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In This Edition

Chris Hedges examines, "The End Of Empire."

Uri Avnery tells, "A Tale of Two Stories."

Glen Ford spotlights, "The Las Vegas Killings, Through The Lens Of New Orleans, Detroit And San Juan."

William Rivers Pitt warns, "Before The Ocean Comes."

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

John Nichols says, "Good Riddance, Tom Price. But What About The Other Grifters?"

James Donahue announces, "Books From Alexandrian Library Found."

Ralph Nader lectures on, "How Big Corporations Game Our Democracy Into Their Plutocracy."

Heather Digby Parton wants you to, "Bypass Social Media On The Overpasss."

David Suzuki explains, "Environmentalism Is A Way Of Being, Not A Discipline."

Charles P. Pierce remembers, "This Is How We Once Changed Gun Laws."

David Swanson wonders, "The World Is Banning Nuclear Weapons - Can Trumpland Join The World?"

Shaun King reviews, "The White Privilege Of The "Lone Wolf" Shooter."

NRA president Allan D. Cors wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explores, "The Growing Irrelevance Of President Trump."

Nick Turse with a must read, "The Ken Burns Vietnam Documentary Glosses Over Devastating Civilian Toll."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Betsy DeVos Says She Did Math On Trump's Tax Plan And It Will Save Nation Eleventy Krillion" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Rating The Las Vegas Massacre."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Sack, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Tam Turse, Pachanatt Ounpitipong, Carlos Barria, David Becker, DonkeyHotey, Leah Hogsten, Olivier Douliery, Abaca Press, The Salt Lake Tribune, Bettmann Archive, 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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Rating The Las Vegas Massacre
By Ernest Stewart

"Thoughts & prayers are NOT enough. Not when more moms & dads will bury kids this week, & more sons & daughters will grow up without parents." ~~~ Elizabeth Warren ~ U.S. Senator

"Among global regions, there was notable variability in trends in estimated emissions over recent decades. For example, we found that total livestock methane emissions have increased the most in rapidly developing regions of Asia, Latin America and Africa. In contrast, emissions increased less in the US and Canada, and decreased slightly in Western Europe. We found the largest increases in annual emissions to be over the northern tropics, followed by the southern tropics." ~~~ Dr Ghassem Asrar ~ Joint Global Change Research Institute

INDIAN 1: Well, I think it's about time . . . the way the corn's been growing for the last two or three generations . . .
INDIAN 2: Look at that herd of Buffalo. They're ready.
INDIAN 1: Everything's living the Great Spirit's way. In harmony.
INDIAN 2: He'll be here soon.
INDIAN 1: The true white brother's coming home. Remember what the Great Spirit said? If we did what we were supposed to do and lived according to the plan?
White brother would finish his work in the East and come back to us.
INDIAN 2: It'll be nice to have the family together again.
CONQUISTADOR 1: Buenos Dios, amigos!
Temporarily Humboldt County ~~~ The Firesign Theatre

"He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help." ~~~ Abraham Lincoln

As I write this the current death toll in Las Vegas stands at 58, with 515 wounded. We can lay this massacre directly at the feet of the NRA. Without their constant bribes to the House and Senate who because of the bribe money will do nothing to see that this doesn't happen again and again and again.

After those 20 children and 6 adults were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary back in December of 2012 there was much talk of finally bringing the NRA to an end, and if not to an end, at least to heel. Of course, this talk lasted about two weeks and Congress went back to counting their bribe money and offering up prayers for the injured and dead.

Many Con-gressmen laid the blame after their sponsor's quotes on video games and movies. Isn't that what Wayne LaPierre said:
"And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it? Then there's the blood-soaked slasher films like "American Psycho" and "Natural Born Killers" that are aired like propaganda loops on "Splatterdays" and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it "entertainment." But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?
Not at, an organization that fights tooth and nail to allow more and deadlier weapons availability for any looney tune with the bucks to buy them without any permits or tracking. Did I mention Las Vegas has a "gun show" every week of the year where such weapons are available?

