Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

Ryan Lizza says, "Anthony Scaramucci Called Me To Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, And Steve Bannon."

Uri Avnery counts cadence to, "The March Of Folly."

Glen Ford reports, "Trump Faces Down The CIA And Co-Opts The Pentagon On Syria (For The Time Being)."

Norman Solomon warns, "Russia Sanctions Fuel New Cold War."

Jim Hightower asks, "Should Churches Become Unholy Temples Of Dark Money?"

John Nichols introduces, "Meet John Kelly, Donald Trump's New Enabler In Chief."

William Rivers Pitt exclaims, "Trump v. Sessions: Who Do You Root For? The Truth!"

Nick Turse uncovers, "Pentagon Denies Knowledge Of Cameroon Base Abuses - Despite Being Aware Of Reports Of Torture."

Robert Parry explores how, "Mainstream Groupthink And Artificial Intelligence Could Stifle Dissent In An Orwellian Future."

David Suzuki discovers, "Local Action Needed To Resolve World's Biggest Problems."

Charles P. Pierce understands, "With Reince Out, Trump's Plan For Survival Is Clear."

David Swanson finds, "Congressional Opponents Of Sanctions As Nuts As Supporters."

Medea Benjamin gives a, "Urgent Warning: Time To Hit The Reset Button On US-Korean Policy."

Con-gressman Ben Ray Lujan D/NM wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich returns with, "The Demise Of The Republican Effort To Repeal The Affordable Care Act Is Hardly The End Of The Story."

Matt Taibbi concludes, "The Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing And All Too Short."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Priebus Grateful He Had So Little Dignity To Begin With" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Another One Bites The Dust."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Martin Koslowski, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Peter Kuper, Hardi Saputra, Stephen Melkisethian, Jabin Botsford, Saul Loeb, Kevin Lamarque, Chung Sung-Jun, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Office of Public Affairs, The Washington Post, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, HBO, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org. Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Bookmark and Share

Another One Bites The Dust
They come, they go.
By Ernest Stewart

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Another One Bites The Dust ~~~ Queen

"2016 was the hottest year in 137 years of record keeping and the third year in a row to take the number one slot, a mark of how much the world has warmed over the last century because of human activities. 2016 is a data point at the end of many data points that indicates long-term warming." ~~~ Deke Arndt ~ chief of the monitoring branch of the National Centers for Environmental Information.

"We're in this for the long haul. We're the way the Democrats are going to get back into the majority." ~~~ Rep. Kurt Schrader/Ore. - Blue Dog Democrat

"...tiptoe into your parents' bedrooms and remove those funny green pieces of paper with pictures of U.S. Presidents from their pants and pocketbooks. Then put them in an envelope and mail them to me, and I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!" ~~~ Soupy Sales

Get your score cards, get your scorecards! You can't tell who's today's White House communications director is, without a score card! Not many people know it but Trump installed a revolving door in the West Wing and apparently it's a good thing that he did too!

In the last week or so Trump fired his former communications director Reince Priebus, the former NRC head who helped to elect Trumps with Anthony (da Mouch) Scaramucci. Well "da Mouch" in one interview made enemies with every one in the West Wing, a new record which allowed him to set another record for being the shortest lived communications director in history. He lasted a whole ten days, imagine that. They come, they go. I'm sure Steve Bannon is relieved!

As we all know that herr Trump isn't a fan of homosexuals, or transexuals and if it doesn't have a real pussy to grab, he's against it, and with "da Mouch" talking about other mens "cocks," well, you can see Trumps logic, right? Question is, who's the next one to bite the big one, and join "da Mouch," Sean Spicer the former spokes weasel, former communications directors Reince Priebus and Mike Dubke, national security adviser Michael Flynn, deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, and President of vice, Pence's former chief of staff, Josh Pitcock.

So get your score cards, get your scorecards! You can't tell who's today's White House communications director or anyone else in the Trump Junta is, without a score card!"

In Other News

I see where according to NASA. 2017 is the second-hottest first six calendar months on record, behind only 2016.

That's remarkable because 2017 hasn't had the warming influence of an El Nino event. El Ninos bring warm ocean water to the surface, temporarily causing average global surface temperatures to rise. 2016, including the first six months of the year, was influenced by one of the strongest El Nino events on record!

NASA says, "Every component of the Earth's climate is warming. Surface air temperatures, lower atmospheric temperatures, ocean temperatures, and sea levels are rising as ice around the globe melts." That's a key signature not of an internal Earth cycle, but of an external influence - either an increase in incoming energy from the sun, or a decrease in outgoing energy, for example due to an increase in the heat-trapping greenhouse effect. Which means, there's actually been a slight decrease in incoming solar energy.

In fact, last year was the hottest year in 115,000 years! A new paper submitted by James Hansen, a former senior Nasa climate scientist, and 11 other experts states that "the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times, following a warming trend where the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade over the past 45 years. This rate of warming is bringing Earth in line with temperatures last seen in the Eemian period, an interglacial era ending 115,000 years ago when there was much less ice and the sea level was 6 - 9 meters (20 - 30ft) higher than today."

So, all you coastal Americans have got to ask yourself this question, "How long can I tred water?"

And Finally

Liberals are outraged at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's decision to fund pro-life Democratic candidates for the 2018 midterm elections.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D/NM), who chairs the Democratic Party's campaign arm in the House, said that the DCCC will not withhold funds from pro-life candidates who deviate from the party on abortion issues in an interview Monday with the Hill.

"There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates," Lujan said. "As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America." So what if these blue dogs vote with the Rethuglicans. So much for "A Better Deal," huh Ben?

Lujan's comments on Monday immediately drew the ire of many on the left, particularly feminists and abortion-rights groups. For instance, Ilyse Hogue, president of the pro-abortion lobbying group NARAL, claimed that any compromise on abortion is tantamount to "allowing a far-right, religiously warped anti-Democratic force to infect the party so they can write laws that control women." Feminist writer Lauren Duca asserted mildly that this policy would be a "betrayal of every woman who has ever supported the Democratic party." Ergo if the left won't vote for your candidates, who will? Certainly not the Republicans who hate everything Democratic, so instead of running a liberal candidate who could ride the wave of anti-Trumpism into office Ben's bright idea just assures the Republicans controll the house after 2018!

So, of course, you know what I did, don't you? I went to Ben's FaceBook page and left him this note:

Hey Ben,

I see you have plans to lose the 2018 election by alienating women and liberals with your no litmus test for blue dog Demoncrats. If that's the case Ben I'll be voting Green. Sure, most unsatisfied Democrats won't vote Green, they'll just stay home. I'm guessing you're some sort of Rethuglican 5th columnist? Can I get a heil Trump, Ben?

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues and Alibis magazine

If you'd like to give Ben a piece of your mind go to his facebook page and tell him Uncle Ernie sent you:

Or if Ben is your Con-gressman contact him here:

Keepin' On

They say be careful what you wish for, so I am, and I got it, a nice check from a first-time contributor; beyond that, she's a newbie to the magazine, too; it's Carolyn, from my old stomping grounds around Asheville. Thank you so much for your help, Carolyn. With Carolyn's help we're just $1600 short of paying off our bills for the year; in fact, they'll be payed up until next June. That's right $4600 down and $1600 to go.

We got to talking about dead Presidents in group the other day; and I said my favorite was the only President of the United States, who was never the President of the United States. I'm talking about my favorite revolutionary, old, Ben Jamin' Franklin. If I could just get a bunch of you to send me all the pictures of old Ben that you might be carrying in your wallet or purse or in your husband's or wife's wallet or purse or your mommy or daddy's wallet or purse and send them to me, I could stop begging for alms for the rest of the year!

Seriously, if you think what we do for you week after week, year and after year, should be supported and encouraged, then please go to the donation's page and follow the simple directions; and thanks! Remember, we do all of this for you and yours, so you can know what the truth is, so you can figure out what to do about it! Is the truth important to you, America? It's very important to us!


11-05-1943 ~ 07-27-2017
Thanks for the film!

05-05-1964 ~ 08-01-2017
Thanks for the film!


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

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

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


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

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

The new White House communications director has become obsessed with leaks and threatened
to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters.

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me To Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, And Steve Bannon
He started by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. It escalated from there.
By Ryan Lizza

On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn't happy. Earlier in the night, I'd tweeted, citing a "senior White House official," that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question-for me.

"Who leaked that to you?" he asked. I said I couldn't give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. "What I'm going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we'll start over," he said. I laughed, not sure if he really believed that such a threat would convince a journalist to reveal a source. He continued to press me and complain about the staff he's inherited in his new job. "I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves," he said. "You're an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I'm asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it."

In Scaramucci's view, the fact that word of the dinner had reached a reporter was evidence that his rivals in the West Wing, particularly Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, were plotting against him. While they have publicly maintained that there is no bad blood between them, Scaramucci and Priebus have been feuding for months. After the election, Trump asked Scaramucci to join his Administration, and Scaramucci sold his company, SkyBridge Capital, in anticipation of taking on a senior role. But Priebus didn't want him in the White House, and successfully blocked him from being appointed to a job until last week, when Trump offered him the communications job over Priebus's vehement objections. In response to Scaramucci's appointment, Sean Spicer, an ally of Priebus's, resigned his position as press secretary. And in an additional slight to Priebus, the White House's official announcement of Scaramucci's hiring noted that he would report directly to the President, rather than to the chief of staff.

Scaramucci's first public appearance as communications director was a slick and conciliatory performance at the lectern in the White House briefing room last Friday. He suggested it was time for the White House to turn a page. But since then, he has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters. Michael Short, a White House press aide considered close to Priebus, resigned on Tuesday after Scaramucci publicly spoke about firing him. Meanwhile, several damaging stories about Scaramucci have appeared in the press, and he blamed Priebus for most of them. Now, he wanted to know whom I had been talking to about his dinner with the President. Scaramucci, who initiated the call, did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background.

"Is it an assistant to the President?" he asked. I again told him I couldn't say. "O.K., I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks."

I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. "I've asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period," he said. "They won't do it." He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.

"They'll all be fired by me," he said. "I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus-if you want to leak something-he'll be asked to resign very shortly." The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn't been invited. "Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac," Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: "'Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.'" (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)

Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn't know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was "a felony."

"I've called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice," he told me.

"Are you serious?" I asked.

"The swamp will not defeat him," he said, breaking into the third person. "They're trying to resist me, but it's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves."

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock," he said, speaking of Trump's chief strategist. "I'm not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I'm here to serve the country." (Bannon declined to comment.)

He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him. "He didn't get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President," he said. "And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me." His list of allegations included leaking the Hannity dinner and the details from his financial-disclosure form.

