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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim with an absolute must read, "U.S. Lawmakers Seek To Criminally Outlaw Support For Boycott Campaign Against Israel."

Uri Avnery considers, "Soros' Sorrows."

Glen Ford observes, "Black Women In The Killing Fields."

Chris Hedges warns of, "Trump And The Christian Fascists."

Jim Hightower explains, "How Betsy DeVos, The Koch Brothers And Donald Trump Are Selling Our Schools To The Highest Bidder."

John Nichols says, "Sean Spicer Has Embarrassed Himself-Badly."

William Rivers Pitt reports, "Trump, McConnell And Ryan In The Rubble Of Hubris."

Jonathon Blitzer joins us with, "A Veteran ICE Agent, Disillusioned With The Trump Era, Speaks Out."

Michael Winship smells something fishy in, "Hail To Our Flounder In Chief."

David Suzuki says, "Plastic Straws Suck."

Charles P. Pierce concludes, "The Lying Will Now Be Smoother And More Telegenic."

David Swanson tells, "What's Missing From Dunkirk Film."

Medea Benjamin examines, "How To Build A Global Movement To End Mass Killing."

Senator Ben Cardin wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Amy Goodman "The Resistance To Health Care Repeal Rolls On."

Matt Taibbi returns with, "Newly Released Documents Show Government Misled Public On Fannie/Freddie Takeov."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst gets up, "On The Good Foot" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "They're Just Rats, Leaving A Sinking Ship."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jeff Koterba, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, The Propaganda Remix Project, Jonathan Ernst, Michael Vadon, Susan Walsh, Chip Somodevilla, Chris Kleponis-Pool, Ashleigh Nushawg, Stephen Dyrgas, Steve Helber, John Moore, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org. Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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They're Just Rats, Leaving A Sinking Ship
They come, they go.
By Ernest Stewart

"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," ~~~ Sean Spicer

"Global warming, along with the cutting and burning of forests and other critical habitats, is causing the loss of living species at a level comparable to the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That event was believed to have been caused by a giant asteroid. This time it is not an asteroid colliding with the Earth and wreaking havoc: it is us." ~~~ Al Gore

"...that the bill was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year." ~~~ Glenn Greenwald

"Please, sir, I want some more."
Oliver Twist ~~~ Charles Dickens

I see where we have a new Spokes Weasel as The Spiceman got the pink slip from The Donald. Sean Spicer, along with Elvis, has left the building, folks. The new kid on the block is White House Communications Director Anthony (The Mooch) Scaramucci is now the head spokes weasel and nobodies sweetheart! The Mooch's first act was to show that he had nothing to hide by deleting most of his tweets and emails. Are we having fun now or what? I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramucci, Scaramucci will you do the fandango????

The Mooch is a lot slicker than Spicer who had troubles turning Trumps bullshit into believable lies, and hence, is no more. I knew that Sean was on the way out when Trump took him to Vatican City, and wouldn't let Spicer, a devout Catholic, meet the Pope. The emperor punish's everyone who won't do his exact bidding with a big smile on their faces!

Now that Sean is out, can Reince Priebus be far behind? Reince the former head of the RNC and now Trump's White House Chief of Staff has been said to be put on the list, you know what list that is, right? If you don't it rhymes with the "it" list! Reince was Spicer's backer and did whatever he could for the last 6 months to keep The Mooch out of any White House jobs that were offered him. Ergo, methinks Priebus is living on borrowed time. Priebus only got the job as a boon to party power. As time goes on Trump cares less and less about what the party thinks and more and more what their 1% puppet masters want and what he can make on the deal!

Spicer joins, the former communications director Mike Dubke, national security adviser Michael Flynn, deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, and vice president's chief of staff Josh Pitcock who have left or have announced their imminent departures from Trumpland. They're just rats, leaving a sinking ship!

In Other News

I see where Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement is "sociopathic," as a leading economist has claimed, arguing the US President is "without remorse ... wilfully inflicting harm on others." Now where have we heard the description of Trump before? Oh yeah, I've been going on and on about it!

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said claims that the Republican billionaire actually believes climate change is real and has made things "worse, not better," as this would mean he is knowingly "jeopardising the planet."

Just a day after he announced the US withdrawal, Mr Trump declared a major flooding disaster in Missouri, which climate researcher Dr John Abraham suggested added to the "mounting ironies."

And the stream of scientific studies showing evidence of a changing climate has continued. One revealed the number of large wildfires affecting the Great Plains area has increased from an annual average of 33 to 117 in two decades; another found once-rare coastal flooding would become the norm in parts of the US if emissions are not cut; and a third reported the chance of dying in a heatwave in India increased by 146% between 1960 and 2009. In fact, if you remember, people from India to the Middle East have been dropping like flies by the tens of thousands from the record high temps in the last few years.

In a article on the Project Syndicate website, Professor Sachs suggested the next major storms linked to global warming should be named Typhoon Donald, Superstorm Ivanka and Megaflood Jared after the President, his daughter and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Sounds like a plan to me, but let's not forget about Donald jr., and the rest of the clan!

When Mr Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, he claimed the rest of the world had been "laughing at us" because it was such a bad deal for America.

Professor Sachs, of Columbia University, said his speech had displayed a "bully's bravado." "These ravings are utterly delusional, deeply cynical, or profoundly ignorant. Probably all three. And they should be recognised as such."

Sach's continued saying that, "the decision to withdraw from Paris had not just been Mr Trump's alone but reflected the will of the Republican leadership in Congress, including the 22 Republican senators who sent Trump a letter the week before, calling on him to withdraw from the Paris accord." And the oil and gas industry had spent "$100m on campaign contributions in 2016 of which 90% went to Republican candidates."

Professor Sachs also attacked the "twisted mindset of Trump and his closest advisers.

"Their view, defended with 'alternative facts' that have no basis in reality, is paranoid and malevolent, aimed at inflicting harm on others, or at best indifferent to harm befalling others,"
he said. It's not indifference, it's all on purpose!

Sachs condemned Mr Trump's claim that the Paris Agreement was unfavourable to the US, pointing out that it had emitted far more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world over its history.

"As such, the US has contributed more to ongoing climate change than any other country.

"And US per capita emissions are higher than in any other large country, by far. The Paris accord does not victimise the US; on the contrary, the US has a world-beating responsibility to get its house in order."
Yeah, that will be the day!

As I've said before, under Trump's climate policy we're doomed and by the time he's gone it will be too late to stop global warming. But don't take my word, or the word of 99.9% of climate scientists, just open your eyes and look around, America.

And Finally

I'm sure by now you've heard about the latest plot by our Israeli overlords to keep America's from protesting Israeli Nazi like treatment of the Palestinians via a boycott of all Israeli products. Hitting them where it hurts the most; in their pocket books! With AIPAC puppet mastering the Con-gress by the old purse strings and dire threats of bringing their power to bear over Con-gress by losing AIPAC's support. If you're not hip, then checkout Glenn Greenwald's column below. H.R.1697 comes with a minimun $250,000 fine and goes up to a $1,000,000 fine and 20 years in prison. The way the law is written if you were to google "boycott Isreal" you could wind up with the maximun which could be mandatory with no descretion for the judge. This bright idea came from a Demoncrat Ben Cardin (who won this week's Vidkun Quisiling award) and supported by many other Demoncrats including my own Sinator, Gary Peters.

So of course you know what I did, huh? Why is it always the same hands that are raised? I wrote all the Demoncrat co-sponsors basically the following leter. I didn't bother with Rethuglican supporters like Ted Cruz, as what would be the point?

Dear UberFuhrer Cardin,

Congratulations you've just won next Friday's Vidkin Quisling award, That's the magazine's weekly award to the biggest traitor in America. Your new bill to punish political thought by a million dollar fine and 20 years in prison for having political thoughts about your Zionazi puppet masters. Guessing your were paid the tradition 30 pieces of silver to steal our rights to protest your thieving murdering pals in Tel Aviv? Perhaps herr Trump will put you in charge of the "thought police?" I bet you have vays of making us cooperate, yah vol? So much for the First Amendment, huh Ben? Now that your political career is over, what next? A bootlicker for AIPAC? Wait a minute, that's already your job, huh Ben?

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues And Alibis magazine

Then I left this on my Sin-ator's (Gary Peters) FB page:

Hey Gary,

Could you remind me please why I voted for you? After reading H.R.1697 which you co-sponsored I wonder if you could explain yourself? I'm guessing either you couldn't be bothered to read the bill that you co-sponsored, or you are a Israeli 5th columnist stooge who was happy to dance for your Tel Aviv puppet masters and destroy the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. Explain why if your bill is passed I should get a mandatory 20 year prison sentence and a $1,000.000 fine for Googling "Boycott Israel?" Do explain Gary! So which is it Gary, are you too lazy to do your duty or are you an Israeli 5th columnist. Hmmm? One is stupid, the other one is treason!! I eagerly await your reply!

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues And Alibis magazine

If Gary or any of the others reply back I'll share their response with you here!

Here's a list of Ben's co-sponsors. If one or more of them are your Sin-ators you might want to drop them a line and give them your frank, but honest, opinions of their act of treason. In fact, you might want to visit all of their facebook pages and convey your thoughts of displeasure! Oh, and tell them that Uncle Ernie sent you!

Sen. Portman, Rob [R-OH] ~~~ 03/23/2017
Sen. Nelson, Bill [D-FL] ~~~ 03/27/2017
Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL] ~~~ 03/27/2017
Sen. Menendez, Robert [D-NJ] ~~~ 03/27/2017
Sen. Collins, Susan M. [R-ME] ~~~ 03/27/2017
Sen. Blumenthal, Richard [D-CT] ~~~ 03/27/2017
Sen. Graham, Lindsey [R-SC] ~~~ 03/28/2017
Sen. Young, Todd C. [R-IN] ~~~ 03/28/2017
Sen. Boozman, John [R-AR] ~~~ 03/28/2017
Sen. Isakson, Johnny [R-GA] ~~~ 03/28/2017
Sen. Peters, Gary C. [D-MI] ~~~ 03/28/2017
Sen. Hatch, Orrin G. [R-UT] ~~~ 03/30/2017
Sen. Perdue, David [R-GA] ~~~ 03/30/2017
Sen. Roberts, Pat [R-KS] ~~~ 03/30/2017
Sen. Wicker, Roger F. [R-MS] ~~~ 03/30/2017
Sen. Hoeven, John [R-ND] ~~~ 04/04/2017
Sen. Cornyn, John [R-TX] ~~~ 04/04/2017
Sen. Fischer, Deb [R-NE] ~~~ 04/04/2017
Sen. Heller, Dean [R-NV] ~~~ 04/24/2017
Sen. Moran, Jerry [R-KS] ~~~ 04/24/2017
Sen. Crapo, Mike [R-ID] ~~~04/24/2017
Sen. Cantwell, Maria [D-WA] ~~~ 04/24/2017
Sen. Grassley, Chuck [R-IA] ~~~ 04/25/2017
Sen. Capito, Shelley Moore [R-WV] ~~~ 04/26/2017
Sen. Schumer, Charles E. [D-NY] ~~~ 05/01/2017
Sen. Ernst, Joni [R-IA] ~~~ 05/01/2017
Sen. Hassan, Margaret Wood [D-NH] ~~~ 05/08/2017
Sen. Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [D-NY] ~~~ 05/09/2017
Sen. Lankford, James [R-OK] ~~~ 05/16/2017
Sen. Burr, Richard [R-NC] ~~~ 05/17/2017
Sen. Donnelly, Joe [D-IN] ~~~ 05/23/2017
Sen. Scott, Tim [R-SC] ~~~ 05/25/2017
Sen. Cruz, Ted [R-TX] ~~~ 06/05/2017
Sen. Manchin, Joe, III [D-WV] ~~~ 06/05/2017
Sen. Strange, Luther [R-AL] ~~~ 06/05/2017
Sen. McCaskill, Claire [D-MO] ~~~ 06/06/2017
Sen. Thune, John [R-SD] ~~~ 06/12/2017
Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR] ~~~ 06/12/2017
Sen. Sasse, Ben [R-NE] ~~~ 06/15/2017
Sen. Coons, Christopher A. [D-DE] ~~~ 06/26/2017
Sen. Bennet, Michael F. [D-CO] ~~~ 07/12/2017
Sen. Sullivan, Dan [R-AK] ~~~ 07/12/2017
Sen. Cassidy, Bill [R-LA] ~~~ 07/18/2017
Sen. Tillis, Thom [R-NC] ~~~ 07/19/2017
Sen. Cotton, Tom [R-AR] ~~~ 07/19/2017

Keepin' On

Hey, the cupboard wasn't bare this week, imagine that! There was a nice check awaiting my arrival. We'd like to thank David from New York for his help in paying off our 2017 debt. It was a nice check; but we still need a whole lot more if we're going to keep on keeping on for you!