I know you've heard the reason that these gun nuts need to own several assalt rifles. They need them to fight the government if they ever go rouge. Like their rifle is going to stop a helicopter gun-ship, or an Abrams tank, or a F-22. Guess what bozos, try it and be turned instantly into chop-suey!

This masacre is not, like some try to portray it, the largest masacre in US History. You may recall Wounded Knee where some 300 men, women, and children of the Lakota were massacred and 51 were wounded (4 men and 47 women and children by the US Army. Or how about the Sand Creek masacre? Where 133 Indians were killed, 105 of whom were women and children. Compared to those and other Indian masacres Las Vages was pretty much par for the course. Oh and lets not forget George Armstrong Custer's little faux pas that killed 268 men under his command! As George Carlin said, "We like war, we are war like people. We like war, because we are good at it."

And finally let's not forget the masacres we've done over seas from Mai Lai to Afghanistan. Trouble is we better get used to it as Con-gress will do nothing and there are dozens of copy-cat killers just waiting in the wings. Our enemies need do nothing to destroy us, we can take care of that ourselves!

In Other News

A recent study has discovered that livestock have a much larger role in contributing to emissions of methane and hence global warming than researchers previously thought. Yes, I know, let's get all the cow fart jokes out and then we'll continue!

According to the NASA study, emissions in 2011 were 11 percent higher than estimates from data collected by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. Animals such as cattle and pigs were major contributors to annual emission increases spanning from the 2000s to the 2010s.

The researchers believe the variation in numbers is due to outdated information used to develop the factors used to tally up the emissions.

"In many regions, livestock numbers are changing, and breeding has resulted in larger animals with higher intakes of food," study lead author and U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Julie Wolf said in a release. "This, along with changes in livestock management, can lead to higher methane emissions."

The scientists reported an eight percent increase in methane from digestion in cattle and a 37 percent increase in methane via management of manure, compared to the previous estimates.

Farmers and other agriculturalists used to be more likely to spread manure on crops; however, a recent trend has seen the fertilizer being stored in pits or lagoons, which encourages bacteria that produce more methane, according to the study. Such changes have contributed to a nearly 37 percent increase in methane production.

In 2015, methane was responsible for roughly 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to humans and livestock, which produce methane in large amounts from their normal digestive process, emissions also stem from natural sources like wetlands and leakage from natural gas systems.

"Methane is an important moderator of the Earth's atmospheric temperature," said Wolf. "It has about four times the atmospheric warming potential of carbon dioxide."

Imagine that, America!

And Finally

So, what will you do for National Indian Genocide Day? Will you run over to the reservation and drop off some nice, warm, comfy, small pox-infested blankets. If you do, it won't be the first time, or the tenth time, for that matter. In fact, it's an old American tradition! God Bless Vespucciland!

I don't care what the "wise guys" say, Columbus Day is just so wrong on so many levels. It just goes to show what happens if you lose a war to us. We'll make a holiday of a man who was much more than the adventuring, swash-buckling explorer; he's just another genocidal maniac, whose actions killed every man, women and child throughout the Caribbean -- some 12 million souls. All of them dead within 50 years of Chris's arrival. Another man like Chris, who made his vast fortune by stealing from the natives and then sending out the US army to slaughter other Indians, who just a few months before were helping him overthrow English rule for their lands, so they could be sold to white settlers; you know, the father of our country -- the mass murdering, genocidal maniac, George Washington, who, by a strange coincidence, had his own American holiday, too! Imagine that!

From the early 17th century forward, we made hundreds of treaties with the natives, with most being broken by us long before the ink was dry on the treaty. Even when Indian tribes won in court, including the Supreme Court, those great pronouncements meant nothing. I mean, how many divisions does the Supreme Court have compared to the US Army? So, for 400 hundred years, we made war against every native man, women and child, until their power was broken, and everything they had was ours. After that, we were ready for the world stage, and off we went to expand the empire -- in 1898, stealing Spain's old empire and added it to our own. Just like the American natives, the world-wide natives under our tender mercies learned a horrible lesson!

