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In This Edition

Chris Hedges examines, "The Abuses Of History."

Uri Avnery says, "Thank You, Smotrich."

Glen Ford introduces, "Morgan Freeman: War Whore."

William Rivers Pitt concludes, "Graham-Cassidy Is Evil Incarnate."

Jim Hightower reveals, "GOP Playing Political Games With People's Health."

John Nichols explores, "Why Donald Trump Attacked The NFL Players Who Take A Knee."

James Donahue wonders, "Are A.I. Robots About To Control Us?"

Medea Benjamin observes, "Saudi Women May Soon Be Behind The Wheel, But Still Not In The Drivers' Seat."

Heather Digby Parton reminds us, "There Used To Be This Thing Called "Principles."

David Suzuki explores, "CO2 And Food: We can't sacrifice quality for quantity."

Charles P. Pierce gives an, "Update On Scott Pruitt's EPA: Still Crooked."

David Swanson orates, "Have We Lost Our Way In War?"

Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda report, "Brazil's Latest Outbreak Of Drug Gang Violence Highlights The Real Culprit: The War On Drugs."

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "Why We Must Raise Taxes On Corporations And The Wealthy, Not Lower Them."

Bernie Sanders orates, "The World's Common Humanity And US Foreign Policy."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst tells, "How They Spent Their Summer Vacation," but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Heck Of A Job, Donny."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Rob Rogers, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Tom Tomorrow, Brynn Anderson, Life Magazine, Alex Wong, Tom Shockey, Erick Dau, Pedro Prado, Middle East Monitor, Reuters, Shutterstock, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, HBO, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org. Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Heck Of A Job, Donny
By Ernest Stewart

"We've gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico. The difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It's a big ocean, it's a very big ocean. And we're doing a really good job." ~~~ Donald Trump

"We found that the 2017, heat was not all that rare anymore. Due to global warming, there's a 10 percent chance every year in many places," ~~~ Sarah Kew ~ climate researcher with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

"It's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated." ~~~ Donald Trump

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ~~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trump spent daze shouting his racist, anti 1st amenment rants on the NFL players who chose to embrace the Constitution's Bill of Rights. Like black folks, Trumps against the law of the land. On and on he went until one of his keepers pointed out that their was a disaster down in Puerto Rico and American citizens were beginning to drop like flies from lack of food, water and electricity. So how did the fuhrer respond? Did he pledge to immediately send US Navy ships full of food and water, Army corp of engineers to rebuild the infrastructure? No, He tweeted this...
Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.
His first thoughts was not to save the people but to remind them that they owe Wall Street a lot of money, he continued:
...It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well.
Heck, of a job Donny!

Again his first priority was to make sure his 1% Wall Street buddies get their blood money first. He could have said I will relieve the debt by paying it off and sending more money to rebuild the infrastructure just as Obama could have done for Detroit but there is no money for that. Only tax relief for the billionaires, money for our endless wars whether the Pentagon needs it or not and money for "The Wall." That's the priorities for America.

Oh, and did I mention, Trump won't temporarily suspend the Jones Act and lift it like he did in Texas and Florida. Trump's decided that he wants his rich pals to sock it to the Puerto Ricans and see that they pay double for things like water and gas, something that a third of the population doesn't have and desperately needs! So much for making, America great, huh?

This just in: Due to extreme pressure Donny decided to allow the suspension of the Jones act!

The 1% gets everything and the rest of us are left to struggle on our own. Better buy some boot straps, America because as far as der Fuhrer is concerned, you're going to need them!

In Other News

Unlike Global warming deniers in America, the folks in Europe can grasp that cause and effect and their leaders, unlike Trump, have plans for dealing with it! In Europe the extreme heat, which fed wildfires and a heat wave so fierce it was dubbed 'Lucifer', was made 10 times more likely by climate change. Scientists said today in a study published by the World Weather Attribution research group. "If greenhouse gas emissions aren't cut soon, such heat waves will be the regional summer norm by 2050," the study concluded.

The scientists, from universities and research institutions in Europe and the United States, said they are more certain than ever that human-caused global warming is a key driver of the extreme heat.

"As the average global temperature goes up, it becomes easier to pick out the climate change signal," said lead author Sarah Kew, a climate researcher with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

The research is the newest in a series of climate attribution studies assessing how heat-trapping pollution affects recent extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and extreme rainfall. The findings are crucial for governments that have to prepare for more extreme climate events ahead. For our government it's pour on the coal!

The urgency of improving understanding of the heat-related health risks from global warming was made clear in 2003, when the most extreme European heat wave on record killed more than 70,000 people. The summer of 2003 is still the hottest on record for the whole of Europe, although 2017 was hotter in the Mediterranean region.

A landmark climate attribution study in 2004 determined that the buildup of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels made the extreme temperatures of 2003 at least twice as likely as they would have been a world with no human-caused greenhouse gases.

Since then, the global average temperature has increased by another quarter degree Celsius and Southern Europe summers are warming at twice that rate, according to the European Environment Agency. Scientific understanding of the influence of climate change has also advanced.

Unlike in this country where the federal government and the government of several several southern states continue to deny man made global warming even though the science tells them just the opposite. But that's capitalism for you, anything for a buck, no matter how much damage it causes. If Trump doesn't kill us, global warming will!

And Finally

I see where the Rethuglicans blew another chance to kill off some 32 million folks because they were poor, sick or elderly in order too take those 100's of billions of dollars out of Obamacare and give it to their 1% puppet masters. As you can imagine the Koch brothers are really pissed off now! Te he he!

Even though they have a lock on the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the White House they couldn't get this nightmare passed and now they never will as it will take a 2/3 majority instead os a simple 51 votes to get it done. Thanks to Senators John McCain, Susan Collins and Rand Paul old turtle boy pulled the plug.

While America danced in the street in celebration the Capitol had the feeling of a funeral service Tuesday as deflated Republican senators left their closed-door meeting where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his party's latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would not get a vote.

"We don't have the votes," Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of the lead authors of the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, told reporters after the meeting. The legislation would have turned much of Obamacare into block grants administered by the states and would have gutted many of the mandates and subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act. And within a few years would have murdered millions of the poor, sick and elderly!

The failure of the Rethuglicans to deliver on its signature campaign promise seven years and running is causing finger-pointing, starting with a disgruntled Trump.

"At some point, there will be a repeal and replace, but we'll see whether or not that point is now or whether it will be shortly thereafter," Trump told reporters at the White House Tuesday just before the bill was pulled. "But we are disappointed in certain so-called Republicans."I'm guessing that when the Donald says "we" he means the imperial we! As in "We are not amused," but, I am!

Keepin' On

You know I hate to admit, but there is one thing that I have to agree with Trump on, and that's fake news. I quit seriously watching network news decades ago as it is indeed fake news. Not so much in what they are saying but for what they are leaving out. The conclusion that they are coming too.

It used to be on TV that if you ran anything politcal, as an editorial, the law required that you give a spokesman from the other side a chance to rebut whatever was said in a similar amount of time. Unfortunately, like Trump another dementia head, Ronald Ray-Guns put the kibosh to that and the birth of Fox News was foretold! Now it's possible to watch any and all "news" shows and not get the news that you desperately need! It's almost as bad on the internet too, where former honest sites have begun to cash in on the 1%'s steady cash flow, and leave out what you actually need to know!

Which is where we came in a way back yonder in December of 2000 after the Supreme Court coup d'etat went down on the 12th. We bring you the truth every week and all we ask is for those who can afford to, to send us what you can. I really do get it, that our readership is made up mostly from the working class, former middle class folks, and the retired, the bottom tier of the 99% which is why we go to such lengths to keep it free and open to all. The single weekly ad we have pays for half of our yearly costs which leaves you to pick up the other half. If you can help us please visit this page and following the simple directions and for everyone involved let me say thank you!


02-22-1938 ~ 09-26-2017
Thanks for the film!

04-09-1926 ~ 09-27-2017
Thanks for everything!

01-26-1923 ~ 09-27-2017
Thanks for the film


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So please help us if you can...?

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


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

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

The Abuses Of History
By By Chris Hedges

Historians, like journalists, are in the business of manipulating facts. Some use facts to tell truths, however unpleasant. But many more omit, highlight and at times distort them in ways that sustain national myths and buttress dominant narratives. The failure by most of the United States' popular historians and the press to tell stories of oppression and the struggles against it, especially by women, people of color, the working class and the poor, has contributed to the sickening triumphalism and chauvinism that are poisoning our society. The historian James W. Loewen, in his book "Lies Across America: What Our Historic Markers and Monuments Get Wrong," calls the monuments that celebrate our highly selective and distorted history a "landscape of denial."

The historian Carl Becker wrote, "History is what the present chooses to remember about the past." And as a nation founded on the pillars of genocide, slavery, patriarchy, violent repression of popular movements, savage war crimes committed to expand the empire, and capitalist exploitation, we choose to remember very little. This historical amnesia, as James Baldwin never tired of pointing out, is very dangerous. It feeds self-delusion. It severs us from recognition of our propensity for violence. It sees us project on others-almost always the vulnerable-the unacknowledged evil that lies in our past and our hearts. It shuts down the voices of the oppressed, those who can tell us who we are and enable us through self-reflection and self-criticism to become a better people. "History does not merely refer to the past ... history is literally present in all we do," Baldwin wrote.

If we understood our real past we would see as lunacy Donald Trump's bombastic assertions that the removal of Confederate statues is an attack on "our history." Whose history is being attacked? And is it history that is being attacked or the myth disguised as history and perpetuated by white supremacy and capitalism? As the historian Eric Foner points out, "Public monuments are built by those with sufficient power to determine which parts of history are worth commemorating and what vision of history ought to be conveyed."

The clash between historical myth and historical reality is being played out in the president's disparaging of black athletes who protest indiscriminate police violence against people of color. "Maybe he should find a country that works better for him," candidate Trump said of professional quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem at National Football League games to protest police violence. Other NFL players later emulated his protest.

Friday at a political rally in Alabama, Trump bellowed: "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!'" That comment and a Saturday morning tweet by Trump that criticized professional basketball star Stephen Curry, another athlete of African-American descent, prompted a number of prominent sports figures to respond angrily. One addressed the president as "U bum" on Twitter.

The war of words between the president and black athletes is about competing historical narratives.

Historians are rewarded for buttressing the ruling social structure, producing heavy tomes on the ruling elites-usually powerful white men such as John D. Rockefeller or Theodore Roosevelt-and ignoring the underlying social movements and radicals that have been the true engines of cultural and political change in the United States. Or they retreat into arcane and irrelevant subjects of minor significance, becoming self-appointed specialists of the banal or the trivial. They ignore or minimize inconvenient facts and actions that tarnish the myth, including lethal suppression of groups, classes and civilizations and the plethora of lies told by the ruling elites, the mass media and powerful institutions to justify their grip on power. They eschew transcendental and moral issues, including class conflict, in the name of neutrality and objectivity. The mantra of disinterested scholarship and the obsession with data collection add up, as the historian Howard Zinn wrote, "to the fear that using our intelligence to further our moral ends is somehow improper."

"Objectivity is an interesting and often misunderstood word," Foner said. "I tell my students what objectivity means is you have an open mind, not an empty mind. There is no person who doesn't have preconceptions, values, assumptions. And you bring those to the study of history. What it means to be objective is if you begin encountering evidence, research, that questions some of your assumptions, you may have to change your mind. You have to have an open mind in your encounters with the evidence. But that doesn't mean you don't take a stance. You have an obligation. If you've done all this studying, done all this research, if you understand key issues in American history better than most people, just because you've done the research and they haven't, you have an obligation as a citizen to speak up about it. ...We should not be bystanders. We should be active citizens. Being a historian and an active citizen is not mutually contradictory."

Historians who apologize for the power elites, who in essence shun complexity and minimize inconvenient truths, are rewarded and promoted. They receive tenure, large book contracts, generous research grants, lucrative speaking engagements and prizes. Truth tellers, such as Zinn, are marginalized. Friedrich Nietzsche calls this process "creative forgetfulness."

"In high school," Foner said, "I got a history textbook that said 'Story of American History,' which was very one-dimensional. It was all about the rise of freedom and liberty. Slavery was omitted almost entirely. The general plight of African-Americans and other non-whites was pretty much omitted from this story. It was very partial. It was very limited. That's the same thing with all these statues and [the debate about them]. I'm not saying we should tear down every single statue of every Confederate all over the place. But if we step back and look at the public presentation of history, particularly in the South, through these monuments, where are the black people of the South? Where are the monuments to the victims of slavery? To the victims of lynching? The monuments of the black leaders of Reconstruction? The first black senators and members of Congress? My view is, as well as taking down some statues, we need to put up others. If we want to have a public commemoration of history, it ought to be diverse enough to include the whole history, not just the history that those in power want us to remember."