I have just one problem with David's check. That problem is, as I'm sure you know, is that David is a member of the "Usual Suspects" the group of men and women who are responsible for keeping us alive, year after year. Thank mighty Zeus for them; but it's not fair to them to pick up our tabs, when most of you take a free ride, some of you for a decade and haven't sent in any Alms, no matter how pitifully I beg.

Ergo, step up and pay your fair share, and a little more, if you can, for those who can't. That's the major problem we face -- so many of you really can't spare a nickel; believe me, I get that, as we're in the same boat; but many of you are still gainfully employed, or retired with more money than you can spend -- who could afford to give the "Usual Suspects" a break and who knows become one of them yourself. I know that most of you are hanging on to the middle class by your teeth. It is, after all, for a very good cause! If you can help us pay our bills for the year, please go here and follow the instructions and thanks one and all for all of your help!


01-02-1948 ~ 07-21-2017
Thanks for the film!

03-07-1945 ~ 07-22-2017
Thanks for the film!

03-10-1927 ~ 07-25-2017
Tell Zeppo and Frank I said hi!

09-18-1917 ~ 07-26-2017
Thanks for all the laughs!


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.

U.S. Lawmakers Seek To Criminally Outlaw Support For Boycott Campaign Against Israel
By Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim

The criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing T-shirts advocating a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements, which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as "the Palestine Exception" to free speech.

But now, a group of 43 senators - 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats - wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country's decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The proposed measure, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), was introduced by Cardin on March 23. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the bill "was drafted with the assistance of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee." Indeed, AIPAC, in its 2017 lobbying agenda, identified passage of this bill as one of its top lobbying priorities for the year:

The bill's co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate's more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

[Update - July 20, 2017: Glen Caplin, senior advisor to Gillibrand, sends along the following statement: "We have a different read of the specific bill language, however, due to the ACLU's concerns, the Senator has extended an invitation to them to meet with her and discuss their concerns."

A similar measure was introduced in the House on the same date by two Republicans and one Democrat. It has already amassed 234 co-sponsors: 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans. As in the Senate, AIPAC has assembled an impressive ideological diversity among supporters, predictably including many of the most right-wing House members - Jason Chaffetz, Liz Cheney, Peter King - along with the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer.

Among the co-sponsors of the bill are several of the politicians who have become political celebrities by positioning themselves as media leaders of the anti-Trump #Resistance, including three California House members who have become heroes to Democrats and staples of the cable news circuit: Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell. These politicians, who have built a wide public following by posturing as opponents of authoritarianism, are sponsoring one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills that has pended before Congress in quite some time.

Last night, the ACLU posted a letter it sent to all members of the Senate urging them to oppose this bill. Warning that "proponents of the bill are seeking additional co-sponsors," the civil liberties group explained that "it would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs." The letter detailed what makes this bill so particularly threatening to basic civic freedoms:

It is no small thing for the ACLU to insert itself into this controversy. One of the most traumatic events in the organization's history was when it lost large numbers of donors and supporters in the late 1970s after it defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois, a town with a large community of Holocaust survivors.

Even the bravest of organizations often steadfastly avoid any controversies relating to Israel. Yet here, while appropriately pointing out that the ACLU "takes no position for or against the effort to boycott Israel or any foreign country," the group categorically denounces this AIPAC-sponsored proposal for what it is: a bill that "seeks only to punish the exercise of constitutional rights."

The ACLU has similarly opposed bipartisan efforts at the state level to punish businesses that participate in the boycott, pointing out that "boycotts to achieve political goals are a form of expression that the Supreme Court has ruled are protected by the First Amendment's protections of freedom of speech, assembly, and petition," and that such bills "place unconstitutional conditions on the exercise of constitutional rights." The bill now co-sponsored in Congress by more than half of the House and close to half of the Senate is far more extreme than those.

Thus far, not a single member of Congress has joined the ACLU in denouncing this bill. The Intercept this morning sent inquiries to numerous non-committed members of the Senate and House who have yet to speak on this bill. We also sent inquiries to several co-sponsors of the bill - such as Rep. Lieu - who have positioned themselves as civil liberties champions and opponents of authoritarianism, asking:

Congressman Lieu: Last night, the ACLU vehemently denounced a bill that you are co-sponsoring - to criminalize support for a boycott of Israel - as a grave attack on free speech. Do you have any comment on the ACLU's denunciation? You've been an outspoken champion for civil liberties; how can you reconcile that record with an effort to make it a felony for Americans to engage in activism that protests a foreign government's actions? We're writing about this today; any statement would be appreciated.

This morning, Lieu responded: "Thank you for sharing the letter. The bill has been around since March and this is the first time I have seen this issue raised. We will look into it." (The Intercept will post any response from Rep. Lieu, or any late responses from others, as soon as they are received.)

Sen. Cantwell told The Intercept she is "a strong supporter of free speech rights" and will be reviewing the bill for First Amendment concerns in light of the ACLU statement.

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, when asked by The Intercept about the ACLU's warning that the bill he is co-sponsoring criminalizes free speech, affirmed his support for the bill by responding: "I continue to support a strong U.S./Israel relationship."

Meanwhile, some co-sponsors seemed not to have any idea what they co-sponsored - almost as though they reflexively sign whatever comes from AIPAC without having any idea what's in it. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, for instance, seemed genuinely bewildered when told of the ACLU's letter, saying, "What's the Act? You'll have to get back to me on that."

A similar exchange took place with another co-sponsor, one of AIPAC's most reliable allies, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who said: "I'd want to read it. ... I'd really have to look at it." Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a co-sponsor, said she hadn't seen the ACLU letter but would give it a look. "I certainly will take their position into consideration, just like I take everybody's position into consideration," she said.

Gillibrand, the only senator in the 2020 presidential mix to co-sponsor the bill, told The Intercept she would have a statement to provide, which we'll add as soon as it's provided.

Perhaps most stunning is our interview with the primary sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin, who seemed to have no idea what was in his bill, particularly insisting that it contains no criminal penalties.

But as the ACLU put it, "Violations would be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison."

That's because, as Josh Ruebner expertly detailed when the bill was first unveiled, "the bill seeks to amend two laws - the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945," and "the potential penalties for violating this bill are steep: a minimum $250,000 civil penalty and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years imprisonment, as stipulated in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act."

Indeed, to see how serious the penalties are, and how clear it is that those penalties are imposed by this bill, one can just compare the bill's text in Section 8(a), which provides that violators will be "fined in accordance with Section 206 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1705)," to the penalty provisions of that law, which state:

That the bill refers to the fine, but not the prison sentence, is not enough to prevent a judge from applying the statute's prison term, because the bill brings the statute into play, said Faiz Shakir, the ACLU's political director, who authored the letter to the Senate. "The referral to the statute keeps criminal penalties in play, regardless of what their preference for punishment might be," said Shakir.

The bill also extends the current prohibition on participating in boycotts sponsored by foreign governments to cover boycotts from international organizations such as the U.N. and the European Union. It also explicitly extends the boycott ban from Israel generally to any parts of Israel, including the settlements. For that reason, Ruebner explains, the bill - by design - would outlaw "campaigns by the Palestine solidarity movement to pressure corporations to cut ties to Israel or even with Israeli settlements."

This pernicious bill highlights many vital yet typically ignored dynamics in Washington. First, journalists love to lament the lack of bipartisanship in Washington, yet the very mention of the word "Israel" causes most members of both parties to quickly snap into line in a show of unanimity that would make the regime of North Korea blush with envy. Even when virtually the entire world condemns Israeli aggression, or declares settlements illegal, the U.S. Congress - across party and ideological lines - finds virtually complete harmony in uniting against the world consensus and in defense of the Israeli government.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

Second, the free speech debate in the U.S. is incredibly selective and warped. Pundits and political officials love to crusade as free speech champions - when doing so involves defending mainstream ideas or attacking marginalized, powerless groups such as minority college students. But when it comes to one of the most systemic, powerful, and dangerous assaults on free speech in the U.S. and the West generally - the growing attempt to literally criminalize speech and activism aimed at the Israeli government's occupation - these free speech warriors typically fall silent.

Third, AIPAC continues to be one of the most powerful, and pernicious, lobbying forces in the country. In what conceivable sense is it of benefit to Americans to turn them into felons for the crime of engaging in political activism in protest of a foreign nation's government? And this is hardly the first time they have attempted to do this through their most devoted congressional loyalists; Cardin, for instance, had previously succeeded in inserting into trade bills provisions that would disfavor anyone who supports a boycott of Israel.

Finally, it is hard to put into words the irony of watching many of the most celebrated and beloved congressional leaders of the anti-authoritarian Resistance - Gillibrand, Schiff, Swalwell, and Lieu - sponsor one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills to appear in Congress in many years. How can one credibly inveigh against "authoritarianism" while sponsoring a bill that dictates to American citizens what political views they are and are not allowed to espouse under threat of criminal prosecution? Whatever labels one might want to apply to the sponsors of this bill, "anti-authoritarianism" should not be among them.
(c) 2017 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Soros' Sorrows
By Uri Avnery

GEORGE SOROS, the American multi-billionaire, is causing Binyamin Netanyahu a lot of trouble.

At this particular moment, Netanyahu does not need any more trouble. A huge corruption affair, concerning German-built submarines, is rolling slowly and inexorably towards him.

Soros is a Hungarian Jew, a Holocaust survivor. The Hungarian governing party plastered his face all over Budapest with a text that barely hid its anti-Semitic intent. Soros' sin is his support for human rights associations in his former homeland. He does the same in Israel, though on a much smaller scale. So Netanyahu does not like him either.

This has created an awkward situation. Netanyahu was about to visit Budapest to meet his Hungarian opposite number Victor Orban, who is suspected of being a mild anti-Semite. Netanyahu considers him a right-wing soul-mate.

The Hungarian Jewish community was upset. They demanded that Netanyahu postpone his visit until the Soros posters were removed.

Eventually most - but not all - of the posters were indeed taken down, and Netanyahu met with Orban. But the entire episode showed that the interests of the State of Israel and the interests of Jewish communities around the world are not automatically identical, as Zionists would have us believe.

THERE WAS another incident prior to the Hungarian meeting. A few days earlier, at a public event, Orban had lauded Admiral Miklos Horthy, the head of the Hungarian state during World War II, when Hungary cooperated with Nazi Germany like all of Eastern Europe (except Poland, which was occupied).

So how could Orban laud Horthy on the eve of Netanyahu's visit?

As a matter of fact, Horthy's role is still hotly debated. A self-declared anti-Semite and enigmatic person, he succeeded where no other European leader did: he saved many hundreds of thousands of Jews by disobeying and cheating Hitler.

One of them was an aunt of mine, who married a Hungarian Jew in Berlin and was deported by the Nazis to Hungary, where she survived, eventually reaching Palestine. Another was "Tommy" Lapid, a child in Budapest who became a famous personality in Israel. His son, Yair, is now a politician who seeks to supplant Netanyahu. He probably would not exist but for Horthy's devious actions.

I CANNOT resist interrupting here in order to tell a historical joke.

After Pearl Harbor, Hitler and his entire gang of foreign collaborators declared war on the US. The Hungarian ambassador in Washington was also instructed to submit a declaration of war to the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, who decided to mock him.

"Hungary, Hungary - are you a republic?" he asked.

"No, sir, we are a kingdom."

"Really? So who is your king?"

"WE don't have a king, only a regent, Admiral Horthy."

"An admiral? So you have a big fleet?"

"No, we have no fleet at all, since we have no coastline." (Horthy became an admiral during World War I, when Hungary was a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire which indeed did have a - small - fleet.)

"Curious. A kingdom without a king and an admiral without a fleet. So why do you declare war on us? Do you hate us?"

"No, we hate Romania."

"So why don't you declare war on Romania?"

"Impossible! They are our allies!"

SORRY FOR interrupting myself. Back to Netanyahu.

Just now the Netanyahu government did two things which enraged many Jews throughout the world, and especial in the US.

One concerns the Western Wall (formerly called the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. This is the holiest place of Judaism.

Since I am a pious atheist, holy places don't speak to me. The more so since the Western Wall is not really a part of the Jewish Temple, reconstructed by King Herod some 2000 years ago, but just a supporting wall of the large artificial mound of earth, on which the Temple stood.