I got the sense that Scaramucci's campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I've never heard him say a bad word about the President. "What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President's agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people," he told me.

He cryptically suggested that he had more information about White House aides. "O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago," he said. "This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice."

"What?" I interjected.

"Well, the felony, they're gonna get prosecuted, probably, for the felony." He added, "The lie detector starts-" but then he changed the subject and returned to what he thought was the illegal leak of his financial-disclosure forms. I asked if the President knew all of this.

"Well, he doesn't know the extent of all that, he knows about some of that, but he'll know about the rest of it first thing tomorrow morning when I see him."

Scaramucci said he had to get going. "Yeah, let me go, though, because I've gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy."

Minutes later, he tweeted, "In light of the leak of my financial info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45." With the addition of Priebus's Twitter handle, he was making public what he had just told me: that he believed Priebus was leaking information about him. The tweet quickly went viral.

Scaramucci seemed to have second thoughts. Within two hours he deleted the original tweet and posted a new one denying that he was targeting the chief of staff. "Wrong!" he said, adding a screenshot of an Axios article that said, "Scaramucci appears to want Priebus investigated by FBI." Scaramucci continued, "Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45."

A few hours later, I appeared on CNN to discuss the overnight drama. As I was talking about Scaramucci, he called into the show himself and referenced our conversation. He changed his story about Priebus. Instead of saying that he was trying to expose Priebus as a leaker, he said that the reason he mentioned Priebus in his deleted tweet was because he wanted to work together with Priebus to discover the leakers.

"He's the chief of staff, he's responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night," Scaramucci said, after noting that he had talked to me Wednesday night. He then made an argument that journalists were assuming that he was accusing Priebus because they know Priebus leaks to the press.

"When I put out a tweet, and I put Reince's name in the tweet," he said, "they're all making the assumption that it's him because journalists know who the leakers are. So, if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that."

Scaramucci then made a plea to viewers. "Let me tell you something about myself," he said. "I am a straight shooter."
(c) 2017 Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, and also an on-air contributor for CNN.

The March Of Folly
By Uri Avnery

MY LATE friend, Nathan Yellin-Mor, the political leader of the LEHI underground, once told me that a certain politician is "not a great thinker and not a small fool."

I remember that sentence every time I think about Gilad Erdan, our Minister of Public Security. His part in the events of the last few weeks, in which the entire Middle East almost exploded, confirmed this judgment.

On the other hand, Binyamin Netanyahu reminds me of the saying: "A clever person is one who knows how to extricate himself from a trap which a wise person would not have gotten into in the first place."

About Netanyahu I would have said: "A very clever but not a very wise person."

THERE ARE two ways to look at historic disasters. The one sees them as plots of evil persons, the other as acts of folly.

It is easy to understand the first school. After all, it cannot be possible that our very lives depend on a bunch of fools, who have no idea about anything.

For example, it is easy to believe that Binyamin Netanyahu sent a secret order to a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman to kill two Jordanians, so as to enable him (Netanyahu) to negotiate with the King of Jordan to release the guy in return for the removal of the metal detectors from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Pure genius.

The other version is much more prosaic. It says that the people who determine the lot of nations and countries - emperors and kings, statesmen and generals, leftists and rightists - are almost all perfect fools. A frightening idea. But it was always so, and still is. All over the world, and particularly in Israel.

One of my friends said this week: "There is no need to put cameras on the Temple Mount, as is now suggested. We should put the cameras in the cabinet room, because that is the source of the greatest danger to the future of Israel."

BARBARA TUCHMAN, the American-Jewish historian, originated the phrase "the March of Folly." She researched several historic disasters and showed that they were caused by sheer stupidity.

One example: Word War I, with its millions of victims, which was the result of a sequence of incredibly imbecilic acts.

A Serbian fanatic killed an Austrian archduke, whom he accosted by accident, after the planned attempt on his life had failed. The Austrian emperor saw an opportunity to show his prowess and delivered an ultimatum to little Serbia. The Russian Czar mobilized his army to defend his Slavic brothers. The German general staff had a contingency plan that provided that once the Russians started to mobilized their cumbersome army, the German army would cross into France and smash it before the Russians were ready to fight. The British declared war in order to help the French.

Not one of these actors wanted a war, least of all a world war. Each of them contributed just a little piece of folly. Together they started a war which left millions of dead, wounded and disabled. In the end, they all agreed that the only person to blame was the German Kaiser, who was not a little fool either.

THE SAME historian would have been delighted to write about the latest incidents on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Three Palestinian fanatics, citizens of Israel, killed three Border Guard "fighters" there, who happened to be Druze. (The Druze are a separate semi-Muslim sect.)

Somebody, probably within the police, hit on the brilliant idea of installing metal-detectors to prevent such atrocities.

Three minutes' thought would have sufficed to understand that this was a foolish idea. On a good day, hundreds of thousands of Muslims enter the Temple Mount, in order to pray in and near the al-Aqsa mosque, one of the three most holy places of Islam (after Mecca and Medina). Getting them to pass the detectors would have been like passing an elephant through the eye of a needle.

It would have been easy to phone the Waqf (Muslim trust) officials, who are in charge of the Mount. These would have quashed the idea, because it would have asserted Israeli sovereignty over the holy place. They could also have phoned the king of Jordan, who is formally in charge of the Waqf, who would have put an end to the nonsense.

But the idea reached Erdan, who grasped immediately that such an act would turn him into a hero. Erdan is 46 years old and was educated in a religious seminary. In the army, he did not serve in a combat unit, but in an office. The typical career of a right-wing politician.

Erdan behaved like a child playing with fire near a gasoline container. The metal detectors were put in place without informing the waqf or the king. At the last moment he informed Netanyahu, who was about to go abroad.

Netanyahu has many expensive hobbies, but his most cherished pleasure is to go abroad and meet with the world's great, in order to prove that he is one of them. He was about to meet with the new president of France and after that four leaders of Eastern Europe, all of them half-democrats and quarter-fascists.

Netanyahu was not in the mood to deal with the nonsense of Erdan, one of his dwarfs, when he was about to meet with the world's giants. Without quite understanding what he was doing, he agreed to the detectors.

It is not clear when the General Security Service (Shabak) was asked. But this body, which is deeply connected with the Arab reality, warned against it. So did army intelligence. But who are they compared to Erdan and his police commissioner, a kippah-wearing commander, who is no genius either.

THE MOMENT the detectors were put in place, events exploded. In the eyes of the Muslims, it looked like an Israeli attempt to change the status quo and become masters of the Temple Mount. The gasoline container caught fire.

The folly of the decision became clear at once. Jehovah and Allah entered the scene. The Muslim worshipers would not pass through the detectors. The multitudes started to pray in the streets.

The severity of the matter soon became evident. The Muslims, both Israeli citizens and subjects in the occupied territories, who a moment before were just a faceless mass, were suddenly revealed as a determined people, ready for a fight. That was a real achievement of Erdan's. Bravo.

The detectors did not discover any weapons, but they revealed the dimensions of the government's foolishness. Mass demonstrations took place in Jerusalem, in the Arab townships in Israel, in the occupied territories and in the neighboring countries. On the first weekend, seven persons were killed, hundreds were wounded.

The new idol was called "sovereignty". The Israeli authorities could not remove the detectors without "giving up sovereignty" (and also "giving in to the terrorists"). The waqf could not give in without sacrificing "sovereignty" over the third holy place of Islam. By the way, not a single government in the world recognizes Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

The Muslims are afraid that if the Jews take over the Temple Mount, they will destroy the Dome of the Rock (the beautiful blue and gold-capped structure) and the al- Aqsa mosque, and build the Third Temple in their place. That may sound crazy, but there already exist in Israel fringe groups that are training priests and producing implements for the temple.

According to Barbara Tuchman, leaders can be accused of folly only if at least one wise person had warned them. In our case, such a person was Moshe Dayan, who, immediately after the conquest of the Mount in 1967, ordered the Israeli flag to be removed and forbade the soldiers to enter.

NOBODY KNEW how to get out of the impasse.

Netanyahu did not interrupt his successful tour abroad in order to hurry home and take things into his own hands. Why would he? If he hurried home every time one of his minions committed a foolish act, how could he and Sara'le, his wife, enjoy the world?

And then a divine miracle happened. God Himself entered the fray.

A Jordanian handyman was working in the apartment of an Israeli security guard in the Israeli embassy in Amman. Suddenly he attacked the guard with a screwdriver and slightly wounded him. The guard drew his revolver and shot him dead. For good measure, he also shot and killed the owner of the apartment, a Jordanian physician.

It is not clear whether the incident happened because of a quarrel over money or whether the handyman suddenly decided to become a "shahid" (martyr). Neither is it clear why the guard shot him dead, instead of shooting him in the leg or using the unarmed combat techniques in which he was trained.

The former Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, not a small terrorist himself, once pronounced that no (Arab) terrorist should be allowed to leave the scene of a terror act alive. And indeed, since then hardly one has left alive, whether a girl with scissors or a man swinging a screwdriver. Even a seriously wounded attacker, lying on the ground and bleeding severely, was shot in the head. (The shooter was released from detention this week.)

Anyhow, for Netanyahu and Erdan the Amman incident was a gift from heaven. The Jordanian king agreed to release the security guard without investigation, in return for the removal of the metal detectors in Jerusalem. With a sigh of relief that could be heard throughout the country, Netanyahu agreed. No Israeli could refuse to remove the detectors in return for the saving of one of our gallant boys. It was not a giving up of "sovereignty", it was the saving of a Jew - an old Jewish commandment.

All the members of the embassy staff were returned to Israel - about an hour's drive - and Netanyahu feted their "salvation" - though nobody had threatened them.

IN THE meanwhile another thing happened.

Netanyahu does not fear God or the Arabs. He fears Naftali Bennett.

Bennett is the leader of the "Jewish Home" party, the successor of the National-Religious party, once the most moderate party in the country. Now they are the most extreme right-wing party. It is a small faction, with only eight Knesset members (out of 120), but that is enough to break up the coalition and bring the government down. Netanyahu is mortally afraid of them.

When the fury over the detectors was at its peak, a young Arab entered Halamish settlement and killed three members of a settler family. He was wounded and captured, miraculously left alive and hospitalized.

Just a few hours later, Bennett and his female Minister of Justice demanded that the assailant be executed. There is no death penalty in Israel, but for some reason this penalty was not stricken from the codex of military courts. So Bennett and his beautiful Justice Minister demanded its use.

In all the history of the State of Israel, only two people have ever been executed by legal process. One was Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. The other was an engineer convicted of espionage (wrongly, it later appeared) in the first weeks of the state.