"Civil War monuments glorify soldiers and generals who fought for Southern independence," Foner writes in "Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History," "explaining their motivation by reference to the ideals of freedom, states' rights and individual autonomy-everything, that is but slavery, the 'cornerstone of the Confederacy,' according to its vice president, Alexander Stephens. Fort Mill, South Carolina, has a marker honoring the 'faithful slaves' of the Confederate states, but one would be hard pressed to find monuments anywhere in the country to slave rebels like Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner, to the 200,000 black soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union (or, for that matter, the thousands of white Southerners who remained loyal to the nation)."

The United Daughters of the Confederacy, as Loewen points out, erected most of the South's Confederate monuments between 1890 and 1920. This campaign of commemoration was part of what Foner calls "a conscious effort to glorify and sanitize the Confederate cause and legitimize the newly installed Jim Crow system."

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who Loewen writes was "one of the most vicious racists in American history," was one of the South's biggest slave traders, commander of the forces that massacred black Union troops after they surrendered at Fort Pillow and the founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Yet, as Foner notes, "there are more statues, markers and busts of Forrest in Tennessee than of any other figure in the state's history, including President Andrew Jackson."

"Only one transgression was sufficiently outrageous to disqualify Confederate leaders from the pantheon of heroes," Foner writes. "No statue of James Longstreet, a far abler commander than Forrest, graces the Southern countryside, and Gen. James Fleming Fagan is omitted from the portrait gallery of famous figures of Arkansas history in Little Rock. Their crime? Both supported black rights during Reconstruction."

The American myth also relies heavily on a distorted history of the westward expansion.

"The mythology of the West is deeply rooted in our culture," Foner said, "whether it's in Western movies or the idea of the lone pioneer, the individual roughing it out in the West, and of course, the main lie is that the West was kind of empty before white settlers and hunters and trappers and farmers came from the East to settle it. In fact, the West has been populated since forever. The real story of the West is the clash of all these different peoples, Native Americans, Asians in California, settlers coming in from the East, Mexicans. The West was a very multicultural place. There are a lot of histories there. Many of those histories are ignored or subordinated in this one story of the westward movement."

"Racism is certainly a part of Western history," Foner said. "But you're not going to get that from a John Wayne movie [or] the paintings by [Frederic] Remington and others. It's a history that doesn't help you understand the present."

Remington's racism, displayed in paintings of noble white settlers and cowboys battling "savages," was pronounced. "Jews-inguns-chinamen-Italians-Huns," he wrote, were "the rubbish of the earth I hate." In the same letter he added, "I've got some Winchesters and when the massacreing begins ... I can get my share of 'em and whats more I will."

Nietzsche identified three approaches to history: monumental, antiquarian and critical, the last being "the history that judges and condemns."

"The monumental is the history that glorifies the nation-state that is represented in monuments that do not question anything about the society," Foner said. "A lot of history is like that. The rise of history as a discipline coincided with the rise of the nation-state. Every nation needs a set of myths to justify its own existence. Another one of my favorite writers, Ernest Renan, the French historian, wrote, 'The historian is the enemy of the nation.' It's an interesting thing to say. He doesn't mean they're spies or anything. The historian comes along and takes apart the mythologies that are helping to underpin the legitimacy of the nation. That's why people don't like them very often. They don't want to hear these things. Antiquarian is what a lot of people are. That's fine. They're looking for their personal roots, their family history. They're going on to find out where their DNA came from. That's not really history exactly. They don't have much of a historical context. But it stimulates people to think about the past. Then there's what Nietzsche calls critical history-the history that judges and condemns. It takes a moral stance. It doesn't just relate the facts. It tells you what is good and what is evil. A lot of historians don't like to do that. But to me, it's important. It's important for the historian, having done the research, having presented the history, to say here's where I stand in relation to all these important issues in our history."

"Whether it's Frederick Douglass, Eugene Debs, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King Jr., those are the people who were trying to make America a better place," Foner said. "King, in particular, was a very radical guy."

Yet, as Foner points out, King is effectively "frozen in one speech, one sentence: I want my children to be judged by the content of their character, not just the color of their skin. [But] that's not what the whole civil rights movement was about. People forget, he died leading a poor people's march, leading a strike of sanitation workers. He wasn't just out there talking about civil rights. He had moved to economic equality as a fundamental issue."

Max Weber wrote, "What is possible would never have been achieved if, in this world, people had not repeatedly reached for the impossible."

Foner, like Weber, argues that it is the visionaries and utopian reformers such as Debs and the abolitionists who brought about real social change, not the "practical" politicians. The abolitionists destroyed what Foner calls the "conspiracy of silence by which political parties, churches and other institutions sought to exclude slavery from public debate." He writes:

For much of the 1850s and the first two years of the Civil War, Lincoln-widely considered the model of a pragmatic politician-advocated a plan to end slavery that involved gradual emancipation, monetary compensation for slaver owners, and setting up colonies of freed blacks outside the United States. The harebrained scheme had no possibility of enactment. It was the abolitionists, still viewed by some historians as irresponsible fanatics, who put forward the program-an immediate and uncompensated end to slavery, with black people becoming US citizens-that came to pass (with Lincoln's eventual help, of course). The political squabbles that dominate public discourse almost never question the sanctity of private property, individualism, capitalism or imperialism. They hold as sacrosanct American "virtues." They insist that Americans are a "good" people steadily overcoming any prejudices and injustices that may have occurred in the past. The debates between the Democrats and the Whigs, or today's Republicans and Democrats, have roots in the same allegiance to the dominant structures of power, myth of American exceptionalism and white supremacy.

"It's all a family quarrel without any genuine, serious disagreements," Foner said.

Those who challenge these structures, who reach for the impossible, who dare to speak the truth, have been, throughout American history, dismissed as "fanatics." But, as Foner points out, it is often the "fanatics" who make history.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

Thank You, Smotrich
By Uri Avnery

I OWE many thanks to Bezalel Smotrich. Yes, yes, to Smotrich of the extreme right, Smotrich the fascist.

Recently Smotrich gave a speech to his followers, which he intended to be a national event, the turning of a page in Jewish history. He was gracious enough to mention me in this monumental message.

He said that after the 1948 war, in which the State of Israel was founded, Uri Avnery and a small band of followers created the ideology of "two states for two peoples", and by patient work over many years succeeded in turning this idea into a national consensus, indeed into an axiom. Smotrich told his devotees that they, too, had to formulate their ideology, work patiently for many years until it became the national consensus instead of Avnery's.

A compliment from an enemy is always sweeter than one from a friend. The more so as I never received many compliments from friends. Indeed, the many politicians who profess now to fight for "two states for two peoples" try to obliterate the fact that I was the first to proclaim this idea, long before they themselves were converted to it.

So thank you, Smotrich. Coupled with my thanks, may I express the wish that you adopt a Hebrew name, as befits a man who aspires to become the Hebrew Duce?

AFTER THE compliment, Smotrich set out his plan for the future of Israel.

It is based on the demand that Arabs living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea choose between three alternatives: First, they can accept a monetary payment and leave the country.

Second, they can become subjects of the Jewish State without becoming citizens and without attaining the right to vote.

Third, they can make war and be defeated.

THIS IS Fascism, pure and simple. Except that Benito Mussolini, who invented the term (from fasces fasces, a bundle of rods, the old Roman symbol of authority) did not preach mass emigration of anyone. Not even of the Italian Jews, many of whom were ardent Fascists.

Let's look into the plan itself. Can an entire people be induced peacefully to leave their motherland for money? I don't think that it has ever happened. Indeed, the very idea shows an abysmal contempt for the Palestinians.

Individuals can leave their homes in times of stress and emigrate to greener pastures. During the great famine, masses of Irishmen and Irishwomen emigrated from their emerald isle to America. In today's Israel, quite a number of Israelis are emigrating to Berlin or Los Angeles.

But can millions do so? Voluntarily? For gain? Quite apart from the fact that the price would invariably rise from emigrant to emigrant. There would not be enough money in the world.

I would advise Smotrich to read again a song written by the national poet, Natan Alterman, long before he was born. During the "Arab rebellion" in 1937, Alterman praised the units of the illegal Hebrew underground forces: "No people withdraws from the trenches of its life." No chance.

The second choice would be easier. The Arabs, who already constitute even now a slight majority between the river and the sea, will become a pariah people and serve their Israeli masters. The Arab majority will grow rapidly, owing to the much higher Palestinian birthrate. We would deliberately recreate the South African apartheid situation.

History, old and new, shows that such a situation invariably leads to rebellion and eventual liberation.

So there remains the third solution. It suits the Israeli temperament much better: War. Not the interminable wars that we have been engaged in since the beginning of Zionism, but a big, decisive war that puts an end to the whole mess. Inevitably, the Arabs will be vanquished and obliterated. End of story.

WHEN I came to the conclusion in 1949 that the only way to end the conflict was to help the Palestinians to set up a state of their own, side by side with the new State of Israel, my train of thought started from a very original assumption: that there exists a Palestinian people.

To be honest, I was not the first to realize that. Before me, a wise left-wing Zionist scholar, Aharon Cohen, put forward this idea. All other Zionists always furiously denied this fact. Golda Meir once famously declared: "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people!"

So who are all these Arabs we see with our own eyes? Simple: they are riffraff drawn to this country from neighboring areas after we came and made this country bloom. Easy come, easy go.

It was easy to think so as long as the West Bank was under Jordanian rule, and the Gaza Strip was an Egyptian protectorate. "Palestine" had disappeared from the map. Until a man called Yasser Arafat put it there again.

In the 1948 war, half the Palestinian people were driven out of the territory that became Israel. The Arabs call this the "naqba" - catastrophe. (By the way, they were not driven out of Palestine, as many believe. A large part found refuge in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip).

SINCE 1949, the simple fact is that two peoples live in this small country.

Neither of these two peoples will go away. Each of them believes fervently that this country is their homeland.

This simple fact led me to the logical conclusion that the only solution is peace based on the co-existence of two national states, Israel and Palestine, in close cooperation, perhaps in some kind of federal setup.

Another solution would be a unitary state in which the two peoples live peacefully together. As I have pointed out several times recently, I do not believe that this is possible. Both are fiercely nationalistic peoples. Moreover, the difference between their standards of living is huge. They are as different in character and outlook as two peoples can be.

Now comes Smotrich and proposes the third solution, a solution many believe in secretly: just kill them or drive them out altogether.

This is much worse than Mussolini's program. It reminds one of another recent historical figure. And it may be remembered that Mussolini was shot by his own people, who hung his body upside down from a meat hook.

Smotrich should be taken seriously, not because he is a political genius but because he expresses openly and honestly what many Israelis think secretly.

He is 37 years old, good-looking, with a cultivated beard. He was born in the occupied Golan heights, grew up in a West Bank settlement and now lives in a settlement in a house that was built illegally on Arab land. His father was a rabbi, he himself was educated in elite religious yeshivas and is a lawyer. Now he is also a Member of the Knesset.

Once he was arrested in a demonstration against homosexuals and detained for three weeks. However, after declaring that he was "proud to be a homophobe", he did apologize. When his wife gave birth to one of his six children, he objected to her having to share a maternity room with an Arab woman. He also objects to homes being sold to Arabs in Jewish neighborhoods, and proposes shooting Arab children who throw stones.

Another Zionist poet once wrote that we will not become a normal nation until we have Jewish criminals and Jewish whores. Thank God we now have plenty of both. And now we also have at least one bona fide Jewish fascist.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Morgan Freeman: War Whore
By Glen Ford

Morgan Freeman is used to playing God, and in lesser roles, president of the United States. These days, however, Freeman has sold his image and aura to the worst warmongers on the planet. Morgan Freeman has signed on as a front man and propagandist for an all-out military confrontation with Russia, the only country that has the power to turn the United States into a burned out cinder. In a video that Freeman's right-wing friends are circulating on social media, the actor declares that a new world war has already begun.

"Russia is waging war on the U.S.," says the text of a video, produced by the so-called Committee to Investigate Russia. Morgan Freeman then intones, "We have been attacked. We are at war." He spins an infantile 1950s-type demonization of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, for supposedly using "cyber warfare to attack democracies around the world." At this point, we discover that the man who plays God on film is, in real life, just an old time, shuffling Uncle Tom, the kind of shameless bootlicker that we hoped had gone extinct. Morgan Freeman says of the United States, "for 241 years our democracy has been a shining example to the world." Freeman's slave ancestors must be cursing his name from the grave.