The last time I was there was in 1946. The imposing wall was flanked by a narrow lane, which made it seem even higher. After the 1967 war, the entire Arab neighborhood was leveled to make place for a large piazza. The wall was turned over to the ultra-Orthodox, in return for their votes in the Knesset. Men and women were separated, of course.

With the growth of feminism, this became problematical. In the end, a compromise was found: a small part of the wall was set aside for "mixed" prayers of men and women, and also for "Reform" and "Conservative" Jews, who hardly exist in Israel, but constitute the majority among American Jews.

Now, under Orthodox pressure, Netanyahu wants to revoke this compromise, causing great excitement among American Jews.

As if this was not enough, Netanyahu also wants to withdraw the recognition of "Reform" and "Conservative" conversions to Judaism, giving the Orthodox exclusive rights to perform conversions in Israel.

Since there is no separation between state and religion in Israel, a simple law suffices. Indeed, Israeli institutions are becoming more and more religious, so much so, that a new Hebrew word, Hadata (roughly "religiosifiation"), has been invented.

The "Reform" and "Conservative" Jewish institutions in the US do not care about the occupation, about the brutal repression of the Palestinians, about the daily killings. They support the Israeli government through thick and thin. But they care very much about the Wall and about conversions. Like Ivanka Trump, non-Jews often convert in order to marry Jews, so this is an important business.

IT ALL seems like an inherent contradiction, and indeed it is.

Israel is defined officially and legally as a "Jewish and Democratic State". A new law is about to strike the "Democratic" from the formula, and leave Israel only as a "Jewish State". It is seen by many as the headquarters of the world Jewish people. Netanyahu has often declared that he considers himself the leader and defender of all the Jews in the world.

If so, can there be a conflict between the interests of the Jews anywhere and the State of Israel?

There can and there has been from the very beginning. Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism and a Hungarian Jew, had discussions with the anti-Semitic leaders of Czarist Russia and elsewhere, promising to help rid them of their Jews and take them to Palestine. This common interest underlay many curious alliances at various times.

Anti-Semites always preferred the Zionists. Adolf Eichmann wrote in his confession that he saw the Zionists as the "valuable element" of the Jewish people. And so on.

Abraham Stern, called Ya'ir, an underground leader in British Palestine, split from the Irgun and founded a new group (called the "Stern Gang" by the British) whose main policy plank was to cooperate with Nazi Germany against the British, on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". He sent emissaries to German embassies but was ignored by Hitler. Eventually he was shot by the British.

In the first Years of Israel, when David Ben-Gurion first visited the US as Prime Minister of Israel, he was admonished by his aides not to bring up the subject of immigration, so as not to irritate the US Jews whose money was needed desperately. Ben-Gurion demurred, but did what they said.

At the time, a friend of mine wrote a humorous piece about a community of hugely rich Jews in a remote part of Africa, who owned all the diamond mines in their country. When Israel needed money to buy flour for next month's bread, the most talented Zionist propagandist was sent there. Knowing the desperate situation of his country, the man gave the most passionate speech of his life. At the end, no eye in the hall remained dry.

The next day the speaker got a message: we were so moved that we decided to turn all our property over to the natives and come to Israel as pioneers.

THE DECLARED aim of Zionism is to bring all the world's Jews to Israel. Herzl himself believed that this would indeed happen, and in one passage he wrote that, once most of the Jews had come to the Jewish state, only they would henceforth be called Jews. All the Jews who chose not to come would cease to be called Jews and be just Germans, Americans and so on.

Wonderful, but if that happens, who will compel Donald Trump and his successors to veto all UN resolutions critical of Israel? Who will be left to fight against the movements - like BDS - that preach a boycott of Israel?

Well, life is full of contradictions. As are we.

NETANYAHU'S HUNGARIAN adventures were not over with the Soros and Horthy affairs. Far from it.

While in Budapest, he took part in a closed meeting with the leaders of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Some fool forgot to cut the line to the Journalists outside, and so they could listen in to some 20 minutes of Netanyahu's secret speech.

To his East European soul mates, extreme right-wing semi-democrats all, our Prime Minister poured out his heart: the liberal West European governments are "crazy" when they impose conditions regarding human rights on their aid to Israel. They are committing suicide by letting in masses of Muslims. They don't realize that Israel is their last bulwark against this Muslim invasion.

In the Bible of Zionism, "Der Judenstaat", Theodor Herzl wrote: "For Europe we would constitute (in Palestine) a section of the wall against Asia, serving as an outpost of civilization against barbarism." These lines were written 121 years ago, at the height of the colonial era. Repeating them today is, to use Netanyahu's word, "crazy."

When Netanyahu and Orban fight against Soros about human rights, Soros is bound to win.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Black Women In The Killing Fields
Lyles was deemed a pathology, to be snuffed out.
By Glen Ford

Although little is known about the circumstances of her fatal encounter with Minneapolis police, Justine Damond's death is worldwide news, a "tragedy" that sparked protests from Minnesota to her native Australia. The 40 year-old yoga and meditation teacher set the process of her demise in motion by calling the cops, at about 11:30 on a Saturday night, when she heard what she believed was a sexual assault in progress outside the home she shared with her fiance in a "quiet" neighborhood dotted with shops and cafes. Damond was standing in an alley outside her house, wearing pajamas, when a young Somali-born officer shot her in the abdomen, reportedly after hearing a loud noise.

Damond had come to the United States seeking "a new life," according to friends. She is near-universally presumed to be innocent - which is almost certainly true, although the assumption is based almost entirely on her race and class. Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges quickly announced she was "heartsick and deeply disturbed" by the shooting.

On June 18, at about ten o'clock on a Sunday morning, 30 year-old Charleena Lyles also made a fatal call to the police. The Black mother of four, who was three-months pregnant, reported a possible burglary at her apartment in northeast Seattle. When the cops arrived, they claimed Lyles began talking about the burglary, but then suddenly lunged at them with a knife, yelling "You ready? Motherf---s." The officers are required to carry nonlethal weapons, but chose to subdue her with bullets rather pepper spray or tasers. According to family members, Ms Lyles had been struggling with mental health issues, but was not violent.

Ms. Lyles was also innocent, especially since the police were aware of her mental health problems. But she did not benefit from a presumption of innocence, nor was she treated as a person in need of help - because she was Black and poor. She was deemed a pathology, to be snuffed out.

Both women were killed by cops, but the two deaths are quite different, in political and historical terms. Charleena Lyles is one of the millions of victims of the mass Black incarceration regime -- a U.S. government policy imposed two generations ago that is designed to terrorize and contain Black men, women and children through the full force of the State. Justine Damond's death is the incidental, collateral damage that sometimes flows from that policy. Lyles' death was premeditated, the result of calculated policy; Damond's demise was a mistake, immediately depicted as such by the media and lamented by the mayor.

Charleena Lyles is one of five Black women killed by U.S. police so far this year, according to the body count kept by the Washington Post. At least two of them were pregnant. The African American Policy Forum's "Say Her Name" campaign reports that, although Black women and girls make up only 13 percent of the U.S. female population, they account for 33 percent of all women killed by police. In raw numbers, white women outnumber Black women by five to one, but police kill nearly as many Black females as they do white females.

U.S. police kill more Black women every year than the total of all civilians killed annually by their counterparts in western Europe's largest countries: the UK, France, and Germany. These sisters' male relatives and loved ones are slaughtered on an epic scale -- with the connivance and consent of most of the Congressional Black Caucus, 80 percent of whose members voted to continue the militarization of local police when the issue came up for a vote on the full House floor in June of 2014.

Florida Congressman Alan Grayson's bill would have halted the Pentagon's infamous 1033 program, which transfers military weapons, equipment and training to local police departments. However, four out of five Black congresspersons either voted against ending the program (27 votes) or abstained (5 votes), which had the same result. Only eight members of the Black Caucus opted to end the Pentagon transfers, which increased 24-fold during Barack Obama's two terms in the White House.

Voted to Continue Arms Transfers (27)

Karen Bass (CA)
Joyce Beatty (OH)
Sanford Bishop (GA)
Corrine Brown (FL)
G.K. Butterfield (NC)
Andre Carson (IN)
Yvette Clarke (NY)
William "Lacy" Clay (MO)
Emanue lCleaver (MO)
James Clyburn (SC)
Elijah Cummings (MD)
Davis, Danny (IL)
Chaka Fattah (PA)
Al Green (TX)
Alcee Hastings (FL)
Steven Horsford (NV)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
Hakeem Jeffries (NY)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)
Robin Kelly (IL)
Gregory Meeks (NY)
Gwen Moore (WI)
Donald Payne (NJ)
David Scott (GA)
Terri Sewell (AL)
Marc Veasey (TX)
Frederica Wilson (FL)

Abstained (5)

Marcia Fudge (OH)
Charles Rangel (NY)
Cedric Richmond (LA)
Bobby Rush (IL)
Benny Thompson (MS)

Voted to Halt Arms Transfers (8)

John Conyers (MI)
Donna Edwards (MD)
Keith Ellison (MN)
Hank Johnson (GA)
Barbara Lee (CA)
John Lewis (GA)
Robert Scott (VA)
Maxine Waters (CA)

When the names of the dead are sounded ("Charleena Lyles...Rekia Boyd...Eleanor Bumpers..."), mourners and motivators should also say the names, and loudly curse, those Black politicians that have colluded in arming and encouraging the cops that killed them ("Rep. Bass...Rep. Butterfield...Rep. Beatty...").
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Donald Trump with the Rev. Pat Robertson in 2016 at Virginia's Regent University, founded by Robertson. This month Robertson
was granted a White House interview with the president for the Christian Broadcasting Network, also founded by the televangelist.

Trump And The Christian Fascists
By Chris Hedges

Donald Trump's ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump's ability to force the Christian right's agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had 81 percent of white evangelicals behind him.

Trump's moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of "religious liberty" and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the Johnson Amendment, along with his nominations of judges championed by the Federalist Society and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power-Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right. Click here for a 2007 video of Chris Hedges speaking about his book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

More important, Trump's disdain for facts and his penchant for magical thinking and conspiracy theories mesh well with the worldview of the Christian right, which sees itself as under attack by the satanic forces of secular humanism embodied in the media, academia, the liberal establishment, Hollywood and the Democratic Party. In this worldview, climate change is not real, Barack Obama is a Muslim and millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

The followers of the Christian right, like Trump and his brain trust, including Stephen Bannon, are Manicheans. They see the world in black and white, good and evil, them and us. Trump's call in his speech in Poland for a crusade against the godless hoards of Muslims fleeing from the wars and chaos we created replicates the view of the Christian right. Christian right leaders in a sign of support went to the White House on July 10 to pray over Trump. Two days later Pat Robertson showed up there to interview the president for his Christian Broadcasting Network.

If the alliance between these zealots and the government succeeds, it will snuff out the last vestiges of American democracy.

On the surface it appears to be incongruous that the Christian right would rally behind a slick New York real estate developer who is a very public serial philanderer and adulterer, has no regard for the truth, is consumed by greed, does not appear to read or know the Bible, routinely defrauds and cheats his investors and contractors, expresses a crude misogyny and an even cruder narcissism and appears to yearn for despotism. In fact, these are the very characteristics that define most of the leaders of the Christian right. Trump has preyed on desperate people through the thousands of slot machines in his casinos, his sham university and his real estate deals. Megachurch pastors prey on their followers by extracting "seed offerings," "love gifts," tithes and donations and by selling miracle healings along with "prayer clothes," self-help books, audio and video recordings and even protein shakes. Pastors have established within their megachurches, as Trump did in his businesses, despotic fiefdoms. They cannot be challenged or questioned any more than an omnipotent Trump could be challenged on the reality television show "The Apprentice." And they seek to replicate their little tyrannies on a national scale, with white men in charge.

The personal piety of most of the ministers who lead the Christian right is a facade. Their private lives are usually marked by hedonistic squalor that includes mansions, private jets, limousines, retinues of bodyguards, personal assistants and servants, shopping sprees, lavish vacations and sexual escapades that rival those carried out by Trump. And because they run "churches," in many cases church funds pay for their tax-free empires, including their extravagant lifestyles. They also engage in the nepotism found in the Trump organization, elevating family members to prominent or highly paid positions and passing on the businesses to their children.