The demand for the death penalty is incredibly stupid. Every Muslim "terrorist" dreams of becoming a "shahid" - one who sacrifices his life for Allah and reaches paradise. His execution would fulfill his dream. And nothing arouses national and international emotion more than an execution.

There is something sick about enthusiasts of the death penalty and the public that supports them. If their demand were accepted - no chance - this would constitute a great victory for the Muslim fanatics. Fortunately, all the Israeli security services object strenuously to the demand.

But in an establishment dominated by folly, even this folly attracts some attention and support.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Trump Faces Down The CIA And Co-Opts The Pentagon On Syria (For The Time Being)
By Glen Ford

It's not like Donald Trump to "stifle" himself, as TV's Archie Bunker used to say, but the president has been relatively subdued about his decision, reportedly made last month, to terminate the CIA program that has armed, trained, directed and protected jihadist fighters in Syria. Trump's uncharacteristic reticence on the matter is understandable, given the agency's homicidal culture and history.

It is also likely that Trump's gaggle of White House generals, led by Secretary of Defense James "Mad Dog" Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, have kept the Pentagon in check, preventing a reprise of the mutiny that sabotaged President Obama's cease-fire and intelligence-sharing agreement with Russian forces in Syria, on September 17 of last year. In a blatant rebellion against civilian authority, U.S. warplanes killed 100 Syrian soldiers at Deir Ez-Zor, allowing ISIS to overrun half the city. The next week, with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at his side, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "The U.S. military role will not include intelligence sharing with the Russians." The Pentagon had "punked" lame duck President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry.

Donald Trump took note, and surrounded himself with generals before setting foot in the White House, perhaps to shield his presidency from falling prey to its own "Seven Days In May"-type scenario. Or, maybe Trump the Bully just likes the company of other crude and stupid men. At any rate, Trump this summer defied the War Party and its corporate media mouthpieces, negotiating a cease-fire with the Russians in several regions of Syria, to be followed by additional truces, and ending the CIA's not-so-covert role as Grandmaster of Islamic Jihad. It seemed...unreal.

Peace-loving people around the world held their breath, waiting for the War Party's revenge. Trump seemed to hold his breath -- and his tongue -- too, playing down the cease-fire arrangement, even as French President Emanuel Macron stood at his side in Paris, July 13, telling the press: "No matter who they are, we want to build an inclusive and sustainable political solution. Against that background, I do not require Assad's departure. This is no longer a prerequisite for France to work on that, because I can only tell you that, for seven years, we did not have an embassy in Damascus, and still we have no solution." Trump was remarkably low-key in Paris: "We are working on a second ceasefire in a very rough part of Syria," he said. "If we get that and a few more, all of a sudden, you're going to have no bullets firing in Syria, and that is a wonderful thing."

Back in late March, the Trump administration had signaled its abandonment of regime change, with both UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicating that Syrian President Assad's ouster was no longer a priority for the United States. But, within a week, Trump was hurling Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase, purportedly in retaliation for a chemical weapons incident that only a fool or a U.S. corporate media hack would blame on Syria.

Then, two months later, on June 26, in a bizarre episode even for Trump, the administration charged the Syria military with preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack, for which the Assad government would "pay a heavy price." Strangely, the White House seemed to have failed to notify either the Pentagon or the State Department about the Syria threat, or the proposed retaliation.

Stranger still, Trump issued his weaponized rant during the same period when his administration must have been deeply engaged in negotiations on a cease-fire with the Russians. We at Black Agenda Report wondered whether Trump had gone "play-crazy" - "acting like an unpredictable maniac in order to terrorize the Russians into forcing some kind of dramatic concessions from their Syrian allies, or risk Armageddon."

Or, maybe the outburst was prompted by an aborted attempt to scuttle the talks with the Russians. Or, maybe Trump just had to shout the demons out of his system. Who knows?

The demons at the Washington Post and the New York Times have only one explanation for all earthly phenomena, including the termination of the CIA's jihadist overseer duties in Syria: Trump is "colluding" with the Russians. The Times moaned that "the decision is bound to be welcomed by the Russians." The WP whined that "the Russian government had long opposed the program, seeing it as an assault on its interests." Neither paper is concerned that the CIA project violates international laws against unprovoked attacks on sovereign nations, as well as U.S. laws against giving material assistance to al Qaida, a prime beneficiary of CIA weapons, or that half a million Syrians have died, as a result.

Despite his apparent vow of semi-silence on the CIA front, Trump could not resist a Twitter retort. "The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad," he wrote, effectively declassifying the now-defunct (are we sure?) CIA terror campaign.

Donald Trump has taken the strangest, messiest, "play-crazy" (or just plain crazy) route imaginable towards fulfilling his campaign pledge to curtail Washington's urge to regime change, and to ease tensions with Russia. His presidency has been six months of pain and confusion.

But, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, we might all be dead.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Russia Sanctions Fuel New Cold War
By Norman Solomon

The drive to put more sanctions on Russia might feel good. But fueling a new Cold War can only propel the United States in the wrong direction. It's time to turn away from a collision course, not step on the gas.

Whatever you think of Vladimir Putin - or Donald Trump, for that matter - they are the presidents of the world's nuclear superpowers. Piling sanctions on Russia means escalating tensions. And that's extremely dangerous.

When this year began, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its risk-estimate Doomsday Clock closer to apocalyptic midnight than at any time since 1953. "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon," the Bulletin's expert panel warned.

If new sanctions target Russia, the predictable results will include angry responses from the Kremlin and more polarized attitudes in both countries - damaging the prospects for any detente while boosting a spiral of mutual hostility.

Democratic lawmakers rightly deride Republicans for their "climate change denial," but both parties are locked into a kind of "nuclear war denial" in relation to Russia. The latest sanctions bill is part of an obsession with denouncing Russia that leaves scant room for considering how to reduce the dangers of nuclear war between the two countries.

Such a war would be horrific. "A war fought with the deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals would leave Earth virtually uninhabitable," according to Steven Starr, a former member of the Physicians for Social Responsibility national board.

In a warning last winter, former Defense secretary William Perry said, "We're going back to the kind of dangers we had during the Cold War." Those concerns are even more relevant and urgent now: "We are starting a new Cold War. We seem to be sleepwalking into this new nuclear arms race."

While parading for sanctions against Russia, the sleepwalkers on Capitol Hill are endangering the future of humanity.
(c) 2017 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Should Churches Become Unholy Temples Of Dark Money?
By Jim Hightower

You know what's wrong with American politics? It's that there just aren't enough ways for giant corporations and mega-rich political donors to funnel their big bucks into our elections and buy our government.

At least that's what Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and a devious group of right-wing political pastors are saying. And, of course, they've got a diabolical fix for this "problem." Their scheme is to turn tax-exempt, far-right churches into gushing sewers of political money, secretly channeling unlimited amounts of cash from corporations and right-wing extremists through the churches into the campaigns of politicians who'll do their bidding.

They don't admit this, of course, instead wrapping their scheme in the pious rhetoric of religious freedom. Their point of attack is "The Johnson Amendment," a 1954 law passed by LBJ that prohibits tax-exempt charities, including churches, from endorsing candidates, funding campaigns, and directly engaging in politics. The Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist Christian operation pushing repeal of Johnson's amendment, asserts that banning churches from overt political campaigning let's the IRS "tell pastors what they can and cannot preach." Clever, but totally dishonest. First, the issue is not whether the government can tell church groups what to say (it can't) - but whether taxpayers should subsidize a church group's electioneering views and activities.

Second (and most diabolical), repealing the Johnson ban would turn these churches into Holy Temples of Dark Money. Special-interest funders would rush to these political "charities," not only because the churches would be super-secret SuperPACs - but churches are tax exempt, meaning the donors would also be blessed with a tax deduction for their corrupting campaign contributions!

Taxpayers would be underwriting the corruption of American politics. How ungodly is that?
(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

Donald Trump and John Kelly attend the Coast Guard Academy commencement ceremonies, May 17, 2017.

Meet John Kelly, Donald Trump's New Enabler In Chief
Kelly has a record of coddling Trump-and no good will come of that.
By John Nichols

Reince Priebus was a miserable White House chief of staff. A political hack who was lousy on television, ineffectual on Capitol Hill, and disrespected by the president who hired him, Priebus devolved into such a sad case that the highlight of his six-month tenure came when he was allowed to share the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference with someone who actually enjoyed the respect of Donald Trump: Steve Bannon.

But at least Priebus had a measure of self respect. There was evidence to suggest there were some things he would not do and some people (starting with Anthony Scaramucci) to whom he would not bend. That was part of what prevented Trump-who, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has learned, demands absolute loyalty-from bonding with the man who on most White House organization charts should have been the president's right-hand man.

There will be no such "problem" with the man who on Monday will replace Priebus. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the retired United States Marine Corps general who will become the second White House chief of staff in the first year of Trump's presidency, is an absolute apologist for this president.

Kelly is an outspoken and over-the-top Trump loyalist who announced to a February House Homeland Security Committee oversight session that "I work for one man. His name is Donald Trump."

Translation: Even if Kelly disagrees with a policy, even if he has doubts about whether Trump is doing the right thing, he was not going to share those anxieties with the members of Congress who are charged with overseeing the executive branch. The question is whether he will share those anxieties with Trump himself; and Kelly's record does not inspire confidence.

Kelly likes to present himself as a bold truth teller. He got good marks when he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, "I have never had a problem speaking truth to power, and I firmly believe that those in power deserve full candor and my honest assessment and recommendations." But once he joined the cabinet, however, Kelly made himself over as a cheerleader for Trump and Trumpism.

What attracted Trump to Kelly was not the retired general's candor. It was, as usual with Trump, an area of agreement. Kelly's linking of border-security issues with the "War of Terror" reportedly got Trump and his transition team excited about hiring the general. While serving as head of the US Southern Command, the general told a 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that "Terrorist organizations could seek to leverage those same smuggling routes (in Central American and Mexico) to move operatives with intent to cause grave harm to our citizens or even bring weapons of mass destruction into the United States."

That was bold language-"a little over the top," in the view of Frank Sharry, the executive director of the immigration-reform group America's Voice. But members of the Senate comforted themselves with the expectation that Kelly's experience with national-security issues would lead him to speak truth to Trump's power on the issues of immigration policy, deportations, border walls, Muslim bans, and domestic policing that are within the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. But after the Senate approved Kelly's nomination, the general lost his voice. He did not speak truth to power. Rather, he reinforced power that would have been better served by blunt questioning and open objection.

In late January 2017, after the rollout of the president's executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries went horribly awry-with mass protests, immediate legal challenges, judicial orders blocking its implementation, and an international outcry-Kelly was called before Congress to explain the whys and wherefores of the chaos. "This is all on me," the secretary announced, taking full blame for the failed attempt to impose a religious-test restriction on refugees and visitors that critics correctly labeled as a "Muslim ban."