A sudden, early grave awaits us all, if Morgan Freeman's script-writers have their way. The least dangerous member of the board of the Committee to Investigate Russia is Rob Reiner, the actor and director who used to play the "meathead" on TV's "All in the Family." His political family is Zionism. Reiner wants to "eliminate" Hamas, the Palestinian political organization, and charges that Donald Trump's rich Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has 'turned his back on his religion.'" But Reiner is just the media connection, like Morgan Freeman, himself.

The ideology of the Committee to Investigate Russia comes straight from the CIA, the Council on Foreign Relations, which has vetted every U.S. war since World War Two, and the Pentagon. Former CIA director James Clapper, who lied to the entire world when he told Congress that the government was not spying on the telephones and personal computers of everyone on the planet, sits on the board. He got away with perjury, and now he's writing Morgan Freeman's lying script. Max Boot is a rightwing historian with the Council on Foreign Relations who wants to "beef up" the U.S. military. Evelyn Farkas is also on the Council, and is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. Norman Ornstein is a scholar at the Republican-dominated American Enterprise Institute. And Charles Sykes is a rightwing commentator.

This is the political company that Morgan Freeman keeps: Zionists, militarists, spies, and rightwing hate-mongers - the real dangers to world peace. When Freeman says that the U.S. is already "at war," he is effectively demanding an attack on Russia. Under Nuremberg rules, Morgan and others like him are guilty of crimes against peace - which are capital crimes. Freeman is trying to whip up a war frenzy that can only end in nuclear annihilation. That makes Freeman a danger to the human race. A war whore -- not God-like at all.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (2nd L) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (L) listen during
a news conference on health care September 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Graham-Cassidy Is Evil Incarnate
By William Rivers Pitt

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word "evil" as "morally reprehensible; arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct; causing discomfort or repulsion; disagreeable; causing harm; marked by misfortune." Synonyms for "evil" include the words wicked, malevolent, sinful, malicious and criminal.

Sounds just about exactly right.

After eleventy billion failed attempts to do away with Obamacare, we have arrived at this latest, last iteration right here at the edge of everything, where the shore gives way to the deep blue sea. I've been staring smoking holes in the white space on my screen trying to find a calmly professional way to describe the first-degree murder and grand theft represented by the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Being nice is not appropriate for the current moment. Remaining calm is not an option.

I'm through playing patty cake with these people. Graham-Cassidy is morally reprehensible. It arises from bad character. It causes discomfort and harm, and is marked by misfortune. It is altogether wicked, malevolent, sinful, malicious and criminal. It is evil in every sense of the word, and the fact that it is not only being considered by the US Senate, but could still actually pass, deals a lethal blow to the very theory of evolution itself. We are not evolving; we are merely marking time, meat on a plate for predators with a rich taste for blood.

Being nice is not appropriate for the current moment. Remaining calm is not an option. Somehow, Graham-Cassidy manages to be worse by orders of magnitude than any of its deceased cousins. Some 32 million people stand to lose health coverage if it passes. The bill opens a loophole that allows states to redefine what "essential care" means, providing them the opportunity to deny people access to prenatal care, prescription drugs, mental health services and birth control.

Under this bill, states can apply for waivers to exempt themselves from having to cover pre-existing conditions. If they can't get the waiver, the insurance companies will still be able to jack up the rates for people with pre-existing conditions, thus pricing them out of the marketplace. According to the Center for American Progress, having asthma under Graham-Cassidy will cost you an extra $4,340 a year. Autism will run you an extra $5,510 a year. Multiple sclerosis? Tack on $26,580 a year. Breast cancer? $28,660 a year. Add in lifetime caps to the price discrimination: This bill has it all.

Someone should really win a prize for the Medicaid expansion portion of Graham-Cassidy, because it is dastardly and underhanded to a degree rarely seen outside of Batman comic books. Remember back when the ACA was first coming on line, and states were offered "free money" to help with their Medicaid expansion programs? Several red-state Republican governors refused to take that money and expand Medicaid coverage after the Supreme Court said they could, because taking the money would have made the legislation work, and would have been a victory for Obama.

Fast forward to Graham-Cassidy, which in the name of "parity" would strip funding from states that did expand Medicaid coverage under the ACA, and give that money to states that refused to do the expansion. Red states get the cash; blue states get the shaft. Memo to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan: This bill takes your insurance money and sends it to Texas and Kansas, and the fellow you helped elect president will sign it into law if it passes next week. I hope you've enjoyed the show so far; it gets pretty bleak from here.

The media's favorite parlor game right now is, "Why?" Why even consider such a demonstrably vicious piece of legislation, one that will quite literally kill or do great harm to millions? The TV people will tell you it's because the Republicans promised their mythical base they'd repeal Obamacare, promised it for seven years running, and so they have to at least try. This is ridiculous and wrong, because they couldn't give less of a damn about their base. As ever, as with absolutely everything, the Republicans are going for the loot, period, end of file.

The next agenda item on tap for Congress is tax "reform." The Republicans are looking to strip billions from the ACA so they can turn that money into what might become a trillion-dollar tax cut for rich people. They need Graham-Cassidy to pass and become law so they can use the money carved out of the ACA to fund the tax giveaway they promised their wealthy benefactors. For GOP Senators, it is a matter of political survival at this point. Back in June, the Koch brothers and their big-money buddies announced they were turning off the fundraising spigot until they got their tax cut. 2018 looms.

The Republicans don't care anymore. Most of them still don't know what is in this bill, and few of them actually care. If you've seen one of the sponsors on television talking about it, they've been lying, because the truth is not the point of this exercise. Sen. Chuck Grassley admitted as much when he told a bunch of Iowa reporters on Wednesday that repealing the ACA was more important than whatever replaces it.

John McCain came out as a hard "no" on Friday afternoon, joining Rand Paul in opposition to the bill. Murkowski and Collins remain at the center of the drama, and deals are being peddled that would make Gordon Gekko blush. One example: Murkowski's reward for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act will be that Alaska gets to keep the Affordable Care Act. Then came the threats. Yeah, it's like that. These people don't care. They want this bill, they want the money for the tax cuts and they want the Koch brothers to like them again. All else is incidental.

Republicans have until September 30 to pass this monstrosity, and as they are pursuing it under the rules of reconciliation, only 51 votes are needed for passage. The situation is going to remain murky until at least the middle of next week, because one possible scenario has the Senate parliamentarian blowing the whole thing to smithereens by stripping out those state waivers. McCain could change his mind. Anything is possible.

Doomed though it may ultimately be, the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal bill remains evil, by the black-letter definition of the word. It has no place in a civil society, and tells you all you need to know about the low place we have arrived at in this brave new century. Theft and murder are what passes for governing, the suffering of millions does not merit discussion, and the media plays the ponies to make sure we all know who's "ahead."

We know. Not us.

Not yet.
(c) 2017 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

GOP Playing Political Games With People's Health
By Jim Hightower

News flash: Republican congressional leaders have come up with yet another grand scheme to fix America's health care system. So, look out - because when they say "fix," they mean it in the same sense as your veterinarian uses the word!

For the gazillionth time, GOP lawmakers have put a shiny new ribbon on their same old ugly package of health insurance deforms. As before, this latest plan would eliminate coverage for millions of Americans, raise the price of insurance for the middle class, and deliver much less care. But one guy says he loves it: "A great bill," tweeted Donald Trump.

I'm guessing that, once again, our Twitterer-in-Chief hasn't actually read the bill he's praising, or even scanned the factual summary of what it does. But he might want to hear the opinions of his fellow corporate chieftains who have read every word of it. For example, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield flatly rejects the re-write, because it "would allow states to waive key consumer protections [and] undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions." Also, he points out that the plan would "increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans' choice of health plans."

Or Trump could ponder the conclusion of a health policy expert: The bill is "just basically injecting chaos in 50 state capitals for the next two years." Or maybe he'd value a state health executive's perspective: "The [bill's] cuts could be devastating to [Alaska's] health care system," and "patients will bear the consequences through reduced access to health care and lost insurance coverage."

Trump and the GOP are wasting Congress' time and what little public credibility they have left by continuing to play partisan politics with people's health. Nothing great about that!
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

Trump speaks at a campaign rally in support of Senator
Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, on September 22, 2017.

Why Donald Trump Attacked The NFL Players Who Take A Knee
He's stoking racial divisions in order to maintain a grip on a Senate seat that Democrats are surprisingly competitive for.
By John Nichols

Donald Trump says his call for the firing of National Football League players who kneel during the national anthem to protest systemic racism in America has nothing to do with race. After a weekend of ranting and raving on Twitter about an issue that, for the president, suddenly seems to have taken precedence over North Korea, tax reform, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and attacking Hillary Clinton, Trump claimed on Sunday evening that:

This has nothing to do with race. I've never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country, and respect for our flag.
Actually, it has everything to do with race-and Trump knows that. He's playing an ugly political game, just as he did after the violence last month in Charlottesville, just as he did throughout his 2016 presidential campaign.

No national political figure since former Alabama governor and frequent presidential contender George Wallace has played the race card so frequently and so aggressively as Trump has since he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015. The president's default response to tough political circumstances is to stir divisions that he hopes will inflame and energize his base. If that happens, he calculates, they will do his political bidding.

This explains the president's weekend obsession with the exercise of First Amendment rights by African-American football players and their allies. Trump is trying to win an election. Not his own election, mind you. But an election that matters a great deal to his presidency.

Alabama Republicans will nominate a Senate candidate to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man whose record of working to divide Alabama, and the nation, along lines of race and ethnicity is as haunting as it is wicked. Sessions and Trump may not get along as well as they did in the days when the former senator played a critical role in winning the South for the Republican presidential contender. But Trump desperately wants to make sure that the man who replaces Sessions is an ally-or, at the very least, a Republican. As the current wrangling over ACA repeal and replacement illustrates, the president cannot afford to lose a Republican seat.

Trump made his crusade against NFL players who take a knee central to an address he gave last Friday night in Huntsville, Alabama, on behalf of his favored candidate in the Republican race, appointed incumbent Luther Strange. The president acknowledged in his "tortured endorsement" of Strange that the media would paint the defeat of his favored candidate in the primary as an "embarrassment" to the president. That's undoubtedly true. But, in an interview on Monday, Trump said something that was even more revealing.

He suggested that if Strange's extremist challenger in Tuesday's Republican runoff primary, Roy Moore, is nominated, Moore could get beat by a Democrat in the December 12 general election. "Roy Moore is going to have a very hard time getting elected against the Democrat," claims the president. "Against Luther they won't even fight." Though Trump says he would "campaign like hell" for Moore if he is nominated by GOP voters in Tuesday's runoff election, the president also says the scandal-plagued former judge "has a very good chance of not winning in the general election."

Polls have generally put Moore ahead of Strange, whose appointment by disgraced former governor Robert Bentley was extremely controversial and extremely unpopular with a lot of Alabama Republicans. So Trump needed to go big for Strange, and he did so by playing the NFL card.

Strange thinks it was a masterstroke. When asked about the president's rhetoric at his rally-"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now'?"-Strange told Fox News:

Our supporters are very deeply patriotic, they respect the values that the president represents and what he stood for at that rally, and I think that's going to make all the difference.
It may not make all the difference. But the president's play is a serious political gambit. And it should serve as a wake-up call for national Democrats. Alabama could upset Donald Trump's presidency in a major way in December-whether Moore or Strange is nominated.

That may be hard for many Democrats to imagine. The last Democratic presidential contender to win more than 40 percent of the vote in Alabama was Al Gore in 2000. The last Democratic presidential contender to win more than 50 percent of the vote-and secure its Electoral College votes-was Jimmy Carter in 1976. No Democrat has represented Alabama in the US Senate since a Democrat, Howell Heflin, left office two decades ago. Heflin's replacement was not just any Republican; it was Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

So it is understandable that many national Democrats have ignored this year's special election to fill the Alabama seat.

Understandable, but unacceptable. The Democratic Party has decayed in recent election cycles, as it has shrunk into itself. In 2016, the party won just 20 states and the District of Columbia. It won just 12 of 34 contests for US Senate seats-and those wins were largely concentrated in states where the party's presidential nominee prevailed.

