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In This Edition

Nick Turse exclaims, "The US Military Is Winning. No, Really, It Is!"

Norman Solomon sees a, "Breakthrough For Democracy In Democratic Party."

Glen Ford reports, "Trump Protects Al Qaeda, "The Resistance" Applauds, Cursing 'Russians.'"

Juan Cole follows, "The Frightening Foreign Policy In Bob Woodward's New Trump Book."

Jim Hightower was, "Celebrating Labor Day."

John Nichols reports, "Democrats Need To Show A Whole Lot Of Solidarity With Labor In 2018."

James Donahue considers, "The Abnormal Concept Of Ownership."

William Rivers Pitt concludes, "Firing Sessions Won't Save Trump, Or His Kids, From The Law."

Heather Digby Parton reads, "The Woodward Book."

David Suzuki explains how, "Climate Change Combines With Other Factors To Fuel Wildfires."

Charles P. Pierce says, "The Attack On Labor Itself Begins Tuesday."

David Swanson explains, "Why I'm Going To Ireland To Try To Fix The United States."

Jane Stillwater weighs, "Happiness Vs. Greed."

Judge Brett Kavanaugh wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich examines, "The Next Crash."

Chris Hedges explores, "The Slaves Rebel."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Ron DeSantis Clarifies That 'Monkey' Comment Was Intended As Subtle Enough Dog Whistle To Get Away With" but first Uncle Ernie was, "Remembering Unions On Labor Day."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Sack, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Win McNamee, Vince Fleming, Robert Ray, Joe Raedle, Chip Somodevilla, U.S. National Archives, Unsplash, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments-

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

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

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Remembering Unions On Labor Day
By Ernest Stewart

"Each year, Labor Day gives us an opportunity to recognize the invaluable contributions that working men and women make to our nation, our economy and our collective prosperity. It gives us a chance to show gratitude for workers' grit, dedication, ingenuity and strength, which define our nation's character." ~~~ Thomas E. Perez

"There are many similar events in Earth history, where warming appears to have been associated with changes in rainfall and sedimentary systems.

"Although we have not investigated them here, it is very likely that our results are translatable -- because the physics that underpins them remains the same. Thus, the collective body of research confirms that global warming in the past and the future will be associated with more 'flashy' rainfall, with implications for flooding and water management." ~~~ Professor Dan Lunt from the School of Geographical Sciences University of Bristol

"President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be a rubber-stamp for an extreme, right-wing agenda pushed by corporations and billionaires." ~~~ Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

(Help) I need somebody
(Help) not just anybody
(Help) you know I need someone
Help ~~~ The Beatles

On this Labor Day as I wrote up the various columns in this weeks magazine I began recalling my days as a union steward. Right out of school I got a job in a 4-slide shop making parts for the auto industry.

This shop was partially owned by a man who married Henry Ford's niece and as a wedding present was given most all of the machines in the shop which meant that all but two of the machines had copyrights dates going back to the 1890's I was hired as a mill wright so I got the job of keeping these 80 year old machines operating, a night mare indeed.

We were a "union shop" but the trouble was our union steward had been the union steward since the end of WWII and did little to nothing to keep our wages on parity with other 4-slide shops. That being bad enough, the place was a very dangerous place to work.

In the summer temperatures went off the scale, one day I measured the temperature by the open door and it was 120 degrees. Another good example was there was a hole in the cement floor by the first machine that had to be loaded by a hi-lo; as the overhead crane didn't go that far. This hi-lo was steered by a suicide ball, if you weren't very careful you could easily put a wheel in that hole and break your wrist. None of the machines had covers on their spinning parts even though they had the covers but didn't use them, I could go on and on but life is short. Somewhere along this line I decided to run for union steward.

Funny thing was that I won, much to managements dismay. I knew what they were making on each part and it was staggering. Our owner and his partner spent most of the time over seas buying everything they came across. On the day that it was 120 degrees by the door I sent the workers home. I tried calling the foremen first. The formen were the owners sons, one was on vacation and the other beat the heat by sailing the family yacht out on lake Saint Clair and told me to deal it, so I did.

I asked management for a couple of bags of cement to fix the hole at a cost of about $4. I even volunteered to mix and pour the cement on my own time for free. The cost would have been taken care of by about one seconds productions, but I got turned down as was my request for a couple of ceiling fans. I found and installed the safety guards on the machines myself. I also demanded a rise in salary to put us on pare with every other shop in town, about $1.50 an hour raise. Of course, they turned that down too.

So, you know what I did, don't you? Come on, let's not see all of the same hands... everyone who said "you went on strike" can stay after class and clean the erasers, for afters there's cookies and chocolate almond milk!

That's right, I called the union president and he and some of his "boys" came down and set up a picket line and shut the factory down. It didn't take long for them to agree to all of my demands as this was the beginning of "just in time delivery." Assembly factories used to store parts but it took too much space so they switched to "just in time delivery." If we don't make parts and deliver them on time the assembly lines shut down, that's a big no-no in business, That is, if you want to stay in business.

So yes, I'm a union man, and will always be one! I hope you had a happy Labor Day! Who knows, with tRump around he may turn Labor Day into Business Day. Couldn't happen you say, really? Remember Armistice Day, a day to celebrate peace was turned into Veterans Day, a day to celebrate war! Get it while you can, America!

In Other News

I see where a new study by scientists at the University of Bristol has shown that ancient global warming was associated with intense rainfall events that had a profound impact on the land and coastal seas.

The Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred about 56 Million years ago, is of great interest to climate scientists because it represents a relatively rapid global warming event, with some similarities to the human-induced warming of today.

Although there have been many investigations of how much the Earth warmed at the PETM, there have been relatively few studies of how that changed the hydrological cycle.

This newly published work shows that rainfall increased in some places and decreased in others, according to expectations, but that much of the world experienced more intense and episodic rainfall events.

Lead author Dr Matt Carmichael from the University's Schools of Chemistry and Geographical Sciences, said:
"With the same climate models used to study future climate change, we studied how a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations would affect rainfall patterns on a world with Eocene geography.

"This increased the overall global precipitation -- warmer air holds more water. But it also changed the pattern and frequency of extreme events.

"The tropics became wetter and the incidence of extreme events increased, by as much as 70 percent in some tropical regions.

"In other places, total annual precipitation and the number of extreme events became decoupled; in other words, they became drier, with less frequent but more extreme events. All of this illustrates the complexity of how global warming will affect our local, regional and global rainfall patterns."

Co-author Professor Rich Pancost from Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, explained how these findings agree with a range of geological and chemical features of the Palaeocene-Eocene global warming. He said:
"This warming event is associated with major changes in how soil and sediment were eroded and moved around the landscape.

"In many places, river systems that had been transporting silt or sand became associated with fist-sized rocks or even boulders; and more sediment was transported to and buried in coastal margins. In some locations, the rate of sediment accumulation increased by a factor of ten. But at the same time, there is also evidence that these systems became more arid.

"Our climate simulations reconcile this for many locations, showing an increase in aridity with fewer but more intense rainfall events. Those events were likely responsible for increased energy in these systems, moving around more material and larger objects. Ultimately it flushed more sediment to the ocean, causing eutrophication, blooms of algae and in some cases hypoxia."
We've been here and done this before and we know the results. And yes, global warming deniers, we weren't around 56 million years ago so we couldn't have caused that, but then again, it hasn't happened again until for 56 million years until we came along and started seriously polluting the air and water just 200 years ago. Now under tRump it's only going to get worse and worse.

Oh and as they point out in the video below it's too late to stop it, we can only midigate the damage that is coming!

And Finally

tRumps latest attack on America is currently undergoing Sin-ate conformation for the Extreme Court. Judge Brett Kavanaugh is politically a few light years to the right of Darth Vader and a George W. Bush appointee to the US Court of Appeals. Kavanaugh previously was White House Staff Secretary during the presidency of George W. Bush.

As an attorney working for Ken Starr, Kavanaugh played a lead role in drafting the Starr Report, which urged the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh led the investigation into the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. After the 2000 U.S. presidential election (in which Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush campaign in the Florida recount), Kavanaugh joined Bush's staff, where he led the administration's effort to identify and confirm judicial nominees.

Kavanaugh has repeatedly ruled against efforts to combat climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gases. He also repeatedly ruled against protections for clean air. He has repeatedly sided with the wealthy and the powerful over all Americans. He has fought consumer protections in the areas of automobile safety, financial services, and a free and open internet. Kavanaugh has also repeatedly ruled against workers, workplace protections and safety regulations.

If confirmed by the Sin-ate he will destroy American values for the next 30 years. Ergo he is this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner.

Keepin' On

I got some real bad news the other day about my friend Marc. Marc died of lung cancer last month. Marc was behind many of the liberal news sites on the web including Issue & Alibis. Marc came to my rescue back in 2004 when our new provider of web space read our first magazine and threw us out, contract or no contract, as we were liberal and he was a Rethuglican.

As I was wondering what to do for affordable space my old friend Terry Coppage; who you may know as BartCop, turned me on to Marc. Marc, after reading a few magazines said he would pick us up and provide the space we needed for running an ad, above the fold, as we used to say back when I was a newspaper man. This act of kindness helped us bring you the truth week after week, year after year, decade after decade. He picked up half of our cost of publishing.

So far I haven't heard a word from his company but the hammer may drop at any time as I never had a contract with Marc, just a gentleman's agreement. If and when it drops our cost of publishing will go up another $6,000 plus dollars a year and as I can barely raise the other $6,000 plus dollars to pay for publishing rights, etc., I fear the end is near for the magazine. Unless we can raise that money plus the other $2100 we're short for this year which is due in another 6 weeks or so, we'll join all the other liberal sites that have come and gone. Unless some of our liberal/radical friends come to our rescue we will be "Gone With The Wind." To be a hero and save the day, please go to our donations page and follow the instructions.


08-16-1939 ~ 08-31-2018
Thanks for the film!

12-20-1943 ~ 09-3-2018
Thanks for the film!

04-03-1926 ~ 09-6-2018
Only The Good Die Young!

02-11-1936 ~ 09-6-2018
Thanks for the film!


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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) 2018 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.

Thousands massed on all sides of the replica of the Statue of Liberty on Broad Street in
Philadelphia, cheered unceasingly, upon the announcement of the armistice on November 11, 1918.

The US Military Is Winning. No, Really, It Is!
A simple equation proves that the U.S. armed forces have triumphed in the War on Terror
By Nick Turse

4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It's going to come up again later.

But let's begin with another number entirely: 145,000 -- as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America. Similar legions of rifle-toting troops did the same after World War I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling through the urban canyons of midtown Manhattan? That followed the triumph over the Axis in 1945. That's what winning used to look like in America -- star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades.

Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Trump called for just such a parade in Washington. After its estimated cost reportedly ballooned from $10 million to as much as $92 million, the American Legion weighed in. That veterans association, which boasts 2.4 million members, issued an August statement suggesting that the planned parade should be put on hold "until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home." Soon after, the president announced that he had canceled the parade and blamed local Washington officials for driving up the costs (even though he was evidently never briefed by the Pentagon on what its price tag might be).

The American Legion focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump's proposed march, but its postponement should have raised an even more significant question: What would "victory" in the war on terror even look like? What, in fact, constitutes an American military victory in the world today? Would it in any way resemble the end of the Civil War, or of the war to end all wars, or of the war that made that moniker obsolete? And here's another question: Is victory a necessary prerequisite for a military parade?

The easiest of those questions to resolve is the last one and the American Legion should already know the answer. Members of that veterans group played key roles in a mammoth "We Support Our Boys in Vietnam" parade in New York City in 1967 and in a 1973 parade in that same city honoring veterans of that war. Then, 10 years after the last U.S. troops snuck out of South Vietnam -- abandoning their allies and scrambling aboard helicopters as Saigon fell -- the Big Apple would host yet another parade honoring Vietnam veterans, reportedly the largest such celebration in the city's history. So, quite obviously, winning a war isn't a prerequisite for a winning parade.

