We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,'" the adviser said. "The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide." Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president's national security planners were more than a little rattled: "No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn't know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun." The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. "The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity," the senior adviser said. "It's typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They're not going to tell the president, 'if you interpret the data this way, I quit.'"

President Donald J. Trump with some of his closest advisors at Mar-a-Lago on
April 6, 2017 at a top secret briefing on the results of the missile strike on Shayat Air Base.

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. "Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts," the adviser said. "He doesn't read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He's a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: 'Do it."'

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it - or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. "The boss knew before the meeting that they didn't have the intelligence, but that was not the issue," the adviser said. "The meeting was about, 'Here's what I'm going to do,' and then he gets the options."

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president's respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. "The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options." He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the "gorilla option": America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was "decapitation": to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

"Trump ruled out option one off the bat," the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. "But he said, in essence: 'You're the military and I want military action.'" The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. "We gave him the Goldilocks option - not too hot, not too cold, but just right." The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders. "What is that?" Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. "The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting," the adviser said. "They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made."

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload - roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military's modern version of TNT. The airfield's gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. "They were sacrificial lambs," the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

"It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end," the senior adviser said. "A few of the president's senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don't think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations."

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out "the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many ... No child of God should ever suffer such horror." The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word "beautiful" to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: "I think Donald Trump became president of the United States." A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

The Tomahawk missiles only did little damage to the Syrian air base.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia's heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

- The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria's use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public that Russia had chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

- Russia's military forces had been co-located with Syria's at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria's determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

- Syria's use of sarin and Russia's defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria's alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words "think," "suggest" and "believe" at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by "our colleagues in the intelligence community." What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia's alleged cover-up of Syria's sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer's myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example - America's leading newspaper - put the following headline on its account: "White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack." The Times' account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as "declassified information" suddenly became a "declassified intelligence report." Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a "summary based on declassified information about the attacks," as the briefer referred to it. The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. "The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy," the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. "The issue is, what if there's another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He's incapable of saying he made a mistake."

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.
(c) 2017 Seymour Myron "Sy" Hersh) is an American investigative journalist and political writer based in Washington, D.C. He is a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine on national security matters and has also written for the London Review of Books since 2013.

Hersh first gained recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. In 2004, he notably reported on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. He has also won two National Magazine Awards and five George Polk Awards. In 2004, he received the George Orwell Award.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ David Horsey ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Best Radioactive Spider Ever
By Will Durst

Donald John Trump is keeping people busy. He's got staffers, lawyers, streaming news alert editors, impeachment historians, ethics investigators, hair spray manufacturers, Putin watchers, real-estate interpreters, all frantically flapping and squawking like a flock of seagulls outside a sardine plant at low tide.

Watch any of the network or cable news broadcasts and you instantly note that all the anchors are exhausted. Their "Breaking News" graphic... broke. Half of Washington has gone deaf, what with all the bombshells exploding with little or no warning around their tiny Beltway heads.

A majority of the president's problems seem self-inflicted. Broken-racketed unforced errors. The Apprentice Chief Executive has made more missteps than the last place finisher in a drunken hopscotch tournament with a watch cap pulled over his eyes on cobblestones. Every time someone escorts the blonde bull out of Ye Olde China Shoppe, he sneaks around back and butts his way through another wall just because he loves the sound of breaking crystal.

Immediately after firing FBI Director James Comey, the president called him "a nut job" and shared classified intelligence with two Russian diplomats. But then the White House assured the country that Mr. Trump was never in possession of any intelligence he could have shared. And America is totally willing to believe that whole "not in possession of any intelligence" part.

In defense of this disclosure of classified Israeli intel, Trump claims he can say anything to anybody at anytime because as President he has special powers. Apparently he was bitten by a radioactive spider. But the biggest and best and most beautifulest of any radioactive spider that anyone has ever seen. This was a huuuuuuuge radioactive spider. Everyone is talking about it.

To say his last week was rocky is like intimating the glove compartment of a car crushed by a compactor is not the best place to store beer. Inexplicably, Trump told the Economist magazine he invented the phrase "priming the pump" which according to Webster's has been in general usage since 1933. He's King of the Inexplicable.

Next he'll maintain he's responsible for the phrase "out of control dumpster fire" as well. Of course, he has provided one heck of a high bar for all future comparisons.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein felt compelled to appoint a Special Prosecutor to get to the bottom of possible Russian collusion and obstruction of justice and all-round, random mendacity. The fastest any president in history has been targeted with a special prosecutor. Ever. In less than 4 months, he's gone from zero to Nixon.

Getting the hell out of Dodge, the President embarked on a 9 day, 5 city foreign tour visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belgium and the Vatican. For a guy who hates to travel and goes off script like a five year old at "Everything's Free Day" at Disneyland, visiting the centers of 3 world religions offers more hidden minefields than walking barefoot in the dark through the western sand dunes of Egypt.

POTUS 45's first overseas trip culminates at the G-7 conference in Taormina, Italy. The G-7 used to be known as the G-8 until Russia was kicked out for annexing Crimea. But now that they've annexed us, are they back in the loop? Perhaps that's a question better suited for the special prosecutor. Time to take the Fifth. Of Scotch.
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former dishwasher at Sandburg Hall at UWM. For a calendar of personal appearances including the premiere of his one man show "Durst Case Scenario" at the Marsh in San Francisco on July 11, please visit

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 25 (c) 06/30/2017

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