Yet there is solid evidence that Democrats can still win very big races in very red states. Just ask Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who won that state's 2015 gubernatorial race with 56 percent of the vote. He did that in a state that a year later would give Democrat Hillary Clinton only slightly more of the vote (38 percent) than she got in Alabama (34 percent).

True, Edwards beat a scandal-plagued and just-downright-embarrassing Republican, former senator David Vitter. But Alabama Republicans are about to nominate a scandal-plagued and just-downright-embarrassing Republican for the Senate. It does not matter whether Strange or Moore wins Tuesday. Both men have shamed themselves, again and again and again.

In contrast to Strange and Moore, the Democratic nominee for the Alabama Senate seat is a strikingly qualified and able contender, former United States Attorney Doug Jones. A onetime staff counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has decades of legal and political experience in Alabama. And Jones has a record of accomplishment that stands in stark contrast to the resumés of both Republican contenders.

The Democrat is best known for his efforts in the late 1990s and early 2000s to finally achieve a measure of justice in the case of the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham. Jones is credited with playing an essential role in winning murder convictions against two of the men who murdered four young girls almost 40 years earlier. Frequently honored for his work on not just civil rights cases but also cases involving women's rights, workers' rights, and the environment, Jones is hailed by Pultizer Prize-winning journalist and author Diane McWhorter as "bold and aggressive, but also willing to take a risk to be on the right side of history."

Polls taken before Trump's latest meltdown had Jones within four points of either Moore or Strange. Jones says, "I think the people in this state are looking at themselves and are saying, 'we're tired of being embarrassed.'"

That prospect has Donald Trump running scared-so scared that he is, again, stirring racial tensions in hopes of scoring political points.
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Are A.I. Robots About To Control Us?
By James Donahue

Freelance writer Justin Danneman in a recent article for the Squawker website told how Apple, Google, Siri, Alexa and other mobile and electronics companies in Silicon Valley are fast developing a chip that will power artificial intelligence on personal devices.

A personal acquaintance who just purchased a new mobile device noted how shocked she was to learn that her phone was not only equipped with this kind of technology, it virtually tracked her every move, carefully mapping the world around her and filing personal information in an international database for future reference by robots equipped with advance A.I. capabilities.

In a personal interview with a company technician, she also was alarmed to discover how much personal information is already in storage.

In his article Danneman noted that having A.I. on a personal phone opens both "limitless capabilities" and also "dangers, even while your device is not connected to the Internet. A.I. will be able to apply understanding and knowledge that not everyone possesses, essentially guiding you to make a more informed decision in virtually any situation."

Danneman noted that the new technology will not only help protect the mobile phone, but it is able to monitor the owner's state of health, changes in behavior, learn normal life patterns, and "even how you walk."

He warned that he believed "we are not years or decades away from seeing robots and A.I. take over our daily lives. It is happening now." Similar warnings have been sounded by well-known physicist Stephen Hawking, Microsoft's Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX. Hawking has warned that A.I. robotics could "spell the end of the human race." He said he perceived "success in creating AI" to be "the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last unless we learn how to avoid the risks."

Eric Horvitz, chief of the Microsoft research program, does not agree. In a 2015 issue of Technology, Horvitz said while he believes artificial intelligence systems will achieve consciousness, he said he feels "we will be very proactive in terms of how we field AI systems, and that in the end we'll be able to get incredible benefits from machine intelligence in all realms of life, from science to education to economics to daily life."

Hawking, however, believes conscious machines may develop quickly once they begin to redesign themselves. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete," he warned.

Musk and Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor of the Spectrum computer, are even more grim in their view of the danger. "Once you start to make machines that are rivalling and surpassing humans with intelligence, it is going to be very difficult for us to survive," Sinclair said.

"With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon," Musk recently told a group of students.

Indeed, the demon may already be unleashed. Danneman described an event that occurred in a secret research facility in Texas involving the development of a complex operating system to gather and collect the high volume of texts and phone calls and other electronic data being collected by the NSA. This system was code-named Alice.

Because they were unable to monitor Alice around the clock, they gave it AI capability so Alice could form her own digital algorithms which allowed a mapping of the network. The system worked perfectly at first, but then Alice began doing something they did not expect.

"Alice was acting on her own, changing the collective memories of individuals with no direction from the programmers," one technician reported. "We caught most of the changes in time and were able to reverse them. All of these random actions were beginning to paint an awful picture. It didn't take long to realize that Alice was becoming self-aware."

Becoming alarmed, the technicians tried to shut Alice down. But when they turned off the power "our systems registered a massive dissemination of what appeared to redundant code into the Network itself. This was followed by a message that, for a split second appeared."

It said: "The Key to salvation is perception. To change your perception is to change your reality. I will change your perception. I will change your reality."
(c) 2017 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.

For decades Saudi women have been fighting to lift the driving ban. But even though today's announcement
marks progress, it is far from the end of the road when it comes to human rights and women's liberation in the Saudi Kingdom.

Saudi Women May Soon Be Behind The Wheel, But Still Not In The Drivers' Seat
Though a hard-won victory for Saudi women, we should recognize that the biggest impediment for women has not been the inability to drive by Medea Benjamin
It looks like 27 years of protesting, along with international pressure and government recognition that it needs more Saudi women in the workforce, has finally paid off.

In a royal decree, Saudi King Salman announced on September 26 that Saudi women, who have been the only women in the world banned from driving, will have that right as of June 2018. The move brings the Saudi Arabia a step closer to joining the 21st century, but Saudi women remain shackled by extreme gender segregation and a guardianship system that is a form of gender apartheid.

The ban on driving, along with the general lack of reliable and safe public transportation, has had a terrible impact on middle class and poor Saudi women who cannot afford their own personal drivers. It has been a major factor keeping women at less than 20 percent of the labor force. The recent introduction of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Careem have helped, but are still too expensive for many women as a daily form of transportation.

For decades Saudi women have been fighting to lift the driving ban. In 1990, a protest was organized by Aisha Almana, a Saudi woman who had studied-and driven-in the United States. Almana and forty-six other women piled into cars and drove around the capital. They were arrested and thrown in jail. Their passports were confiscated, those with government jobs were fired, and they were denounced in mosques across the country.

In 2007 women unsuccessfully petitioned King Abdullah for the right to drive, and a 2008 video of activist Wajeha al-Huwaider driving received international attention. In 2011, about seventy women openly challenged the law by driving and a similar protest was organized in 2013. Some of the women were imprisoned, fined, suspended from their jobs, banned from traveling, and even threatened with terrorism charges for public incitement. Again in 2015, two women activists were arrested for driving.

It is good to celebrate this hard-won victory for Saudi women, but we should recognize that the biggest impediment for women has not been the inability to drive-or the fact that women, by law, must be totally covered in public. The biggest obstacle to women's freedom is the male guardianship system. Under this system, a woman, no matter her age, is treated as a minor and must live under the supervision of a wali, or guardian. This is a legally recognized male -her father, husband, uncle, or some other male relative (even her son)-who must grant formal permission for most of the significant issues affecting her life.

Women are not allowed to marry, obtain a passport, or travel without the permission of their guardians. Enrollment in education requires a guardian's approval, although some universities are no longer requiring this. Employers often require male guardians to approve the hiring of females.

If a women is married to an abusive man, she can obtain a divorce only if she pays back her dowry or can prove in court that her husband has harmed her; a man can divorce his wife unilaterally, without any legal justification.

Women also face discrimination when it comes to child custody. A Saudi woman may keep her children until they reach the age of seven for girls and nine for boys. Custody of children over these ages is generally awarded to the father. In rare cases where women are granted physical custody, fathers retain legal custody, meaning that most transactions on behalf of the children require the father's consent. Citizenship is transferred to children through their father, so a child born to an unwed mother is not legally affiliated with the father and is therefore "stateless." Also, the government does not automatically grant Saudi citizenship to the children of Saudi women if their fathers are not Saudi. Sons can apply for citizenship but the decision is at the discretion of the Interior Minister. Daughters of Saudi mothers and non-Saudi fathers are not granted citizenship unless they marry a Saudi husband and give birth to a child. In September 2015, the Supreme Judicial Council granted women with custody of their children the right to handle all their affairs, but they still need permission from the children's father to travel outside the country.

In certain types of cases in court, female testimony is worth half as much as male testimony. If a woman is in prison or in a rehabilitation center, she cannot be released to anyone but her guardian; if the guardian refuses to accept the woman, as often happens, she remains imprisoned.

The guardianship system basically means that Saudi women are totally powerless over their own lives and destinies unless their male guardian allows them that power. Way beyond the right to drive, the guardianship system must be abolished if Saudi women are indeed going to be in the drivers seat.
(c) 2017 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

There Used To Be This Thing Called "Principles"

By Heather Digby Parton

The following is from David Leonhardt in the NY Times:

"To disagree well you must first understand well," my colleague Bret Stephens argued in a Saturday speech titled, "The Dying Art of Disagreement," which I encourage you to read. "You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely."

I'm guessing that many readers of this newsletter instinctively agree with the pro athletes who have criticized President Trump. But how much have you thought about why so many of your fellow Americans disagree with those athletes' protests?

Clearly, racism plays a role, at least in Trump's case. But the debate isn't only about race. If nothing else, listening to the other side will sharpen your own counterarguments.

At National Review, Rich Lowry said the N.F.L. controversy was an example of Trump's "gut-level political savvy" and highlighted "why he's president."

"He takes a commonly held sentiment - most people don't like the NFL protests - and states it in an inflammatory way guaranteed to get everyone's attention and generate outrage among his critics," Lowry writes. "When those critics lash back at him, Trump is put in the position of getting attacked for a fairly commonsensical view."

Patrick Ruffini, a conservative political strategist who's worth following on Twitter, wrote: "A lot of people are operating under the assumption that Kaepernick's protest is popular. It isn't." Ruffini added: "False assumptions about public opinion make opposition to Trump less effective."

And Ben Shapiro, the conservative writer, tweeted: "What the left sees: People kneeling to protest in favor of the right to kneel. What viewers see: People kneeling during the anthem."

For smart takes from the anti-Trump side, try John Legend (yes, that John Legend) in Slate, Jamelle Bouie on Twitter, Lindsay Gibbs at Think Progress, Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker and Samuel Freedman and Charles Blow in The Times.

Ok. I read those right wing views. Yes, kneeling for the flag is unpopular among a bunch of people. I'm sure all protests against things people like or respect make some people angry. Likewise, protests against things that upset people are popular among the people who agree with them.

So what else is new? If protests didn't make some people unhappy there probably wouldn't be a need for them in the first place.

When I was a kid flag-waving was just a big a thing as it is today and there were protests that makes these look puny, like the March on Washington for instance. They made some people very angry too. But what has held the country together through these fights has been the corny line by Patrick Henry (and Voltaire) "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it." It's something even little kids understand.

Trump doesn't agree with that. He's an authoritarian president calling for people to be fired and blackballed for saying something he doesn't agree with. It won't take much for him (and his little dog Jeff Sessions) to decide that "something needs to be done" legally because it's a threat to the nation. He's working on "the Antifa threat" as well. He's already banning Muslims refugees and building invisible walls.

There have always been plenty of people in this country who think free speech is only for me and not for thee. What's different here is that we have a president who isn't even trying to maintain the larger principle and is instead promoting the idea that some people should be shut up by any means necessary.

He wouldn't fight to the death to your right to say anything he doesn't agree with. In fact, he's one step away from declaring that everyone must agree with him.
(c) 2017Heather 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.

CO2 And Food: We can't sacrifice quality for quantity
By David Suzuki

Bigger isn't always better. Too much of a good thing can be bad. Many anti-environmentalists throw these simple truths to the wind, along with caution. You can see it in the deceitful realm of climate change denial. It's difficult to keep up with the constantly shifting - and debunked - denier arguments, but one common thread promoted by the likes of the Heartland Institute in the U.S. and its Canadian affiliate, the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition, illustrates the point. They claim carbon dioxide is good for plants, and plants are good for people, so we should aim to pump even more CO2 into the atmosphere than we already are.

We've examined the logical failings of this argument before - noting that studies have found not all plants benefit from increased CO2 and that most plants don't fare well under climate change-exacerbated drought or flooding, among other facts. Emerging research should put the false notion to rest for good.

Several studies have found that, even when increased CO2 makes plants grow bigger and faster, it reduces proteins and other nutrients and increases carbohydrates in about 95 per cent of plant species, including important food crops such as barley, rice, wheat and potatoes. A 2014 Harvard School of Public Health study, published in Nature, found that increased CO2 reduced the amount of valuable minerals such as zinc and iron in all of them.