The good news for the natives is that this empire -- like every other empire before us -- will soon join the rest in the dustbin of history. And, no doubt, we'll feel the tender-loving care of another empire -- one that wants to bring us democracy, and steal everything that isn't nailed down -- and most of what is! Our masters have bred generations of folks who don't know how to think, so they have no idea that what goes around, will eventually come around -- and in spades! I think the Firesign Theatre said it best in "Temporarily Humboldt County."

Keepin' On

No, it don't look good either for this country, or this magazine. Time is running out on both of us and only you, my friends, can save both of us. Question is: will you?

We're still $1500 short of keeping up the good fight for you. We need to raise that $1500 in the next six weeks or go under as so many others sites that were fighting for the people have done. As you can plainly see this "moving-paper fantasy" is beginning to fall apart as this might just be the straw that broke America's back. This is no time for us to go our separate ways, not just when it's about to hit the fan, is it?

If you think that the truth is an important commodity to help you face the reality that we are just beginning to circle the drain, wouldn't it be handy to know what's really going down both for, and against us? Can you see how you could use this to your family's advantage, and it'd be worth your while to keep us fighting on? If so, just send us whatever you can as often as you can; and we'll keep you informed of what's really happening and how it affects you and yours!


02-17-1937 ~ 09-28-2017
Thanks for the film!

02-22-1936 ~ 09-30-2017
Thanks for making deals with total strangers!

10-20-1950 ~ 10-02-2017
Thanks for the music!


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

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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 End Of Empire
By By Chris Hedges

The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this descent at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, thieves, opportunists and warmongering generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world's reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular revolt, which does not seem likely, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two. The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states. Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book "In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power," by "a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg" that will "forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire."

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and cyberwarfare, we are being rapidly overtaken by the Chinese. "In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while China's would triple and come close to surpassing America's in 2030," McCoy noted. China became the world's second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world's leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world's manufacturing for a century. The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled "At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World." It found that the U.S. military "no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors," and "it no longer can ... automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range." McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire-the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback. They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. They insisted that the bold and quick military strike-"shock and awe"-would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted, this "unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy."

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of "micro-militarism." The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation's few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

"While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power," McCoy writes. "Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way."

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystique-a mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation-seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire. The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat. America's high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.

The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists. We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military's penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the world's prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair. The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump's election-a reaction to the corporate coup d'etat and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country-have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy. Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide. We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the myth of human progress.

"The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines," McCoy writes. "Despite the aura of omnipotence empires often project, most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profit-witness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgium's rubber lust in the Congo, British India's opium commerce, the Third Reich's rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe."

When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, "empires become brittle."

"So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq]," he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

"For the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness," McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls "insubstantial issues" will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance-wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites-will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes if we do not wrest power from those who rule the corporate state.
(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

A Tale of Two Stories
By Uri Avnery

THIS IS the story: at 7 o'clock in the morning, an Arab approaches the gate of Har Adar, a settlement close to the Green Line near the Israeli-Arab village of Abu Ghosh.

The man is a "good Arab". A good Arab with a work permit in the settlement. He lives in the nearby West Bank Arab village of Beit Surik. He received a work permit there because he fits all the criteria - he is 37 years old, married and father of four children. The inhabitants of Har Adar know him well, because he has been cleaning their homes for years.

This Tuesday morning he arrived at the gate as usual. But something aroused suspicion among the guards. He was wearing a jacket, though the weather was quite hot on this early autumn day. The guards asked him to remove his jacket.