And that's only one of many lessons the disastrous American War in Vietnam still offers us. More salient perhaps are those that highlight the limits of military might and destructive force on this planet or that focus on the ability of North Vietnam, a "little fourth-rate" country -- to quote Henry Kissinger, the national security advisor of that moment -- to best a superpower that had previously (with much assistance) defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan at the same time. The Vietnam War -- and Kissinger -- provide a useful lens through which to examine the remaining questions about victory and what it means today, but more on that later.

For the moment, just remember: 4,000,000,029,057, Vietnam War, Kissinger.

Peace in Our Time... or Some Time... or No Time

Now, let's take a moment to consider the ur-conflict of the war on terror, Afghanistan, where the U.S. began battling the Taliban in October 2001. America's victory there came with lightning speed. The next year, President George W. Bush announced that the group had been "defeated." In 2004, the commander-in-chief reported that the Taliban was "no longer in existence." Yet, somehow, they were. By 2011, General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, claimed that his troops had "reversed the momentum of the Taliban." Two years later, then-commander General Joseph Dunford spoke of "the inevitability of our success" there.

Last August, President Trump unveiled his "Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia." Its "core pillar" was "a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions;" in other words, the "arbitrary timetables" for withdrawal of the Obama years were out. "We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts," President Trump decreed. "America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out."

The president also announced that he was putting that war squarely in the hands of the military. "Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles," he announced. "They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy." The man given that authority was General John Nicholson who had, in fact, been running the American war there since 2016. The general was jubilant and within months agreed that the conflict had "turned the corner" (something, by the way, that Obama-era Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also claimed -- in 2012).

Today, almost 17 years after the war began, two years after Nicholson took the reins, one year after Trump articulated his new plan, victory in any traditional sense is nowhere in sight. Despite spending around $900 billion in Afghanistan, as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction determined earlier this year, "between 2001 and 2017, U.S. government efforts to stabilize insecure and contested areas in Afghanistan mostly failed." According to a July 30, 2018, report by that same inspector general, the Taliban was by then contesting control of or controlled about 44% of that country, while Afghan government control and influence over districts had declined by about 16% since Nicholson's predecessor, General John Campbell, was in command.

And that was before, last month, the Taliban launched a large-scale attack on a provincial capital, Ghazni, a strategically important city, and held it for five days, while takingcontrol of much of the province itself. Finally driven from the city, the Taliban promptly overran a military base in Baghlan Province during its withdrawal. And that was just one day after taking another Afghan military base. In fact, for the previous two months, the Taliban had overrun government checkpoints and outposts on a near-daily basis. And keep in mind that the Taliban is now only a fraction of the story. The U.S. set out to defeat it and al-Qaeda in 2001. Today, Washington faces exponentially more terror groups in Afghanistan -- 21 in all, including an imported franchise from the Iraq War front, ISIS, that grew larger during Nicholson's tenure.

Given this seemingly dismal state of affairs, you might wonder what happened to Nicholson. Was he cashiered? Fired, Apprentice-style? Quietly ushered out of Afghanistan in disgrace? Hardly. Like the 15 U.S. commanders who preceded him, the four-star general simply rotated out and, at his final press conference from the war zone late last month, was nothing if not upbeat.

"I believe the South Asia Strategy is the right approach. And now we see that approach delivering progress on reconciliation that we had not seen previously," he announced. "We've also seen a clear progression in the Taliban's public statements, from their 14 February letter to the American people to the recent Eid al-Adha message, where [Taliban leader] Emir Hibatullah acknowledged for the first time that negotiations will, quote, 'ensure an end to the war,' end quote."

In the event that you missed those statements from a chastened Taliban on the threshold of begging for peace, let me quote from the opening of the latter missive, issued late last month:

"This year Eid- al--Adha approaches us as our Jihadi struggle against the American occupation is on the threshold of victory due to the help of Allah Almighty. The infidel invading forces have lost all will of combat, their strategy has failed, advanced technology and military equipment rendered useless, [the] sedition and corruption--sowing group defeated, and the arrogant American generals have been compelled to bow to the Jihadic greatness of the Afghan nation."
And those conciliatory statements of peace and reconciliation touted by Nicholson? The Taliban says that in order to end "this long war" the "lone option is to end the occupation of Afghanistan and nothing more."

In June, the 17th American nominated to take command of the war, Lieutenant General Scott Miller, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee where Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grilled him on what he would do differently in order to bring the conflict to a conclusion. "I cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date," was Miller's confident reply.

Did the senators then send him packing? Hardly. He was, in fact, easily confirmed and starts work this month. Nor is there any chance Congress will use its power of the purse to end the war. The 2019 budget request for U.S. operations in Afghanistan -- topping out at $46.3 billion -- will certainly be approved.


All of this seeming futility brings us back to the Vietnam War, Kissinger, and that magic number, 4,000,000,029,057 -- as well as the question of what an American military victory would look like today. It might surprise you, but it turns out that winning wars is still possible and, perhaps even more surprising, the U.S. military seems to be doing just that.

Let me explain.

In Vietnam, that military aimed to "out-guerrilla the guerrilla." It never did and the United States suffered a crushing defeat. Henry Kissinger -- who presided over the last years of that conflict as national security advisor and then secretary of state -- provided his own concise take on one of the core tenets of asymmetric warfare: "The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose." Perhaps because that eternally well-regarded but hapless statesman articulated it, that formula was bound -- like so much else he touched -- to crash and burn.

In this century, the United States has found a way to turn Kissinger's martial maxim on its head and so rewrite the axioms of armed conflict. This redefinition can be proved by a simple equation:

0 + 1,000,000,000,000 + 17 +17 + 23,744 + 3,000,000,000,000 + 5 + 5,200 + 74 = 4,000,000,029,057

Expressed differently, the United States has not won a major conflict since 1945; has a trillion-dollar national security budget; has had 17 military commanders in the last 17 years in Afghanistan, a country plagued by 23,744 "security incidents" (the most ever recorded) in 2017 alone; has spent around $3 trillion, primarily on that war and the rest of the war on terror, including the ongoing conflict in Iraq, which then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld swore, in 2002, would be over in only "five days or five weeks or five months," but where approximately 5,000 U.S. troops remain today; and yet 74% of the American people still express high confidence in the U.S. military.

Let the math and the implications wash over you for a moment. Such a calculus definitively disproves the notion that "the conventional army loses if it does not win." It also helps answer the question of victory in the war on terror. It turns out that the U.S. military, whose budget and influence in Washington have only grown in these years, now wins simply by not losing -- a multi-trillion-dollar conventional army held to the standards of success once applied only to under-armed, under-funded guerilla groups.

Unlike in the Vietnam War years, three presidents and the Pentagon, unbothered by fiscal constraints, substantive congressional opposition, or a significant antiwar movement, have been effectively pursuing this strategy, which requires nothing more than a steady supply of troops, contractors, and other assorted camp followers; an endless parade of Senate-sanctioned commanders; and an annual outlay of hundreds of billions of dollars. By these standards, Donald Trump's open-ended, timetable-free "Strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia" may prove to be the winningest war plan ever. As he described it:

"From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge."
Think about that for a moment. Victory's definition begins with "attacking our enemies" and ends with the prevention of possible terror attacks. Let me reiterate: "victory" is defined as "attacking our enemies." Under President Trump's strategy, it seems, every time the U.S. bombs or shells or shoots at a member of one of those 20-plus terror groups in Afghanistan, the U.S. is winning or, perhaps, has won. And this strategy is not specifically Afghan-centric. It can easily be applied to American warzones in the Middle East and Africa -- anywhere, really.

Decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military has finally solved the conundrum of how to "out-guerrilla the guerrilla." And it couldn't have been simpler. You just adopt the same definition of victory. As a result, a conventional army -- at least the U.S. military -- now loses only if it stops fighting. So long as unaccountable commanders wage benchmark-free wars without congressional constraint, the United States simply cannot lose. You can't argue with the math. Call it the rule of 4,000,000,029,057.

That calculus and that sum also prove, quite clearly, that America's beleaguered commander-in-chief has gotten a raw deal on his victory parade. With apologies to the American Legion, the U.S. military is now -- under the new rules of warfare -- triumphant and deserves the type of celebration proposed by President Trump. After almost two decades of warfare, the armed forces have lowered the bar for victory to the level of their enemy, the Taliban. What was once the mark of failure for a conventional army is now the benchmark for success. It's a remarkable feat and deserving, at the very least, of furious flag-waving, ticker tape, and all the age-old trappings of victory.
(c) 2018 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

Breakthrough For Democracy In Democratic Party
Victory in Superdelegates Fight Means: Grassroots Can Win
By Norman Solomon

When members of the Democratic National Committee voted to take power away from themselves and other "superdelegates" -- removing their leverage over the presidential nominating process -- they took a big step toward heeding a sign that activists held outside their decisive meeting: "Democratic Party: Live Up to Your Name."

Outside that meeting at a Chicago hotel, we were holding the sign to put a spotlight on existing hypocrisy and to call for seizing an opportunity.

Officials rarely decide to reduce their own power. And the Democratic Party has not made such a historic reform to its presidential nominating process in decades. So, how did it happen?

After participating in the 2016 national convention as a Bernie Sanders delegate and then working as part of coalitions to get superdelegates out of the nominating equation, I've been pondering what we can learn from the historic win that occurred on Saturday. Here are some takeaways:

1: Leadership to make historic change must come from the grassroots.

The mass media did not do anything to help jettison the power of superdelegates. Neither did even the most progressive Democrats in Congress. The impetus came from, and was sustained by, a progressive base that saw what was wrong with the nominating process in 2016 and was fed up.

2: Education and agitation must happen in communities nationwide.

Sometimes we hear how it's not enough to "preach to the choir." But, while ultimately insufficient, it's necessary: to build on and expand a solid base. Only with thorough and ongoing outreach -- to inform and galvanize progressives -- can momentum for long-term pressure be sustained.

3: In many respects, even the best Democrats in Congress are not providing much cutting-edge leadership. Grassroots activism should be providing leadership to them rather than the other way around.

If it had been left up to the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the superdelegate reform would not have happened. Overall, the reform proposal got scant support -- and some notable vehement opposition -- from Democrats in Congress, including some who are often praised as "progressive."

4: When grassroots activists lead -- and are willing to fight like hell, astutely and reasonably and unrelentingly -- the Democratic leaders can sometimes be compelled to follow.

It's virtually impossible to name a profoundly positive social change that was first initiated from Capitol Hill or from the DNC leadership.

5: We need to methodically organize -- inside and outside of the Democratic Party -- in order to effectively harness the progressive energies that require public education, activism, and expressions of outrage.

Grassroots organizing -- local, regional and national -- is crucial. That's what happened on the superdelegate issue. Overall progressive strength and organizational muscle led top national Democratic Party powerbrokers to conclude that the party must earn a lot more trust from progressives in order to win more elections. Those powerbrokers came to understand that failure to ditch the power of superdelegates would only worsen the falloff of grassroots support and enthusiasm for the party's candidates.

6: Election campaigns should be subsets of social movements, not the other way around.

Winning elections -- to defeat Republicans while electing more and more progressive Democrats -- is absolutely vital. GOP control over the federal executive and legislative branches, and therefore increasingly over the courts as well, must be rolled back: beginning with the midterm elections this fall. In the absence of hallucinatory political analysis, defeating Republicans will require supporting Democrats on the general-election ballot.

At the same time, progressives should not defer to leadership from Democratic Party officials or congressional Democrats, who are routinely constrained and compromised by their roles. And in a time of perpetual war and runaway militarism, in sync with rampant corporate power, the party is currently in need of a basic course correction that can only come from the grassroots. The ultimate key to vital social change is social movements.

Leadership must come from the grassroots. That's how superdelegates met their long-overdue demise.
(c) 2018 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Trump Protects Al Qaeda, "The Resistance" Applauds, Cursing "Russians"
By Glenn Ford

The "Russians" had to be reinstalled as the "enemy" after Obama made his alliance with Islamist jihad. Trump has now signed on as Protector of the Idlib Caliphate.