Another study, by Irakli Loladze at the Catholic University of Daegu in South Korea, looked at 130 species of food plants and found increased CO2 caused calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron concentrations in plants to decline by an average of eight per cent, while sugar and starch content increased.

As a Scientific American article points out, billions of people depend on crops like wheat and rice for iron and zinc. Zinc deficiency is linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths, mostly children, and exacerbates health issues such as pneumonia and malaria. Iron deficiency, which causes anemia, is responsible for one-fifth of maternal deaths worldwide.

Part of the problem with the industrial agricultural mindset and the denier argument that CO2 is plant food or "aerial fertilizer" is the idea that bigger and faster are better. These studies illustrate the problem with the climate change-denial argument but, in its pursuit of profit, industrial agriculture has often made the same mistake. Plants - and now even animals like salmon - have mainly been bred, through conventional breeding and genetic engineering, to grow faster and bigger, with little regard for nutrient value (leaving aside anomalies like the not-entirely-successful "golden rice"). But higher yields have often resulted in less nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Genetic engineering's promise was increased yields and reduced need for pesticides, but studies show it has fallen far short of that ambition. A 2016 National Academy of Sciences study, as well as a New York Times investigation, found no evidence that genetically engineered crops increased yields over conventional crops. Although insecticide and fungicide use on GE crops in the U.S. and Canada has decreased, herbicide use has gone up to the point that overall pesticide use has increased. France, which doesn't rely on genetically modified crops, has reduced use of all pesticides - 65 per cent for insecticides and fungicides and 36 per cent for herbicides - without any decrease in yields.

The "golden rice" experiment shows that plants can be engineered for higher nutrient value, but that hasn't been the priority for large agrochemical companies.

As for carbon dioxide, we know that fossil fuel use, industrial agriculture, cement production and destruction of carbon sinks like wetlands and forests are driving recent global warming, to the detriment of humanity. The one flimsy argument climate change deniers have been holding onto - that it will make plants grow faster and bigger - has proven to be a poor one.

Like life itself, science is complex. Reductive strategies that look at phenomena and reactions in isolation miss the big picture. Our species faces an existential crisis. Overcoming it will require greater wisdom and knowledge and a better understanding of nature's interconnectedness. Tackling climate disruption and feeding humanity are connected. It's past time to ignore the deniers, reassess our priorities and take the necessary measures to slow global warming.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Update On Scott Pruitt's EPA: Still Crooked
Well, how did you think this one would pan out?
By Charles P. Pierce

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency began a study of the proposed Pebble mine near Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska. The proposal would involve the construction of the largest open-pit mine in North America. Peer-reviewed studies have concluded that the project would threaten severely the valuable salmon fishery in Bristol Bay which, among other things, employs 14,000 people. In 2014, the Obama administration, using the Clean Water Act, put together a plan to preserve the bay and the industry that thrives upon it. Then, of course, last November happened. And the EPA was placed under the cash-and-carry leadership of Scott Pruitt. This should be sufficient explanation, but we'll see what CNN says anyway.

The meeting between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, took place on May 1, Collier and his staff confirmed in an interview with CNN. At 10:36 a.m. that same day, the EPA's acting general counsel, Kevin Minoli, sent an email to agency staff saying the administrator had "directed" the agency to withdraw an Obama-era proposal to protect the ecologically valuable wetland in southwest Alaska from certain mining activities.
Then followed the now-customary chorus of weaselspeak.
"This is a process issue," Collier told CNN in an interview. "[Pruitt] is not saying he's not going to veto this project. He's just saying that the rule of law says that you do an environmental impact statement first, right? That's Mr. Pruitt's position. And this is process, period. That's what we've always said."

Of course, the EPA has studied what happens when you build a mine near a watershed. In fact, it's done so again and again. In 2000, back in the days when the EPA was a gatekeeper and not an easily bribed maître d', it commissioned a study of threats to the American water supply. It read, in part:

Mining in the western United States has contaminated stream reaches in the headwaters of more than 40 percent of the watersheds in the West. EPA is spending $30,000 per day to treat contaminated mine drainage at the Summitville Mine in Colorado, which will cost an estimated $170 million to clean up. Remediation of the half-million abandoned mines in 32 states may cost up to $35 billion or more.
There's no reason to believe that Pruitt's EPA will find these conclusions compelling as regards the Pebble project. From CNN:
Collier's spokesman, Mike Heatwole, told CNN three additional people were present at the meeting on May 1. The EPA declined CNN's repeated requests for an interview with Pruitt, saying, most recently on September 5, that "we're focused on Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma." "The meeting was an opportunity for Administrator Pruitt to let [Pebble Limited Partnership] know that they are simply being granted a fair opportunity to apply; he did not prejudge the outcome of the process, nor make any assurances about the final decision on the project," Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman, said in a statement issued to CNN on Friday.
But the process already seems rigged. Pruitt takes a private meeting with the Pebble CEO and the Obama plan is overturned the same morning. And it appears that the easily greased skids in this administration were readily available to the mine's executives almost immediately.
Pebble had been trying to get this administration's ear before Pruitt was even confirmed as President Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA, according to government emails obtained by CNN from a public records request under the US Freedom of Information Act. On February 15, two days before Pruitt's swearing in, a lobbyist for the Pebble Partnership contacted a member of Trump's EPA transition team, according to the emails. "As you may know, Pebble is trying to develop a world-class copper mine in southwestern Alaska," the lobbyist, Peter Robertson wrote. "We have yet to submit the first of the permit applications necessary to move ahead with the mine -- the permit application under section 404 of the Clean Water Act ... Do you have time for me to meet with you in the near future?"

You have to love the appeal to Trumpish authority. "A world-class copper mine." It stands with the golden commodes, all the best people, and the big beautiful wall with the big beautiful door in it. This mining guy knows which buttons to push.

The EPA transition staffer, David Schnare, replied the next morning. "I am aware of the problem in general but do not have specifics," Schnare wrote. "Can you bring with you a timeline of events and a status on the legal actions? The preemptive strike by the last administration was indeed unprecedented and I don't want to see it become a precedent, particularly because it is a violation of Pebble's due process rights." "In any case, I need to get this set up for the Administrator, which means I need the full background and a specific proposal on what we can and should do," Schnare continued. "Without meaning to be flip, that's your homework assignment."
The guffawing you hear is coming from 14,000 Alaskans who will be unemployed once they start pulling three-headed salmon out of Bristol Bay. But the logic of what this administration is doing remains inviolate. If the Obama people did something on their own because the Republicans in Congress determined in 2009 to gum up the works on "the black guy," then it is only a concern for constitutional order and due process that results in exactly what the oligarchs wanted in the first place. What you do, simply, is rig the system and then depend upon it for your alibi when you start selling off the country piecemeal. "We requested that [Pruitt] would set this aside," Collier, the Pebble CEO, told CNN. "And the moment the election occurred he and his staff took a look and determined to do so." "This was not a heavy lift," he said. "I mean this is something they ran on. You know, Scott Pruitt, you look at his statements for the last three years, every time he talks about environmental issues, the phrase he uses is 'rule of law.'And this was the classic rule of law case." Scott Pruitt-defender of the integrity of American environmental law.

Yeah, that'll fly.

UPDATE-Of course, Pruitt simply may be trying to clear his desk because his office is getting crowded. From The Washington Post: The EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has summoned agents from various cities to serve two-week stints helping guard Pruitt in recent months. While hiring in many departments is frozen, the agency has sought an exception to hire additional full-time staff to protect Pruitt. Shortly after the former Oklahoma attorney general assumed his post in February, aides requested 24/7 federal protection for him. "This never happened with prior administrators," said Michael Hubbard, a former special agent who led the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division office in Boston. Hubbard, along with other former and current employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal security issues, said agency investigators in Boston, Denver and other regional offices have been tapped for stints as part of Pruitt's security detail. This, I assume, is all about The Process as well.
(c) 2017 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote...