That may have sounded like an honorable acceptance of responsibility when no one else in the administration was acting responsibly. But when a member of the cabinet speaks to Congress they are supposed to give a clear and accurate assessment of what has transpired. And no clear or accurate assessment of what transpired with the Muslim ban would place responsibility on John Kelly.

Despite his public apologias for the administration, the fact is that the Muslim ban was never "all on" Kelly. Quite the opposite. The travel ban was, by virtually all accounts, the work of White House strategists Bannon and Stephen Miller. Indeed, a Wall Street Journal report based on leaks from inside the administration suggested that: "Mr. Kelly was also frustrated at not knowing the details of the travel ban earlier, so he could prepare his agency to respond, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump signed the executive order that created the ban late Friday afternoon. Mr. Kelly was only informed of the details that day as he was traveling to Washington, even though he had pressed the White House for days to share with him the final language, the people said."

"The tensions between DHS and the White House have led to uncertainty at the top of an agency charged with keeping Americans safe within US borders. The agency struggled to respond to demonstrations and scenes of confusion at various airports after the immigration order," explained the Journal article, which noted that, "Even though he was not involved in the order's preparation, Mr. Kelly was peppered with questions about it. Democrat Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer spoke with Mr Kelly twice at the time to press for details."

The newspaper suggested that "The problems at DHS reflect a growing unease among government workers with a series of abrupt policy changes dictated by a close-knit group inside the West Wing of the White House."

Kelly did not acknowledge those tensions when he appeared before the House committee. Indeed, he downplayed press reports about clashes with Bannon and tried to paint a picture of smooth relations that strained credulity. His "I work for one man" response to questions from the committee was another way of saying that frankness was not on the agenda. He is so loyal to Trump that he will not even acknowledge reality.

When Kelly asked in early March about Trump's allegation that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower phones during the 2016 campaign. Trump's charge was explicit and exceptionally serious. "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" the president tweeted on March 4. He even outlined legal remedies, tweeting: "Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!" and "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!" Obama, Trump asserted, had undermined "the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

There was one problem with the charge, which the president apparently picked up from right-wing Internet chatter. There was no credible evidence to back it up. None. By all accounts, the alleged wiretapping had not occurred.

Kelly admitted, when he appeared on CNN on the following Monday, that he had nothing to add to the discussion. "I don't know anything about it," the top national-security figure told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. But then Kelly went off the rails.

"If the President of the United States said that, he's got his reasons to say it," the secretary of homeland security announced. "He must have some convincing evidence that took place... I don't pretend to even guess as to what the motivation may have been for the previous administration to do something like that."

When Kelly used the term "for the previous administration to do something like that," he was effectively asserting that the wiretapping had either occurred or, at the least, was likely to have occurred. Yet former director of national intelligence James Clapper was already saying, "There was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the National Intelligence Community." Former CIA and NSA director General Michael Hayden was saying that there was "no body of evidence" for Trump's claim that Obama ordered those election-season wiretaps.

What was John Kelly thinking?

The answer is that he was not thinking. He was simply covering for the president-doing his "work for one man": Donald Trump. Everyone knows that one man needs to be challenged and confronted with reality. Unfortunately, John Kelly does not have a record of challenging or confronting the president's absurd assertions. Kelly has a record of coddling Trump, and no good will come of that.
(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.

Sessions has a lot of friends on the Republican side of the Senate, several of whom have forbidden
Trump from firing him while promising terrible consequences if he does.Attorney General
Jeff Sessions has a lot of friends on the Republican side of the Senate, several of whom have forbidden
Trump from firing him while promising terrible consequences if he does. This is unprecedented.

Trump v. Sessions: Who Do You Root For? The Truth!
By William Rivers Pitt

I never thought we'd all live this long. My assumption after November was that Donald Trump would have figured out a way by now to blow the mantle off the planet and scatter our collective component elements into the farthest reaches of space. As we are somehow still here, let's take a moment to enjoy the ridiculous steel cage match unfolding between Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There is so much wrong baked into this situation, so much error and ego and straight-up birdbrained ignorance, that we're left with a simple question.

Gadzooks, who do you root for?

Trump is a known quantity at this point. While his ultimate capacity for the demolition of all things moral, ethical, legal, intelligent or proper has yet to be established, he has done more than enough for us to cobble together a fair measure of the man, and it's pretty straightforward stuff. The president of the United States is, in no particular order, a boor, an oaf, a braggart, a bully, unlettered, inexplicably vain, immoral, amoral, orange for some reason, an unskilled congenital liar, a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a cheat, a fraud, a terrible public speaker, a comprehensive embarrassment every single day and the purveyor of notoriously bad steaks.

We know this. We also know that Trump, the self-crowned king of social media, has unfriended Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the most OMG WTF LOL way history has ever seen. He says it's because Sessions hasn't been tough enough on Hillary Clinton and White House leakers, but again, he's a terrible liar. The reason Trump is going Donkey Kong on the attorney general has everything to do with a guy named Brian Benczkowski.

Benczkowski is a lawyer who came to work for the Department of Justice (DoJ) during the time of George W. Bush. He led Trump's DoJ transition team after the 2016 election. Last Tuesday, he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee because he's been nominated to run the DoJ's criminal division, which is a damned big deal. During that testimony, Benczkowski informed the committee that he once represented a Russian-owned financial institution named Alfa Bank.

"Questions about the bank's activity first arose last year," reports CNN, "when a group of computer scientists raised concerns about internet records that showed that Alfa Bank servers repeatedly looked up the unique internet address of a Trump Organization computer server in the United States." Both the Trump for President campaign and Alfa Bank denied any relationship or wrongdoing. The whole matter was investigated by a team supervised by Brian Benczkowski from his partnership perch at Kirkland & Ellis, the world's second-highest-grossing law firm.

Brian Benczkowski, along with every other person on the planet who knows something about Trump's relationship with Russia, or thinks they know something, or might know something, is why Trump wants Jeff Sessions gone. Special counsel Robert Mueller and his ongoing Trump/Russia investigation are very interested in speaking to the Brian Benczkowskis of the world. This terrifies Trump, who wants Mueller's investigation stopped. Sessions could have done that, if he hadn't recused himself from all things Russia. Hilariously, Sessions is one of the people who knows something about Trump and the Russian government's electoral meddling, and is himself an established serial liar and perjurer on the topic. That's why Sessions recused himself from any part of any investigation. He didn't want to; he had to, after all those undisclosed, lied-about meetings.

Ah yes, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, son of Alabama, named after the president of the Confederate States of America and the general who opened fire on Fort Sumter. Once deemed too racist for a federal judgeship by his fellow Republicans, Sessions has managed over the years to establish himself as a stalwart ally of the religious right, the coal industry and of course, the war weapons manufacturers.

His overt racism, you see, is not Mr. Sessions' only selling point for the far right. In 2002, Sessions voted to authorize the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and in 2003 approved spending $86 billion on the endeavor. In 2005, he voted against paying for the war "on-budget," meaning on the books, and that same year voted against investigating outside contracts awarded to companies like Blackwater for work in Iraq and Afghanistan. At every opportunity afterward, he voted against withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

With that, the tale is told: Vote for an illegal war, fund it lavishly, invite your friends to the trough, hide the funding from prying eyes and the public, and keep the money machine going by refusing to end the war no matter how many die in the process.

The tension surrounding whether Trump will actually fire his attorney general has been ratcheting up for days, but as of this writing, that shoe has not yet dropped. Those who name the president a coward point to this situation as proof: The man lacks the sand to back up his bluster. The big question for the media has been "Will Sessions resign?" The answer is utterly obvious: Hell no. Sessions has a lot of friends on the Republican side of the Senate, several of whom have forbidden Trump from firing him while promising terrible consequences if he does. This is unprecedented.

Sessions also has a lot of friends in the far-right reaches of the Republican Party, and they are giving Trump no end of grief for abusing their long-time champion in such a fashion. It is not too great a leap to wonder whether Trump's terrible transgender military ban was some sort of half-assed sop tossed to his right flank, a gesture of fealty even as he keeps Sessions on the rack. Whatever his motivations may have been, that decision is turning out to be one of the grosser miscalculations of his weakening administration, and that is saying something.

There is also this: Jeff Sessions has not reached this high station in political life without knowing how to nurse, and properly repay, a grudge. Unless I am completely mistaken about everything I've ever known regarding human nature, politics and Southern gentlemen -- the attorney general and I both have Alabama red clay under our fingernails; I've had my eye on him since George Wallace's last term as governor -- I can tell you this for certain sure: Jeff Sessions now despises Donald Trump, and will wait in the tall grass for the proper moment to fully express his displeasure. He may be giving meek interviews to Fox News, but when the time is right, Sessions will spring at Trump's throat like a leopard and say "Bless his heart" when he does.

Where is that tall grass? The office of the attorney general of the United States. Trump wants Sessions to resign so he can nominate a replacement who won't recuse themselves from involvement in the Russia investigations. That person would then arrange the dismissal of Robert Mueller and the termination of his investigation. As long as Sessions is in the office, with Senate Republicans and the base of the party rallying to his banner, with the president unwilling to fire him, Mueller is safe to continue his investigation. If that investigation bears prosecutable fruit, Jeff Sessions will have his vengeance.

Oh what a tangled web, right? Rooting for one over the other is akin to choosing between explosive diarrhea and persistent constipation. Either way, you're dealing with a lot of shit. Mueller is no prize either, his ongoing investigation notwithstanding.

Me? I'm pulling for the simple truth. Donald Trump is a farce, Jeff Sessions is a fiend, but there are things we need to know. Let's get to the bottom of all this -- Trump's questionable financial connections, the 2016 election, Russia, the vast number of ethics violations -- with all due and deliberate haste, and then let's bust out the big broom and sweep these stables clean. Please, for the love of all that is holy and good, may we come to see this gruesome calamity as the tallest of warning signs and vow to never, ever pass this way again.
(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.

Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade stand guard amid dust kicked up by a helicopter in Kolofata, Cameroon, on March 16, 2016.

Pentagon Denies Knowledge Of Cameroon Base Abuses - Despite Being Aware Of Reports Of Torture
By Nick Turse

"To date, U.S. Africa Command has not received any reports of human rights abuses by Cameroonian forces at either of these locations." This was the boilerplate reply to media outlets from Robyn Mack, a spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command, the umbrella organization for U.S. military activities on the continent. Mack was responding to revelations, detailed in a recently released Amnesty International report, of torture and killing by Cameroon's elite Rapid Intervention Battalion - known by its French acronym, BIR - at two military bases in that country.