The Trump administration, just like the Obama regime, is willing to start World War III to protect the largest al Qaeda outfit in the world from annihilation by the Syrian government and its Russian, Iranian and Lebanese allies. The New York Times and the rest of the corporate media have also chosen sides in the struggle against terror in Syria; they prefer the sons and daughters of Osama bin Laden to the internationally recognized government in Damascus. The same goes for most of the so-called "resistance" -- the world's phoniest "left," who direct their righteous anger at the victims of U.S. imperialism and take their political cues from the corporate rag on 42nd Street, oligarch Jeff Bezo's propaganda sheet in Washington, and Rachel Maddow, the MS-DNC's 8 Million Dollar Woman.

The Times today (Wednesday) spent more than 800 words warning that a Syrian-Russian air offensive against "densely populated," "rebel-held" Idlib Province could result in a "bloodbath," without once informing its readers that Idlib Province is almost entirely controlled, militarily and civilly, by al Qaeda, now operating as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Donald Trump, who two years ago accused President Obama of having "founded" ISIS , along with Hillary Clinton -- an essentially correct assessment-- is now all-in with the al Qaeda defense team. "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province," Trump tweeted. "The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don't let that happen!"

Just in case the al Qaeda/White Helmets don't get the message -- that the U.S. is eager to "retaliate" against Syria for chemical weapons use, no proof required -- the White House issued this statement: "Let us be clear. It remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its allies will respond swiftly and appropriately."

It is an invitation to al Qaeda to stage another "sarin" attack, as the jihadists did on April 4 of last year, resulting in a U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

Idlib Province is al Qaeda's last bastion, the place where the Syrian government has allowed defeated Islamist jihadists to retreat, along with their families, so that battles to-the-last-man could be avoided. But al Qaeda cannot be allowed to continue its de facto "caliphate" in Idlib. Not only is the Syrian government entitled to exercise legal authority over all of its territory, but the U.S. is bound by a unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolution to take all steps necessary to destroy al Qaeda and its off-shoot, ISIS, wherever these terrorists raise their heads. Instead, Trump is threatening war to protect al Qaeda's shrunken realm, while the remaining ISIS strongholds in Syria are located within the U.S. military sphere of influence, from which they have been allowed to stage attacks against Syrian Arab Army units and civilians.

With Turkey reassessing its position, the only allies the U.S. has on the ground in Syria are the Kurds and al Qaeda/ISIS. That's why Trump is drawing a defensive line around the de facto caliphate in Idlib Province. An anonymous administration official told the Washington Post's David Ignatius: "Right now, our job is to help create quagmires [for Russia and the Syrian regime] until we get what we want." What Washington wants is to prevent the reunification of Syria after seven years of U.S. proxy warfare against that nation, at the cost of possibly half a million lives. Every single Syrian death in this conflict is, legally, the fault of the aggressors: the United States and its allies, who spent billions to deploy as many as 100,000 jihadists to wage war against a sovereign nation -- a crime against peace, the highest crime under international law, for which Obama, Clinton and other ranking U.S. civilian and military officials deserve the most extreme punishment. Donald Trump is now guilty of the same crime - the one that ten Nazis were hanged for at Nuremburg.

There would be a horrific political price to pay -- an upheaval such as has not been witnessed in the U.S. since the Civil War - if the American people became fully aware of the scope of their leaders' partnership with al Qaeda. Many suspect the war on terror is phony, or at least incompetently waged, but the fact that presidents of both parties have nurtured and protected the same jihadist terrorists that were blamed for 9/11 is - too awful to contemplate.

The analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) also found it difficult to fathom, back in 2012, why the U.S. and its allies were doing everything possible to set the stage for the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq. According to a DIA memo declassified in 2015, for "THE WEST, GULF COUNTRIES, AND TURKEY [WHO] SUPPORT THE [SYRIAN] OPPOSITION... THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME..." [caps as in the original memo]

ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014. The birth of a "rogue" ISIS -- as opposed to the more compliant al Qaeda army, then called the al-Nusra Front, which was content to fight the Syrian government and forswear a caliphate for the time being -- was not necessarily the intention of U.S. war planners. However, the split in al Qaeda should have been seen as inevitable, given the billions of dollars and thousands of tons of arms that were lavished on the Islamist fighters descending on Syria. All al Qaeda members dream of a caliphate -- it is only a question of timing.

But U.S. planners have even bigger dreams, of global domination. And to achieve their imperial aims, the secular, Arab nationalist government in Damascus had to go. This was Barack Obama's "smart war" -- to achieve, with a proxy army of rightwing fundamentalist Islamist maniacs, what George Bush could not accomplish with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops: U.S. military domination of the entire energy-rich region, allowing Washington to strangle China, the up-and-coming superpower, at will.

Bush and Obama lost both wars. Now Trump is digging in his heels to preserve an American military presence in long-suffering Syria, to play for time --- to the applause of the phony left, the ridiculous "resistance," the lying corporate media and the hideously criminal CIA, the architects of the Crime of the Century.

Donald Trump is now assuming the role of guardian of al Qaeda's Idlib caliphate, to replace the diminished ISIS caliphate. He knows that he is aiding and abetting al Qaeda, as he accused Obama of doing, but, What choice does an imperialist have? If Syria is reunified and rebuilt, and its alliance with Iran, Lebanon and Iraq allowed to deepen, then the prospect of Washington derailing China's New Silk Road evaporates -- and with it, the future of U.S. empire. Trump doesn't want to preside over that, and so he takes up the mission of the predecessor he despises.

The entirety of the corporate media are committed to their role in the mission. They must pull off the Deception of the Century, to cover up the Crime of the Century. Since the U.S. is so deeply enmeshed with Islamist fighters in Syria, the jihadist terrorists have lost their value as the "generational," existential threat to America. The "Russians" have been drafted -- capitalist oligarchs and all -- to resume their historic place on the hit/hate list. Having failed to come up with proof of "collusion" between Wikileaks, Donald Trump, and the Russian government to filch Hillary Clinton campaign emails -- because it didn't happen - the New McCarthyite line is that, since the Russians are trying to stir up dissent in the U.S., all dissenters are in league with the Russians. The "resistance" is fine with that, which shows they are frauds, allies of a corporate multicultural fascism that is vying for domestic hegemony with an older, white supremacy-based fascism.

The only U.S. political force that cannot be assimilated by either of these fascisms, is the Black polity, which yearns for self-determination. But, that won't stop the Black Misleadership Class from trying to find its niche in the fascist corporate order of endless austerity and war, and to blame Russians for rich white Americans' crimes. For the Black misleaders, opportunism is always in season.
(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Frightening Foreign Policy In Bob Woodward's New Trump Book
By Juan Cole

The Washington Post this week carried excerpts from Bob Woodward's forthcoming book, "Fear," which profiles the Trump White House from hundreds of hours of interviews with staffers. Trump declined to be interviewed.

Here are some of the main points regarding foreign policy (though the word "policy" has to be taken with a grain of salt).

1. When Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad was accused of using chemicals in an attack that killed civilians at Khan Shaikhoun in April, 2017, Trump fumed at Secretary of Defense James Mattis, "Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them."

Mattis pretended to be on board, but arranged for the limited missile strike that Trump eventually signed off on.

During the 2016 Republican primary, Trump had said that Syria needed a strongman like al-Assad.

2. Trump wants to get out of Afghanistan and tongue-lashed his generals for 25 minutes in summer of 2017 for being on the path to losing the war.

"The soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you. They could do a much better job. I don't know what the hell we're doing. . . . How many more deaths? How many more lost limbs? How much longer are we going to be there?"

3. In March of 2017, Trump demanded a plan for a preemptive military attack on North Korea, horrifying his staff. He insisted that his insults aimed at the North Korean president were a matter of "me versus him."

Trump wanted to withdraw all 28,000 US troops from South Korea and end an intelligence program that can detect a North Korean missile launch in 7 seconds (it would be 15 minutes from Alaska. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that the U.S. is in South Korea to prevent WWIII, which may have sounded a little melodramatic even to Trump, because it is.

Mattis said that Trump's understanding of world affairs was that of a fifth- or sixth-grader, which is unfair to middle school students everywhere.

Trump's desire to pull out of the Korean peninsula has been reported before, but Woodward confirms it.

Chief of staff John Kelly provided the most colorful quote: "He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in Crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had."

Trump accused the late Sen. John McCain of being a coward and taking early release from a North Vietnamese prison because his father was an officer. (Mattis corrected him, but whatcha wanna bet Trump still believes it?)

The Post account actually suggests that Trump does have some foreign policy principles. He seems to want to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea, regardless of the consequences. He seems to want nevertheless to assassinate the politicians in those countries when he comes into dispute with them.

Withdraw-and-kill abroad, catch and release at home?
(c) 2018 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

Celebrating Labor Day
By Jim Hightower

Workers of America, rejoice!

As our nation celebrates Labor Day with backyard cookouts, fun at the beach, or simply kicking back in a La-Z-Boy and doing several rounds of 12-ounce elbow bends - we can all take comfort in the happy news that our economy is whizzing! Economists tell us that job creation is surging, wages are rising, and consumers are racking up record levels of purchases. What's not to like about all that?

Two things. First, the economists' claim about wage growth is a sham, covering up the shame that top corporate executives and major shareholders are grabbing nearly all of the economic gains produced by America's entire workforce. The so-called "nominal wage" (ie, the sum that workers see on their paychecks) has risen only 2.7 percent in the past year, a very mediocre result for the 82 percent of the labor force who are non-managerial worker bees.

Second, that nominal wage is not the worker's real wage, for it doesn't take into account the very real fact that consumer price increases eat up the buying power of people's paychecks. Indeed, while nominal wages are up 2.7 percent in recent months, the price of everything from gasoline to groceries is up by 2.9 percent, effectively slapping working families with a wage cut. Sure the economy is whizzing - whizzing on the working class.

So all the rejoicing on this Labor Day is coming from the gated zip codes of the rich. For example, in the same year that workers took a pay cut, the CEOs of America's 350 largest corporations had an 18 percent jump in their pay, hauling in an average of $18.9 million each. In a lifetime of labor, the typical American worker would not be paid as much as those honchos took in one year. Those few are getting rich enough to air-condition hell - and I think they'd better be pooling their money for that project.
(c) 2018 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

Teachers celebrate in Charleston, West Virginia, after Governor Jim Justice
and Senate Republicans announced a tentative deal to end the strike, March 6, 2018.

Democrats Need To Show A Whole Lot Of Solidarity With Labor In 2018
The surest way to achieve high wages in the face of global competition is to build and maintain strong unions.
By John Nichols

Labor Day is the traditional starting point for the fall election season. Once upon a time, that meant that leaders of both major parties would be competing for the support of unions and their members. Democrats and Republicans were once so ardent in their pro-labor messaging that President Franklin Roosevelt observed in the mid-1930s that "It is now beyond partisan controversy that it is a fundamental individual right of a worker to associate himself with other workers and to bargain collectively with his employer."

Today, everything has changed. And not for the better. In the face of globalization, automation and a digital revolution, union representation is more necessary than ever. Yet the political debate over labor rights is now deeply divided and badly warped.

With top Republicans identifying their party as an explicitly anti-union party, federal and state elections have become battlegrounds in which labor rights are at stake. There have been some redemptive wins, like the recent overturning of a so-called "right-to-work" law by voters in Missouri. But there have also been devastating defeats in historic labor strongholds such as Wisconsin and Michigan. Those states now wrestle with wage stagnation, even as the economy is supposedly booming.

Union membership has always been associated with economic advancement, and it still is.

Unfortunately, that fact matters less to Republican zealots like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker than the idea that busting unions might benefit them politically. Republican governors have used their positions to undermine institutions that challenge corporate power. And Democratic governors have too frequently been fair-weather friends who talk a good game but fail at critical moments to fight for labor rights. This is bad for workers as well as for the long-term health of the economy in states such as Walker's Wisconsin.

As Rana Foroohar of the Financial Times business daily noted last year:

Labor unions in America get a bad rap. In Europe, they are viewed as an important part of the overall economic landscape, and a key reason wages have remained high in the face of global competition. Sadly, in the US, employers typically see unions as sclerotic enforcers of rigid and antiquated rules, entities to be squashed rather than worked with. Donald Trump certainly agrees. Getting rid of what's left of the American labor movement has been a public goal of his.... Meanwhile, Democrats failed to even mention the word union in their new 'Better Deal' economic plan...
But there are signs that at least some Democrats recognize the need to explicitly and aggressively stand up for organized labor. Democratic gubernatorial candidates like Ben Jealous in Maryland and Andrew Gillum in Florida have been outspoken in their support of labor rights. And some of the most interesting fights are shaping up in the battleground states of the Great Lakes region, where so much damage has been done by Republican governors.