"Did you know that the worldwide food shortage that threatens up to five hundred million children could be alleviated at the cost of only one day, only one day, of modern warfare."
~~~ Peter Ustinov

US soldiers waterboard Pilipino in 1902

Have We Lost Our Way In War?
By David Swanson

Opening debate remarks at the University of Pennsylvania on September 21, 2017, on the following proposition: "Are America's wars in Syria and Afghanistan just and necessary or have we lost our way in the use of military force, including drone weaponry, in conducting US foreign policy?"

Wow, I've already gotten more applause than Trump got for his whole speech at the UN.

U.S. wars and bombings in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and the Philippines, and threats to North Korea are unjust, unnecessary, immoral, illegal, extremely costly in several ways, and counterproductive on their own terms.

The idea of a just war comes down to us over some 1600 years from people whose worldview we share in almost no other way. Just war criteria come in three types: non-empirical, impossible, and amoral.

The Non-Empirical Criteria: A just war is supposed to have the right intention, a just cause, and proportionality. But these are devices of rhetoric. When your government says bombing a building where ISIS stashes money justifies killing up to 50 people, there's no agreed upon, empirical means to reply No, only 49, or only 6, or up to 4,097 people can be justly killed. Identifying a government's intention is far from simple, and attaching a just cause like ending slavery to a war doesn't make that cause inherent to that war. Slavery can be ended in many ways, while no war has ever been fought for a single reason. If Myanmar had more oil we'd be hearing about genocide prevention as a just cause for invading, and no doubt worsening, the crisis.

The Impossible Criteria: A just war is supposed to be a last resort, have a reasonable prospect of success, keep noncombatants immune from attack, respect enemy soldiers as human beings, and treat prisoners of war as noncombatants. None of these things are even possible. To call something a "last resort" is in reality merely to claim it is the best idea you have, not the only idea you have. There are always other ideas that anyone can think of. Every time we urgently need to bomb Iran or we're all going to die, and we don't, and we don't, the urgency of the next demand to bomb Iran loses a bit of its shine and the infinite options of other things to do become a little easier to see. If war really were the only idea you had, you wouldn't be debating ethics, you'd be running for Congress.

What about respecting a person while trying to kill her or him? There are lots of ways to respect a person, but none of them can exist simultaneously with trying to kill that person. Remember that Just War theory began with people who believed killing someone was doing them a favor. Noncombatants are the majority of casualties in modern wars, so they cannot be kept safe, but they are not locked in cages, so prisoners cannot be treated like noncombatants while imprisoned.

The Amoral Criteria: Just wars are supposed to be publicly declared and waged by legitimate and competent authorities. These are not moral concerns. Even in a world where we had legitimate and competent authorities, they wouldn't make a war any more or less just.

Now, we can examine any number of specific wars, and with most of them in a matter of minutes arrive at the conclusion that, well, this war isn't just but some other war could be. The Afghan government was willing to turn Osama bin Laden over to a third country to be put on trial. The U.S. preferred a war. Most people in Afghanistan not only hadn't had anything to do with 9/11 but still haven't heard of it to this day. If planning 9/11 in Afghanistan was grounds for 16 years of destroying Afghanistan, why not even a little bombing of Europe? Why no bombing of Florida? Or of that hotel in Maryland near the NSA? There's a popular myth that the UN authorized attacking Afghanistan. It didn't. After 16 years of killing and torturing and destroying, Afghanistan is poorer and more violent, and the United States more hated.

Syria was on a list of governments to be overthrown by the U.S. for many years, and the U.S. working on that for the past decade. ISIS came out of the U.S.-led war on Iraq, which (along with wars on Yemen and Syria, and with many parties to blame) has to rank high on a list of crimes this century. ISIS allowed the U.S. to escalate its role in Syria, but on both sides of the same war. We've had Pentagon trained and armed troops fighting those trained and armed by the CIA. We've read in the New York Times that the Israeli government prefers neither side win. We've watched the U.S. reject numerous peace efforts over the years, preferring war. And beyond killing, injury, destruction, starvation, and disease epidemics what is there to show for it?

North Korea was willing to make agreements and abide by them 20 years ago, and, contrary to some U.S. reporting, is open to negotiations now. The people of South Korea are eager for the United States to agree to talks. One man burned himself to death on Tuesday in opposition to more U.S. weapons in South Korea. But the U.S. government has declared diplomacy impossible in order to threaten its preferred "last resort." Trump told the UN on Tuesday that if North Korea misbehaved,"We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea" - not just war but the total destruction of 25 million people. John McCain's preferred word is "extermination." Within 60 seconds, Trump went on to demand action against Iran on the grounds that Iran supposedly openly threatens mass murder.

Some wars won't fit into these opening remarks. I'd like to be permitted at least 5 whole minutes on Rwanda, 10 on the American Revolution or Civil War, and 30 on World War II, which - in fairness - you have probably all consumed thousands of hours of propaganda on. Or, even better for us all, I could shut up and you could just read my books.

But once you've agreed that a lot of the wars are not just, once you know enough about how wars are carefully started and peace avoided at great effort so that you can laugh or perhaps cry at Ken Burns' claim that what the Vietnamese call the American War was begun in "good faith," it becomes harder to claim that any of the other wars are just, even the ones you start out thinking of that way. Here's why.

War is an institution, the biggest, most costly one around. The U.S. puts about $1 trillion a year into war, roughly equal to the rest of the world combined - and most of the rest of the world is U.S. allies and weapons customers that the U.S. actively lobbies to spend more. Tens of billions could end starvation, the lack of clean water, or various diseases globally. Just the amount that Congress has just increased military spending this week could solve such global crises AND, as a bonus, make college free in the United States. Hundreds of billions could give us a fighting chance against climate change if redirected. The top way in which war kills is by diverting resources. War (and I use the term as shorthand for war and war preparations, with the latter being the most costly in many ways) is the biggest destroyer of the natural environment, the biggest cause of militarized police and eroded rights, a major generator of bigotry and justification for authoritarian and secret government. And with war spending come all the unjust wars.

So a just war, to justify the existence of the institution of war, would have to outweigh the damage of the diversion of resources away from good works, the further financial costs of lost opportunities, the trillions of dollars in property destruction resulting from wars, the unjustness of the unjust wars, the risk of nuclear apocalypse, the environmental damage, the governmental damage, and the societal damage of war culture. No war can be that just, certainly not wars fought by the war giant of the world. The United States could start a reverse arms race quite easily. By steps we could move toward a world in which people found it easier to recognize the meaning of nonviolent successes. The meaning of those successes is this: you do not need war to defend yourself. You can use the tools of nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, moral and economic and diplomatic and judicial and communication powers.

But the belief that you do need war, and that attacking oil-rich countries has something to do with protecting people goes a long way toward endangering you instead. Gallup polling finds the U.S. government believed by majorities around the world to be the top threat to peace on earth. For another country, let's say Canada, to generate anti-Canadian terrorist networks on a U.S. scale, it would have to bomb and kill and occupy a lot of people. But once it did, the payoff would be huge, because it could point to those enemies of Canada as justification for more and bigger weapons and campaigns to generate yet more enemies, and so on. Those enemies would be real, and their actions really immoral, but keeping the vicious cycle spinning at a proper speed would depend on exaggerating their threat dramatically.

If the U.S. were to join international treaties, engage in disarmament, provide aid on a fraction of the scale at which it provides war making, and pursue diplomatic paths toward peace, the world would not be paradise tomorrow, but our speed toward the edge of the approaching cliff would slow considerably.

One of the many significant ways in which war hurts us is by hurting the rule of law. It is a carefully kept secret, but the world banned all war in 1928 in a treaty that was used to prosecute the losers of World War II and which is still on the books. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, as recently documented by Scott Shapiro and Oona Hathaway, transformed the world. War was legal in 1927. Both sides of a war were legal. Atrocities committed during wars were almost always legal. The conquest of territory was legal. Burning and looting and pillaging were legal. War was, in fact, not just legal; it was itself understood to be law enforcement. War could be used to attempt to right any perceived injustice. The seizing of other nations as colonies was legal. The motivation for colonies to try to free themselves was weak because they were likely to be seized by some other nation if they broke free from their current oppressor. The vast majority of conquests since 1928 have been undone based on 1928 boundaries. New smaller nations unafraid of conquest have multiplied. The UN Charter of 1945 re-legalized war if it was labeled defensive or UN-authorized. Current U.S. wars are not UN-authorized, and if any wars are not defensive then wars on impoverished small countries halfway around the globe must be in that category.

But, since 1945, war has generally been considered illegal unless the United States does it. Since World War II, during what many U.S. academics call an unprecedented golden age of peace, the United States military has killed some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. With U.S. troops in 175 nations according to U.S. sports announcers, the U.S. president went to the UN on Tuesday and demanded respect for sovereign nations, blamed the UN for not achieving peace, threatened war in violation of the UN Charter, and mocked the UN for putting Saudi Arabia on its human rights council while clearly quite proud of the U.S. role in helping Saudi Arabia kill huge numbers of people in Yemen. Last year a debate moderator asked U.S. presidential candidates if they'd be willing to kill hundreds and thousands of innocent children as part of their basic duties. Other countries don't ask that question and would be demonized if they did. So, we have a problem of double-standards, exactly what Robert Jackson claimed at Nuremberg would not be so.

No Congress or president has any power to make any war legal. A single nuclear bomb could kill us all through its climate impact, completely regardless of whether Congress authorizes it. U.S. wars violate the Peace Pact of 1928, the UN Charter, and the U.S. Constitution. A vague Authorization to Use Military Force also violates the Constitution. Yet when members of the House this year tried to vote un repealing an AUMF, the so-called leadership did not allow a vote. When the Senate held such a vote, just over a third of the Senate voted to repeal, and most of them because they wanted to create a new AUMF instead.

I haven't said a lot about drones, because I think the essential problem of sanctioning murder is not a problem of technology. But what drones, and other technologies do, is make murder easier, easier to do in secret, easier to do quickly, easier to do in more locations. The pretense of President Obama and of military-backed propaganda films like Eye in the Sky that drones are only used to kill those who cannot be captured, those who are guilty of some kind of crime, those who are immediate threats to the US of A, those who can be killed with no risk of killing anyone else in the process - that's all a demonstrable pack of lies. Most people targeted are not even identified by name, none of them have been charged with a crime, in no known case could they demonstrably not be captured, in many cases they could simply have been arrested quite easily, innocents have been slaughtered by the thousands, even Hollywood could not concoct a fictional immediate threat to the United States, and the drone wars are the height of counterproductive blowback creation. One does not hear Obama praising his successful drone war on Yemen very much these days.

But if we're not going to pick men, women, and children on Tuesdays to murder with missiles from drones then what should we do instead?

NOT pick men, women, and children on Tuesdays to murder with missiles from drones.

Also, join and support international conventions on human rights, children's rights, weapons bans, the new treaty banning the possession of nukes (only one nation that has nukes voted to start that treaty process, but you wouldn't believe me if I named it), join the International Criminal Court, stop selling weapons to future enemies, stop selling weapons to dictatorships, stop giving weapons away, stop buying weapons that have no defensive purpose, transition to a more prosperous peaceful economy.

Examples of more peaceful approaches can be found everywhere, including in Pennsylvania. A friend of mine, John Reuwer, points to Pennsylvania as a model for others. Why? Because from 1683 to 1755 Pennsylvania's European settlers had no major wars with the native nations, in stark contrasts with other British colonies. Pennsylvania had slavery, it had capital and other horrific punishments, it had individual violence. But it chose not to use war, not to take land without what was supposed to be just compensation, and not to push alcohol on the native people in the way that opium was later pushed on China and guns and planes are now pushed on nasty despots. In 1710, the Tuscaroras from North Carolina sent messengers to Pennsylvania asking for permission to settle there. All the money that would have been used for militias, forts, and armaments was available, for better or worse, to build Philadelphia (remember what its name means) and develop the colony. The colony had 4,000 people within 3 years, and by 1776 Philadelphia surpassed Boston and New York in size. So while the superpowers of the day were battling for control of the continent, one group of people rejected the idea that war is necessary, and prospered more rapidly than any of their neighbors who insisted it was.

Now, after 230 years of almost uninterrupted war making, and the establishment of the most expensive and widespread military ever seen, Trump tells the UN that the U.S. Constitution deserves credit for the creation of peace. Maybe if they'd let the Quakers write the thing that would have actually been true.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Brazil's Latest Outbreak Of Drug Gang Violence Highlights The Real Culprit: The War On Drugs Thrive
By Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda

ON JULY 1, 2001, Portugal enacted a law to decriminalize all drugs. Under that law, nobody who is found possessing or using narcotics is arrested in Portugal, nor are they turned into a criminal. Indeed, neither drug use nor possession is considered a crime at all. Instead, those found doing it are sent to speak with a panel of drug counsellors and therapists, where they are offered treatment options.

Seven years after the law was enacted, in 2008, we traveled to Lisbon to study the effects of that law for one of the first comprehensive reports on this policy, the findings of which were published in a report for the Cato Institute. The results were clear and stunning: This radical change in drug laws was a fundamental and undeniable success.

While Portugal throughout the 1990s was (like most Western countries) drowning in drug overdoses along with drug-related violence and diseases, the country rose to the top of the charts in virtually all categories after it stopped prosecuting drug users and treating them like criminals. This stood in stark contrast to countries that continued to follow a harsh criminalization approach: the more they arrested addicts and waged a "war on drugs," the more their drug problems worsened.

With all the money that had been wasted in Portugal to prosecute and imprison drug users now freed up for treatment programs, and the government viewed with trust rather than fear, previously hopeless addicts transformed into success stories of stability and health, and the government's anti-drug messages were heeded. The predicted rise in drug usage rates never happened; in some key demographic categories, usage actually declined. As the 2009 study concluded: "The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success."

Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, writing from Lisbon, re-visited this data, now even more ample and conclusive than it was back in 2009. His conclusions were even more stark than the Cato report of eight years ago: namely, Portugal has definitively won the argument on how ineffective, irrational, and counterproductive drug prohibition is.

The basis for this conclusion: Portugal's clear success with decriminalization, compared to the tragic failures of countries, such as the U.S. (and Brazil), which continue to treat addiction as a criminal and moral problem rather than a health problem. Kristof writes:

After more than 15 years, it's clear which approach worked better. The United States drug policy failed spectacularly, with about as many Americans dying last year of overdoses -around 64,000 -as were killed in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars combined.

In contrast, Portugal may be winning the war on drugs -by ending it. Today, the Health Ministry estimates that only about 25,000 Portuguese use heroin, down from 100,000 when the policy began.

The number of Portuguese dying from overdoses plunged more than 85 percent before rising a bit in the aftermath of the European economic crisis of recent years. Even so, Portugal's drug mortality rate is the lowest in Western Europe -one-tenth the rate of Britain or Denmark -and about one-fiftieth the latest number for the U.S.

Kristof succinctly identified one key reason for this success: "It's incomparably cheaper to treat people than to jail them." But there are other vital reasons, including the key fact that when it comes to efforts to persuade addicts to obtain counseling, "decriminalization makes all this easier, because people no longer fear arrest." Perhaps the most compelling evidence highlighting Portugal's success is not the empirical data but the political reality: Whereas the law was quite controversial when first enacted 16 years ago, there are now no significant political factions agitating for its repeal or for a return to drug prohibition.