The Christian right's scandals, which give a glimpse into the sordid lives of these multimillionaire pastors, are legion. Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Praise the Lord Club, for example, raked in as much as $1 million a week before Jim Bakker went to prison for nearly five years. He was convicted of fraud and other charges in 1989 because of a $158 million scheme in which followers paid for vacations that never materialized. As the Bakker empire came apart, there also were accusations of drug use and rape. Tammy Faye died in 2007, and now Jim Bakker is back, peddling survival food for the end days and telling his significantly reduced television audience that anyone who opposes Trump is the Antichrist.

Paul and Jan Crouch, who gave the Bakkers their start, founded Trinity Broadcasting, the world's largest televangelist network, now run by their son Matt and his wife, Laurie. Viewers were encouraged to call prayer counselors at the toll-free number shown at the bottom of the TV screen. It was a short step from talking with a prayer counselor to making a "love gift" and becoming a "partner" in Trinity Broadcasting and then sending in more money during one of the frequent Praise-a-Thons.

The Crouches reveled in tasteless kitsch, as does Trump. They sat during their popular nightly program in front of stained glass windows that overlooked Louis XVI-inspired sets awash in gold rococo and red velvet, glittering chandeliers and a gold-painted piano. The network emblem, which Paul Crouch wore on the pocket of his blue double-breasted blazer, featured a crown, a lion, a horse, a white dove, a cross and Latin phrases among other elements. The Crouches would have been at home in Trump Tower, where the president has a faux "Trump crest" - allegedly plagiarized-and has decorated his penthouse as if it was part of Versailles.

The Crouches were masters of manipulation. They exhorted viewers to send in checks for $1,000, even if they could not afford it. Write the check anyway, Paul Crouch, who died in 2013, told them, as a "step of faith" and the Lord would repay them many times over. "Do you think God would have any trouble getting $1,000 extra to you somehow?" he asked during one Praise-a-Thon broadcast. Viewers, many of whom struggled with deep despair and believed that miracles and magic alone held them back from the abyss, often found it impossible to resist this emotional pressure.

Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is home to many of the worst charlatans in the Christian right, including the popular healer Benny Hinn, who says that Adam was a superhero who could fly to the moon and claims that one day the dead will be raised by watching TBN from inside their coffins. Hinn claims his "anointings" have cured cancer, AIDS, deafness, blindness and numerous other ailments and physical injuries. Those who have not been cured, he says, did not send in enough money.

These religious hucksters are some of the most accomplished con artists in the country, a trait they share with the current occupant of the Oval Office.

I wrote a book on the Christian right in 2007 called "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America." I did not use the word "fascist" lightly. I spent several hours, at the end of two years of reporting, with two of the country's foremost scholars on fascism-Fritz Stern and Robert O. Paxton. Did this ideology fit the parameters of classical fascism? Was it virulent enough and organized enough to seize power? Would it go to the ruthless extremes of previous fascist movements to persecute and silence dissent? Has our deindustrialized society replicated the crippling despair, alienation and rage that always feed fascist movements?

The evangelicalism promoted by the Christian right is very different from the evangelicalism and fundamentalism of a century ago. The emphasis on personal piety that defined the old movement, the call to avoid the contamination of politics, has been replaced by Christian Reconstructionism, called Dominionism by some. This new ideology is about taking control of all institutions, including the government, to build a "Christian" nation. Rousas John Rushdoony in his 1973 book, "The Institutes of Biblical Law," first articulated it. Rushdoony argued that God gives the elect, just as he gave Adam and Noah, dominion over the earth to build a Christian society. Their state will come about with the physical eradication of the forces of Satan. It is the duty of the church and the elect to "rescue" the world so Christ can return.

This is an ideology of death. It promises that the secular, humanist society will be physically destroyed. The Ten Commandments will form the basis of our legal system. Creationism or "Intelligent Design" will be taught in public schools. People who are considered social deviants, including homosexuals, immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims, criminals and those dismissed as "nominal Christians"-meaning Christians who do not embrace the Christian right's perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible-will be silenced, imprisoned or killed. The role of the federal government will be reduced to protecting property rights, "homeland" security and waging war. Church organizations will be funded and empowered by the government to run social-welfare agencies. The poor, condemned for sloth, indolence and sinfulness, will be denied government assistance. The death penalty will be expanded to include "moral crimes," including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy and witchcraft, as well as abortion, which will be treated as murder. Women will be subordinate to men. Those who practice other faiths will become, at best, second-class citizens and eventually outcasts. The wars in the Middle East will be defined as religious crusades against Muslims. There will be no separation of church and state. The only legitimate voices will be "Christian." America will become an agent of God. Those who defy the "Christian" authorities will be branded as agents of Satan.

Tens of millions of Americans are already hermetically sealed within this bizarre worldview. They are given a steady diet of conspiracy theories and lies on the internet, in their churches, in Christian schools and colleges and on Christian television and radio. Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote "The Red Network" and was a Nazi sympathizer, is required reading. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored. This Christian propaganda hails the "significant contributions" of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950s, is rehabilitated as an American hero. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, is defined as part of the worldwide battle against satanic Islamic terror. Presently, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. public believes in Creationism or "Intelligent Design." And nearly a third of the population, 94 million people, consider themselves evangelical.

Those who remain in a reality-based universe often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons. They do not take seriously the huge segment of the public, mostly white and working class, who because of economic distress have primal yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal and are easily seduced by magical thinking. These are the yearnings and emotions Trump has exploited politically.

Those who embrace this movement need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to elevate themselves to the role of holy warriors, infused with a noble calling and purpose. They need to sanctify the rage and hypermasculinity that are the core of fascism. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief, which includes being anointed for a special purpose in life by God, are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and desire for meaning.

"Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty," Simone Weil wrote.

These believers, like all fascists, detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.

The rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and feared, for they seek to pull believers back into "the culture of death" that nearly destroyed them. The magical belief system, as it was for impoverished German workers who flocked to the Nazi Party, is an emotional life raft. It is all that supports them. The only way to blunt this movement is to reintegrate these people into the economy, to give them economic stability through good wages and benefits, to restore their self-esteem. They need to live in a society that is not predatory but instead provides well-funded public schools, free university education and universal health care, a society in which they and their families can prosper.

Let us not stand at the open gates of the city waiting passively for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching towards Bethlehem. Let us shake off our complacency and cynicism. Let us openly defy the liberal establishment, which will not save us, to demand and fight for economic reparations for the poor and the working class. Let us give all Americans a reality-based hope for the future. Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance, united behind the ludicrous figure of Donald Trump, will ride this rage to power.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

How Betsy DeVos, The Koch Brothers And Donald Trump Are Selling Our Schools To The Highest Bidder
By Jim Hightower

Where are Charlie and Dave, Mrs. Koch's two mischievous boys? While the Koch brothers have stayed out of the national limelight since the White House was acquired by Trump and Company, that doesn't mean the two right-wing billionaire brats are any less active in trying to supplant American democracy with their little laissez-fairyland plutocracy. In fact, in late June, you could've found them in one of their favorite hideaways with about 400 other uber-wealthy rascals, plotting some political hijinks for next year's elections.

This is the Koch Boys Billionaire Club, which meets annually at some luxury resort to schmooze, strategize, hear a select group of GOP elected officials kiss up to them - then throw money into a big pot to finance the Koch's planned takeover of America. It costs $100,000 per person just to attend the three-day Koch Fest, but participants are also expected to give generously to the brothers' goal of dumping $400 million into buying the 2018 elections.

This year, the group gathered in Colorado Springs at the ultra-lux Broadmoor Hotel and resort, owned by the brothers' billionaire pal and right-wing co-conspirator, Philip Anschutz. Among the recent political triumphs that these elites celebrated in the Broadmoor's posh ballroom was the defeat this year of the Colorado tax hike to fix the states crumbling roads. After all, who needs adequate roads when you can arrive in private jets? This attitude of the Koch's privileged cohorts explains why the public is shut out of these candid sessions. A staffer for the Koch confab hailed such no-tax, no-roads policies as a "renaissance of freedom." For the privileged, that is - freedom to prosper at the expense of everyone else.

This self-absorbed cabal of spoiled plutocratic brats intends to abandon our nation's core democratic principle of "We're all in this together." If they kill that uniting concept, they kill America itself. Their agenda includes killing such working class needs as minimum wage and Social Security and privatizing everything from health care to public education.

For example, Betsy DeVos and her hubby are part of the Koch brother's coterie. They are lucky enough to have inherited a big chunk of the multibillion-dollar fortune that Daddy DeVos amassed through his shady Amway corporation. But what they've done with their Amway inheritance is certainly not the American Way.

The DeVos's are pushing plutocratic policies that reject our country's one-for-all, all-for-one egalitarianism. In particular, Betsey DeVos has spent years and millions of dollars spreading the right-wing's ideological nonsense that public education should be completely privatized. She advocates turning our tax dollars over to for-profit outfits-even to private schools that exclude people of color, the poor and the disabled, as well as to profiteering schools known to cheat students and taxpayers.

Bizarrely, Donald Trump chose this vehement opponent of public-education-for-all to head-up the agency in charge of - guess what - public education. Rather than working to help improve our public schools, the Trump-DeVos duo wants to take $20 billion from them and give it to corporate chains.

To see the "efficiency" of this scheme, look to Arizona, where state Senate president Steve Yarborough pushed a private school fund into law. One of the corporatized schools, called Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, has taken more than $73 million from Arizona taxpayers, paying its executive director $125,000. His name is Steve Yarborough. ACSTO also pays millions of dollars to another for-profit corporation named HY Processing to handle administrative chores. The "Y" in HY stands for Yarborough. And ACSTO pays rent to its landlord.

As Wall Street banksters, drug company gougers, airline fee fixers and so many others have taught us over and over, most corporate executives are paid big bucks to take every shortcut, cheat and lie to squeeze out another dime in profits. Why would we entrust our schoolchildren to them?
(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

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at a White House daily briefing in Washington, June 20, 2017.

Sean Spicer Has Embarrassed Himself-Badly
The time to resign was on January 21, when the president demanded he tell an outrageous lie.
By John Nichols

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has left the building-resigning from his diminished position as a broken man, a subject of ridicule and derision, a political careerist without a shred of dignity left.

There may be commentators who try to find a measure of redemption for Spicer in the fact that his is one of the first genuinely newsworthy resignations from a Trump administration that will see many resignations before it is done. A lot will be made, to be sure, of the reports that Spicer's was not a soft exit; he resigned immediately following the president's selection of a fierce loyalist, Republican donor Anthony Scaramucci, as his new communications director. The word is that the outgoing press secretary told Trump that the new hire was a major mistake for the administration.

It's nice that Spicer finally objected. But no one can or should imagine that this objection, or this resignation, clears Spicer. It is way too late for that.

The time for Spicer to resign was before he became an out-of-control president's paid perjurer. During his turbulent six months in Trump's service, Spicer turned what was once the reasonably respectable position of White House press secretary-a post held by Pierre Salinger, George Reedy, Bill Moyers, and James Brady-into a joke. Or, to be more precise, a stream of jokes. Spicer made himself and his position a punchline for late-night comics and fodder for the funniest Saturday Night Live routine of the Trump era.

Press secretaries have been irresponsible in the past. The position is a politicized one. No one denies that some of Spicer's predecessors failed themselves and their country. But Spicer's failure has been so epic in scope, so overwhelming in character (or lack thereof), that his name is now synonymous with prevarication.

Spicer, an experienced political communicator who arrived at the White House with some semblance of a reputation in Washington, should never have let this happen. He should have refused to become a cog in Trump's machinery of deception and delusion.

When exactly should Spicer have resigned? Not after his star had faded to such an extent that most press-secretary duties were being handled by his deputy, a slightly steadier Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Not after he started breaking records for "pants-on-fire" claims. Not after he became the subject of Melissa McCarthy's mockery on SNL. Spicer should have quit when Trump demanded that he start this presidency off with a spectacular lie.

But, apologists might mumble, that would have required Spicer to exit on the first full day of the Trump presidency, before Kellyanne Conway had even coined the phrase "alternative facts" to describe the press secretary's truth-challenged pronouncements. Yes.

Trump's presidency is, to be sure, a national embarrassment. But part of what makes it so embarrassing is the determination of Republican Party loyalists who should know better-House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and so many others-to embarrass themselves in the service of Trump. They do not merely share his shame, they extend it.

Those who lie on Trump's behalf often do more harm than the president. They sustain the "fake news" industry that has developed to spin Trump's reckless, lawless, and frequently dangerous words and deeds as somehow "presidential." And they feed Trump's ego by suggesting that partisans who were not necessarily on his team when he was coming up will support even the most unreasonable and irresponsible wrongdoing by this president.