Instead, the man took out a loaded pistol and shot three of the guards in the head at close range - two civilian guards and a member of the semi-military Border Guards. Two of the victims were Arabs (one of them a Druze) and one was a Jew. Another Jew, the local commander of the guards, was severely wounded. Since the assailant had never received military training, the precision of his shots was astounding. The pistol had been stolen 15 years ago.

All Israel was shocked. How could this happen? A good Arab like this? An Arab with permits? Why would he do such a thing in a place where he was well liked and well treated? Where he played with the children? And that after he was thoroughly vetted by the Security Service, which has innumerable Arab spies and is considered well-nigh infallible?

Something extraordinary must have happened. Someone must have incited him against the Jews and the nice people of Har Adar, who had treated him so well. Perhaps the UN speech by Mahmoud Abbas. Or perhaps some secret contacts with Hamas. "Incitement!" cried Binyamin Netanyahu.

But then another fact emerged, which explained everything. The man had quarreled with his wife. He had beaten her up, and she had escaped to her family in Jordan, leaving the four children behind.

So, obviously, he had become temporarily unhinged. In a state of mental derangement he had forgotten the kindness of the Har Adar people. Just a unique case, that need not trouble us further.

But it all shows that you can't trust the Arabs. They are a bunch of murderers. You cannot make peace with them until they change completely. So we must keep the occupied territories.

THAT IS the story. But there is another story, too. The story as seen by the man himself.

From his home in neighboring Beit Surik, the man - whose name was, by the way, Nimr ("leopard") Mahmoud Ahmed al-Jamal - could see Har Adar from his home every day when he woke up. For him, as for every Arab, it was a flourishing Jewish settlement, built on expropriated Arab land. Like his own village, it belonged to the Palestinian West Bank which is occupied territory.

He had to get up in the darkness of the night in order to get to Har Adar on time - 7.00 o'clock in the morning - and work hard until late in the night, arriving home at about 10 o'clock. This is the lot of tens of thousands of Arab laborers. They may look friendly, especially when their livelihood depends on it. They may even be really friendly to benevolent masters. But deep in their hearts they cannot forget for a moment that they are cleaning the toilets of the Jews who came to Arab Palestine and occupied their homeland.

Since most of the agricultural land of their villages has been expropriated for Jewish settlements, they have no choice but to work in these low-status jobs. There is no industry to speak of in the West Bank. Wages are minimal, often below the legal minimum wage in Israel proper (some 1500 dollars per month). Since they have no choice, they are not far from being slaves. Like the nice slaves in "Gone with the Wind."

Such a man may be at peace with this reality, but if something bad happens, he may suddenly become upset with his status and decide to become a martyr. Nimr left behind a letter in which he defended his wife and absolved her from any responsibility for the deed he had planned for the next day.

SO THESE are the two stories, which have very little in common.

The people of Har Adar are completely shocked. Since they live 20 minutes drive from Jerusalem, they do not consider themselves settlers at all, but Israelis like any other. They don't really see the Arabs all around them as people like themselves, but as primitive natives.

The Har Adar people are not like the fanatical, religious and nearly fascist people in some settlements. Far from it. Har Adar people vote for all parties, including Meretz, the left-wing Zionist party which advocates the return of the occupied territories to the Palestinians. This is not seen as including Har Adar, of course, since there is a consensus among Zionists, right and left, that the settlements close to the Green Line should be annexed to Israel.

Har Adar people can rightly be proud of their achievements. From the air, the place looks very orderly. It has 3858 inhabitants. Their average income is about 5000 dollars a month, well over the national Israeli average (some 3000 dollars). Their local council is the third most efficient in the entire country.

Located in the mountainous area around Jerusalem, it has a beautiful landscape. It also has man-made amenities: a library, a youth club, a skate-park and an amphitheater that seats 720 people. Even for an average Israeli, this is paradise. For the Arabs around, who cannot enter without a special permit, it is a perpetual reminder of their national disaster.