In these states, Democrats are finally realizing that they need to go big in their support of unions. It is not enough to tepidly suggest that they might undo the worst of bad policies in a state like Wisconsin. They have to undo the legacy of neglect that weakened unions even before Walker launched his Act 10 assault on public-employee unions in 2011 and his so-called "right-to-work" attack on private-sector unions and their members in 2015.

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Evers is getting specific on labor issues. "Tony opposes Act 10, Right-to-Work and changes made by the GOP to Wisconsin's prevailing wage laws," his campaign declares. "He also would support repealing legislation that eliminates the opportunity for local communities to pass living wages and other pro-worker protection policies."

The party's nominee for lieutenant governor has a campaign biography that begins by explaining that "Mandela Barnes, a Milwaukee native, was born in the city's poorest and the nation's most incarcerated zip code. The difference for him was opportunity. He was raised in a middle class union household..." He continues:

I am running for Lieutenant Governor to continue amplifying the collective voices of workers organizing to build power and raise wages. ... Wisconsin deserves leaders who will stand in solidarity with workers. During the Fight for Fifteen, I was grateful for the opportunity to march the picket lines alongside low-wage workers and speak out at rallies demand $15 as a wage floor for all workers. As Lieutenant Governor, I will both push legislation to improve the standard of living for all workers and show up to march the picket line when workers make the call.
Mandela Barnes's message ought to go national. Like every state, Wisconsin needs elected officials who will stand in solidarity with unions because it's the right thing to do and because some economic realities cannot be denied. No matter how much energy Scott Walker and his cronies may put into spinning the debate against organized labor, they cannot change the fact that the surest way to achieve high wages in the face of global competition is to build and maintain strong unions.
(c) 2018 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.

The Abnormal Concept Of Ownership
By James Donahue

The great wall of division among humans throughout written history has always been wealth. Wealth in turn can be interpreted as ownership. Those with wealth possess property, they control society's monetary supply and consequently power.

Imagine living in a counter society where ownership of "things" does not exist. Believe it or not, such social groups have always existed but in primitive tribal settings. Their very existence strongly suggests that property ownership has been the invention of collective behavior by what we call civilized people.

It has been said that when Europeans first stepped on American soil, the natives were puzzled at the idea of "owning land." Some of the languages lacked words to even describe personal ownership of anything. This concept has continued to exist amongst many of the tribes still living in the United States.

When my wife and I lived among the Navajo people of the Southwest, we learned that the natives were attempting to change the tribal name to Dine (pronounced Di-nay). In the Navajo language this means "people of the Earth." We were told that the Spanish give them the name Navajo, which meant "thief." This was because tribal members had no concept of personal ownership and used whatever they found to meet their personal needs.

An example of this behavior among the Navajo was strangely demonstrated during our time with them. While our hosts generously shared their home, food and resources during our time with them, we discovered that many of the personal items we had stored in an out-building went missing by the time we left the reservation. We could not be angry because by then we understood the mindset of the people. Even the house we were sharing was provided by the U.S. government. There were no property boundaries in Navajo territory, which spaned four adjoining states.

The great revolutionary socialist Karl Marx, whose books The Communist Manifesto and Capital helped spark the socialist movement, saw the disparity created by capitalism and property ownership. He defined the conflict between an ownership class that controls production and the proletariat, or laborers that slave to produce for the ownership class. He called capitalism the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" and said it was run by the wealthy classes for their own benefit.

The concepts of communism and some forms of socialism that have evolved since Marx's day go so far as to uphold the idea that private ownership of capital is inherently illegitimate. This is because it always benefits the wealthy over the poor, thus creating domination over the working class.

One unidentified writer on an Internet website, in examining this subject, wrote: "We're used to thinking of ownership as a given mechanism in life because it's ingrained in the culture and language that forms our mindset."

Indeed, in industrialized nations, workers slave for the monetary rewards that provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families. The dream of every household is to own a small piece of land with a house on it, perhaps a car in the yard, and a collection of domestic comforts within the home. Thus the concept of "ownership" is deeply engrained in our psyche.

But the world concept of private ownership is drastically changing as our numbers increase. People are rebelling against the gluttony that is often associated with having things. We resent those that have carelessly polluted and destroyed our land, water and air. Now the world's natural resources have begin to run out.

There was a time when even those of us living in a capitalistic society believed that the air and water and sunlight were free for the taking. Had we lived at an earlier time, we might also have included ownership and use of the land. But all of this is disappearing. The State of Oregon, for example, now has a law on the books that claims all of the water in the state to be government owned. If citizens wish to use the water to farm, divert its natural flow in a stream, or store it in a private pond, they must acquire permission to do so. In Oregon it is against the law to even collect rainwater from the roof of your home unless it is collected in a barrel or tub. Once it hits the ground, the water is state-owned.

At last count seven other states have created laws controlling the harvesting of rainwater.

As the demand for fresh water has been increasing, its availability has been on the decrease. Natural underground aquifers are drying up. Cities and rural homeowners are drilling deeper and deeper to find well water. Southern California draws water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Colorado River. New York City gets its fresh water from the Catskill Mountains located over 100 miles away.

The appearance of drinking water in plastic gallon bottles now can be found in stores across the land and more and more private corporations are acquiring private access to fresh water sources. As big corporations like Monsanto, Nestle Corp., True Alaska, and T. Bone Pickens buy up water rights around the world, the concept of having to buy the water we drink, and paying whatever the market will bear, is starting to sink in.

If that drink of water is no longer free, what is next? Will wealthy corporations soon find a way to sell us clean air to breathe? If we don't stop allowing industry to carelessly spew carbons and other toxins into the atmosphere, expect to soon be walking around with air tanks strapped to our backs and breathing masks on our faces.
(c) 2018 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein attend the Religious Liberty Summit at the Department of Justice on July 30, 2018, in Washington, DC.

Firing Sessions Won't Save Trump, Or His Kids, From The Law
By William Rivers Pitt

If Jeff Sessions is planning on buying new drapes for the attorney general's office, he'd better hustle up, because the clock appears to be ticking rapidly down to zero. Donald Trump, according to Tuesday's Washington Post, "has privately revived the idea of firing him in conversations with his aides and personal lawyers this month." This time, it sounds like he means it.

For the sake of argument, let's say Trump manages to overcome his towering personal cowardice and actually pulls the trigger on a decision to fire Sessions. Replacing the attorney general would require Senate confirmation, unless Trump taps a department head who already underwent Senate approval, a move made possible by the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.

This would be messy, as the law isn't clear on whether it applies to the replacement of officials who have been fired, but is entirely possible. Trump's final option to replace Sessions without Senate approval would be a temporary recess appointment, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats have made it clear they will hold pro forma sessions during any recess to thwart this particular action.

Despite all that, and the fact that firing Sessions for Russia-investigation reasons ("He recused himself!") would be prima facie evidence of obstruction, say Trump actually does it, and everything after goes his way: Sessions' replacement takes over the Russia investigation and dumps Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has thus far refused to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller ... and Rosenstein's replacement fires Mueller, effectively ending the investigation ... and Sessions' replacement ultimately refuses to make the fruits of the Mueller investigation public.

String all these stinky sausage links together just so and Donald Trump is off the hook, right?


Neither are his friends, and neither are his kids. Their legal woes have gone far beyond the Russian collusion investigation but may very well lead right back to it when all is said and done.

The Trump Organization is the repository for all Trump revenues related to real estate dealings, and as the world already knows, real estate transactions are the best and easiest way to clean dirty money. The theory almost certainly being pursued by Mueller is that any 2016 election collusion was not the beginning of Trump's dealings with Russia but rather the end product of a long financial relationship that began when no one else would loan money to a windbag casino mogul who had already gone bankrupt five times. Yet even if the collusion investigation is derailed or comes up dead empty, the president's legal troubles stemming from the Trump Organization will continue unabated.


"There are now multiple investigations of the Trump Organization," reports Adam Davidson in The New Yorker, "being conducted by the special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Attorney General, The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the Manhattan District Attorney, the Southern District of New York, and - quite likely - other jurisdictions. President Trump is unable to stop most of these investigations."

The Trump Foundation is another matter altogether. If the allegations are true, Donald Trump and his family used the foundation, which was intended to serve charitable organizations, as their own personal checking account. According to the accusations, money from the foundation was spent to make problems at and complaints against various Trump properties go away. Worse, foundation money was used to purchase personal perks like the notorious $10,000 portrait of Trump himself.

"The New York State attorney general's office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit," reported The New York Times, "taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign. The attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action, adding to Mr. Trump's extensive legal challenges."

Taken as a whole, that's one hell of a list of legal problems, and not just for Papa Don. The kids are not alright; Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump are up to their eyeballs in serious Trump Foundation dealings. The brothers are both board members, as was Ivanka until she stepped down after her father's election. The civil lawsuit undertaken by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is but the tip of the legal iceberg.

"[Underwood] forwards all this evidence that she gathered to the IRS for them to investigate as a potential criminal tax matter," explained Rachel Maddow last week. "She forwards it to the Federal Election Commission, for them to investigate as a potential set of criminal campaign finance violations. She CCs it to the Public Integrity Division at the US Justice Department. And within New York state, the state tax department starts investigating that evidence as well - as laid out by Barbara Underwood to see if, in addition to the civil lawsuit, there should be a state criminal referral against the Trump Foundation, and President Trump personally, and each of his three eldest children personally."

It is not too farfetched to wonder if, or perhaps when, one of these upstanding citizens will throw the rest of the family to the wolves to save themselves. They have plenty of people to emulate in this regard. The Trump Organization and the Trump Foundation, and by proxy the Trump family itself, are all on the rocks because of fully knowledgeable insiders who are getting squeezed until they squeak.

It started last week with the twin-bill detonations of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Cohen, Trump's long-time personal attorney and "fixer," voluntarily cut a deal with the Southern District of New York to tell what he knows about illegal hush money payoffs to two women Trump had affairs with - adult actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen MacDougal - using Trump Organization money.

Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager and international lobbyist, has not talked yet, but with a conviction already around his neck, a second trial only weeks away and a presidential pardon perhaps a political impossibility, Mr. Manafort has a decision to make ... if he hasn't made it already. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Manafort sought to cut a deal with Mueller before the second trial begins, but the talks broke down. As the September 17 trial date approaches, Manafort may very well try again.

After that came the announced cooperation of David Pecker, CEO of American Media Inc., head of the National Enquirer and close friend of Donald Trump. Pecker was the conduit through which Trump paid $150,000 to quash the story of his affair with Karen McDougal. On the surface, the Pecker deal is about getting the goods on Michael Cohen, but as Cohen himself has indicated (and his recorded conversations prove), all roads lead to Trump.

Even without the Russia-related matters, this is a stupendously large and convoluted legal nut to crack. How can any investigators hope to fully understand it all, much less prosecute it?

Answer: Flip the accountant. His name is Allen Weisselberg, and he knows everything.

"Weisselberg is chief financial officer for the Trump Organization," report Erin Kelly and Fredreka Schouten of USA Today, "which is the Trump family real estate and branding empire. As the longtime financial gatekeeper, Weisselberg likely knows a great deal about the company's payments to Cohen. Weisselberg, who also serves as one of two trustees of the trust that controls Trump's assets, was granted immunity to provide information about Cohen, according to the Wall Street Journal."

Compelling the infamously reticent Weisselberg to speak on the record about the inner workings of Trump World is, in short, the keys to the kingdom. Even if his information is currently limited to Cohen's payoffs to MacDougal and Daniels, that information could establish bedrock proof of Trump's felony complicity in campaign finance violations and election interference.

"It is safe to say that the entire world of Trump watchers - those journalists, political folks, and advocates who carefully monitor every bit of Trump news - went bonkers," continued Davidson of The New Yorker. "Weisselberg is the man to whom those people most want to speak."