The Intercept and Forensic Architecture, a research firm based at Goldsmiths, a branch of the University of London, conducted an additional investigation based on Amnesty's extensive research. The investigation demonstrated that as the U.S. military fortified one of the Cameroonian sites, known as Salak, and supported BIR troops based there, the outpost also served as a scene of illegal imprisonment, brutal torture, and even killings.

AFRICOM failed to provide comment on whether the command was aware of such allegations prior to publication. In the wake of the article - and even though The Intercept only asked about Salak - Mack offered the same reply: "In response, to date, U.S. Africa Command has not received any reports of human rights abuses by Cameroonian forces at either of these locations."

As far back as 2007, however, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor chronicled reports of torture at Salak by members of Cameroon's BIR. And the Department of State's 2016 Human Rights Report specifically cites previous investigations by Amnesty International into torture and deaths at Salak in 2014 and 2015. When this was brought to Mack's attention by The Intercept, she claimed to be unsure if anyone at AFRICOM had been made aware of the report. "The State Department and the Department of Defense are two different things," she said.

When informed that the State Department's 2016 findings were brought to the attention of Capt. Jennifer Dyrcz, another AFRICOM spokesperson, by The Intercept more than a week earlier, Mack changed her story. "When we're saying that, we're talking specifically about a U.S. service member reporting up their chain of command. Not about external reports," she said. Mack later claimed this was a question of "semantics."

A spokesperson who provided information on the condition of being identified only as a State Department official emphasized to The Intercept that the reports are not only publicly available but also "widely distributed."

"I don't have the specifics on who saw this year's HRR" - State's Human Rights Report - "but HRRs are always generated at post and cleared throughout the mission, which would involve other USG agencies," the spokesperson told The Intercept by email, using a common acronym for the U.S. government.

According to Mack, U.S. Africa Command has now ordered an inquiry into Amnesty's allegations. But Mack refused to offer details. "I can tell you that a portion of the inquiry will include determining what reported information, if any, AFRICOM was aware of prior to this allegation and will look at U.S. force involvement at the base in Salak," she said.

Despite the thorough nature of Amnesty's report, AFRICOM's review is only exploratory in nature. "In this case, AFRICOM made the determination to conduct a more informal, fact-gathering inquiry in order to determine whether further investigation is warranted," AFRICOM spokesperson Samantha Reho explained. "Upon review of these facts, the command will determine if a more formal investigation is required."

"The abundant evidence of routine and systematic torture and the seriousness of allegations warrant a full-fledged investigation," said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International's lead researcher on the new report. "We call for an independent, impartial, thorough investigation and for its results to be made public."

AFRICOM did not respond to questions about whether the investigation's findings would be aired publicly.

For reasons of "operational security," AFRICOM failed to provide details on whether U.S. personnel are currently based at Salak and did not respond to questions about prior deployments at the base. Dyrcz, the second AFRICOM spokesperson, previously told The Intercept that nearby Maroua and "Salak air field are important hubs for our security assistance efforts in the region, and we regularly have small numbers of U.S. personnel (military and/or contractor) in the area supporting Cameroon's aviation, logistics, counter-improvised explosive devices, and force protection capabilities."

"A limited number of U.S. military are present in Salak base in a support role," the State Department official told The Intercept, noting that State Department personnel also "visit the base periodically" to meet with U.S. and Cameroonian forces.

Allegrozzi, of Amnesty International, wants more information about why Americans who deployed to Salak failed to report abuses on a base where evidence shows U.S. personnel had apparently unrestricted access and scores of noncombatants were subjected to water torture, beaten with electric cables and boards, or tied and suspended with ropes, among other abuses. "We would like to have explanations regarding the lack of knowledge by U.S. personnel of illegal detention and torture at Salak," she said.
(c) 2017 Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning investigative journalist, he has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Nation, and is a contributing writer for The Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is

Big Brother poster illustrating George Orwell's novel about modern propaganda, "1984." The book was first
published in 1949 and describes a future in which a totalitarian regime controls what people think.

Mainstream Groupthink And Artificial Intelligence Could Stifle Dissent In An Orwellian Future
By Robert Parry

It seems that The New York Times can't let a good lie lie. Even after being pushed into running an embarrassing correction retracting its false claim that there was a consensus of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia hacked Democratic emails and made them public to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, the Times is back suggesting exactly that.

The Times' current ploy is to say the Russian hacking claims are the "consensus" judgment of the U.S. intelligence community without citing a specific number of agencies. For instance, on Friday, the Times published an article by Matt Flegenheimer about the U.S. Senate vote to prevent President Trump from lifting sanctions on Russia and deployed the misleading phrasing: "The Trump administration has opposed the sanctions against Russia, arguing that it needs flexibility to pursue a more collaborative diplomacy with a country that, by American intelligence consensus, interfered in last year's presidential election." So, instead of explaining the truth - that the Jan. 6 "Intelligence Community Assessment" was the work of a small group of "hand-picked" analysts from three of the agencies under the watchful eye of then-CIA Director John Brennan and beneath the oversight of then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - the Times opts to give its readers the misleading impression that there was a "consensus" within the U.S. intelligence community. In other words, unless a Times reader knows the truth by having read it at a non-mainstream media outlet such as, that reader would continue to believe that all 17 intelligence agencies were in agreement on this foundational point in the Russiagate affair.

Marginalizing Dissent

And the continuation of this willful deception comes as the Times and other mainstream media outlets make progress in their plans to deploy Internet algorithms to hunt down and marginalize what they deem "fake news," including articles that challenge the mainstream media's power to control the dominant news narrative.

A report by the World Socialist Web Site found that "in the three months since Internet monopoly Google announced plans to keep users from accessing 'fake news,' the global traffic rankings of a broad range of left-wing, progressive, anti-war and democratic rights organizations have fallen significantly."

Google's strategy is to downgrade search results for targeted Web sites based on a supposed desire to limit reader access to "low-quality" information, but the targets reportedly include some of the highest-quality alternative news sites on the Internet, such as - according to the report -

Google sponsors the First Draft Coalition, which was created to counter alleged "fake news" and consists of mainstream news outlets, including the Times and The Washington Post, as well as establishment-approved Web sites, such as Bellingcat, which has a close association with the anti-Russia and pro-NATO Atlantic Council.

This creation of a modern-day Ministry of Truth occurred under the cover of a mainstream-driven hysteria about "fake news" and "Russian propaganda" in the wake of Donald Trump's election.

Last Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page article citing accusations from an anonymous Web site, PropOrNot, that identified 200 Web sites - including such Internet stalwarts as Truthdig, Counterpunch and Consortiumnews - as purveyors of "Russian propaganda."

Apparently, PropOrNot's standard was to smear any news outlet that questioned the State Department's Official Narrative on the Ukraine crisis or some other global hot spot, but the Post didn't offer any actual specifics of what these Web sites had done to earn their place on a McCarthyistic blacklist.

An Orwellian Future

In early May 2017, the Times chimed in with a laudatory article about how sophisticated algorithms could purge the Internet of alleged "fake news" or what the mainstream media deems to be "misinformation."

As I wrote at the time, "you don't need a huge amount of imagination to see how this combination of mainstream groupthink and artificial intelligence could create an Orwellian future in which only one side of a story gets told and the other side simply disappears from view."

After my article appeared, I received a call from an NPR reporter who was planning a segment on this new technology and argued with me about my concerns. However, after I offered a detailed explanation about how I saw this as a classic case of the cure being far worse than the disease, I was not invited onto the NPR program.

Also, as for the relatively small number of willfully produced "fake news" stories, none appear to have traced back to Russia despite extensive efforts by the mainstream U.S. media to make the connection. When the U.S. mainstream media has tracked down a source of "fake news," it has turned out to be some young entrepreneur trying to make some money by getting lots of clicks.

For instance, on Nov. 26, 2016, as the anti-Russia hysteria was heating up in the weeks following Trump's election, the Times ran a relatively responsible article revealing how a leading "fake news" Web site was not connected to Russia at all but rather was a profit-making effort by an unemployed Georgian student who was using a Web site in Tbilisi to make money by promoting pro-Trump stories.

The owner of the Web site, 22-year-old Beqa Latsabidse, said he had initially tried to push stories favorable to Hillary Clinton but that proved unprofitable so he switched to publishing anti-Clinton and pro-Trump articles whether true or not.

While creators of intentionally "fake news" and baseless "conspiracy theories" deserve wholehearted condemnation, the idea of giving the Times and a collection of Google-approved news outlets the power to prevent public access to information that challenges equally mindless groupthinks is a chilling and dangerous prospect.

Russiagate Doubts

Even if the Russian government did hack the Democratic emails and slip them to WikiLeaks - a charge that both the Kremlin and WikiLeaks deny - there is no claim that those emails were fake. Indeed, all evidence is that they were actual emails and newsworthy to boot.

Meanwhile, U.S. government accusations against the Russian network, RT, have related more to it covering topics that may make the Establishment look bad - such as the Occupy Wall Street protests, fracking for natural gas, and the opinions of third-party presidential candidates - than publishing false stories.

In some cases, State Department officials have even made their own false allegations in attacking RT.

The current Russiagate frenzy is a particularly scary example of how dubious government conclusions and mainstream media falsehoods can propel the world toward nuclear destruction. The mainstream media's certainty about Russia's guilt in the disclosure of Democratic emails is a case in point even when many well-informed experts have expressed serious doubts - though almost always at alternative media sites.

See, for instance, former WMD inspector Scott Ritter's warning about lessons unlearned from the Iraq debacle or the opinions of U.S. intelligence veterans who have questioned the accuracy of the Jan. 6 report on Russian hacking.

Perhaps these concerns are misplaced and the Jan. 6 report is correct, but the pursuit of truth should not simply be a case of grabbing onto the opinions of some "hand-picked" analysts working for political appointees, such as Brennan and Clapper. Truth should be subjected to rigorous testing against alternative viewpoints and contradictory arguments.

That has been a core principle since the days of the Enlightenment, that truth best emerges from withstanding challenges in the marketplace of ideas. Overturning that age-old truth - by today unleashing algorithms to enforce the Official Narrative - is a much greater threat to an informed electorate and to the health of democracy than the relatively few times when some kid makes up a bogus story to increase his Web traffic.

And, if this new process of marginalizing dissenting views is successful, who will hold The New York Times accountable when it intentionally misleads its readers with deceptive language about the U.S. intelligence community's "consensus" regarding Russia and the Democratic emails?
(c) 2017 Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Local action needed to resolve world's biggest problems

Local Action Needed To Resolve World's Biggest Problems
By David Suzuki

Humans are an astonishing anomaly. As many species teeter on extinction, our populations grow in size and complexity. From exploring space to eradicating diseases and other remarkable achievements, human curiosity has pushed the outer limits of our physical universe. Yet our ability to embrace shared values has been challenging. More than a billion people live in poverty, inequality gaps are expanding, and we face unprecedented environmental challenges that threaten our survival.