Of course, like other settlements, Har Adar is not located on land that was empty. It occupies the location on which stood a village called Hirbat Nijam, a village which already stood there in Persian-Hellenistic times, some 2500 years ago. Like most Palestinian villages, they were Canaanite, then Judean, then Hellenist, then Byzantine, then Muslim, then crusader, then Mameluk, then Ottoman, then Palestinian - without the population ever changing. Until 1967.

WHEN NIMR was born, all this long history was long forgotten. What remained was the reality of the Israeli occupation.

This now looks like the normal state of things. The members of Har Adar are happy, feeling secure and well guarded by the efficient Security Service, the Border Guard and local mercenaries, mostly Arab citizens of Israel. Neighbors like Nimr seem content, and probably are, if they are lucky enough to have a job and a work permit, even with pitiful wages. The historical grudge lies deeply buried within their consciousness.

And then something happens, something that may be quite irrelevant - like the escape of his wife to Jordan - to bring it all up. Nimr the lowly laborer suddenly becomes Nimr the freedom-fighter, Nimr the martyr on his way to paradise. All his village respects his sacrifice and his family.

Israelis are furious that the families of "martyrs" are paid an allowance by the Palestinian Authority. Binyamin Netanyahu accuses Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of incitement to murder with these payments. But it is quite impossible for Abbas to annul them - the outrage reaction of his people would be tremendous. Martyrs are holy, their families respected.

THE DAY after Nimr's dastardly terrorist act and/or heroic martyrdom, a grandiose national ceremony took place in another settlement.

All the country's major dignitaries, led by the President and the Prime Minister, assembled to commemorate the 50tth anniversary of "our return to our homeland, Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights".

Missing in the list is the Gaza Strip, which Israel has evacuated, leaving behind a tight land and sea blockade aided by Egypt. In the Strip there are about two million Palestinians. Who the hell wants them?

All hell broke loose when the President of the Supreme Court, who was supposed to send a judge to represent the court at this ceremony, canceled his attendance because of the highly propagandist style of the event. She decided that this is party propaganda, in which her court would not take part.

ALTOGETHER, NOT a day of quiet in this country, a state without borders and without a constitution, where every story has two totally different sides, where nice and quiet people suddenly become raging martyrs.

There will be no quiet until there is peace, with each of the two peoples living in their own state, a situation where real friendship has a chance of blooming.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Las Vegas Killings, Through The Lens Of New Orleans, Detroit And San Juan
By Glen Ford

Humanity yearns for a just and livable social contract, and will fail as a species if a global accord is not soon achieved. The biosphere, itself, shrieks and shudders under the contradictions of capitalism in its fatal, imperial stages. At the center of the vortex of impending annihilation is the United States of America, the Mother of All White Settler Regimes, ruled by a tiny cabal of plutocrats under the protection of the planet's largest and most intrusive police state, who are determined to impose full spectrum dominance under an Earth-wide, doomsday canopy.

U.S. rulers reject the very concept of reciprocal social compacts among peoples. Positioned at the apex of a political order founded on indigenous extermination, African enslavement, and global European privilege and impunity, the Lords of Capital claim "exceptional"status -- an exemption from all rules and norms of human conduct. Having never renounced a first-strike, Washington reserves for itself the choice of whether humanity perishes in a nuclear holocaust, or not. In the interim, the U.S. ruling class demands "freedom" for its corporations to extract unlimited wealth from every corner of the globe.

U.S. foreign policy flows from the logic of its lawless, expansionist, white supremacist history. The U.S. was born as the world's first fully bourgeois republic, a transactional arrangement among rapacious white men who, in about a century, parlayed the stolen land of one continent, and the stolen people of another, into the world's largest economy. The U.S. perfected and became the model of a racially regulated society, elevating "whiteness" to permanent social advantage while, at the same time, providing these denationalized Europeans with no identify beyond their relative privileges, and no social contract other than the right to abuse Blacks and other "inferior races."