Donald Trump can fire Jeff Sessions, re-hire him and fire him all over again. It won't change a thing for him, or for his children, if they are as complicit as they appear to be. The New York State Attorney General, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the Manhattan District Attorney, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the Federal Election Commission, the Public Integrity Division at the US Justice Department, plus all the civil suits grinding away out there, are not going away.
(c) 2018 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

The Woodward Book
Trump vs his own accomplices
By Heather Digby Parton

Review copies are out. And it explains why Trump has been in full meltdown in recent weeks:

President Donald Trump's closest aides have taken extraordinary measures in the White House to try to stop what they saw as his most dangerous impulses, going so far as to swipe and hide papers from his desk so he wouldn't sign them, according to a new book from legendary journalist Bob Woodward.

Woodward's 448-page book, "Fear: Trump in the White House," provides an unprecedented inside-the-room look through the eyes of the President's inner circle. From the Oval Office to the Situation Room to the White House residence, Woodward uses confidential background interviews to illustrate how some of the President's top advisers view him as a danger to national security and have sought to circumvent the commander in chief.

Many of the feuds and daily clashes have been well documented, but the picture painted by Trump's confidants, senior staff and Cabinet officials reveal that many of them see an even more alarming situation - worse than previously known or understood. Woodward offers a devastating portrait of a dysfunctional Trump White House, detailing how senior aides - both current and former Trump administration officials - grew exasperated with the President and increasingly worried about his erratic behavior, ignorance and penchant for lying.

Chief of staff John Kelly describes Trump as an "idiot" and "unhinged," Woodward reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis describes Trump as having the understanding of "a fifth or sixth grader." And Trump's former personal lawyer John Dowd describes the President as "a fucking liar," telling Trump he would end up in an "orange jump suit" if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller.

"He's an idiot. It's pointless to try to convince him of anything. He's gone off the rails. We're in crazytown," Kelly is quoted as saying at a staff meeting in his office. "I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had."

Trump irritated he wasn't interviewed by Woodward for upcoming book

CNN obtained a copy of Woodward's book, scheduled for release September 11. The explosive revelations about Trump from those closest to him are likely to play into the November midterm election battle. The book also has stunning new details about Trump's obsession with the Russia probe, describing for the first time confidential conversations between the President's lawyers and Mueller. It recounts a dramatic session in the White House residence in which Trump failed a mock Mueller interview with his lawyers.

Woodward sums up the state of the Trump White House by writing that Trump was an "emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader." Woodward writes that the staff's decision to circumvent the President was "a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world."

Circumventing the President

The book opens with a dramatic scene. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn saw a draft letter he considered dangerous to national security on the Oval Office desk.

The letter would have withdrawn the US from a critical trade agreement with South Korea. Trump's aides feared the fallout could jeopardize a top-secret national security program: the ability to detect a North Korean missile launch within just seven seconds.

Woodward reports Cohn was "appalled" that Trump might sign the letter. "I stole it off his desk," Cohn told an associate. "I wouldn't let him see it. He's never going to see that document. Got to protect the country."

Cohn was not alone. Former staff secretary Rob Porter worked with Cohn and used the same tactic on multiple occasions, Woodward writes. In addition to literally stealing or hiding documents from Trump's desk, they sought to stall and delay decisions or distract Trump from orders they thought would endanger national security.

"A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren't such good ideas," said Porter, who as staff secretary handled the flow of presidential papers until he quit amid domestic violence allegations. He and others acted with the acquiescence of former chief of staff Reince Priebus, Woodward reports.

Woodward describes repeated attempts to bypass Trump as "no less than an administrative coup d'etat."

The Russia obsession

Woodward's book relies on hundreds of hours of taped interviews and dozens of sources in Trump's inner circle, as well as documents, files, diaries and memos, including a note handwritten by Trump himself. Woodward explains that he talked with sources on "deep background," meaning he could use all the information but not say who provided it.

His reporting comes with the credibility of a long and storied history that separates this book from previous efforts on Trump. The author and Washington Post journalist has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

In one revelatory anecdote, Woodward describes a scene in the White House residence. Trump's lawyer, convinced the President would perjure himself, put Trump through a test - a practice interview for the one he might have with Mueller. Trump failed, according to Dowd, but the President still insisted he should testify.

Woodward writes that Dowd saw the "full nightmare" of a potential Mueller interview, and felt Trump acted like an "aggrieved Shakespearean king."

But Trump seemed surprised at Dowd's reaction, Woodward writes. "You think I was struggling?" Trump asked.

Then, in an even more remarkable move, Dowd and Trump's current personal attorney Jay Sekulow went to Mueller's office and re-enacted the mock interview. Their goal: to argue that Trump couldn't possibly testify because he was incapable of telling the truth.

"He just made something up. That's his nature," Dowd said to Mueller.

The passage is an unprecedented glimpse behind the scenes of Mueller's secretive operation - for the first time, Mueller's conversations with Trump's lawyers are captured.

"I need the president's testimony," Mueller said. "What was his intent on Comey? ... I want to see if there was corrupt intent."

Despite Dowd's efforts, Trump continued to insist he could testify. "I think the President of the United States cannot be seen taking the fifth," Trump said.

Dowd's argument was stark: "There's no way you can get through these. ... Don't testify. It's either that or an orange jump suit."

What he couldn't say to Trump, according to Woodward, was what Dowd believed to be true: "You're a fucking liar."

Trump's insults and humiliation

Throughout the book, Woodward portrays the President as a man obsessed with his standing in the media and with his core supporters. Trump appears to be lonely and increasingly paranoid, often watching hours of television in the White House residence. "They're out to get me," Trump said of Mueller's team.

Trump's closest advisers described him erupting in rage and profanity, and he seemed to enjoy humiliating others.

"This guy is mentally retarded," Trump said of Sessions. "He's this dumb southerner," Trump told Porter, mocking Sessions by feigning a southern accent.

Trump said that Priebus is "like a little rat. He just scurries around."

And Trump demeaned former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to his face, when Giuliani was the only campaign surrogate willing to defend then-candidate Trump on television after the "Access Hollywood" tape, a bombshell video where Trump described sexually assaulting women.

"Rudy, you're a baby," Trump told the man who is now his attorney. "I've never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You're like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?"

Trump's predecessors are not spared either. In a conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Trump called President Barack Obama a "weak dick" for not acting in Syria, Woodward reports.

National security concerns

Woodward's book takes readers inside top-secret meetings. On July 27, 2017, Trump's national security leaders convened a gathering at "The Tank" in the Pentagon. The goal: an intervention to try to educate the President on the importance of allies and diplomacy.

Trump's philosophy on diplomacy was personal. "This is all about leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim," he said of North Korea.

His inner circle was worried about "The Big Problem," Woodward writes: Trump's lack of understanding that his crusade to impose tariffs could endanger global security.

But the meeting didn't go as planned.

Trump went off on his generals. "You should be killing guys. You don't need a strategy to kill people," Trump said of Afghanistan.

He questioned the wisdom of keeping US troops in South Korea.

"So Mr. President," Cohn said to Trump, "what would you need in the region to sleep well at night?"

"I wouldn't need a fucking thing," the President said. "And I'd sleep like a baby."

After Trump left the Tank, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared: "He's a fucking moron." The book provides the context for the now-infamous quote that marked the beginning of the end for Tillerson's tenure. Tillerson tried to downplay the dispute -- "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that," he said at a news conference after NBC reported the remark - but he was ultimately fired via tweet.

Woodward also quotes an unnamed White House official who gave an even more dire assessment of the meeting: "It seems clear that many of the president's senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views."

A recurrent theme in Woodward's book is Trump's seeming disregard for national security concerns because of his obsession with money - trade deficits and the cost of troops overseas.

In meeting after meeting, Trump questions why the US has to pay for such a large troop presence in South Korea.

"We're doing this in order to prevent World War III," Mattis, the defense secretary, bluntly explained to Trump at one January 2018 meeting, which prompted Mattis to tell close associates afterward that Trump had the understanding of a "fifth or sixth grader."

Trump still wasn't convinced. "I think we could be so rich if we weren't stupid," he later said in the meeting, arguing the US was being played as "suckers," Woodward reports.

The 'Ernest Hemingway' of Twitter

Trump's tweets - and his infatuation with Twitter - are a theme throughout the book. Woodward reveals that Trump ordered printouts of his tweets and studied them to find out which ones were most popular. "The most effective tweets were often the most shocking," Woodward writes.

Twitter was a source of great consternation for national security leaders, who feared - and warned Trump - "Twitter could get us into a war."

Appalled by some of his more outrageous posts, Trump's aides tried to form a Twitter "committee" to vet the President's tweets, but they failed to stop their boss.

Priebus, who was blindsided when Trump announced his firing on Twitter, referred to the presidential bedroom as "the devil's workshop" and called the early morning hours and Sunday night - a time of many news-breaking tweets - "the witching hour."

Trump, however, saw himself as a Twitter wordsmith.

"It's a good thing," Trump said when Twitter expanded its character count to 280, "but it's a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters."

'A zoo without walls'

Finally, "Fear" is filled with slights, insults and takedowns from both family and staff that speak to the chaos, infighting and drama that Trump allows to fester around him.

Both Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are targeted by the inner circle.

There is a pointed shot at Ivanka from the President's now-ostracized chief strategist Steve Bannon, who frequently clashed with the first daughter and her husband.

"You're nothing but a fucking staffer!" Bannon screamed at Ivanka at a staff meeting, according to Woodward. "You walk around this place and act like you're in charge, and you're not. You're on staff!"

"I'm not a staffer!" she shouted back. "I'll never be a staffer. I'm the first daughter" - she really used the title, Woodward writes - "and I'm never going to be a staffer!"

Two of the harshest comments in the book are directed at Trump and come from his chiefs of staff.

After Trump's Charlottesville, Virginia, controversy, in which he failed to condemn white supremacists, Cohn tried to resign but was instead dressed down by Trump and accused of "treason."

Kelly, who is Trump's current chief of staff, told Cohn afterward, according to notes Cohn made of the exchange: "If that was me, I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times."

The Washington Post is up with a story as well which contains a few more anecdotes from the book.

People will say that the members of the White House staff are trying to keep things from totally imploding. I think that's wrong, but we'll leave it aside for the moment. Republican members of the US Senate know all this about him and instead of using the power of their co-equal branch to serve as a backstop against this unfit cretin, they are accomplices. He doesn't like them either.
(c) 2018 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Forest fireWith drier conditions, longer burning seasons and more fuel on the forest floor,
lightning, a discarded cigarette or runaway campfire is more likely to cause an out-of-control wildfire.

Climate Change Combines With Other Factors To Fuel Wildfires
By David Suzuki

Scientists, journalists, environmentalists and others who draw the connection between increasing wildfires and global warming often face a backlash. It's not climate change; it's lightning, careless smokers or campers, poor forestry management, industrial activity or sparks from vehicles, bad government...

One doesn't negate the other. Wildfires have many causes, and more than one factor is fuelling increases in the number and intensity of fires worldwide. But hotter, drier weather increases the risk.

Forestry practices and urban development are among the contributors to wildfires. Even preventing fires can increase risk, as low-intensity natural fires clear out undergrowth, often leaving larger trees standing. Suppressing wildfires means more undergrowth, dead trees and other vegetation build up, creating fuel for even larger fires. Smaller trees can spread flames to the forest canopy.

After clear-cut logging or fires, companies often plant single species close together, eliminating trees like aspen and birch, which are less fire-prone and create shade and moisture. Some commonly planted species, such as lodgepole pine, are also susceptible to pine beetle attacks.

University of British Columbia scientist Lori Daniels told Vancouver Is Awesome that "a forest full of mixed species and mixed densities of those species" is more resistant to intense fires and provides more nutrients and less fuel to the ecosystem.

But some researchers argue that because fire suppression resources and technologies and logging practices haven't changed much over the decades, while wildfires have rapidly increased in number and intensity, climate change is likely the primary factor.

Even the mountain pine beetle outbreaks that have devastated B.C. forests are a result of both management practices and climate change. Cold winters once killed off many of them, but warmer winters and earlier spring weather allowed them to survive and thrive.