To confront these, heads of states met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 and established sustainable development as a global undertaking. Known as Agenda 21, the non-binding plan posited that meeting today's human needs shouldn't compromise the needs of future generations. Leaders referred to the 1990s as the "turnaround decade", with multilateral approaches guiding nation states to sign treaties to tackle the world's most pressing issues. (The David Suzuki Foundation was founded in 1990 to help press society to work toward a truly sustainable future.)

In 2000, nations agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals to guide the world to 2015. Although some countries made remarkable gains with these goals, overall success was elusive. Carbon dioxide emissions and the consequent effects of climate change continued to increase, as did water scarcity. The failures were in part because the goals were conceived by heads of states and technocrats in closed-room negotiations with little involvement from the communities and people most affected.

Countries met again in 2015 and employed a more open and collaborative approach to come up with 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Unlike the previous goals, these "global goals" set a new standard for the responsibilities expected from everyone, including political representatives, civil society, scientists and citizens, and apply to both developing and developed nations.

Although Canada ranks 13th out of 149 countries in the 2016 SDG index, 4.9 million people here live in poverty and more than four million experience food insecurity. Outcomes related to violence against women and women's economic participation have seen little improvement and Canada has been criticized for human rights violations toward 1.4 million Indigenous people, who lag behind in almost every SDG category, a legacy of colonialism.

Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon held high hopes for humanity in light of the goals: "Ours can be the first generation to end poverty - and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late." Around the world, with support from organizations such as ONE, artists, activists, faith and business leaders, students and scientists are working together to address extreme poverty and preventable disease and respond to inequality and injustice.

We're also seeing a massive global shift to renewable energy, with 48 of the most vulnerable countries committing to a 100 per cent renewable energy transition to achieve the historic Paris Agreement. In Canada, a number of Indigenous communities are building microgrid renewable energy systems. The Lubicon Cree Nation in Northern Alberta is looking away from oilsands toward the sun for energy, launching the Lubicon Solar initiative - an 80-panel solar project that will create green jobs and reduce the community's fossil fuel reliance.

Organizations and social entrepreneurs are using innovative technology to advance the goals. At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Project Everyone teamed up with Pokemon Go to make PokeStops that highlighted the world's most pressing issues. The app Lettuce Grow helps small-scale farmers across Portugal who are struggling to compete with cheap bulk imports connect directly with consumers, boosting Portugal's agricultural industry and local economies.

In Canada, a blueprint to implement the Sustainable Development Goals exists: the Leap Manifesto, supported by more than 46,000 individuals, communities and organizations. In my home province, the BC Council for International Cooperation has developed an interactive map to connect more than 1,600 civil society groups that work on the global goals with local citizens and change-makers.

At the heart of the global goals is one simple message: Leave no one behind. Political representatives have given us an ambitious agenda for the next 15 years, but it's up to us all to respond. An enormous amount of responsibility falls on governments, but they can't achieve these goals alone. Their success relies on innovative, inclusive solutions from active citizens working to better their communities.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

With Reince Out, Trump's Plan For Survival Is Clear
Simply hire more thugs.
By Charles P. Pierce

It all ended for obvious anagram Reince Priebus with him left alone aboard an SUV in the rain. He had just returned from a trip to Long Island where he'd watched the president* put the presidential* imprimatur on the kind of police violence that killed, among others, Freddie Gray. When Air Force One landed at Andrews, everybody except the president* got out of the SUV. Priebus was invited in. Within minutes, he was no longer the White House chief-of-staff, the president* was long gone, and obvious anagram Reince Priebus was alone in the rain as Friday evening fell. Poor bastard. I'll bet they even took the cannoli.

The button had been put out on Priebus long before. (Even Priebus says that he actually resigned on Thursday.) If that wasn't clear from the start, it was absolutely crystal on Thursday, when it was revealed that Anthony Scaramucci had called him "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic" in a phone call with Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. From The New York Times:

Mr. Priebus's ouster was the latest convulsion in a White House that has been whipsawed by feuds and political setbacks in recent days. The president became convinced that Mr. Priebus was not strong enough to run the White House operation and that he needed a general to take charge. Mr. Kelly, who has demonstrated strong leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, had become a favorite of Mr. Trump's.
Let it be said for the record that the only way truly to run this White House would be to sedate the president* until late January of 2021. That Priebus has been replaced by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is nothing more than another demonstration of the president*'s sweet-tooth for generals. Kelly's clock is ticking, too; one friend who is wise in these particular areas gives Kelly six months before either he quits for his own sanity's sake, or the president* fires him for reasons that make sense only in the deep box canyons of the presidential mind.

(The worst rumor of the day was that Kelly's replacement at DHS might be the inexcusable Kris Kobach. Sure, why not give the country's most prominent vote-suppressor,and its most virulently anti-immigrant public official, his own personal army?)

John Kelly's clock is ticking, too.

Priebus's departure is a further indication that, its policy failures now as manifest as its profound ethical disabilities, the administration, from the president* on down, is planning to survive by going full thug. That's why Scaramucci was brought in, and why his profane indiscretions weren't enough to fire him. That's why the president* has opened up on Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and on the Republicans in the Senate. That's why he's been giving those profoundly disturbing slasher film speeches all over the country in recent days.

More than just a personnel dispute, the disagreement suggested a broader cleavage that would lead to Mr. Priebus' resignation. In tapping Mr. Scaramucci, Mr. Trump was turning to a wealthy New Yorker who had become part of his inner circle, and who compensated in charisma and rapport with Mr. Trump and his family for what he lacked in governing experience. Mr. Priebus represented a more conventional breed of senior White House figure, chosen by the president despite a career defined by the calculations of traditional Republican Party politics, which Mr. Trump regards as part of "the swamp" he was elected to drain.

This, of course, gives the president* way too much credit for having a consistent ideology, and for the ability to keep a coherent thought in his head for longer than 20 seconds. (The idea that he really meant that whole "drain the swamp" business is ludicrous. All he did was introduce some new invasive species into it, like the pythons that are breeding in the Everglades. Priebus lost his job because he was working for an unstable man and because there are more than a few people in that White House who are perfectly happy to have an unstable man running the Executive branch.

To be entirely fair, Priebus did come a long way. This was a guy who couldn't get elected to the Wisconsin state legislature in two tries. Yet he moved all the way up to chairman of the Republican National Committee and White House chief-of-staff, in which job, if the Times can be believed, he functioned more as a pinata than anything else. Now he can go home, sort through all the memorabilia he's accumulated over the past decade, and gradually reappear as a person. He no longer is the emptiest suit in American politics.
(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...