The absence of a genuine social compact among "Americans" meant that rich folks had no obligation to their fellows of any race. The U.S. promised only the "freedom" (for white men) to make and spend money as they wished. From the very beginning, "Americanism" was a grab-what-you-can ethos, inimical to the very notion of social solidarity -- except on racial terms.

Such an ethos always serves the master, while morally abandoning the slave or wage earner.

Hyper-capitalism, blended seamlessly with white supremacy, became the American religion - which is why "Prosperity Gospel" is virtually a U.S. invention, and has nothing to do with "brotherhood" or "community." The United States has the highest levels of professed religiosity in the industrialized world, yet is demonstrably the most underdeveloped in terms of popular support for the social safety net. The near-absolute cultural hegemony of the rich, through their control of the means of communication and education, allows the self-worshipping Lords of Capital to turn human language -- which evolved to explicate phenomena and ideas -- into its maddening opposite. The rulers describe the vast dislocations and suffering of deindustrialization and financial meltdown as "creative destruction" -- destructive of the livelihoods of those without capital, but engines of opportunity-creation for the big capitalists left standing. They specialize in Shock Doctrine to exploit disasters at home, inflict Shock and Awe to facilitate aggressions abroad, and celebrate the destruction of whole economies and nations. They gloat over new opportunities for investments and profits before the blood has dried.

Most Americans accept and internalize this barbaric discourse. Only the barest social contract binds them together, based mainly on race (for most American whites, the default meaning of "American" is "white"). The social bond with those U.S. residents that are not perceived as part of the "America"/white polity -- Blacks, browns, Native Americans -- is weak, non-existent, or negative/hostile. That's why there has always been a White Man's Party in the U.S., whose mass organizing principle is white supremacy: the Republican Party, for the last half century. A vote for the White Man's Party is a rejection of any semblance of a social compact with Black people -- and that also applies to Blacks that vote Republican. However, the Democrats are also careful not to become too closely identified with Blacks, even if their standard bearer is African American, as evidenced by Barack Obama's eight years in office.

Thus, after more than a hundred thousand Blacks were permanently evicted from New Orleans following Katrina, a Democratic cabinet member could see a silver lining in the disaster, based on the imposition of charter schools -- classic Shock Doctrine, resulting in near-instantaneous gentrification and school privatization. The ongoing torture of Black Detroit, initiated by a Republican governor but facilitated by Barack Obama's administration, does not violate the social compact as perceived by most white Americans; clearly, such a compact hardly exists. And President Trump's callous attitude towards his fellow citizens in Puerto Rico is totally expected; he and his constituency -- and plenty of white Democrats -- do not view the island and its people as part of their "America."

The carnage in Las Vegas is, however, yet another example of the uniquely American -- and characteristically white - propensity to engage in mass domestic murder: crowd killing. It is the ultimate anti-social crime, most often committed by white Americans against their "own" people. It is true that mental illness is a given in such cases, but mentally disturbed people live in all countries, yet no nation comes close to the U.S. in crowd killing. I submit that such mass slaughter is dramatic evidence of the extreme weakness of the social compact, even among white people in the United States.

Majorities of white Americans are deeply racist -- as can be shown by various measures -- but that does not mean they share an intense bond with other whites. In a society that has historically denied the humanity of people of color, killing and enslaving them, and which has waged modern wars of annihilation against non-whites around the world, solidarity with other human beings does not come naturally. In a country where cutthroat capitalism is the national ethos, social compacts wither, or are still-born. Such is the collateral damage that white America has suffered from its failure to fight white supremacy in its ranks; it has poisoned its own soul, creating monsters that turn on their "own." (Of course, when the social compact is totally lacking, nobody is one of your "own.")

White Americans also suffer much higher levels of incarceration than whites in other developed nations. That, too, is collateral damage. Mass Black incarceration was politically popular among white constituencies all across the nation. A police and penal state was created to imprison as many Black people as possible, but such an infernal machinery cannot help but ensnare millions of unintended white victims, as well.