Forestry must be re-evaluated in light of the increasing awareness not only of its role in wildfires but of the way forests function. Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees and the book I wrote with Wayne Grady, Tree: A Life Story, examine emerging science regarding the complexity and interconnectedness of healthy forest ecosystems. Forests are far more than stands of timber, uniformly planted to maximize profits.

It's important to improve the way we manage and utilize forest resources, but we also have to consider the major role climate change plays in wildfires. As the world warms, precipitation patterns change, winters are drier in many areas, snowmelt occurs earlier and forests dry out. The fire season is growing rapidly in many parts of the world, including the U.S. and Canada - by much as 80 days over three decades in the Rocky Mountains - and significantly more area burns every year.

Regardless of the direct causes, climate change is making things worse. A recent Portland State University study found a warmer world even increases the risk of lightning-ignited fires. "We think that by having warmer oceans and warmer temperatures in general, we're going to see higher evaporation and heat transfer, and thus higher frequency of convective storms that in turn results in more lightning-ignited fires," said study co-author Andres Holz.

The consequences are devastating. Death and compromised health from smoke and particulate matter; home and property damage, especially as urban areas encroach further into wildlands; erosion and flooding as trees no longer hold soils and hillsides in place; contaminated drinking water; increasing insect infestations; destruction of important carbon sinks like the boreal forest... And as forests burn, they emit greenhouse gases, heating the world even more.

All of this is incredibly expensive. Canada and the U.S. spend billions every year to fight fires, and those costs are rising. Destroyed or damaged property, resource losses and health-care costs related to fires are increasing as well. Loss of wildlife and habitat is also a serious concern.

We can do a lot to prevent fires: avoid campfires and other burning when risks are high, improve forestry practices, better manage buffers between urban and forested areas, maybe even let some smaller fires burn.

But until we address climate change, we're likely to see more smoke-clogged skies and devastated forests.
(c) 2018 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co_founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Meets With VP Pence And Sen. McConnell

The Attack On Labor Itself Begins Tuesday
There's a pro-labor agenda stirring in the country, but Republicans at every level are working to destroy it.
By Charles P. Pierce

Monday is Labor Day and, on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings into the nomination and inevitable confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court of the United States. Much of the attention- rightly-will be drawn to Kavanaugh's dreadful history on reproductive rights, as well as to whatever is stashed away in the 100,000 documents that the administration* is keeping buried regarding what Kavanaugh did during the torture years under President George W. Bush. But it shouldn't be overlooked that his record on labor issues is every bit as retrograde as any other part of his Federalist Society bona fides. From Mother Jones:

Kavanaugh joined two other Republican-appointed judges in a unanimous 2012 ruling in favor of the Trump Organization, after company executives asked the NLRB to throw out the results of a union election at Trump Plaza, arguing that support from politicians had introduced bias. As a July Bloomberg article points out, in 2015 Kavanaugh sided with the management of Sheldon Adelson's Venetian Casino Resort in a similar case, authoring a majority opinion upholding the casino's First Amendment right to summon police to issue citations to union protesters trespassing on company property.

One of Kavanaugh's most high-profile dissents of NLRB authority was in a 2014 case against SeaWorld's Florida theme park involving events depicted in the documentary Blackfish. When a killer-whale trainer died during a live show in 2010-the second death at the location-the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation that found the theme park had willfully endangered its employees. The DC Circuit upheld the decision of a Department of Labor administrative judge, who ruled the theme park had violated OSHA guidelines and imposed a $7,000 fine. In his dissent, Kavanaugh said OSHA was uncharacteristically trying to "stretch its general authority." He said the SeaWorld employees' position was no different than any other occupation where workers consent to put themselves in danger, comparing their work to tiger taming and football.

"When should we as a society paternalistically decide that the participants in these sports and entertainment activities must be protected from themselves-that the risk of significant physical injury is simply too great even for eager and willing participants?" he asked, calling the "physical risk...among the greatest forms of personal achievement for many who take part in these activities."

Labor Day is a good time to think about the courts because it was in the courts that organized labor was most effectively crushed in this country, and it was in the courts that the way was cleared for it to flourish, and, it appears that the courts are being set up to crush it again.

From 1897 until approximately 1937-the end date is a matter of some dispute-the court's relation to labor was defined by the horrendous decision in Lochner v. New York. Citing "freedom of contract" as a constitutional right, the decision was used through the decade to strike down all manner of regulations touching on business large and small. (Lochner itself was about working conditions in bakeries.) Unions, of course, came along with the deal. In Adair v. United States, the Court struck down a law that would have made it illegal for a company to fire employees for trying to organize.

Employees of Woolworth's hold a sign calling for a 40 hour work week in New York 1937.

Make no mistake. There is a strong strain of modern conservatism that is openly nostalgic for the Lochner Era; Rand Paul made the case a part of his campaign for president in 2016. Mark Joseph Stern, writing in Slate, argues that the recent anti-labor Janus decision is Lochner revisited. Stern quotes Justice Samuel Alito's opinion in Janus:

"...into the 20th century, every individual employee had the 'liberty of contract' to 'sell his labor upon such terms as he deem[ed] proper.'" To support this proposition, he cites 1908's Adair v. United States-a defining decision of the Lochner era. Both Lochner and Adair rested on the premise that the Constitution protects an individual's right to sell his labor at any cost. This doctrine trammeled minimum wage and maximum hour rules, as well as laws safeguarding workers' right to unionize. Janus restores this premise in a slightly altered form, replacing "liberty of contract" with "associational freedoms." The upshot is the same: Laws designed to benefit labor's ability to act collectively are inherently suspect.
Right now, the president* is a guy who stiffed contractors, and fought unionization in every one of his properties until his opponents ran out of money for legal fees. The congressional majorities are resolutely anti-union and many state legislatures are no better.

But there is stirring out in the country. Pro-union candidates are winning primaries, the latest being Andrew Gillum in Florida. In Wisconsin, both Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers and his running mate, Mandela Barnes, are running specifically against rolling back the anti-union measures enacted by incumbent Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage this particular midwest subsidiary. In Seattle, as the Seattle Times reports, unions are preparing to celebrate the centennial of the great 1919 general strike in that city with a renewed sense of purpose.

Andrew Gillum campaigning in Florida.

Mark Spry, a member of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 since 1997, said last week he was on strike because wages aren't keeping up with the region's booming economy.

"We've been needing to catch up for quite a while," he said, standing beside a job site where he runs the man lift, the orange elevators that take workers up an under-construction building. "They just came back with the same type of an offer as other years, and it's just time not to let that happen again."

Late last week, equipment was moving again at several job sites where the union reached agreements with individual contractors, but as of Friday morning, the majority of Seattle cranes were still "put to bed" and no broader agreement had been reached. Sooner or later, though, all of this energy is going to run up against a federal court system, and a Supreme Court, that is going to be marbled all the way through with judges who've come up on the same assembly-line as Brett Kavanaugh. In the history of this country, there has not been an expansion of the middle-class without a strong, vibrant union presence. That doesn't change just because factories move to Mexico, or because of robots. There simply is no other way for wages to rise generally other than having the people receiving those wages bargain collectively for them. That Labor Day is still a holiday at all, I guess, is something for which we can give thanks. The attack on labor itself begins again on Tuesday.
(c) 2018 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-

"Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least."
~~~ Robert Byrne

US military bases

Why I'm Going To Ireland To Try To Fix The United States
By David Swanson

The United States spends about five times what China does on its military. And it spends more just on its military bases in other people's countries than any country other than itself or China spends on its entire military. The United States keeps troops in almost every country on earth, including in 800 to 1,000 major military bases outside the United States. The rest of the world's nations combined (most of them U.S. allies and weapons customers) keep a couple of dozen foreign bases total. Imperialism is a uniquely U.S. illness, although everybody suffers the damage.

Ireland is a nation legally bound to maintain neutrality but actively assisting in the crimes of U.S. wars. This coming 11/11 is Armistice Day 100, and while Trump has been dissuaded from holding a weapons parade in Washington, he's apparently headed for France and Ireland. Come on, France, put the weapons away! Don't welcome fascists! Come on, Ireland! You can scare him off! Threaten to arrest him!

"We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser, But Ireland," it said 100 years ago on the facade of Liberty Hall in Dublin as the Irish successfully refused to be drafted into a British war. "We Welcome Neither President Nor Imperial Buffoon" might be a good new banner to promote a Trump-free Ireland.

Within days of Trump's possible visit, and of worldwide celebrations of peace and the movement to abolish all war on Armistice Day 100, I'll be taking part, along with people from all over the globe, in a conference at Liberty Hall on November 16-18 to discuss efforts to close down U.S. and NATO military bases.

If you're like most people in the United States, you have a vague awareness that the U.S. military keeps lots of troops permanently stationed on foreign bases around the world. But have you ever wondered and really investigated to find out how many, and where exactly, and at what cost, and to what purpose, and in terms of what relationship with the host nations?

Some 800 bases with hundreds of thousands of troops in some 70 nations, plus all kinds of other "trainers" and "non-permanent" exercises that last indefinitely, maintain an ongoing U.S. military presence around the world for a price tag of at least $100 billion a year.

Why they do this is a harder question to answer, but when Trump, of all people, vaguely gestured toward the remote possibility of allowing peace and reunification in Korea, the United States Congress immediately and indignantly jumped in to save us all from such a calamity, forbidding the removal of U.S. troops from Korea.

U.S. media consumers learn about the removal of the entire population of the island of Diego Garcia to facilitate the construction of a U.S. military base on their home through reports that overwhelmingly stress the "strategic" necessity of the base. (This is a case before the International Court of Justice this week.)

Even if you think there is some reason to be able to quickly deploy thousands of U.S. troops to any spot on earth, airplanes now make that as easily done from the United States as from Korea or Japan or Germany or Italy or Diego Garcia. That's clearly not a complete explanation of the motives behind U.S. base world.

It costs dramatically more to keep troops in other countries, and while some base defenders make a case for economic philanthropy, the evidence is that local economies actually benefit little - and suffer little when a base leaves. Neither does the U.S. economy benefit, of course. Rather, certain privileged contractors benefit, along with those politicians whose campaigns they fund. And if you think military spending is unaccountable at home, you should check out bases abroad where it's none too rare to have security guards employed purely to guard cooks whose sole job is to feed the security guards. The military has a term for any common SNAFU, and the term for this one is "self-licking ice cream."

The bases, in many cases, generate an enormous amount of popular resentment and hatred, serving as motivations for attacks on the bases themselves or elsewhere - famously including the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Bases around the borders of Russia and China are generating new hostility and arms races, and even proposals by Russia and China to open foreign bases of their own. Currently all non-U.S. foreign bases in the world total no more than 30, with most of those belonging to close U.S. allies, and not a single one of them being in or anywhere near the United States, which would of course be considered an outrage.

Many U.S. bases are hosted by brutal dictatorships. An academic study has identified a strong U.S. tendency to defend dictatorships where the United States has bases. A glance at a newspaper will tell you the same. Crimes in Bahrain are not equal to crimes in Iran. In fact, when brutal and undemocratic governments currently hosting U.S. bases (in, for example, Honduras, Aruba, CuraƧao, Mauritania, Liberia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Mozambique, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, or Singapore) are protested, there is a pattern of increased U.S. support for the government, which makes eviction of the U.S. bases all the more likely should the government fall, which fuels a vicious cycle that increases popular resentment of the U.S. government. The U.S. began building new bases in Honduras shortly after the 2009 coup.

The smaller bases that don't house tens of thousands of troops, but secretive death squads or drones, also have a tendency to make wars more likely. The drone war on Yemen that was labeled a success by President Obama has helped fuel a larger war.

The U.S. government's pursuit of domination and conquest once built bases in Native Americans' lands, and now in many other places referred to as "Indian territory." In the 20th century, U.S. imperialism went global. When FDR visited Pearl Harbor (not actually part of the United States) on July 28, 1934, the Japanese military expressed apprehension. General Kunishiga Tanaka wrote in the Japan Advertiser, objecting to the build-up of the American fleet and the creation of additional bases in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands (also not part of the United States): "Such insolent behavior makes us most suspicious. It makes us think a major disturbance is purposely being encouraged in the Pacific. This is greatly regretted."

Then, in March 1935, Roosevelt bestowed Wake Island on the U.S. Navy and gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. So did peace activists in the United States. By the next month, Roosevelt had planned war games and maneuvers near the Aleutian Islands and Midway Island. By the following month, peace activists were marching in New York advocating friendship with Japan. Norman Thomas wrote in 1935: "The Man from Mars who saw how men suffered in the last war and how frantically they are preparing for the next war, which they know will be worse, would come to the conclusion that he was looking at the denizens of a lunatic asylum." The Japanese attacked Wake Island four days after attacking Pearl Harbor.

Supposedly World War II has ended. Why have the troops never come home? Why have they continued to spread their forts into "Indian Territory," until the U.S. has more foreign bases than any other empire in history, even as the era of conquering territory has largely ended, even as a significant segment of the population has ceased thinking of "Indians" and other foreigners as subhuman beasts without rights worthy of respecting?

One reason, well-documented by David Vine in his book Base Nation, is the same reason that the huge U.S. base at Guantanamo, Cuba, is used to imprison people without trials. By preparing for wars in foreign locations, the U.S. is often able to evade all kinds of legal restrictions - including on labor and the environment, not to mention prostitution. GIs occupying Germany referred to rape as "liberating a blonde," and the sexual disaster area surrounding U.S. bases has continued to this day, despite the decision in 1945 to start sending families to live with soldiers - a policy that now includes shipping each soldier's entire worldly possessions including automobiles around the world with them, not to mention providing single-payer healthcare and twice the spending on schooling as the national average back home. Prostitutes serving U.S. bases in South Korea and elsewhere are often virtually slaves. The Philippines, which has had U.S. "help" as long as anyone, provides the most contractor staff for U.S. bases, cooking, cleaning, and everything else - as well as likely the most prostitutes imported into other countries, such as South Korea.

The most isolated and lawless base sites include locations from which the U.S. military evicted the local population. These include bases in Diego Garcia, Greenland, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, and South Korea - with people evicted as recently as 2006 in South Korea.

During World War II the U.S. Navy seized the small Hawaiian island of Koho'alawe for a weapons testing range and ordered its inhabitants to leave. The island has been devastated. In 1942, the U.S. Navy displaced Aleutian Islanders. President Harry Truman made up his mind that the 170 native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll had no right to their island in 1946. He had them evicted in February and March of 1946, and dumped as refugees on other islands without means of support or a social structure in place. In the coming years, the United States would remove 147 people from Enewetak Atoll and all the people on Lib Island. U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb testing rendered various depopulated and still-populated islands uninhabitable, leading to further displacements. Up through the 1960s, the U.S. military displaced hundreds of people from Kwajalein Atoll. A super-densely populated ghetto was created on Ebeye.

On Vieques, off Puerto Rico, the U.S. Navy displaced thousands of inhabitants between 1941 and 1947, announced plans to evict the remaining 8,000 in 1961, but was forced to back off and - in 2003 - to stop bombing the island. On nearby Culebra, the Navy displaced thousands between 1948 and 1950 and attempted to remove those remaining up through the 1970s. The Navy is right now looking at the island of Pagan as a possible replacement for Vieques, the population already having been removed by a volcanic eruption. Of course, any possibility of return would be greatly diminished.

Beginning during World War II but continuing right through the 1950s, the U.S. military displaced a quarter million Okinawans, or half the population, from their land, forcing people into refugee camps and shipping thousands of them off to Bolivia - where land and money were promised but not delivered.

In 1953, the United States made a deal with Denmark to remove 150 Inughuit people from Thule, Greenland, giving them four days to get out or face bulldozers. They are being denied the right to return.

Between 1968 and 1973, the United States and Great Britain exiled all 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants of Diego Garcia, rounding people up and forcing them onto boats while killing their dogs in a gas chamber and seizing possession of their entire homeland for the use of the U.S. military.

The eviction of the people of Palestine through the creation and constant militarization of Israel is in many ways parallel to these other instances of U.S. military base construction.

The South Korean government, which evicted people for U.S. base expansion on the mainland in 2006, has, at the behest of the U.S. Navy, in recent years been devastating a village, its coast, and 130 acres of farmland on Jeju Island in order to provide the United States with another massive military base.

In hundreds of other sites where the population was not evicted, it might wish it had been. Foreign bases have been environmentally disastrous. Open-air burns, unexploded weaponry, poisons leaked into the ground water - these are all commonplace. A jet fuel leak at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., started in 1953 and was discovered in 1999, and was more than twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. U.S. bases within the United States have been environmentally devastating, but not on the scale of those in some foreign lands. A plane taking off from Diego Garcia to bomb Afghanistan in 2001 crashed and sank to the bottom of the ocean with some 85 hundred-pound munitions. Even ordinary base life takes a toll; U.S. troops produce over three times the garbage each as local residents in, for example, Okinawa.

Disregard for people and the land and the sea is built into the very idea of foreign bases. The United States would never tolerate another nation's base within its borders, yet imposes them on Okinawans, South Koreans, Italians, Filipinos, Iraqis, and others despite huge protest.

Countries have rid themselves of U.S. bases in the past. Many desperately need to do so now, and we in the United States need them to. The U.S. government's mania for world domination hurts us as well as those whose lands are occupied. The upcoming gathering in Dublin will be an effort to unite people across borders in resistance to a rogue state that needs to be brought into the world of law and nonviolent community.
(c) 2018 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.

Ling Rinpoche

Happiness Vs. Greed
Money won't change you but...
By Jane Stillwater

Good grief, there certainly seems to be a whole lot of important Tibetan Buddhist lamas coming to visit NorCal these days. Perhaps they are here to show their compassion for us after all these horrible wildfires. In any case, Tenzin Lungtok, the seventh Ling Rinpoche, just gave a talk to the U.C. Berkeley community on the importance of happiness and compassion -- and here's my full report on the event (including my excellent commentary of course). Sorry that it's so long but Ling Rinpoche had a lot of important stuff to say.

BTW, the seventh Ling Rinpoche is a direct reincarnation of the Dalai Lama's senior tutor who died in 1983 -- so this Ling Rinpoche is rather young, only 33 years old.

The very first thing he talked about was Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Shocker!

"They live in conditions that are very poor, very wretched over there." Yeah, they do -- thanks to the USA, which caused all that misery in the first place. And even now, American war profiteers seem to be desperate to start even more new "wars" and to also keep the same old tired ones going.

"And in the United States itself there is no war," Ling Rinpoche continued, "but there are many problems in the mind here, even among the wealthy." Especially among the wealthy. Some of those guys are bat-dookie cray-cray!

"Is all this happening because of karma, and is thus unavoidable?" Apparently not. "In fact there are things we can do to change all this for the better -- we can become patient, tolerant and satisfied with what we have. But here in America there is the problem of greed." No shite, Sherlock.

"Attitudes like greed create problems, and because of these problems we simply don't have minds that are capable of contentment." Apparently kindness is the key to contentment. "And if we can't find what we want by kindness, we may turn to lies and violence -- and also to trying to keep others from getting what they want as well, in order to feel more superior to them." Rinpoche may be on to something here. That does seem to be America's main attitude right now. Our neighbors are homeless and dying of hunger? Hurray! Now we're better than them.

"And because of greed, then we lie, we steal, we kill." This is starting to sound very familiar as well. What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too -- that seems to be Washington's main approach to governance in the last five decades. Or is it six? Or seven? I myself have devoted my life to protecting justice against greed. Greed is the main predator on justice? Why am I not surprised.

Then Rinpoche goes on to say that this all-about-me attitude basically sucks eggs. "It is a narrow way of thinking." For sure. No future there.

"Fighting and arguing with others is a major part of this type of thinking. Naturally we all want happiness -- there's nothing wrong with that. But we don't know what we need to do to be happy." Yeah, well. Americans could begin by not financing the slaughter of babies in Syria, Gaza and Yemen. That would be a good start.

"We need to make our minds more open and expansive." Snap! "Not just thinking about ourselves. We need to be more concerned with the world in general." This is good stuff. But then, oops, my pen ran out of ink. New pen please! Hope I am getting this all down correctly.

"If our attitude is more open and expansive, we can stop problems and achieve far-reaching goals." World peace would be a good goal, right? This is where you are spozed to nod your head up and down, America. But apparently not.

"If you have an expansive attitude, things go better." Narrow thinking? Not good. "The results are always problems." Just look at the swamp that America has created in Afghanistan -- and Flint.

"A lack of contentment and blaming others is a large cause of our problems." The immigrants did it! The Russians did it! Not. "If we learn to take responsibility for our own blame, problems can be solved. Otherwise our minds become distracted away from seeing what is actually good -- distracted by greed and desire."

Then he talked about work. "People here do it for salaries, housing, cars, etc. They don't even think about if they are actually enjoying their work." How many Americans are stuck in yucky boring dead-end jobs? But I myself have a job that I like right now -- I'm working on becoming a better person. And also trying to be more patient with jerks.

"Morality is good," he continued. "Morality, concentration and wisdom." Hmmm. Perhaps it is time for Americans to start choosing their leaders because they are wise. Nah. Never happen. But maybe it could....

"Technological development is not enough to enjoy a good life. Look at all the people in more developed countries who are not happy." And also look at all those happy people in that technological desert Bhutan for instance, far happier than us. "Of course technology does help -- but in a limited way. To obtain far-reaching advances, we really need to develop the qualities of the mind." Xfinity and Apple won't make us happy. Not really. Let's place our bets on kindness instead.

"For example the kindness of our parents, our teachers and our friends have done more for us than technology." We would never have even reached adulthood without their kindness. That type of kindness is even more better than gold-plated toilets and really fast cars. "Loving kindness is priceless." And it's harder to come by as well.

"There is too much violence, crime and war in the world. Whether you accept religion or not, loving kindness and compassion are important. Affection for others. With these tools, all the problems in our world could be solved. And we could all receive real, genuine happiness. No more problems in the world." Boom. Done and dusted. Works for me.

"If you see something, if you see an injustice, do something. Of course we should protest if someone does something wrong -- but not hate them. And we should feel even more compassion for people who lack kindness." Because they are losers, duh!

"And if you have made mistakes in your life before? Then take that occasion to learn from them. And treat others as you would treat yourself." Unlike what Christian hypocrites in Washington do today. "And be kind to yourself as well -- but avoid self-cherishing because that only leads to anger." Bottom line? "We depend on all others for our happiness."