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."
~~~ John Lennon

Congressional Opponents Of Sanctions As Nuts As Supporters
By David Swanson

Both houses of Congress have now passed big new sanctions bills by veto-proof majorities, in fact with near unanimity. The vote this week in the House of Misrepresentatives was 419-3 on a bill to sanction Russia, Iran, and North Korea as punishment for primarily imaginary crimes, despite the sum total of the global legal bodies having asked the United States to judge these crimes, skip over a trial, and move right ahead with punishment being exactly equal to the number of principled opponents of war employed on Capitol Hill.

The most recent vote in the Senate on a version of the bill that did not yet include North Korea was 97-2. The Senate will now take up the new bill for another vote.

Why do I call the crimes being punished imaginary? The latest House bill calls itself a bill "To provide congressional review and to counter aggression by the Governments of Iran, the Russian Federation, and North Korea, and for other purposes." Where is the aggression?

The bill requires the U.S. government to produce something the bill does not include or refer to, namely a report on Iran's crimes, which are to include "destabilizing activities," possession of a military (Congress wants to know exactly what a war on Iran would be up against), possession of chemical and biological weapons (there exists no evidence that Iran has either, though it does have a fatwa against them and refused to retaliate in kind when attacked with them by Iraq with U.S. help in the Iran-Iraq war), possession of ballistic missiles. There is no mention of violating the nuclear agreement or any other actual law. There is mention of "terrorism" and "human rights violations," things few if any governments on earth are innocent of, least of all the United States, which of course is also openly guilty of destabilizing activities, possessing chemical and biological weapons, etc.

The bill seeks to punish Russia for interference in U.S. and other elections - crimes for which we would almost certainly have seen evidence by now if any existed - and for the "illegal annexation of Crimea" - illegal because opposed by a coup government in Kiev despite being supported by almost everyone in Crimea at the time and to this day. The 2014 vote by the people of Crimea to re-join Russia involved zero casualties and has never been repeated because poll after poll shows the people happy with their vote. I have seen no written or oral statement from Russia threatening war or violence. If the threat was implicit, there remains the problem of being unable to find Crimeans who say they felt threatened. If the vote was influenced by the implicit threat, there remains the problem that polls consistently get the same result. The United States had supported the secession of Kosovo from Serbia in the 1990s despite Serbian opposition. When Slovakia seceded from Czechoslovakia, the U.S. did not urge any opposition. The U.S. supports the right of South Sudan to have seceded from Sudan, although violence and chaos reigned. U.S. politicians like Joe Biden and Jane Harman even proposed breaking Iraq up into pieces, as others have proposed for Syria. How is a vote by the people of Crimea an act of aggression and all the rest of this acceptable?

Much of the "punishment" of Russia for these supposed crimes is clearly driven by economic competition. Other elements involve communications competition. The bill demands a new report on Russian media, Congress apparently having found the third-grade book-report-style report by the CIA some months back unsatisfactory.

Meanwhile, this legislation requires the production of reports on North Korea cooperating with Iran (a supreme international crime, as everyone knows), and abusing human rights (something never ever done in Guantanamo, Chicago, or Riyadh.

What actually drives these sanctions? As I discussed earlier on this site, and this week on Russian television, sanctions are acts of aggression aimed at selling weapons, preparing the ground for war, responding to successful propaganda, advancing economic interests, and distracting the public from government abuses it might object to. Of course U.S. sanctions against North Korea for 67 years, Cuba for 57 years, and Iran for 38 years have only strengthened the control of those in power in those countries - and the same effect is documented now in Russia. But sanctions led the way to all-out war on Iraq and may now serve that purpose in Iran. Intentional total war with North Korea or especially Russia is less likely because of their nuclear weapons. But these designated enemies are very useful to the weapons industry nonetheless.

There are serious reasons to oppose new sanctions. They create hostility with nuclear governments. They lead toward further militarization and a possible catastrophic attack on Iran. They turn much of the world against the United States. They create major economic conflicts with Europeans who oppose further sanctions on Russia. They tear down the rule of law, replacing it with the practice of might-makes-right. They divide a world that simply must unite if it is to mitigate the climate apocalypse.

So, it ought to be encouraging that a few members of Congress opposed a bill driven by intense anti-Russian propaganda. What gave them the nerve to do something so decent and risky? In short: they're as nuts as the bill's opponents and have their own unrelated reasons for opposition.

Congressman Tom Massie of Kentucky was one of the three Congress members, all Republicans, to vote No. "I voted against vague, expensive, and reckless sanctions," he says. "H.R 3364 would vastly expand unilateral executive authority. This bill cites the United Nations and United Nations Security Council resolutions as controlling legal authority instead of U.S. law and the Constitution. As a co-sponsor of legislation to get the United States out of the UN, I oppose citing international law as authority for congressional action."

The fact that sanctions are used as tools of war in violation of the U.N. Charter isn't enough. The fact that the United States is making itself global judge, jury, and executioner doesn't measure up. That the bill mentions the United Nations as a fig leaf for its piracy is beyond the pale.

"This bill authorizes $250 million for a vague Countering Russian Influence Fund," Massie says, "with no accountability on who these funds will go to or how they will be used. It also contains language that expands the Treasury's ability to issue blanket warrants without probable cause, a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. In addition, this legislation threatens businesses and jobs across the country, including some in Kentucky."

Opposing a slush fund for anti-Russian activities is critical. It's always nice when people not trying to end mass surveillance or impeach anyone overseeing it take notice of the Fourth Amendment. And I've got nothing against jobs. But putting these concerns behind U.N.-bashing and never even considering the serious harm to peace and security, or the many hundreds of thousands killed by past sanctions in Iraq, is just crazy.

Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan tweeted: "Russia part of sanctions bill is too broad & undefined. Bill also includes $ for Ukraine energy & #4thAmendment-violating #HR5602 from 2016." All quite true, but all extremely minor concerns.

Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee had no one available to answer the phone in his D.C. office on Wednesday.

In the Senate, one of the few Senators to have voted against any previous version of these sanctions is Rand Paul of Kentucky, whose explanation has ranged from they're not tough enough to China does it too to the U.S. does it too.

Senator Mike Lee has opposed the same $250 million fund opposed by Rep. Massie.

And Senator Bernie Sanders, who has sometimes voted No, has said, "I am strongly supportive of the sanctions on Russia included in this bill. It is unacceptable for Russia to interfere in our elections here in the United States, or anywhere around the world. There must be consequences for such actions. I also have deep concerns about the policies and activities of the Iranian government, especially their support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria. I have voted for sanctions on Iran in the past, and I believe sanctions were an important tool for bringing Iran to the negotiating table. But I believe that these new sanctions could endanger the very important nuclear agreement that was signed between the United States, its partners and Iran in 2015."

Seeking a wiser view, I turned to Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace, who told me that "sanctions and escalating rhetoric on the possibility of war, have become a convenient bi-partisan diversion from the policies that continue the assault on basic human rights in the U.S. from lack of affordable healthcare to intensifying police violence. But as polls demonstrate, people in the U.S. are starting to catch on to the fact that they are being manipulated, and are questioning the permanent war agenda."

"We have a moral responsibility to oppose the war agenda of the 1%," Baraka said, "not only in the interests of working class people in the U.S. who will be sacrificed once again for that agenda, but for the people in those nations that find themselves in the cross-hairs of U.S. aggression. There is no more fundamental human right than the right to life. The massive violation of that principle when nations conduct war compels all of who defend human rights to resist in words and deeds."
(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.

Protesters attend the rally to denounce deploying the Terminal High-Altitude
Area Defense (THAAD) near the U.S. embassy on July 13, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea

Urgent Warning: Time To Hit The Reset Button On US-Korean Policy
By Medea Benjamin

Touching down in Washington DC Friday night after a peace delegation to South Korea organized by the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea (STIK), I saw the devastating news. No, it was not that Reince Priebus had been booted from the dysfunctional White House. It was that North Korea had conducted another intercontinental ballistic missile test, and that the United States and South Korea had responded by further ratcheting up this volatile conflict.

The response was not just the usual tit-for-tat, which did happen. Just hours after the North Korean test, the US and South Korean militaries launched their own ballistic missiles as a show of force. Even more incendiary, however, is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in also responded by reversing his decision to halt deployment of the US weapon system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). President Moon gave his military the green light to add four more launchers to complete the system.

South Korea's new, liberal president came into office on May 10 on the wave of a remarkable "people power" uprising that had led to the impeachment and jailing of the corrupt President Park Geun-hye. Part of the legacy that Moon inherited was an agreement with the US to provide land and support for THAAD, a missile defense system designed to target and intercept short and medium-range missiles fired by North Korea.

THAAD is controversial on many fronts: military experts say it doesn't work; environmentalists say it emits dangerous radiation; national assembly members say it was never submitted for a vote; China says the radar is aimed at them and has responded with economic sanctions; and the local residents of Seongju, where the system is placed, are furious that their tranquil lives have been pierced by a billion dollar Lockheed-Martin weapon system they were never consulted about.

Our delegation-composed of former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Reece Chenault of US Labor Against the War, Will Griffin of Veterans for Peace and myself-had the opportunity to visit Seongju, a farming town 135 miles southeast of the capital, and the neighboring town of Gimcheon. The feisty residents, including women farmers in their eighties, have been protesting every single day for the past year. We attended a rally with thousands, which concluded with a symbolic smashing of a cardboard version of THAAD, and a candlelight vigil that takes place in both towns every night, rain or shine. The villagers have blockaded the roads to prevent entry of the launchers, fought with police, publicly shaved their heads in opposition, and set up a 24/7 protest camp. They are joined by the local Won Buddhists, who consider the THAAD site their sacred ground.

It was the resilience of Seongju and neighboring Gimcheon residents that pushed the Moon administration to pause the deployment process until a thorough environmental impact assessment had been completed, which would have taken about a year. This gave the villagers hope that they would have time to convince President Moon to rethink and reverse the THAAD agreement altogether. The president's recent decision will only spark more local outrage.

The North Korean nuclear program is certainly alarming, as are the myriad human rights violations of that repressive regime. But the question is how best to de-escalate the conflict so that it doesn't explode into an all-out nuclear war. Adding another weapon system into the mix is not the answer.

The North Korean regime feels encircled. It knows that the most powerful nation in the world, the United States, wants to overthrow it. There's Trump's belligerent rhetoric: "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will." There's the ever-tightening screws of sanctions. Just a few hours before the latest North Korean missile test, Congress approved yet another round of sanctions to squeeze the North.

There are 83 US military bases on South Korean soil and US warships often patrolling the coast. US-South Korean military exercises have been getting larger and more provocative, including dropping mock nuclear bombs on North Korea.The US military also announced that it would permanently station an armed drone called Gray Eagle on the Korean Peninsula and it has been practicing long-range strikes with strategic bombers, sending them to the region for exercises and deploying them in Guam and on the peninsula.

The United States has also long held a "pre-emptive first strike" policy towards North Korea. This frightening threat of an unprovoked US nuclear attack gives North Korea good reason to want its own nuclear arsenal.

North Korea's leadership also looks at the fate of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, leaders who gave up their nuclear programs, and conclude that nuclear weapons are their key to survival.

So the North Korean leadership is not acting irrationally; on the contrary. On July 29, the day after the test, North Korean President Kim Jong-un asserted that the threat of sanctions or military action "only strengthens our resolve and further justifies our possession of nuclear weapons."

Given the proximity of North Korea to the South's capital Seoul, a city of 25 million people, any outbreak of hostilities would be devastating. It is estimated that a North Korean attack with just conventional weapons would kill 64,000 South Koreans in the first three hours.

A war on the Korean Peninsula would likely draw in other nuclear armed states and major powers, including China, Russia and Japan. This region also has the largest militaries and economies in the world, the world's busiest commercial ports, and half the world's population.

Trump has few options. His Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned that a pre-emptive strike on the North's nuclear and missile capabilities could reignite the Korean War. Trump had hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping could successfully rein in Kim Jong-un, but the Chinese are more concerned about the collapse of North Korea's government and the chaos that would ensue. They are also furious about the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, convinced that its radar can penetrate deep into Chinese territory.

But the Chinese do have another proposal: a freeze for a freeze. This means a freeze on North Korean missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a halt on US-South Korean war games.

The massive war games have been taking place every year in March, with smaller ones scheduled for August. A halt would alleviate tensions and pave the way for negotiations. So would halting the deployment of the destabilizing THAAD system so disliked by South Korean villagers, North Koreans and the Chinese.

Given the specter of nuclear war, the rational alternative policy is one of de-escalation and engagement. President Moon has called for dialogue with the North and a peace treaty to permanently end the Korean War. North Korean diplomats have raised the possibility of a "freeze for a freeze." Time has proven that coercion doesn't work. There's an urgent need to hit the reset button on US-Korean policy, before one of the players hits a much more catastrophic button that could lead us into a nuclear nightmare.