Spicer, a veteran party apparatchik who held low-level positions in the Bush-Cheney administration and served as a spokesman and strategist for the Republican National Committee during the 2016 campaign, should have gone to the White House as an "adult in the room." He should have been ready and willing to tell Trump when he was veering off track. And he should have refused to go off-track with the president.

But that's not what happened. Spicer aided and abetted Trump's worst instincts at precisely the point when Trump needed to be told "no."

A remarkable briefing at the close of the first full day of Trump's presidency set the standard not just for Spicer's tenure as press secretary but for the Trump presidency. When Spicer stepped before the cameras on January 21, 2017, he made it clear that outrageous lies would be peddled not merely by the president in his worst moments but by the administration as a whole-formally, and without apology. Trump had been sworn in a day earlier, as a commander in chief without a mandate-a candidate who lost 54 percent of the popular vote and trailed his chief opponent by close to 3 million votes. The pretender delivered an uninspired 16-minute inaugural address to an unimpressive crowd and then paraded through the streets of a capital city where 96 percent of the electorate had rejected him, and where evidence of enthusiasm for his inauguration gave new meaning to the term "modest."

On the following morning, in the same capital city, the streets were filled by a crowd of Americans-conservatively estimated at more than a half-million-who had come to challenge the new administration's policies toward women in particular and humanity in general. These Americans marched and rallied as part of a national (and global) outpouring of opposition to this president that was so dramatic that The Guardian headlined its report: "Women's March on Washington overshadows Trump's first full day in office."

It was a nightmare scenario for the newly minted press secretary for a man whom marchers decried as a "minority president." But a White House run by adults would have acknowledged the dissent and moved on-or simply said nothing.

But an egomaniacal president demanded an egomaniacal lie. So there stood Sean Spicer, delivering a diatribe that surely merited the application of the often-misapplied term "Orwellian." Trump's man declared that "Yesterday, at a time when our nation and the world was watching the peaceful transition of power and, as the President said, the transition and the balance of power from Washington to the citizens of the United States, some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting."

The message: Don't believe news reports that call into question the carefully constructed narrative of the new administration.

Spicer asserted, at length, that "photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. This was the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual. This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past."

It was all a lie. It may have been Trump's lie. But Sean Spicer gave it voice, attaching whatever "legitimacy" he may have enjoyed when he arrived at the White House to absolute and unequivocal falsehood.

Spicer should have refused to abandon the truth on day one. He should have refused to begin his tenure by marking himself as a man who could not be trusted to even try to tell the truth. He should have resigned on January 21, not July 21.
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (center) talks to reporters with other Republican senators following
the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol July 18, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Trump, McConnell And Ryan In The Rubble Of Hubris
By William Rivers Pitt

What began in enforced secrecy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and twelve angry men has been ended, for now, at the hands of three women in the bright light of day.

To recap: The first version of the Senate's attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act was a horror. Several Republicans killed it before it could die in a vote. The second version dangled by a thread as John McCain went home to deal with a health issue, and was finally undone by Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah, who plotted their decision to join the "No" brigade with Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine at the same time as Donald Trump was downing ribeye and succotash with wavering senators at the White House.

The third version, a messy "Repeal Now And Pray For Rain Later" bungle that was originally floated in 2015, was killed by three Republicans -- Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito -- before it had time to tie its shoes. As of Tuesday evening, there is no fourth version to speak of. McConnell is making noises about bringing Version 3.0 to a doomed vote anyway, just to get everyone on the record.

Republicans, all. The politics and the optics, the optics and the politics, oh my, oh my. I'm so old, I remember when the ACA was going to be repealed on "Day One," after which I was really going to get sick of all this winning. Look where we are now. The GOP's signature goal, promised on a daily basis for more than seven years, is now a burning jalopy in the breakdown lane of the highway. Why?

Number one: Resistance. Massive numbers of Americans, led by disabled and chronically ill people willing to be arrested in the halls of Congress to push home the point, took to the phones, the streets and the internet to oppose this thrice-baked crudmuffin. This made a world of difference, particularly in swaying Republican moderates when the deal finally went down. More than a few hardliners felt that heat, as well, and responded. It mattered, right down to the ground.

Number two: Republicans. The DC Democrats could have taken the balance of this last year off and downed pina coladas with the werewolves at Trader Vic's for all the impact they've had on the legislative agenda. While enormous public resistance against every iteration of the GOP's ACA repeal efforts was the foremost cause of this victory, amen, we also need to look at the flawed strategies and internal politics that allowed the party to fail so dramatically. This festival of botch was all Republicans, from soup to nuts.

The entirety of the Republican leadership in Congress helped cause this, I am pleased to say, by spending nearly 3,000 days promising to repeal the ACA while never bothering to develop a plan to actually do it.

The Freedom Caucus helped cause this by forcing a House version of ACA repeal that would have made Genghis Khan wince and turn away, and Paul Ryan helped cause this by letting them.

Mitch McConnell helped cause this by taking the bag of hammers given to him by the House and turning it three separate times into something so unpalatable that the moderates and the hardliners started speaking the same language, albeit for different reasons. Collins, Murkowski and Capito wanted no part of the assault on Medicaid and on health care for women in general, which made their endgame move perfectly karmic in nature. Moran, for his part, warned that McConnell's bill would cause health care in the US to somehow "devolve into a single-payer system." Dread the thought. Both Collins and Moran denounced the secrecy of the process. Beat that with a stick.

Donald Trump helped cause this because he is an anthropomorphic earthquake with a Twitter account. He devoted enormous energies during his presidential campaign to the promise of repealing the ACA, but like most of his congressional compatriots, had no plan to do so. The House GOP moved heaven and earth to pass its wretched version of repeal; Trump feted the House for the accomplishment, and then turned on a dime and called its bill "mean" just as the Senate was preparing to take up the legislation. During this final push, Trump tweeted about Russia and served peach cobbler ... and sat on his hands.

Trump, McConnell and Ryan have the world at their feet, politically speaking. The stars don't line up like this even once in a generation. So what's the problem?

The Republican Party is its own problem. The seeds planted with Goldwater in 1964 and Nixon in 1968 came to full bloom with Ronald Reagan and the mantra that "government is the problem." These seeds, sown generously with fear, greed and Calvinist fundamentalism for more than 35 years, have produced a bumper crop of New Republicans who don't know how to legislate, and got jobs in government to prove that government doesn't work ... while siphoning off some cash for their friends and benefactors, of course. What you also get is President Donald Trump as the final triumph of the un-mind. Supply-Side Jesus approves.

Yet the lesson here is not, "The Republicans are incompetent, let them ruin themselves, it's over!" For those of us who hold to the simple notion that we are in fact charged with the care and protection of our fellow passengers on this odd rock, this fight is far from finished. "Nobody who believes that human beings have a right to a government guarantee of health care, security in their old age and society's support should they be unable to work," writes Heather Digby Parton, "should ever rest on their laurels. Those who don't agree will never stop trying to take those things away." Those who don't agree still control the government, and will tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. They have no quit in them, and so the resistance must continue to stand.

In the near term, however, feel free to take a moment and gaze at the wreckage, born of hubris. Trump, McConnell and Ryan will find zero degrees Kelvin in an ice cube tray before they find a solution to the conundrum that is the modern Republican Congress they all labored to create.

"He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything," said George Bernard Shaw. "That points clearly to a political career." I know three unhappy fellows in DC who fit that description like a moldy old shoe. It's only Wednesday, and a potentially apocalyptic debt ceiling fight is still lurking out there in the tall grass beyond the rubble of total failure ... along with a whole other fight over taxes, which will be even messier now that the tax breaks in the BCRA have gone up in smoke ... and there's the budget, too. It only gets weirder from here. Take appropriate precautions.
(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.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains a man in Los Angeles, in October, 2015.
Since Donald Trump took office, the agency's hard line has worried some employees.

A Veteran ICE Agent, Disillusioned With The Trump Era, Speaks Out
By Jonathan Blitzer

In March, two months after President Trump took office, I received a text message from a veteran agent at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I had been trying to find field agents willing to describe what life was like at the agency in the Trump era. This agent agreed to talk. Over the past four months, we have texted often and spoken on the phone several times. Some of our discussions have been about the specifics of new federal policies aimed at dramatically increasing the number of deportations. At other times, we've talked more broadly about how the culture at ICE has shifted. In April, the agent texted me a screen shot of a page from the minutes of a recent meeting, during which a superior had said that it was "the most exciting time to be part of ICE" in the agency's history. The photo was sent without commentary-the agent just wanted someone on the outside to see it.

The agent, who has worked in federal immigration enforcement since the Clinton Administration, has been unsettled by the new order at ICE. During the campaign, many rank-and-file agents publicly cheered Trump's pledge to deport more immigrants, and, since Inauguration Day, the Administration has explicitly encouraged them to pursue the undocumented as aggressively as possible. "We're going to get sued," the agent told me at one point. "You have guys who are doing whatever they want in the field, going after whoever they want." At first, the agent spoke to me on the condition that I not publish anything about our conversations. But that has changed. Increasingly angry about the direction in which ICE is moving, the agent agreed last week to let me publish some of the details of our talks, as long as I didn't include identifying information.

"We used to look at things through the totality of the circumstances when it came to a removal order-that's out the window," the agent told me the other day. "I don't know that there's that appreciation of the entire realm of what we're doing. It's not just the person we're removing. It's their entire family. People say, 'Well, they put themselves in this position because they came illegally.' I totally understand that. But you have to remember that our job is not to judge. The problem is that now there are lots of people who feel free to feel contempt."

Like many ICE employees, the agent was a critic of President Barack Obama, whose push to standardize enforcement practice and micromanage agents, particularly during his second term, was a source of frustration at the agency. Yet with Obama gone, and the era of micromanagement over, the agent sees long-standing standards being discarded and basic protocols questioned. "I have officers who are more likely now to push back," the agent said. "I'd never have someone say, 'Why do I have to call an interpreter? Why don't they speak English?' Now I get it frequently. I get this from people who are younger. That's one group. And I also get it from people who are ethnocentric: 'Our way is the right way-I shouldn't have to speak in your language. This is America.' " It all adds up, the agent said, "to contempt that I've never seen so rampant towards the aliens."

The agent's decision to allow me to write about our conversations came after learning that ICE was making a push, beginning this week, to arrest young undocumented immigrants who were part of a large wave of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in recent years and who, until now, had been allowed to live in the U.S. Rather than detaining these young people, the government had placed them in the care of families around the country. Most of them are trying to lead new lives as American transplants, going to school and working. ICE now plans to pursue those who have turned eighteen since crossing the border, and who, as a result, qualify for detention as legal adults. "I don't see the point in it," the agent said. "The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. I don't understand it. We're doing it because we can, and it bothers the hell out of me."

The agent went on, "The whole idea is targeting kids. I know that technically they meet the legal definition of being adults. Fine. But if they were my kids travelling in a foreign country, I wouldn't be O.K. with this. We're not doing what we tell people we do. If you look next month, or at the end of this month, at the people in custody, it's people who've been here for years. They're supposed to be in high school."

The agent was especially concerned about a new policy that allows ICE to investigate cases of immigrants who may have paid smugglers to bring their children or relatives into the country. ICE considers these family members guilty of placing children "directly in harm's way," as one spokeswoman recently put it, and the agency will hold them "accountable for their role in these conspiracies." According to ICE, these measures will help combat "a constant humanitarian threat," but the agent said that rationale was just a pretext to increase arrests and eventually deport more people. "We seem to be targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst." The agent also believes that the policy will make it harder for the government to handle unaccompanied children who show up at the border. "You're going to have kids stuck in detention because parents are too scared of being prosecuted to want to pick them up!" the agent said.

U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of half a million cases, with only a limited number of judges available to hear them and issue rulings. "We still have to make decisions based on a responsible use of the government's resources-you can't lock everybody up," the agent said. "We're putting more people into that overburdened system just because we can. There's just this school of thought that, well, we can do what we want."

Before this year, the agent had never spoken to the media. "I have a couple of colleagues that I can kind of talk to, but not many," the agent said. "This has been a difficult year for many of us." These people, not just at ICE but also at other federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation's immigration laws, are "trying to figure out how to minimize the damage." It isn't clear what, exactly, they can do under the circumstances. "Immigration is a pendulum-it swings to the left sometimes, or it swings to the right," the agent told me last week. "But there was a normal range. Now people are bringing their own opinions into work." In the agent's view, ICE is a changed agency.