Then someone asked about what to do when comparing oneself unfavorably to all those beautiful people on TV? "Then just turn off the TV," he said with a smile.

And during the Q&A that followed, I too couldn't resist standing up. "I always make all my decisions based on whether or not what I was planning to do might benefit the most sentient beings. So thank you for coming here today because hearing your talk definitely benefited more sentient beings than if I had just sat home and watched TV." He smiled at this too. "But my question is, what do you see happening in the future -- say five or ten years from now?"

Ling Rinpoche answered that he was not a soothsayer or fortune teller but that the way to a better future is, "Don't be attached to the results. Just do what you can, try to keep benefiting all -- and then act!"

I was so impressed with this young guy who speaks like a wise old man that I grabbed up one of those traditional white offering scarves that you are supposed to give to lamas and ran after him to the elevator like some desperate Beatles fan from the '60s. "Wait! Wait!" I cried. But the elevator closed in my face -- but then me and my friend went off to buy tacos on Telegraph Avenue and got all greedy for guacamole.

PS: We also ran into a Palestinian friend of mine on the Avenue who told us that Israeli colonialists were now offering money to Palestinian Israelis in Jerusalem if they would move off to that hell-hole the "settlers" have now created on the West Bank. Hey, that's way better than just straight-up murdering them, right? Although I do gotta admit that Palestinian Israelis living in the West Bank are a hecka lot vulnerable to getting murdered. Money won't change that fact either. James Brown nailed it.

Perhaps Israeli colonialists are doing all this killing because they are not very happy? Too greedy? Perhaps they should switch to loving kindness instead!
(c) 2018 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The Dead Letter Office-

Brett gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Richter Kavanaugh,

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 pro business, pro one percent, anti-American stance, 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 "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 09-28-2018. We salute you Herr Kavanaugh, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

The Next Crash
By Robert Reich

September 15 will mark the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and near meltdown of Wall Street, followed by the Great Recession.

Since hitting bottom in 2009, the economy has grown steadily, the stock market has soared, and corporate profits have ballooned.

But most Americans are still living in the shadow of the Great Recession. More have jobs, to be sure. But they haven't seen any rise in their wages, adjusted for inflation.

Many are worse off due to the escalating costs of housing, healthcare, and education. And the value of whatever assets they own is less than in 2007.

Last year, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one basic need - food, health care, housing or utilities, according to an Urban Institute survey.

All of which suggests we're careening toward the same sort of crash we had in 2008, and possibly as bad as 1929.

Clear away the financial rubble from those two former crashes and you'd see they both followed upon widening imbalances between the capacity of most people to buy, and what they as workers could produce. Each of these imbalances finally tipped the economy over.

The same imbalance has been growing again. The richest 1 percent of Americans now takes home about 20 percent of total income, and owns over 40 percent of the nation's wealth.

These are close to the peaks of 1928 and 2007.

The U.S. economy crashes when it becomes too top heavy because the economy depends on consumer spending to keep it going, yet the rich don't spend nearly as much of their income as the middle class and the poor.

For a time, the middle class and poor can keep the economy going nonetheless by borrowing. But, as in 1929 and 2008, debt bubbles eventually burst.

We're getting dangerously close. By the first quarter of this year, household debt was at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion.

Almost 80 percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. In a recent Federal Reserve survey, 40 percent of Americans said they wouldn't be able to pay their bills if faced with a $400 emergency.

They've managed their debts because interest rates have remained low. But the days of low rates are coming to an end.

The underlying problem isn't that Americans have been living beyond their means. It's that their means haven't been keeping up with the growing economy. Most gains have gone to the top.

It was similar in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. Between 1983 and 2007, household debt soared while most economic gains went to the top. Had the majority of households taken home a larger share, they wouldn't have needed to go so deeply into debt.

Similarly, between 1913 and 1928, the ratio of personal debt to the total national economy nearly doubled. As Mariner Eccles, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1934 to 1948, explained: "As in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing."

Eventually there were "no more poker chips to be loaned on credit," Eccles said, and "when ... credit ran out, the game stopped."

After the 1929 crash, the government invented new ways to boost wages - Social Security, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, a minimum wage, the requirement that employers bargain with labor unions, and, finally, a full-employment program called World War II.

After the 2008 crash, the government bailed out the banks and pumped enough money into the economy to contain the slide. But apart from the Affordable Care Act, nothing was done to address the underlying problem of stagnant wages.

Trump and his Republican enablers are now reversing regulations put in place to stop Wall Street's excessively risky lending.

But Trump's real contributions to the next crash are his sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, rollback of overtime pay, burdens on labor organizing, tax reductions for corporations and the wealthy but not for most workers, cuts in programs for the poor, and proposed cuts in Medicare and Medicaid - all of which put more stress on the paychecks of most Americans.

Ten years after Lehman Brothers collapsed, it's important to understand that the real root of the Great Recession wasn't a banking crisis. It was the growing imbalance between consumer spending and total output - brought on by stagnant wages and widening inequality.

That imbalance is back. Watch your wallets.
(c) 2018 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is

The Slaves Rebel
By Chris Hedges

The only way to end slavery is to stop being a slave. Hundreds of men and women in prisons in some 17 states are refusing to carry out prison labor, conducting hunger strikes or boycotting for-profit commissaries in an effort to abolish the last redoubt of legalized slavery in America. The strikers are demanding to be paid the minimum wage, the right to vote, decent living conditions, educational and vocational training and an end to the death penalty and life imprisonment.

These men and women know that the courts will not help them. They know the politicians, bought by the corporations that make billions in profits from the prison system, will not help them. And they know that the mainstream press, unwilling to offend major advertisers, will ignore them.

But they also know that no prison can function without the forced labor of many among America's 2.3 million prisoners. Prisoners do nearly all the jobs in the prisons, including laundry, maintenance, cleaning and food preparation. Some prisoners earn as little as a dollar for a full day of work; in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, the figure drops to zero.

Corporations, at the same time, exploit a million prisoners who work in prison sweatshops where they staff call centers or make office furniture, shoes or clothing or who run slaughterhouses or fish farms.

If prisoners earned the minimum wage set by federal, state or local laws, the costs of the world's largest prison system would be unsustainable. The prison population would have to be dramatically reduced. Work stoppages are the only prison reform method that has any chance of success. Demonstrations of public support, especially near prisons where strikes are underway, along with supporting the prisoners who have formed Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, which began the nationwide protest, are vital. Prison authorities seek to mute the voices of these incarcerated protesters. They seek to hide the horrific conditions inside prisons from public view. We must amplify these voices and build a popular movement to end mass incarceration.

The strike began Aug. 21, the 47th anniversary of the 1971 killing of the Black Panther prison writer and organizer George Jackson in California's San Quentin. It will end Sept. 9, the 47th anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising. It is an immensely courageous act of civil disobedience. Prison authorities have innumerable ways to exact retribution, including placing strikers in solitary confinement and severing communication with the outside world. They can take away the few privileges and freedoms, including the limited freedom of movement, yard time, phone privileges and educational programs, that prisoners have. This makes the defiance all the more heroic. These men and women cannot go elsewhere. They cannot remain anonymous. Retribution is certain. Yet they have risen up anyway.

In addition to making demands about wages, the prisoners are calling for an end to the endemic violence that plagues many prisons. During a riot in April at Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in South Carolina, seven prisoners were killed and 17 were injured as prison guards waited four hours to intervene.

Prisons in America are a huge and lucrative business. The private prison contractors Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group have annual revenues of $1.6 billion and more than $2 billion, respectively. They spent a combined $8.7 million on lobbying from 2010 through 2015, according to Global Tel Link, which runs the privatized phone services in many prisons, is valued at $1.2 billion. The food service corporation Aramark, a $8.65 billion company, has contracts in 500 prisons across the country although it has been accused of serving contaminated and spoiled food that has led to food poisoning. The money transfer corporation JPay Inc. is a subsidiary of the telecommunications firm Securus Technologies, which is owned by the private equity firm Abry Partners. JPay made $53 million in 2014 on transfers of $525 million, through an average charge of 10 percent to those sending money to prisoners. Corizon Health has a contract to provide health care to more than 300,000 prisoners nationwide. It earns about $1.4 billion a year. And there are many other corporations with equally large revenues and profit margins within the prisons.

Private corporations exploit prison labor in at least 40 states. In some cases these workers are paid next to nothing. They have no benefits, including Social Security participation, and cannot form unions or organize. They are not paid for sick days. And if they complain or are seen as troublesome they are placed in solitary confinement, often for months.

Some of the country's biggest corporations have moved into prisons to take advantage of this bonded labor force. They include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, AutoZone, Bank of America, Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chevron, the former Chrysler Group, Costco Wholesale, John Deere, Eddie Bauer, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffmann-La Roche, International Paper, JanSport, Johnson & Johnson, Kmart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonald's, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sears, Shell, Sprint, Starbucks, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, UPS, Verizon, Victoria's Secret, Walmart and Wendy's.

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote that "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." Prisons expose how far a state will go to exploit and abuse its most vulnerable. Life in the American prison system is a window into the corporate tyranny that will be inflicted on all of us once we are stripped of the power to resist. The poorest families in the country are forced to pay an array of predatory fees to sustain incarcerated relatives. This is especially cruel to those children whose only contact with an incarcerated parent is through phone service that costs four or five times what it does on the outside. Prison life is one of daily humiliation and abuse. It entails beatings, torture, rape-especially for female prisoners who are preyed upon by prison staff-prolonged isolation, rancid food, inadequate heating and ventilation, substandard or nonexistent health care and being locked in a cage for days at a time, especially in supermax prisons.

Slavery within the prison system is permitted by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1865 at the end of the Civil War to create a new form of slave labor. It reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. ..." Plantations in the South and industries such as Florida's vast turpentine farm operations, which survived into the early 20th century, used the 13th Amendment to force black convicts to do the same uncompensated work that many had done as slaves.

"Imprisoned in stockades or cells, chained together at night or held under armed guards on horseback, the turpentine farms were bleak outposts miles from any chance of comfort or contact with the outside world," Douglas A. Blackmon writes in "Slavery by Another Name," a description of convict life for tens of thousands of African-Americans that is eerily similar to today's prison conditions. "Workers were forced to buy their own food and clothes from a camp commissary and charged usurious interest rates on the salary advances used to pay for the goods-typically at least 100 percent."

Prisons, which contain mostly poor people of color, over half of whom have never physically harmed anyone, are part of the continuum of slavery, Black Codes, Jim and Jane Crow, convict leasing, lynching and the lethal, indiscriminate force used by police on city streets. Prisons are not primarily about crime. They are about social control. They are about profiting off black and brown bodies, bodies that in blighted, deindustrialized neighborhoods do not produce money for corporations but once locked away generate some $60,000 a year per prisoner for prison contractors, police, parole agencies, corrections officers, phone companies, private prisons, money transfer companies, medical companies, food venders, commissaries and the industries that manufacture body armor, pepper spray and the gruesome array of restraints and implements-four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, body orifice security scanners (BOSS chairs), tethers, and waist and leg chains-that look like a collection amassed by the Marquis de Sade. Prisons are also where we warehouse the poor who are mentally ill. It is estimated that 25 percent of the prison population has severe mental illness. Those with crippling mental disorders are given not therapy but cocktails of powerful psychotropic drugs that turn them into zombies sleeping 20 hours a day.

Once corporations moved manufacturing overseas and denied those in poor communities the possibility of a job that could sustain them and their families, they began to extract billions in profit by putting bodies in cages. Since 1970 our prison population has grown by about 700 percent. We have invested $300 billion in prisons since 1980. The prison-industrial complex mirrors the military-industrial complex. The money is public; the profits are private. Those who enrich themselves off the incarcerated are morally no different from those who enriched themselves from the slave trade.

Prisoners, once released, often after decades, commonly suffer from severe mental and physical trauma and other health problems including diabetes (which is an epidemic in prisons because of the poor diet), hepatitis C, tuberculosis, heart disease and HIV. They do not have money or insurance to get treatment for their illnesses when they are released. They have often become alienated from their families and are homeless. Stripped of the right to public assistance, unable to vote, banned from living in public housing, without skills or education and stigmatized by employers, they become members of the vast criminal caste system. Many are burdened with debts because of monetary charges in the criminal justice structure and a predatory system of prison loans. Over 60 percent end up back in prison within five years. This is by design. The lobbyists for the prison-industrial complex make sure the laws and legislation keep the prisons full and recidivism high. This is good for profit. And it is profit, not justice, that is the primary force behind mass incarceration. This system will end only when those profits are wrested from the hands of our modern slaveholders. The only people who can do that are the slaves and the abolitionists who fight alongside them.

The full list of national demands from "the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons" reads:

1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.

2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.

3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.

4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to death by incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.

5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.

6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting black and brown humans.

7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.

8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.

9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all U.S. states and territories.

10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called "ex-felons" must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!
(c) 2018 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Sack ~~~

To End On A Happy Note-

Have You Seen This-

Parting Shots-

Ron DeSantis Clarifies That 'Monkey' Comment Was Intended As Subtle Enough Dog Whistle To Get Away With
By The Onion

JACKSONVILLE, FL-Facing backlash for warning voters not to "monkey this up" and vote for his black political opponent, Andrew Gillum, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis held a press conference Thursday to clarify that his comments were intended as a subtle enough dog whistle to racists that he could escape blame.

"Many of my critics on the left fail to understand that my words were simply meant to fly under the radar and reach an intended audience without repercussions," said DeSantis, lamenting that his code words caused a media firestorm when his only objective was to target a specific bigoted group that agreed with the message.

"This whole media outcry is, frankly, overblown. People are acting like I threw out an actual racial slur when what I actually said was a harmless piece of rhetoric that's been used to dehumanize black people for centuries. If anything, folks should be upset that 'monkey this up' isn't a real idiom."

DeSantis concluded his press conference by issuing an apology to "Mayor Gillum and his family" followed by a sly wink.
(c) 2018 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 35 (c) 09/07/2018

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