(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 Lujan,

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 lose the 2018 election by alienating women and liberals with your no litmus test for blue dog Demoncrats, 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 "Democratic 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 09-23-2017. We salute you herr Lujan, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Demise Of The Republican Effort To Repeal The Affordable Care Act Is Hardly The End Of The Story
Robert Reich

The demise of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is hardly the end of the story. Donald Trump will not let this loss stand.

Since its inception in 2010, Republicans made the Affordable Care Act into a symbol of Obama-Clinton overreach - part of a supposed plot by liberal elites to expand government, burden the white working class, and transfer benefits to poor blacks and Latinos.

Ever the political opportunist, Trump poured his own poisonous salt into this festering wound. Although he never really understood the Affordable Care Act, he used it to prey upon resentments of class, race, ethnicity, and religiosity that propelled him into the White House.

Repealing "Obamacare" has remained one of Trump's central rallying cries to his increasingly angry base. "The question for every senator, Democrat or Republican, is whether they will side with Obamacare's architects, which have been so destructive to our country, or with its forgotten victims," Trump said last Monday, adding that any senator who failed to vote against it "is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare."

Now, having lost that fight, Trump will try to subvert the Act by delaying subsidies so some insurance companies won't be able to participate, failing to enforce the individual mandate so funding won't be adequate, not informing those who are eligible about when to sign up and how to do so, and looking the other way when states don't comply.

But that's not all. Trump doesn't want his base to perceive him as a loser.

So be prepared for scorched-earth politics from the Oval Office, including more savage verbal attacks on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, more baseless charges of voter fraud in the 2016 election, and further escalation of the culture wars.

Most Americans won't be swayed by these pyrotechnics because they've become inured to our unhinged president.

But that's not the point. They'll be intended to shore up Trump's "base" - the third of the country that supports him, who still believe they're "victims" of Obamacare, who continue to believe Trump himself is the victim of a liberal conspiracy to unseat him.

Trump wants his base to become increasingly angry and politically mobilized, so they'll continue to exert an outsized influence on the Republican Party.

There is a deeper danger here. As Harvard political scientist Archon Fung has argued, stable democracies require that citizens be committed to the rule of law even if they fail to achieve their preferred policies.

Settling our differences through ballots and agreed-upon processes rather than through force is what separates democracy from authoritarianism.

But Donald Trump has never been committed to the rule of law. For him, it's all about winning. If he can't win through established democratic processes, he'll mobilize his base to change them.

Trump is already demanding that Mitch McConnell and senate Republicans obliterate the filibuster, thereby allowing anything to be passed with a bare majority.

Last Saturday he tweeted "Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW!" adding the filibuster "allows 8 Dems to control country," and "Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don't go to a 51 vote majority NOW. They look like fools and are just wasting time."

What's particularly worrisome about Trump's attack on the long-established processes of our democracy is that his assault comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who regard the other party as a fundamental threat is growing.

In 2014 - even before acrimony of 2016 presidential campaign - 35 percent of Republicans saw the Democratic Party as a "threat to the nation's well being" and 27 percent of Democrats regarded Republicans the same way, according to the Pew Research Center.

Those percentages are undoubtedly higher today. If Trump succeeds, they'll be higher still.

Anyone who regards the other party as a threat to the nation's well being is less apt to accept outcomes in which the other party prevails - whether it's a decision not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or even the outcome of a presidential election.

As a practical matter, when large numbers of citizens aren't willing to accept such outcomes, we're no longer part of the same democracy.

I fear this is where Trump intends to take his followers, along with much of the Republican Party: Toward a rejection of political outcomes they regard as illegitimate, and therefore a rejection of democracy as we know it.

That way, Trump will always win.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

Making Anthony Scaramucci Communications Director because he dresses
like the owner of a Lamborghini dealership fit like a glove with the Trump ethos.

The Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing And All Too Short
Glad-handing hedge-funder turned White House press chief has reignited the comic potential of Trump presidency. It's too bad he won't last past the end of this sentence.
By Matt Taibbi

I already miss Anthony Scaramucci. Of course, he hasn't officially been fired yet (checks Twitter), or committed suicide by jumping into boiling steak fat at his Gotti-esque Hunt and Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan (checks Twitter again). But it sure seems like he's not long for this earth. Even by Trumpian standards, has any federal official had a more disastrous rollout?

The big headline this morning is that the new White House Communications Director got upset and decided to call Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and go full-on Glengarry Glen Ross without asking for background or off-the-record privileges.

In the call, Scaramucci hounded Lizza to give up his sources, threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, and gave what Saddam Hussein would have described as the mother of all quotes in an effort to bash fellow backstabbing Trump insider Steve Bannon:

"I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock," he said. "I'm not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President."

Bannon declined to comment on Scaramucci's charge that he sucks his own cock.

It's hard to believe that it was barely a week ago, on July 21st, that Scaramucci was given Trump's top press job. It feels like it was millions of years in the past, back when Africa was still connected to Brazil, and Sean Spicer was still our idea of a national embarrassment. This is the way time works in the Trump era. Days seem like centuries, and weeks seem like millennia.

In that short period of time, Scaramucci has already accomplished a lot:

* He began by announcing cheerfully that he wanted a "fresh start" with the media, pledged an "era of new good feeling," and promised to "create a positive mojo." As he was doing this, the press was seizing on the fact that he was deleting old tweets that supported gun control, called climate science "irrefutable," and described Trump as an "odd guy... smart with no judgment." One tweet even committed ultimate Trump-heresy by saying of Hillary Clinton, "She is incredibly competent." Even if the media had wanted to give the guy a break, he all but forced them to beat him like a mule minutes into his appointment.

* While speaking of fellow White House spokesperson and new department subordinate Sarah Huckabee Sanders, "Mooch" delivered a line that read like a Mad Men screen test: "Sarah, if you're watching, I loved the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday." By the next day he was like a man with a sackful of ants turned over on his head, so many were the news stories denouncing him as sexist.

* He got caught talking out of school in between TV segments: "In the back of my mind I have to call on CNN and send a message to [CNN President Jeff] Zucker that we are back in business." He added that Zucker wasn't "getting a placement fee," but had "helped me get the job by hitting those guys," referring to three CNN reporters who had to resign over a botched report claiming Scaramucci had inappropriate contact with Russians.

* He appeared to confirm a Washington Post report his boss Donald Trump had called "fake news." Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow had told ABC that "pardons are not being discussed and are not on the table," but Scaramucci told Fox News Sunday that, hell yes, he'd discussed pardons with the chief: "I'm in the Oval Office with the president last week, we're talking about that," he said. "He brought that up, he said but he doesn't have to be pardoned there's nobody around him that has to be pardoned he was just making the statement about the power of pardon."

In the space of a week, Trump's new press expert demonstrated that he a) didn't know how to hold off-the-record conversations b) didn't understand that cameras and microphones keep rolling even when the red light is off and c) doesn't bother to check the other public statements made by administration officials before he makes statements of his own. An alien crashed on earth and given a two-minute tutorial on dealing with reporters would have done a better job.

Newly appointed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, right, smiles as Anthony Scaramucci, incoming
White House communications director, center, departs the daily press briefing at the White House, Friday, July 21, 2017.

On the other hand, it sort of worked! The least successful Trump administration officials to date have been the ones who have labored in public to act like real presidential aides. Scaramucci on the other hand is like Trump himself: ridiculous, ham-brained, unapologetic, disdainful of Washington pieties, and bursting with reasonless confidence.

Scaramucci has been hovering around the Trump administration for a while, but until now didn't have a prominent role. The reason for that is hilarious: he was considered too ridiculous and uncouth for public service by the other swamp-monster members of the Trump administration.

His hire horrified even hardened mutants like Bannon ("Over my dead body will you get this job!") Bannon is reported to have yelped, when he heard the Scaramucci news). Spicer, who for months had effortlessly gulped down Trump administration lies like a vulture guzzling battery acid, resigned in protest at Scaramucci's arrival (an "unusual choice of hills to die on" was the New Yorker's comment).

Priebus, who kept his nerve even as the loathsome Bannon groped his inner knee in public, reportedly flipped his lid at the news "Mooch" had been hired.

The conventional explanation for all of this outrage was that Beltway hacks were revolting against the arrival of a condescending Wall Street operator. As Scaramucci explained to New York magazine reporter Jessica Pressler in January:

"And the other thing I have learned about these people in Washington ... is they have no money. So what happens when they have no fucking money is they fight about what seat they are in and what the title is. Fucking congressmen act like that. They are fucking jackasses."
A hilarious and true observation! Mencken himself would have approved of Scaramucci's take on Washington's jobholder class. Of course, the rest of that article included Scaramucci laying a Seventies come-on on Pressler at his garish Hunt and Fish club restaurant:

"How old are you?" he asked. "You look good. No lines on your face. What are you, a Sagittarius?"

Scaramucci is a hedge funder - a fund-of-funds guy to be exact, who charges modestly massive fees to funnel your money to other hedge-funders who do the actual thinking.

He is said to be good at his job, in a field that is mostly about mesmerizing high net worth individuals with cannon-bursts of shmaltzy bullshit just long enough to get them to write huge checks. He is a yammerer and a glad-hander and apparently also a guy who genuinely likes talking to reporters, or at least he did before he got this job.

He supposedly got the White House post for the most important reason that exists in the Trump administration: the president likes the way he looks on TV. This was as opposed to 45's take on Sean Spicer's famously ill-fitting attire: "Doesn't the guy own a dark suit?"

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci speaks to
members of the media at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017.

Making Scaramucci Communications Director because he dresses like the owner of a Lamborghini dealership fit like a glove with the Trump ethos. After spending his early presidency stuck with a standard-issue Beltway prevaricator as his chief public spokesperson (Spicer was just a year removed from denouncing Trump on behalf of the RNC for his remarks about John McCain), Trump was getting back to his roots.

The Communications Director job in the Trump administration is a no-win job, because the real Communications Director is Trump's Twitter feed. The job that Scaramucci technically occupies is a thankless and redundant position that involves standing before reporters and reconciling avalanches of already-circulated lies, contradictions, and insulting/ignorant statements.

Even a genius of the highest order couldn't make this work. Of course, Trump hasn't had geniuses available to him. The fourth-rate minds he has instead had in his employ just started raging trash-fires whenever they tried to logically explain Trump's utterances.

They gave us statements like Kellyanne Conway's alternative facts," or Katrina Pierson's bit about how Trump wasn't changing his position on immigration, but rather "changing the words that he is saying."

An actual smart person given this job wouldn't bother with any of this. He or she would simply take the podium each day and say, "What can I say? The president said that shit." Then just no-comment everything but schedules and staff announcements. Over time, reporters might actually respect the work. Probably not, but maybe.

Scaramucci represents a third strategy, one that's similar to Trump's own campaign tactics. That is, don't ever react to the news or attempt to explain it, but continually stay ahead of it by making new news of your own.

There are thousands of reporters in America, and if Scaramucci has the stomach for it, he should call a new one every night and just rant his brains out. It might not save America from being the laughingstock of the planet - that ship has sailed for us - but at least it will be entertaining. At this point in our relationship with the Trump administration, we have to take what little enjoyments we can. And remember, the next press chief could be Alex Jones.

Long live Mooch (checks Twitter).

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addresses questions about rising staff tensions. Watch here.
(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
~~~ Martin Koslowski ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Priebus Grateful He Had So Little Dignity To Begin With
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Taking stock of his present circumstances as he packed up his belongings and exited the West Wing after being pushed out of office by the president of the United States, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus expressed a sense of gratitude Friday that he had so little dignity to begin with.

"I'm just lucky that I came into this role with effectively no personal honor whatsoever, or this could have really stung," said Priebus, who explained that, having spent years overseeing the Republican Party and suffering regular mockery and derision at the hands of his colleagues and regular citizens alike, his unceremonious ouster from one of the highest political positions in the United States could, at this point, largely just roll off his back.

"I can't imagine how awful it would have been to be fired by the president over social media-not to mention, just one day after a new colleague of mine accused me of being a paranoid schizophrenic in front of the nation-if I happened to be someone who engendered even a modicum of respect or esteem from others. But I don't, so it really isn't that bad."

Priebus added that he was confident he could ultimately bounce back from the firing, saying his absence of dignity and ability to debase himself and the American people would surely help him land on his feet in Washington.
(c) 2017 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 30 (c) 08/04/2017

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

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

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

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

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