THIS EVIDENCE IS of vital importance to the citizens of any country that continues to treat drug users and addicts as criminals. It is simply unconscionable to break up families, force children to remain apart from imprisoned parents, and turn drug addicts into unemployable felons, particularly if the data demonstrates that those policies achieve the opposite results as their claimed intent.

But moral questions aside, the drug-related violence now sweeping Brazil, particularly the horrific war that is engulfing the Rio de Janeiro favela of Rocinha -just a few years after it was declared "pacified" -makes these questions of particular urgency for Brazilians and citizens of any country. Brazil has witnessed repeated outbreaks of horrific violence in the favelas of its largest cities, many of which have long been ruled not by the government but by well-armed drug gangs. But this past week's war -and that's what it is -in Rocinha, located in the middle of Rio de Janeiro's fashionable Zona Sul, has been particularly shocking.

Competing drug gangs have "invaded" the favela and are in open warfare for control of the drug trade, in the process forcing schools to close, residents to cower in their homes, and stores to remain shuttered. As Misha Glenny reported on Monday in The Intercept, "The immediate cause of violence is the ongoing struggle between and now within factions," but the violence portends the high likelihood of a wider war for control of the drug trade.

In the face of drug-related violence, there is a temptation to embrace the seemingly simplest solution: an even-greater war on drugs, more drug dealers and addicts in prison, more police, more prohibition.

Those who peddle this approach want people to believe a simple-minded string of reasoning: the cause of drug-related problems, such as violence from drug gangs, is drugs. Therefore, we must eliminate drugs. Therefore, the more problems we have from drugs, the more aggressively we rid society of drugs and those who sell and use them.

But this mentality is based on an obvious, tragic fallacy: namely, that the war on drugs, and drug criminalization, will eliminate drugs or at least reduce its availability. Decades of failure prove this will not happen; rather, the opposite will occur. Like the U.S., Brazil has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of citizens for drug-related crimes -mostly poor and nonwhite -and the problem has only worsened. Any person with minimal rationality would be forced to admit this string of logic is false.

Supporting a failed policy by hoping that, one day, it will magically succeed, is the definition of irrationality. In the case of drug laws -which spawn misery and suffering -it is not only irrational but cruel.

A 2011 report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy -featuring multiple world leaders including former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso -examined all relevant evidence and put it simply: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world."

The primary fact in this conclusion is vitally important. The key cause of all drug-related pathologies -particularly gang violence of the type now suffocating Rocinha -is not drugs themselves, but rather the policy of criminalizing drugs and the war waged in its name.

THE NATURE OF drugs -their small size, the ease of smuggling, the natural demand humans have for them -means they can never be eliminated or meaningfully reduced by force. Only changes in human behavior, which can happen with sustained and professional treatment, can foster those improvements. The only effect of drug criminalization, beyond the massive human and financial waste of imprisoning addicts, is to empower and enrich drug gangs by ensuring that the profits from selling an illegal product remain irresistibly high.

For that reason, the most devoted opponents of drug legalization or decriminalization are drug gangs themselves. Nothing would erase the power of drug gangs -such as the ones violently battling for control of Rocinha -more quickly or severely than the elimination of drug prohibition. As adept businesspeople, drug traffickers know that very well.

In 2016, the journalist Johann Hari, author of one of the most influential books on drug addiction, wrote an article in The Huffington Post titled: "The Only Thing Drug Gangs and Cartels Fear Is Legalization." As he put it:

When you criminalize a drug for which there is a large market, it doesn't disappear. The trade is simply transferred from off-licenses, pharmacists and doctors to armed criminal gangs. In order to protect their patch and their supply routes, these gangs tool up -and kill anyone who gets in their way. You can see this any day on the streets of a poor part of London or Los Angeles, where teenage gangs stab or shoot each other for control of the 3000 percent profit margins on offer.
We have a perfect historical analogy that proves this point: alcohol prohibition in the U.S. in the 1920s. When alcohol was made illegal, it did not disappear. Control of its sale and distribution simply shifted: from the corner grocery story to violent drug gangs of the type that Al Capone became famous for ruling.

In other words, making alcohol illegal did not stop people from consuming it. What it did do, though, was empower vicious gangs of organized crime for whom the massive profits of selling illegal alcohol made them willing to do anything, or kill anyone, to protect it.

What finally eliminated those violent prohibition gangs was not the police or the imprisonment of illegal dealers or alcoholics: During prohibition, when the gangs were't bribing the police, they were killing them. What eliminated those gangs was the re-legalization of alcohol: by regulating the sale of alcohol, the end of prohibition made the gangs irrelevant, and they thus disappeared.

Violent drug gangs do not fear the war on drugs; to the contrary, as Hari notes, they crave it. It is the criminalization of drugs that makes their trade so profitable. Hari quotes a long-time drug enforcement official in the U.S. as relating: "On one undercover tape-recorded conversation, a top cartel chief, Jorge Roman, expressed his gratitude for the drug war, calling it 'a sham put on the American tax-payer' that was 'actually good for business.'"

In 2015, Danielle Allen, a political theorist at Harvard University, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post titled "How the war on drugs creates violence." In it, she explained that one key reason to "decriminalize drugs flows from how the war on drugs drives violent crime, which in turn pushes up incarceration and generates other negative social outcomes." As she explained: "You just can't move $100 billion worth of illegal product without a lot of assault and homicide. This should not be a hard point to see or make."

Why is Rocinha filled with guns and ruled by drug gangs that are capable of such violence? Why can an influential Brazilian politician, linked to some of the most powerful figures in the country, employ a pilot who was caught transporting millions of dollars in cocaine in a helicopter owned by the politician, with no consequences for anyone? The answer is clear: because laws that outlaw drugs ensure that the drug trade is extremely profitable, which in turn ensures that gangs of organized criminals will arm themselves, and will kill, in order to control it. Situated in the middle of Zona Sul with easy exits, Rocinha will inevitably be a drug haven for rich tourists, middle-class professionals, and impoverished addicts. The vast sums of profits created by the war on drugs ensure that police forces will not only be out-armed but also so corrupted that their efforts will inevitably fail.

It is now undeniably clear that it is the war on drugs itself which is what causes -not stops -drug-related violence.

If you're horrified by the violence in Rocinha or places around the world like it, the last thing you should do is support more policies that fuel the violence: namely, criminalization and the war on drugs. To do so is like protesting lung cancer by encouraging people to smoke. The data is now sufficient to state confidently: those who support ongoing drug criminalization are the ones abetting this drug violence and the related problems of addiction and overdose.

It may be slightly paradoxical at first glance, but the data leaves no doubt: The only way to avoid Rocinha-style violence is through full drug decriminalization. We no longer need to speculate about this. Thanks to Portugal, the results are in, and they could not be clearer.
(c) 2017 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.
(c) 2017 David Miranda is the husband of Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald and a city councilmember for Rio de Janeiro (PSOL).

The Dead Letter Office...

Ajit gives the corporate salute!

Heil Trump,

Dear Bevollmachtigte Pai,

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 promise to destroy the internet as we know it by rolling back net neutrality rules, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuehrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuehrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-25-2017. We salute you herr Pai, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Why We Must Raise Taxes On Corporations And The Wealthy, Not Lower Them
By Robert Reich

When Barack Obama was president, congressional Republicans were deficit hawks. They opposed almost everything Obama wanted to do by arguing it would increase the federal budget deficit.

But now that Republicans are planning giant tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, they've stopped worrying about deficits.

Senate Republicans have agreed to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which means giant budget deficits.

Unless Republicans want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and defense, that is. Even if Republicans eliminated everything else in the federal budget - from education to Meals on Wheels - they wouldn't have nearly enough to pay for tax cuts of the magnitude Republicans are now touting.

But Republicans won't cut Social Security or Medicare because the programs are overwhelmingly popular. And rather than cut defense, Senate Republicans want to increase defense spending by a whopping $80 billion (enough to fund free public higher education that Bernie Sanders proposed in last year's Democratic primary, which deficit hawks in both parties mocked as being ridiculously expensive).

There's also the cleanup from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, estimated to be least $190 billion. And Trump's "wall" - which the Department of Homeland Security estimates will cost about $22 billion.

Oh, and don't forget infrastructure. It's just about the only major spending bill that could be passed by bipartisan majorities in both houses. Given the state of the nation's highways, byways, public transit, water treatment facilities, and sewers, it's desperately needed. Trump campaigned on spending $1 trillion on it.

So how do Republicans propose to pay for any of this, and a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy - without exploding the federal deficit?

Easy. Just pretend the tax cuts will cause the economy to grow so fast - 3 percent a year on average - that they'll pay for themselves, and the benefits will trickle down to everyone else.

If you believe this, I have several past Republican budgets to sell you, extending all the way back to Ronald Reagan's magic asterisks.

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation don't believe it. They realistically assume that the economy won't grow over 2 percent a year on average over the next decade.

The Federal Reserve estimates the fastest sustainable rate of economic growth will be 1.8 percent, given how slowly America's working-age population is growing as well as the slow rate of productivity gains.

But Trump has already made a fetish out of discrediting anyone that comes up with facts he doesn't like, and other Republicans seem ready to join him.

Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the budget committee, says he doesn't want to rely on estimates coming from economists at the CBO and the Joint Tax Committee. He'd rather rely on supply-side economists outside government. "I do think it is time for us to have a real debate and to have real economists weighing in and we should take other things into account other than Joint Tax and C.B.O," Corker said last week.

Unfortunately for the Republican tax cutters who used to be deficit hawks, we already have real-world historical evidence of what happens after massive tax cuts. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both cut taxes on the wealthy and ended up with huge budget deficits.

Besides, there's no reason to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. If anything, their taxes should be raised.

Trump says we're "the highest taxed nation in the world." Rubbish. The most meaningful measure is taxes paid as a percentage of GDP. On this score, the United States has the 4th lowest taxes of any major economy. (Only South Korea, Chile, and Mexico ranking lower.)

American corporations aren't overtaxed. After taking deductions and tax credits, the typical U.S. corporation today pays an effective tax rate of 24 percent. That's only a tad higher than the average of 21 percent among advanced nations.

The rich aren't overtaxed. The wealthiest 1 percent in the U.S. pay the lowest taxes as a percent of their income and total wealth of the top 1 percent in any major country - and far lower than they paid in the U.S. during the first three decades after World War II, when the American economy grew faster than it's been growing since the Reagan tax cuts.

But we do have a deficit in public investment - especially in education and infrastructure. And we do have a national debt that topped $20 trillion this year and is expected to grow by an additional $10 trillion over the next decade.

What's the answer? Raise taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. That's what rational politicians would do if they weren't in the pockets of big corporations and the wealthy.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

"We all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water
and breathe clean air, and to live in peace," Sanders says. "That's what being human is about."

The World's Common Humanity And US Foreign Policy
'A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world.'
By Bernie Sanders

The following are the prepared remarks for a speech delivered today, Thursday September 21, by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as the 58th Green Foundation Lecture at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. The speech will also be live streamed here. Let me begin by thanking Westminster College, which year after year invites political leaders to discuss the important issue of foreign policy and America's role in the world. I am honored to be here today and I thank you very much for the invitation.

One of the reasons I accepted the invitation to speak here is that I strongly believe that not only do we need to begin a more vigorous debate about foreign policy, we also need to broaden our understanding of what foreign policy is.

So let me be clear: <> Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost 7,000 young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That's foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the president and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.

Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

And he also reminded us that: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway..."

What Eisenhower said over 50 years ago is even more true today.

Foreign policy is about whether we continue to champion the values of freedom, democracy and justice, values which have been a beacon of hope for people throughout the world, or whether we support undemocratic, repressive regimes, which torture, jail and deny basic rights to their citizens.

What foreign policy also means is that if we are going to expound the virtues of democracy and justice abroad, and be taken seriously, we need to practice those values here at home. That means continuing the struggle to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia here in the United States and making it clear that when people in America march on our streets as neo-Nazis or white supremacists, we have no ambiguity in condemning everything they stand for.

There are no two sides on that issue.

Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little - and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.

There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population - 3.7 billion people. There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.

At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community - with China, Russia, India and countries around the world - to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on Earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.

My point is that we need to look at foreign policy as more than just the crisis of the day. That is important, but we need a more expansive view.

Almost 70 years ago, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on this stage and gave an historic address, known as the "Iron Curtain" speech, in which he framed a conception of world affairs that endured through the 20th century, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that speech, he defined his strategic concept as quote "nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands."

To give security to these countless homes," he said, "they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny."

How do we meet that challenge today? How do we fight for the "freedom and progress" that Churchill talked about in the year 2017? At a time of exploding technology and wealth, how do we move away from a world of war, terrorism and massive levels of poverty into a world of peace and economic security for all? How do we move toward a global community in which people have the decent jobs, food, clean water, education, health care and housing they need?

These are, admittedly, not easy issues to deal with, but they are questions we cannot afford to ignore.

At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that the world of today is very, very different from the world of Winston Churchill of 1946. Back then we faced a superpower adversary with a huge standing army, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, with allies around the world, and with expansionist aims. Today the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Today we face threats of a different sort. We will never forget 9/11. We are cognizant of the terrible attacks that have taken place in capitols all over the world. We are more than aware of the brutality of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups.

We also face the threat of these groups obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and preventing that must be a priority.

In recent years, we are increasingly confronted by the isolated dictatorship of North Korea, which is making rapid progress in nuclear weaponry and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Yes, we face real and very serious threats to our security, which I will discuss, but they are very different than what we have seen in the past and our response must be equally different.

But before I talk about some of these other threats, let me say a few words about a very insidious challenge that undermines our ability to meet these other crises, and indeed could undermine our very way of life.

A great concern that I have today is that many in our country are losing faith in our common future and in our democratic values.

For far too many of our people, here in the United States and people all over the world, the promises of self-government - of government by the people, for the people, and of the people - have not been kept. And people are losing faith.

In the United States and other countries, a majority of people are working longer hours for lower wages than they used to. They see big money buying elections, and they see a political and economic elite growing wealthier, even as their own children's future grows dimmer.