"I like predictability," the agent said. "I like being able to go into work and have faith in my senior managers and the Administration, and to know that, regardless of their political views, at the end of the day they're going to do something that's appropriate. I don't feel that way anymore."
(c) 2017Jonathan Blitzer is a contributing writer to He has written for the magazine since 2014, and was a finalist for a 2016 Livingston Award. His writing and reporting have also appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Atavist, Oxford American, and The Nation.

Six months in and we've reached a level of mayhem, compulsive lying and incompetence that defies the imagination.

Hail To Our Flounder In Chief
Only half a year into the Trump administration and the narcissism, prevarication and corruption have our democracy in crisis.
By Michael Winship

Fish stinks from the head, as the ancient Greeks first said, and right now there's a 250-pound flounder stinking up the White House and all those around the place.

Mark Shields said it well on the PBS NewsHour Friday night:

"Everybody, I can honestly say, with rare exception, who has been associated with this administration and this president has been diminished by it. Their reputation has been tarnished. They're smaller people as a result of it. And that's tragic."
Six months in and we've reached a level of mayhem, compulsive lying and incompetence that defies the imagination. Just to mix the animal metaphors, there's more bull running through Washington right now than the streets of Pamplona, and for our nation's capital, that's saying something.

Or, in the words of the British actor and veteran Ernest Thesiger, when asked to describe what it had been like on World War I's Western Front, "The noise, my dear, and the people!"

Havoc rules. And did I mention the whining? Snowflake Donald Trump should change his entrance music from "Hail to the Chief" to "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me." Everything that happens is someone else's fault while the real culprit is staring out at him from the bathroom mirror every morning.

By now, of course, we were supposed to have repealed and replaced Obamacare, instituted vast tax cuts and begun rebuilding America's infrastructure. And I'm still waiting for my rocket belt and flying car.

This is not to ignore the gruesome deregulatory chainsaw being put to government departments and agencies, but legislatively this administration is a flaming train wreck.

While simultaneously claiming great lawmaking accomplishments, Trump falsely argues that what's holding everything up is obstruction from Democrats, and certainly there has been some Dem-instigated, strategic slow walking that has impeded GOP activity in Congress, such as it is. But far more grievous are the self-inflicted wounds of incompetence, inattention and infighting that have turned the capital into Pork Chop Hill.

And Russia. Trump and his campaign team's possible involvement with the Russian government and election tampering has created major roadblocks at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, diverting huge amounts of time and attention.

The White House is on a war footing, seemingly determined to prove that the rule of law does not apply to Trump, his children or associates. Meanwhile, Congress is enmeshed in hearings and Russia-related maneuvering. All of this while the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors quietly hums along - even though it's about to be subject to an even greater onslaught of mudslinging and disruption as Trump may try anything to tear it apart through legal challenges and firings.

To repeat the question over and over: What is he trying to hide? Getting to the truth of what happened is important, not just because of what it says about the amorality of this administration but also the devastating attack Russia has attempted on our democracy, part of a pattern of interference that has been perpetrated against European democracies as well.

Not to give a gratuitous plug to my place of employment, but the extent of the scandal is best seen in the stunningly thorough and quite brilliant timeline that has been assembled at the website by law professor and former litigator Steven Harper with the assistance of our editorial staff.

It's a jaw-dropping overview that demonstrates how truly deep and longstanding this scandal may go, so much so that at Politico, former Watergate assistant prosecutor Nick Akerman recommended it as "the most enlightening thing you can possibly read... the best source out there on this stuff."

But for this moment, let's focus on just a couple of recent developments that suffice to show that much is rotten in the state of Trump.

First, there's that New York Times interview Trump granted last Wednesday, a cross-examination that for sheer inarticulateness and borderline madness rivals The Caine Mutiny's Captain Queeg clacking away with his ball bearings and muttering about the crew stealing strawberries.

The Times' David Brooks said it demonstrated "a disturbing level of incoherent thinking," which is putting it mildly. The president is like a one-man game of Telephone: he hears information from wherever or whomever but when he repeats it back, the facts are thrown in the air and come down as surrealist jabberwock.

Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte, Trump thinks, "... his one problem is he didn't go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death." Huh? As for health insurance, "'re 21 years old, you start working and you're paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan." Where would that be, the Planet Mongo?

In truth, much of the interview was far more sinister than his garbled, incomplete sentences: thinly veiled grumblings and threats about Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, whose recusal from the Russia probe was, Trump argued, "very unfair to the president;" special counsel Mueller and his staff - rife, he believes, with "conflicts of interest;" Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; and former FBI Director James Comey. By firing Comey, the president said, "I did a great thing for the American people." Meaning a great thing for I, Donald Trump.

Or so he seems to think. "I'm not under investigation," he insisted. "For what? I didn't do anything wrong." Yet the very next night after the interview, both The Times and The Washington Post reported on efforts by Trump to "limit or undercut" the Mueller investigation and ongoing discussions of presidential pardons for "aides, family members and even himself."

These latest alleged moves by Donald Trump and the legal team assembled feel like the kind of maneuvers fashioned by a crime boss when cornered by his own lies. And while the principle of innocence until guilt remains paramount in a society still deemed to be free, every action they take in the Trump/Russia case feels more like obstruction than any attempt to build a solid case for the defense.

For them to argue that some political donations to Democrats by members of Mueller's staff are conflicts of interest and reason for recusal is rich enough, but coming from a gang that has embraced unlimited campaign contributions from big business and the wealthy as free speech is almost as ironic as a bunch of self-described nationalists and populists reaching across the oceans and steppes to sacrifice sovereignty and endorse the philosophy of a tin-hat Russian despot.

Also risible are claims that Mueller should recuse himself from his Russia probe because he once disputed his membership fees at a Trump golf course (a charge a Mueller spokesman denies).

Illogic and yes, madness. "... [A]ll agree the US president has the complete power to pardon," Trump tweets, as his lawyer Jay Sekulow runs to the Sunday talk shows saying there will be no pardons because, hey, there is no wrongdoing to pardon.

But which is worse, the ranting nature of the president's febrile brain, the posturing of his lawyers or the spinelessness in his Cabinet and the GOP? As several have suggested, much of this nonsense might be curbed if Republican congressional leadership simply said if you try more firings to stymy the Russia inquiry or start issuing pardons like Kleenex, impeachment proceedings immediately begin. So far, silence.

You have to ask them, are your jobs and personal ambition so overwhelming and important that you've abandoned courage and responsibility? As you debate what's legal versus illegal, have you completely lost sight of what's morally right or wrong?

Every time you pledge fealty to this man, an angel loses its wings. Meanwhile, the smell of fishiness at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. grows ranker by the minute.
(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

Plastic Straws Suck
By David Suzuki

Of all the plastic products we use and take for granted, plastic drinking straws are among the most unnecessary. Designed to be used once and discarded, their only real purpose is to keep your mouth from touching a glass or ice. It made more sense in the days when contaminated vessels were more of an issue.

Now, there's a movement to get people and businesses to ditch the straws. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. In the U.S. alone, people discard 500 million straws every day, or more than 180 billion a year. That's about 1.4 million kilograms of plastic sent to landfills and into the oceans every day!

Drinking straws have a long history and weren't always a big problem. The first ones were made from straw, or any strawlike grass or plant. That changed in the 1880s when Washington, D.C., resident Marvin Stone was drinking a mint julep through a rye grass stalk. He didn't like the residue it left in his drink, and so he wrapped paper around a pencil, removed the pencil, glued the paper together and a straw was born! In 1888, Stone patented a version made from manila paper coated with paraffin.

Forty years later, Joseph B. Friedman saw that his daughter was having difficulty drinking though a straight straw. He inserted a screw into a straw, wrapped dental floss around the ridges, removed the screw and invented the flexible or "bendy" straw, which he patented in 1937.

The explosion of plastic's popularity in the 1960s and into the '70s spelled the demise of the paper straw. After that, most drinking straw innovations were as much about marketing as function - including the twisty Krazy Straw and the wide straw-and-spoon combo used to drink slushy drinks.

Plastic straws are now ubiquitous. Whether you're ordering a takeout drink, cold coffee beverage, bar cocktail or glass of water in a restaurant, you'll likely get a plastic straw unless you request your drink without it. And you should. As a Treehugger article notes, they don't biodegrade, they're difficult to recycle, they leach toxic chemicals into the ground and they can end up in oceans. Often, they're incinerated, which puts toxins into the air.

Numerous campaigns have sprung up to get people to forgo drinking straws - or at least to use less environmentally damaging alternatives. Some restaurants have stopped automatically putting them in drinks, and others are using compostable straws, but most still offer plastic. International spirits company Bacardi has joined with the Surfrider Foundation for a "no-straw movement" as part of its Good Spirited: Building a Sustainable Future program. Surfrider, which has led campaigns against plastic bags, discarded cigarette butts and other ocean threats, has a "Straws Suck" campaign that encourages businesses to get rid of straws. In doing so, bars, restaurants and stores can save money as well as reduce environmental impacts.

As for alternatives, several companies sell re-usable and biodegradable straws made from metal, glass, bamboo, straw or paper. Some come with cleaning brushes. One company is even making straws from pasta, which can be cooked later!

According to the anti-straw group the Last Plastic Straw, 80 to 90 per cent of marine debris is plastic, and as much as 80 per cent of that came from plastics discarded on land. Researchers estimate eight million tonnes of plastic garbage enter the oceans from land every year. Plastic straws are among the top 10 litter items picked up during beach cleanups, with thousands picked up every year. Cigarette butts are the most numerous items picked up, with plastic bottles and caps, food wrappers and bags also in the top 10.

Avoiding plastic straws won't save the oceans or the world on its own, but as we've seen with plastic bags and public smoking, when people start thinking about their habits and making small changes, they can bring about shifts in consciousness that lead to wider societal changes. Ordering your drinks without straws is a small sacrifice but a big step to reducing the amount of plastic we produce and waste. Giving up disposable drink bottles, plastic grocery bags and other unnecessary plastic items, and encouraging businesses to offer alternatives, will also help.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

The Lying Will Now Be Smoother And More Telegenic
By Charles P. Pierce

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To The Last Post Of The Week By The Blog's Favourite Living Canadian)

There are two things I decline to do about the departure of Sean Spicer from behind his White House podium: 1) Care, and 2) Sympathize.

As to the first, it doesn't matter a damn to the country who the next marquee liar representing Camp Runamuck is. Any TV reporter who starts talking about how the "messaging" will now change under the watchful eye of Anthony Scaramucci is telling you that they think the administration's lying will now be smoother and more telegenic. The president will continue to be an unqualified, undereducated dolt. The policies, such as they are, will continue to be retrograde and cruel. Bob Mueller will shrug and get back to work until El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago fires him. The public face of this particular administration is doomed always to be more of a useless bobo than all the press secretaries who have come before. None of that will change.

(The new guy, Anthony Scaramucci, came out on Friday afternoon and said that Donald Trump had "some of the best political instincts in the world." Aces, all of them, all the way down.)

As to the second, we're already starting to hear folks talk about what a good guy Spicer is, and how he can get back to being the good guy he always was. The hell with that. Spicer took the Dolt's Shilling. On his first day on the gig, he willingly lied about the size of the inaugural crowd because the president*'s ego couldn't handle its actual size. He then repeated whatever nonsense he was told to repeat until he became a figure of fun and ridicule. And how are we supposed to believe he left because he was dissatisfied with the fact that he has a new supervisor?

"I will lie and degrade the public discourse more than any living human being, but I cannot work with THAT MAN." (Sean Spicer's Last Lament, 2017.) Yeah, that'll fly.

I still think they should have let him meet the pope, though. That was unkind.

One of the most remarkable events of my lifetime was the sudden explosion of democratic energy in Poland in the summer of 1980. Yes, it all began before St. Ronnie got elected. (During my alternative press days, I used to wear a Solidarnosc T-shirt when I played softball. Not a big deal, but I liked it.) This is why the events in Poland this week had some serious resonance around the shebeen. The new government there leans a bit too far in the direction of non-Communist authoritarianism for folks who still remember what life under actual Communist authoritarianism was like. And they're in the streets again. From CNN:

Tens of thousands of Poles gathered outside the presidential palace in Warsaw on Thursday evening, just hours after the lower house of Parliament passed a bill that would give the populist government the power to push all of the country's Supreme Court judges into retirement. The government-controlled upper house of Parliament could vote on the bill as soon as Friday. Videos shared on social media captured the moment when protesters assembled in the capital sang a resounding version of the national anthem, waving Polish and European Union flags. The public outcry over efforts by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, or PiS, to curtail judiciary independence has flown largely under the radar amid recent high-profile visits from US President Donald Trump and the British royals.
Layabouts of many Western governments may not notice, but Poland is slipping toward a very bad place.