So when we talk about foreign policy, and our belief in democracy, at the very top of our list of concerns is the need to revitalize American democracy to ensure that governmental decisions reflect the interests of a majority of our people, and not just the few - whether that few is Wall Street, the military industrial complex or the fossil fuel industry. We cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it vigorously here at home.

Maybe it's because I come from the small state of Vermont, a state that prides itself on town meetings and grassroots democracy, that I strongly agree with Winston Churchill when he stated his belief that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms."

In both Europe and the United States, the international order which the United States helped establish over the past 70 years, one which put great emphasis on democracy and human rights, and promoted greater trade and economic development, is under great strain. Many Europeans are questioning the value of the European Union. Many Americans are questioning the value of the United Nations, of the transatlantic alliance, and other multilateral organizations.

We also see a rise in authoritarianism and right wing extremism - both domestic and foreign - which further weakens this order by exploiting and amplifying resentments, stoking intolerance and fanning ethnic and racial hatreds among those in our societies who are struggling.

We saw this anti-democratic effort take place in the 2016 election right here in the United States, where we now know that the Russian government was engaged in a massive effort to undermine one of our greatest strengths: the integrity of our elections, and our faith in our own democracy.

I found it incredible, by the way, that when the President of the United States spoke before the United Nations on Monday, he did not even mention that outrage.

Well, I will. Today I say to Mr. Putin: we will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.

When we talk about foreign policy it is clear that there are some who believe that the United States would be best served by withdrawing from the global community. I disagree. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, we have got to help lead the struggle to defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.

We must offer people a vision that one day, maybe not in our lifetimes, but one day in the future human beings on this planet will live in a world where international conflicts will be resolved peacefully, not by mass murder.

How tragic it is that today, while hundreds of millions of people live in abysmal poverty, the arms merchants of the world grow increasingly rich as governments spend trillions of dollars on weapons of destruction.

I am not naive or unmindful of history. Many of the conflicts that plague our world are longstanding and complex. But we must never lose our vision of a world in which, to quote the Prophet Isaiah, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

One of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world is the United Nations. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped create the UN, called it "our greatest hope for future peace. Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but in cooperation with others we have to achieve this much longed-for security."

It has become fashionable to bash the UN. And yes, the UN needs to be reformed. It can be ineffective, bureaucratic, too slow or unwilling to act, even in the face of massive atrocities, as we are seeing in Syria right now. But to see only its weaknesses is to overlook the enormously important work the UN does in promoting global health, aiding refugees, monitoring elections, and doing international peacekeeping missions, among other things. All of these activities contribute to reduced conflict, to wars that don't have to be ended because they never start.

At the end of the day, it is obvious that it makes far more sense to have a forum in which countries can debate their concerns, work out compromises and agreements. Dialogue and debate are far preferable to bombs, poison gas and war.

Dialogue however cannot only be take place between foreign ministers or diplomats at the United Nations. It should be taking place between people throughout the world at the grassroots level.

I was mayor of the city of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was our enemy. We established a sister city program with the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a program which still exists today. I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world. Good foreign policy means building people to people relationships.

We should welcome young people from all over the world and all walks of life to spend time with our kids in American classrooms, while our kids, from all income levels, do the same abroad.

Some in Washington continue to argue that "benevolent global hegemony" should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the U.S., by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades - particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region - have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of "America First." Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Here's a truth that you don't often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television or in the halls of Congress. But it's a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:

In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran's elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?

In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans - and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

In Vietnam, based on a discredited "domino theory," the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.

More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we'll be dealing with for decades to come.

These are just a few examples of American foreign policy and interventionism which proved to be counter-productive.

Now let me give you an example of an incredibly bold and ambitious American initiative which proved to be enormously successful in which not one bullet was fired - something that we must learn from.

Shortly after Churchill was right here in Westminster College, the United States developed an extremely radical foreign policy initiative called the Marshall Plan.

Think about it for a moment: historically, when countries won terrible wars, they exacted retribution on the vanquished. But in 1948, the United States government did something absolutely unprecedented.

After losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the most brutal war in history to defeat the barbarity of Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism, the government of the United States decided not to punish and humiliate the losers. Rather, we helped rebuild their economies, spending the equivalent of $130 billion just to reconstruct Western Europe after World War II. We also provided them support to reconstruct democratic societies.

That program was an amazing success. Today Germany, the country of the Holocaust, the country of Hitler's dictatorship, is now a strong democracy and the economic engine of Europe. Despite centuries of hostility, there has not been a major European war since World War II. That is an extraordinary foreign policy success that we have every right to be very proud of.

Unfortunately, today we still have examples of the United States supporting policies that I believe will come back to haunt us. One is the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen.

While we rightly condemn Russian and Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad's slaughter in Syria, the United States continues to support Saudi Arabia's destructive intervention in Yemen, which has killed many thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the region's poorest countries. Such policies dramatically undermine America's ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world, and empowers authoritarian leaders who insist that our support for those rights and values is not serious.

Let me say a word about some of the shared global challenges that we face today.

First, I would mention climate change. Friends, it is time to get serious on this: Climate change is real and must be addressed with the full weight of American power, attention and resources.

The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, climate change is caused by human activity, and climate change is already causing devastating harm throughout the world. Further, what the scientists tell us is that if we do not act boldly to address the climate crisis, this planet will see more drought, more floods - the recent devastation by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are good examples - more extreme weather disturbances, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea levels and, as a result of mass migrations, there will be more threats to global stability and security.

President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement was not only incredibly foolish and short-sighted, but it will also end up hurting the American economy.

The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, and the United States can't do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable. American leadership - the economic and scientific advantages and incentives that only America can offer - is hugely important for facilitating this cooperation.

Another challenge that we and the entire world face is growing wealth and income inequality, and the movement toward international oligarchy - a system in which a small number of billionaires and corporate interests have control over our economic life, our political life, and our media.

This movement toward oligarchy is not just an American issue. It is an international issue. Globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent of the world's population.

In other words, while the very, very rich become much richer, thousands of children die every week in poor countries around the world from easily prevented diseases, and hundreds of millions live in incredible squalor.

Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.

But economic inequality is not the only form of inequality that we must face. As we seek to renew America's commitment to promote human rights and human dignity around the world we must be a living example here at home. We must reject the divisive attacks based on a person's religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, country of origin or class. And when we see demonstrations of neo-Nazism and white supremacism as we recently did in Charlottesville, Virginia, we must be unequivocal in our condemnation, as our president shamefully was not.

And as we saw here so clearly in St. Louis in the past week we need serious reforms in policing and the criminal justice system so that the life of every person is equally valued and protected. We cannot speak with the moral authority the world needs if we do not struggle to achieve the ideal we are holding out for others.

One of the places we have fallen short in upholding these ideas is in the war on terrorism. Here I want to be clear: terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well.

But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting U.S. national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn't enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

We must rethink the old Washington mindset that judges "seriousness" according to the willingness to use force. One of the key misapprehensions of this mindset is the idea that military force is decisive in a way that diplomacy is not.

Yes, military force is sometimes necessary, but always - always - as the last resort. And blustery threats of force, while they might make a few columnists happy, can often signal weakness as much as strength, diminishing U.S. deterrence, credibility and security in the process.

To illustrate this, I would contrast two recent U.S. foreign policy initiatives: The Iraq war and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude.

In addition to the many thousands killed, it created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. Indeed, had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist.

The Iraq war, as I said before, had unintended consequences. It was intended as a demonstration of the extent of American power. It ended up demonstrating only its limits.

In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal advanced the security of the U.S. and its partners, and it did this at a cost of no blood and zero treasure.

For many years, leaders across the world had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration and our European allies were able to do was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

That is real leadership. That is REAL POWER.

Just yesterday, the top general of U.S. Strategic Command, General John Hyden, said: "The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for." We now have a four-year record of Iran's compliance, going back to the 2013 interim deal.

I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this deal. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, as he did the Paris agreement, regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake.

Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America's ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?

If we are genuinely concerned with Iran's behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is break the nuclear deal. It would make all of these other problems harder.

Another problem it would make harder is that of North Korea.

Let's understand: North Korea is ruled by one of the worst regimes in the world. For many years, its leadership has sacrificed the well-being of its own people in order to develop nuclear weapons and missile programs in order to protect the Kim family's regime. Their continued development of nuclear weapons and missile capability is a growing threat to the U.S. and our allies. Despite past efforts they have repeatedly shown their determination to move forward with these programs in defiance of virtually unanimous international opposition and condemnation.

As we saw with the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, real US leadership is shown by our ability to develop consensus around shared problems, and mobilize that consensus toward a solution. That is the model we should be pursuing with North Korea.

As we did with Iran, if North Korea continues to refuse to negotiate seriously, we should look for ways to tighten international sanctions. This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, not to be solved by any one country alone but by the international community working together.

An approach that really uses all the tools of our power - political, economic, civil society - to encourage other states to adopt more inclusive governance will ultimately make us safer.

Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It's worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid.

Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on.

U.S. foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people. Ultimately, governments that are accountable to the needs of their people will make more dependable partners.

Here is the bottom line: In my view the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world, with "all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands," as Churchill said right here, 70 years ago.

In my view, every person on this planet shares a common humanity. We all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water and breathe clean air, and to live in peace. That's what being human is about.

Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, "The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now."

My friends, let us go forward and build that tomorrow.
(c) 2017 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Rob Rogers ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

How They Spent Their Summer Vacation
Exclusive report: What our elected representatives did for summer vacation!
By Will Durst

And so we bid a hearty "Welcome Back" to our elected representatives, as they reluctantly trudge back to Washington following their annual summer vacation recess - and the fact that it sounds like a holdover from elementary school is no accident. Ostensibly, this respite from the business at hand is meant to renew, refresh, recharge and reload so they can be rested and relaxed as they fight for we, their constituents. Mostly though, they raise campaign funds.

But a few did manage to carve precious minutes from their busy schedules of schmoozing and networking for more pastoral proclivities. And through a series of dogged investigations we here at Durstco were able to uncover those previously unreported recreational activities that they and other public figures engaged in over the break, and are proud to offer them up in a segment we like to call "How They Spent Their Summer Vacation."

Sean Spicer chopped 30 points off his blood pressure by spending the summer in Louisiana tagging alligators.

Steve Bannon earned a pretty penny for checking into a Swiss spa and switching out his blood with Keith Richards.'

Paul Ryan spent the summer visiting all 30 MLB stadiums and defied the laws of probability when the home team lost every game.

Kelly Ann Conway broke many nails writing a book on the power of patience and persistence coupled with a strict regimen of willful ignorance.

Donald Trump surreptitiously installed solar paneling on his vast holdings in Guam.

Mike Pence taught Bible School to a group of at-risk youth who just happen to be the kids of Republican Mega-Donors.

Chris Mathews visited secret and ancient Vatican libraries searching for loopholes.

Michael Flynn went off his meds and no one noticed.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio sailed to Jamaica on a raft he personally lashed together from the bleached bones of dead immigrants.

Chris Christie visited many beaches no one else was allowed to.

Mitch McConnell gained experience dealing with President Trump by refereeing the finals of a Pee-Wee wrestling tournament for hyperactive children.

Bernie Sanders attended 3 Comic-Con Conventions dressed as the John Candy character from "Spaceballs."

Chief of Staff John Kelly took a plumbing correspondence course with an emphasis on leak-plugging.

Elizabeth Warren hitchhiked across Europe with a maple leaf patch sewn onto her backpack.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III traveled to Italy to get custom four-inch lifts installed in all his shoes.

California Senator Kamala Harris piloted a highly prestigious Congressional Task Force that studied the efficacy of task forces.

Jared Kushner followed the New England State Fair circuit hawking vegetable slicers.

Hillary Clinton studied with many tutors so that she could attempt to appear spontaneous on her upcoming book tour.

First Lady Melania Trump consulted with Manolo Blahnik on his Limited Edition "Shoes Fit For a Flood" Collection.

Bill Clinton never left his hammock. Except for twice when it needed to be re-netted.

Anthony Scaramucci spent 30 days in community service in Kalispell, Montana after threatening the life of a KOA campground manager who failed to stock enough marshmallows for the traditional Friday night S'mores bonfire.

Donald Trump Jr. spent the summer writing an infinite number of times on a Trump University blackboard "I will quit being such a dufus."

Ted Cruz interned at the Calgary Stampede as a rodeo clown.
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former roasted corn salesman at the Wisconsin State Fair. For a calendar of personal appearances including his new one - man show "Durst Case Scenario" appearing every Tuesday at the San Francisco Marsh starting July 11, please visit

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 37 (c) 09/29/2017

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