Which brings to mind this interesting column from Tiger Beat On The Potomac. I agree with a lot of it. Many conservatives and Republicans have demonstrated a serious man-crush on Vladmir Putin and, yes, it does conflict with a great deal of conservative rhetoric over the past few decades. But I just can't get with this part.

What I never expected was that the Republican Party-which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union-would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin's Russia. My message for today's GOP is to paraphrase Barack Obama when he mocked Romney for saying precisely that: 2012 called-it wants its foreign policy back... How did the party of Ronald Reagan's moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump's moral vacuity? Russia's intelligence operatives are among the world's best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the "evil empire."
History is not the friend of those assertions. Even back in the glory days of Ronald Reagan, conservatives and Republicans loved authoritarians. They just didn't like the Communist ones. They were fine with Pinochet, and the Somozas, and Rios Montt in Guatemala, and Galtieri in Argentina. The Shah was fine with us for decades, and so was Saddam Hussein, now that I think about it. Jeane Kirkpatrick, that splendid meathead who was proven wrong almost daily in the 1980s, most particularly in places like Poland, made her fortune drawing distinctions between Pinochet and Ho Chi Minh. And, for an awfully long time, this was a distressingly bipartisan phenomenon.

Pinochet's people committed an act of murderous terrorism within sight of the U.S. Capitol. The United States government continued to support him for 14 years. In 1980, the American-trained national guard in El Salvador raped and murdered four American nuns. Kirkpatrick intimated that the four nuns had been fighting with the guerrillas in the hills and Alexander Haig speculated that they had died in a running gun battle. I don't recall a great deal of outrage from the ascendant American Right about either the crime or the slander of the murdered women.

In fact, President Jimmy Carter shut off military aid to the El Salvador government, a policy that Reagan reversed almost as soon as he got in the door. Carter was roundly ridiculed by that ascendant Right for making human rights an essential part of his foreign policy, even though his commitment to that principle was admittedly spotty. (The Democrats developed something of a conscience on the issue that never sprung up in the Reagan administration.) Putin has a lot more in common with Pinochet and Galtieri than he does with Andropov or Khrushchev, even though he works in the same office space. If we're all on the same page regarding authoritarian governments oppressing the democratic rights of their citizens now, I rejoice.
(c) 2017 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote...

"Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism."
~~~ Noam Chomsky

What's Missing From Dunkirk Film
By David Swanson

Yes, I'm going to tell you what's missing from this film without watching the film. Trump has, as promised, made me so sick of winning that I really could enjoy watching a defeat film, but I think I'll pass. If I'm wrong about what's missing from it (I mean one of the many things that are, no doubt, missing from it), I promise that I will eat an entire plan for victory in Afghanistan annually for the next decade.

One of the oddest things about World War II is how it has been marketed as a humanitarian war since the moment it ended.

One reason this is odd is that several times the number of people killed in German concentration camps were killed outside of them in the war (at least 50 million worldwide vs. 9 million killed in the camps). And the majority of those people were civilians. So a war against killing people in camps would be a very strange way to understand World War II, unless killing many more people can be made an acceptable means of opposing killing people. The scale of the killing, wounding, and destroying made WWII the single worst thing humanity has ever done to itself in any short space of time.

Even odder is that zero effort was actually ever made to prevent the mass-murder in the concentration camps. There was no poster asking you to help Uncle Sam save the Jews. A ship of Jewish refugees from Germany was chased away from Miami by the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. and other nations refused to accept Jewish refugees, and the majority of the U.S. public supported that position. The U.S. engaged in no diplomatic or military effort to save the victims in the Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank was denied a U.S. visa.

Peace groups that questioned Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his foreign secretary about shipping Jews out of Germany to save them were told that, while Hitler might very well agree to the plan, it would be too much trouble and require too many ships. Here is an interesting passage from Nicholson Baker:

"Anthony Eden, Britain's foreign secretary, who'd been tasked by Churchill with handling queries about refugees, dealt coldly with one of many important delegations, saying that any diplomatic effort to obtain the release of the Jews from Hitler was 'fantastically impossible.' On a trip to the United States, Eden candidly told Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, that the real difficulty with asking Hitler for the Jews was that 'Hitler might well take us up on any such offer, and there simply are not enough ships and means of transportation in the world to handle them.' Churchill agreed. 'Even were we to obtain permission to withdraw all the Jews,' he wrote in reply to one pleading letter, 'transport alone presents a problem which will be difficult of solution.' Not enough shipping and transport? Two years earlier, the British had evacuated nearly 340,000 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in just nine days. The U.S. Air Force had many thousands of new planes. During even a brief armistice, the Allies could have airlifted and transported refugees in very large numbers out of the German sphere."
In other words, the story of Dunkirk, the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, is a story of how the Allies treated people they had some use for, and a demonstration of how they could have treated other people if they had had any use for them.

Since the moment the war ended, the U.S. military has had enormous use for those it callously allowed the Nazis to murder. They have been front and center in the argument for war after war after war.

Since World War II, during what U.S. academics think of as a period of unprecedented peace, the United States military has killed some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in 81 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. This extravaganza of criminal killing is documented here. But it isn't much of a secret. To my knowledge, every single military assault has involved a reference to a new Hitler and a passionate plea to retroactively save his victims. Of course the humanitarian consequences have differed dramatically from those stated intentions.

Somehow I doubt any of that is mentioned in the Dunkirk film.
(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.

An anti-war message at a 2006 protest against School of the Americas, then a military training facility in Fort Benning, Ga.

How To Build A Global Movement To End Mass Killing
By Medea Benjamin

Excerpted from "Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times" (Routledge, August 2017, paperback).

The $600 billion annual cost of the U.S. military budget eats up 54 percent of all federal discretionary funds. It's no wonder we don't have money to address the crisis of global warming, build effective public transportation systems, institute a Medicare-for-All health system, or provide the free college education that all our youth deserve.

You would think it would be easy to form a united front with activists from different movements who want to redirect our tax dollars. Students fighting for free education should understand that stopping just one weapons system, the expensive and unnecessary Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, would fund the education of all college students for the next two decades. Nurses fighting for universal health care should understand that if we cut the bloated military budget, we'd have plenty of money for a national health care system like the Europeans have. Environmentalists paddling their kayaks to block oil-digging ships should understand that if we dramatically cut our military spending, we'd have hundreds of billions of dollars to propel us into the era of green, sustainable energy. Unions should recognize that the military is one of the worst creators of jobs in relation to money spent.

It was easier to connect with other movements when the peace movement was strong while trying to stop George W. Bush's Iraq war. Students came to anti-war rallies calling for "Books not Bombs," nurses called for "Healthcare not Warfare," union leaders formed U.S. Labor Against the War. Globally, we universalized our protests, organizing a global day of action on Feb. 15, 2003, a day that made the Guinness World Records as the largest demonstration in world history. So strong was our movement that The New York Times called global public opinion the "second superpower."

When Barack Obama was elected, the first casualty of his presidency was the anti-war movement. People dropped out of the movement for a variety of reasons, but mainly because many people thought that Obama would end U.S. military adventurism.

President Obama did achieve a few critical wins for diplomacy, but he invaded Libya, and he also championed a dangerous, new kind of remote-control killing: drone warfare.

Drones were designed as a way to kill enemies with great precision without putting American troops at risk. But they kill many innocent people-and they stir up anti-American sentiment that fuels an endless cycle of violence.

Drones allowed the U.S. military and CIA to intervene militarily with ease, even in places where we were not at war. These institutions operated secretly, without Congressional approval, and they lied to the public about the accuracy and effectiveness of drone strikes. We were appalled when a 2012 poll revealed that a whopping 83 percent of Americans supported the killing of "terrorist suspects" with drones. How could so many Americans think we had the right to murder people thousands of miles away who were never charged, tried or convicted of anything? Our first reaction was, "How are we going to change public opinion so that we can change policy?" We never thought we could build a mass movement against drone warfare as we had built a movement against the Iraq war, but we did think that a small group of committed activists could help move public opinion and then influence government policy.

Code Pink, along with groups like Veterans for Peace and Voices for Creative Nonviolence, set about educating the public on the horrors of drone warfare. We organized two Global Drone Summits in Washington, D.C.; we wrote books, articles, and op-eds; we traveled around the country giving talks at universities, churches, and community centers. We protested at dozens of private and government entities connected with killer drones: the White House, the CIA, the Pentagon, Congress, factories and homes of drone manufacturers. We engaged the public by getting tens of thousands of people to sign petitions, and call the president and their Congressional representatives. We encouraged drone pilots to quit and become whistleblowers, and amplified the voices of those who did.

Civil disobedience was a key component of our campaign. We disrupted Congressional testimonies by drone czar John Brennan and Secretary of State John Kerry. We organized die-ins at the CIA. The most creative resistance happened at U.S. military bases where drones were piloted. Hundreds of people were arrested at the bases. Some went to jail for just a day and others for as long as six months.

One way this campaign universalized resistance was by connecting with the families of drone victims. We took delegations to Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Yemen, among the family members we met was Mohammad Al-Qawli, whose innocent brother had been killed by a drone while driving his taxi, leaving behind a young wife and three children. Visibly angry, Al-Qawli told us the Americans refused even to explain why his brother was killed. "In our culture when someone commits a crime or a terrible mistake, they have to acknowledge what they did, apologize, and compensate the family," he said. "Could it be that my tribal culture is more evolved when it comes to justice than the USA?"

In Pakistan, we learned that drones had attacked weddings, funerals, markets, and schools, terrorizing entire communities. "To Americans, we are disposable people; our lives are worth nothing," an irate young man told us.

We were so moved by hearing directly from these families that we brought some of them to the United States to hold press conferences and speak before Congress. In 2013, the Rehman family-a father with his two children-traveled from the Pakistani tribal territory to the U.S. Capitol to tell the heart-wrenching story of the death of their 67-year-old grandmother. Listening to 9-year-old Nabila relate how her grandmother was blown to bits while picking okra softened the hearts of even the most hardened D.C. politicos. From the congressmen to the translator to the media, tears flowed, and dozens of sympathetic stories appeared in the media.

With the globalization of the sale of drones, we also connected with groups in Europe, holding an international gathering that led to the formation of a European network to stop proliferation in their countries.

Our education campaigns, actions, and protests, while never constituting a mass movement and not successful in ending drone warfare, have had a major impact on both public opinion and policy. Public opinion in favor of drone warfare shifted from 83 percent in 2012 to 60 percent by 2014. President Obama was pressured to acknowledge and discuss the U.S. drone program, promising that his administration would reduce drone strikes and minimize civilian casualties. In Pakistan, strikes fell dramatically from a high of 128 in 2010 to 13 strikes in 2015.

In June 2016, the administration released its first statistics on civilians killed by drones between 2009 and 2015 in areas "outside of active hostilities": Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. The figures of between 64 and 116 casualties were far below calculations of nearly 1,000 made by reputable organizations like the U.K.'s Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Yet the fact that the administration released any figures at all was the result of public pressure.

We were also successful in pushing for compensation for some of the families of innocent victims, which was especially critical for widows with no means to support their children.

As drones for other purposes proliferated at home, activists universalized resistance by making common cause with groups working on domestic issues. One connection was with people on the left and right concerned about privacy issues, as drones in the hands of anyone-from the FBI to neighbors to corporations-could be used to spy on people without their knowledge or consent. Another connection was with groups fighting the militarization of police forces, many of them activists related to the Black Lives Matter movement who worried about the police getting drones equipped with military-style weapons. In dozens of states, they formed coalitions that passed laws restricting the use of drones for surveillance and the weaponization of drones.

One other key connection emerged: People who went to prison for their anti-drone actions got a chance to see, firsthand, the similarities between the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex, including how both profit from human suffering. On their release, many peace activists linked with groups fighting mass incarceration that supported former prisoners.

The peace movement has had many ebbs and flows since the 9/11 attacks. Resisting the Iraq war was so clear and urgent that it was possible to build universal resistance. Although we didn't stop the war, we did speed up public opposition, which helped to reduce military involvement and pave the way for the Iran nuclear deal.

At other times, as with Obama's secret drone killings, wars have been more covert, making it harder to build strong opposition. Yet making connections with other movements have been critical in counteracting the behemoth military-industrial complex. Moving forward, finding more effective ways of universalizing resistance to militarism across issues and continents is key to building a more peaceful world.
(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 Dead Letter Office...

Ben gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Unter-Fuehrer Cardin,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your plans to take away all the food stamp money and build Trump's wall with it, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

United Workers

The Resistance To Health Care Repeal Rolls On
By Amy Goodman

The rolling resistance to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, is, literally, rolling. At the forefront of the protests against the various draconian repeal bills before the U.S. Senate are people in wheelchairs. Organized by the national nonprofit disability rights group ADAPT (Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today), scores of disabled activists have been arrested on Capitol Hill and at senators' offices back in their home states, demanding no cuts to Medicaid.

"Kill the bill, don't kill us!" and "Shame, shame, shame!" were the chants that rained down from the Senate visitors' gallery onto the Senate floor, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the first vote in the Senate's process to repeal the ACA. Two Republicans, both women—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—joined every Democrat and the two independents in the Senate, in voting against opening debate. Vice President Mike Pence was forced to make a rare tiebreaking vote, passing the measure 51-50.

Thirty-one protesters in the gallery were arrested, while 64 more, many in wheelchairs, were arrested in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. These are just the latest in a relentless series of nonviolent actions opposing ACA repeal.

Stephanie Woodward, an ADAPT attorney who uses a wheelchair herself, joined a group of close to 60 people at McConnell's D.C. office on June 28. "We staged a die-in to demonstrate that people with disabilities will die with these proposed cuts of over $800 billion to Medicaid. We're not just going to sit around and be quiet when you're proposing to kill us,"

Woodward told us on the "Democracy Now!" news hour shortly after her arrest. "We engage in civil disobedience after every other step doesn't work. We do meetings. We do advocacy in what people view as the polite way. When that doesn't work, we do civil disobedience to prove that we will fight for our rights."

Another ADAPT group in Denver (where ADAPT was founded in the 1970s) occupied the offices of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. They spent two nights in Gardner's offices. Staffers literally turned up the heat, attempting to force the disabled protesters to flee the sweltering office. They refused, and were eventually hauled off by Denver police.

Medicaid is a significant part of the U.S. health care system. It was created at the same time as Medicare, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. It has changed, and grown, over its more than half-century in existence. Medicaid provides insurance coverage to the poor and disabled. According to a recent analysis by the Congressional Research Service, Medicaid pays for 15 percent of all health care in the United States, including half of all births, 40 percent of children's health care and two-thirds of all Americans living in nursing homes. It also covers almost half of all long-term services and supports (LTSS). The LTSS program provides critical, daily support for people living with disabilities. Without that, many would be unable to work, function, and some would literally die.

As a candidate, Donald Trump repeatedly pledged not to touch Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, however, has long promised just the opposite. Ryan recently told National Review editor Rich Lowry, referring to a keg party during their early years in Washington, D.C.: "Medicaid: Sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We've been dreaming since I've been around, since you and I were drinking at a keg." Ryan is an ideologue intent on shrinking so-called entitlements. They say they want to shrink the government, but then enthusiastically vote to increase the military budget. This is about eliminating the social safety net, and passing the savings on to the wealthy. The Republicans have inserted into the Obamacare repeal bills a radical shift in how Medicaid funding is calculated, capping it and limiting how it keeps pace with inflation. This will lead to a cut in Medicaid over the course of a decade of an estimated $800 billion.

The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that repealing the ACA will lead to at least 22 million more uninsured over the next decade. The effort to kill Obamacare is not complete, and, even if the Senate passes some version of a repeal, it would most likely have to be reconciled with the House bill before Donald Trump could sign it into law. Expect vigorous protests throughout August, led by the activists of ADAPT and their allies. Vowed Stephanie Woodward, "I won't stand by and let my brothers and sisters with disabilities across the nation have their life and liberty in danger because of a bill."
(c) 2017 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co"author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Fannie Mae headquarters in Washington, D.C

Newly Released Documents Show Government Misled Public On Fannie/Freddie Takeover
While Russiagate rages, the bitter fight over the future of the real estate market continues
By Matt Taibbi

In August 2012, a few months before Barack Obama told Mitt Romney the Eighties had called and wanted their foreign policy back, the U.S. government made a momentous and little-discussed decision. It unilaterally changed the terms of the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, seizing all of the companies' profits.

The "most transparent administration in history" has spent years trying to hide embarrassing financial secrets from the public

The government originally insisted on a 10 percent annual dividend in exchange for what ultimately became a $187 billion rescue. In 2012, the government quietly changed that 10 percent deal to one in which the state simply seized all profits. Government regulators euphemistically described this as "fully capturing financial benefits." The press paid almost no attention to this event.

"New Bailout Terms for Fannie, Freddie," wrote the Washington Post, in a page-8 yawner. "Treasury Pinches Fannie and Freddie," sighed the Philadelphia Inquirer, in 439 words on page 7.

This was not, however, an inside-pages news story. It was one of the most important decisions of the bailout era.

Also known as the government-sponsored entities, or GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were two of the biggest companies on earth, and held about $5 trillion in mortgage debt.

They had gone bust during the crash years for a variety of reasons, mostly due to incompetent and corrupt management. But by the summer of 2012, with the real estate market in recovery, the companies weren't bust anymore. On the contrary, they were about to start making money again - enormous piles of it, in fact.

The government has always insisted it didn't know this. Not just in the summer of 2012 but numerous times since, officials have insisted that they needed 100 percent of Fannie and Freddie's profits because they wanted to protect taxpayers from likely future losses, and because Fannie and Freddie would otherwise be unable to pay back what they owed.

Mario Ugoletti, a special adviser to the director of the federal housing agency, said in 2013 of the companies' debts that it was "unlikely that [Fannie and Freddie] would be able to meet that amount consistently without drawing additional funds from Treasury."

But documents just released in a court case show that the government privately believed just the opposite before it made its historic decision to "sweep" the GSE revenues.

One key document is a memo from Mary Miller, assistant Treasury secretary for the financial markets, to then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Dated December 11th, 2011, Miller writes to Geithner that "Freddie is expected to be net income positive by the end of 2012, and Fannie by the end of 2013."

In another memo, circulated through the agencies, analysts concluded that the government would end up getting more through the "revenue sweep" than it would through "if the 10% [dividend] was still in effect."

The only reason this story is hitting the headlines at all this week is because the government's 2012 decision triggered an all-out pitched battle between two investor groups. Those who bet on Fannie and Freddie's revival were wiped out by the government's 2012 decision, while those who shorted the firms have made fortunes.

The documents that came out this week were released in a lawsuit brought by Fannie and Freddie shareholders who believe that the government stole billions of dollars in profits from them.

The ordinary American is not likely to care much about the outcome of that case, unless the general principle of the government unilaterally seizing the profits of private companies strikes him as bothersome.

But this story has vast implications beyond a fight over investment returns.

Lurking underneath the scandal derisively termed "Fanniegate" is a monstrous struggle for future profits. The fight here is not just about the profits generated by the GSEs, but what to do about them generally. Finance lobbyists have successfully forged a bipartisan consensus that the companies need to be privatized. Essentially, Wall Street wants to step into the shoes of Fannie and Freddie.

In most versions of GSE reform currently winding their way through Congress, the same too-big-to-fail banks that blew up the mortgage markets in 2008 would assume most of the responsibilities of Fannie and Freddie. Crucially, securitized mortgages would continue to enjoy government backing under many of these proposals.

Privatized profits, socialized losses. Who doesn't love that formula?

It would be the ultimate triumph for Wall Street, and the ultimate shocker ending to the crash era. After nearly blowing up the planet with a mortgage bubble and getting bailed out by taxpayers, banks would now be handed control of the real estate markets and granted permission to reap massive profits trading government-backed mortgages until the end of time.

Even worse: legislative concepts like Corker-Warner and Crapo-Johnson would not just privatize Fannie and Freddie, but eliminate the affordable housing component of their original missions.

The GSEs are essentially huge piles of money that buy mortgages. They do this ostensibly in service of a utility-like function to keep the real estate markets liquid. Part of their mission has always been to invest in low - and middle-income mortgages, to give the private sector an incentive to create and lend to those who need affordable housing.

That mandate is likely to disappear once the reform is finished. "Access to affordable housing for millions of people is at stake," says John Taylor of the National Community Reinvestment Council. "Even a lot of Democrats seem unaware of this."

It should be noted that despite legends to the contrary, Fannie and Freddie's affordable housing mission did not cause the 2008 crash.

In fact, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded that delinquency rates for GSE loans were "substantially lower" than those of the private banks and mortgage companies that were lending subprime loans to anyone with a pulse during that era.

The crash was caused by greed, not social policy. The problem was that banks were using derivative tricks to successfully disguise toxic subprime loans as good investments. All that housing credit was available because it was profitable for banks to offer it, not because they were forced by Fannie/Freddie or anyone else to lend it.

But probably because Fannie and Freddie were so unpopular after the crash - deservedly, in part, because of numerous scandals involving its executives - the companies were treated very differently than other bailout recipients.

While other Wall Street firms that needed taxpayer or Fed rescues were allowed to quickly repay their debts and get out from under additional restrictions, Fannie and Freddie were specifically barred from ever repaying their obligations.

By 2015, the GSEs had paid $228 billion to the government, or $41 billion more than the $187 billion bailout. This prompted a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley asking why the companies had not been released from debt.

The Treasury Department answered, in essence, that the bailout had not been a loan, but an "ongoing financial commitment."

This was not a debt that could be paid back. Like a restaurant owner who accepts protection from the mob, the GSEs were and are in an unseverable relationship.

As of today, Fannie and Freddie have paid $130 billion to the government above and beyond its original rescue, at least according to some calculations. The ongoing seizure of such gigantic sums continues to be one of the weirder subplots of the post-crash era, and these newly released documents only add to the mystery.
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jeff Koterba ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

On The Good Foot
By Will Durst

Need to stop and thank all the nice folk who've been kind enough to take time from their busy schedules to provide this column with some constructive criticism, and oh, by the way, moron is spelled with two Os, idiot doesn't have an E and using all caps is frankly, rather rude.

It seems a segment of our loyal audience has come to the considered opinion that this award - seeking, hard - hitting, investigative journalistic feature needs to be more positive as concerns our 45th president, Donald J. Trump. And they do not mean to hear he is positively a puppet of a dyspeptic alien lizard and our country is now knee - deep in despicable doo - doo and will be for 3 years and 7 more months.

It is our most recent musings that have been accused by a grammatically - challenged few as skewing towards the contrary, overly focused on the gloomy and said unsolicited feedback implores us to make efforts concentrating on the uplifting and employing a more optimistic myopia.

It should be pointed out that the job description of political humorist does entail this sort of mocking and scoffing and taunting no matter the partisan nature of the White House occupant. That's part of the deal. You would think people who supported a guy who called opponents Little Marco," "Lying Ted" and "Crooked Hillary" would realize that "Stupid Donald" was in the offing. Especially with such low - hanging fruit.

Everything is fair game, including, but not limited to, all administrative behaviors such as mendacity, stupidity, duplicity, chicanery, hypocrisy, humidity, treachery and treason. Then throw in verbatim quotes, physical features, speech patterns and an exact recitation of actions and the satirical possibilities bloom into a cornucopia of delights.

Admittedly, it is much easier to vamp on the current confusion and malfeasance than during the previous administration when scandals were at such a premium that Fox News once feigned outrage that President Barack Obama wore a beige suit.

But for those of you who feel that there has been a bias on the part of your intrepid correspondent, please accept our heartfelt apologies, and allow Durstco to make it all up to you, by calming the waters with a list of these affirmative aspects of living in America during the Time of Trump.

The next president won't have to worry about living up to impossibly high standards.

Wake up to the day's most important news.

Donald J. Trump guaranteed a post - presidential, promotional tie - in with Twitter.

No longer have to study Theater of the Absurd in French.

Washington DC legal industry specializing in criminal defense experiencing a growth spurt.

The president has done for political comedy what legalized marijuana did for Cheetos.

The phrase "witch hunt" has reentered the popular lexicon.

Even racist, xenophobic, misogynist, incompetent blowhards need role models.

His cabinet announced they are blessed to serve him and that his eyes are dreamy.

Didn't allow Ted Nugent to sing at his Inauguration.

Actual proof to the old adage that in America, anyone can grow up to be President, as long as they're not a woman.

Both Democrats and Republicans united in their disdain for James Comey.

Don't ever have to worry about this First Lady running for president.

Russian language schools are swamped.

Sales of Maple Leaf patches to be sewn onto backpacks when traveling overseas have skyrocketed.
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and babysitter in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For a calendar of personal appearances including his new one - man show "Durst Case Scenario" appearing every Tuesday at the San Francisco Marsh starting July 11, please visit

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 29 (c) 07/28/2017

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