Lack of solidarity with Blacks and browns created a prison trap for whites. The extreme weakness of the white social compact with darker U.S. populations has spawned a cancer of non-solidarity among whites, who have been encouraged to own arsenals to defend themselves against the "Other." But, when the social compact is weak, everybody is the "Other" -- and, therefore, a target.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Before The Ocean Comes
By William Rivers Pitt

A summer night in my backyard not so long ago, deep in the woods of New Hampshire, still hot though the sun had been gone for hours, the humidity like a thud all around and the cicadas bellowing at each other from the trees. I stared into the perfect darkness feeling every open pore, and then it started. First one, then five, then fifty, then every firefly that has ever existed was dancing in the long bramble of my backyard, each blinking its own time near and far in swirling astonishment, like a galaxy came down and threw a Grateful Dead concert for me alone. Part of me is still standing there, transfixed. Every night since, I look outside, but they never come back just that way. They were there, though. I saw.

After midnight at the bar on the night Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, a good crowd of well-lubed regulars trying to shake it off, and Mariah was telling stories to cheer everyone up. "My friend had to dog-sit for this family that was going on vacation for a week," she tells the leaned-in crowd, "this big old Lab. Second day of the job, she finds the dog dead in the den. Calls the parents, they could care less, ask her to get rid of it so the kids don't come home to it. She's calling vets, animal hospitals, pet stores, the city, nobody wants this big dead dog. She finally finds a place that'll take the damn thing, but it's like an hour bus ride away, so she loads the dog into this big wheeled suitcase and off she goes. Bag weighs a ton even with the wheels. Guy at the bus station helps her put the suitcase under the bus and asks what's in it. 'Stereo equipment,' she tells him. She gets off, he gets off with her, helps her unload the bag, then punches her square in the face and runs off with the suitcase. Problem solved."

Before dawn more than 20 Novembers ago, and my frozen toes were a few scant feet from the lip of the Grand Canyon. Kevin is out cold in the car, but I was too keyed up for sleep. Wrapped in a blanket that isn't half warm enough, I stared up at a legion of stars. Not even the full moon dimed them, and stampedes of shooting stars sliced the dark matter in their celestial haste. Far too soon, the distant edge of the canyon grew a thin blister of red, then orange, pink, purple, I heard a long indrawn breath and realized it was me, and the sun erupted to the sudden trill of birdsong from the sagebrush. The canyon was revealed in its glory, and I realized for the first time in my life that nothing so sacred and holy as those moments could ever fit inside a church. We were in San Francisco the next night, covered in road dust and smelling like Kerouac's tube socks, and that's just fine.

All of this happened before the ocean came. It hasn't for all of us yet, but it has wrought tragedy upon some, and for the rest of us, it is coming. Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Irma, Maria have left in their wake battered, fallen cities like Troy without its walls. Odds are better than good that you know someone who knows someone who has lost everything to the sea recently, who knows what salt tastes like in their bedroom, who can tell you all about the stench of the water when our pollution becomes weaponized by the merciless tide. Cholera has appeared in Puerto Rico. This is what happens when the ocean comes.

Everyone has their stories. They are what makes us human. Our stories make us who we are, keep us warm when These Are The Days becomes Those Were The Days. Our stories are our wisdom, our shared consciousness, our understanding of good and evil, our way of sharing pieces of our strange selves to make friends out of strangers, so we can make more stories.

The ocean is coming, and the most powerful among us don't seem to care. Those who rule the most selfish species ever to occupy the planet have us sitting like a fly on a pork rind, waiting to be swatted. They won't fight for any of us, for our children, our homes, our friends, our vegetable gardens, our professions, our pets, our artwork, our books, whatever -- let it all drown, particularly if it exists in a place that's already poor and under-resourced. The largest thing on the planet is battering down our door right now, right at this moment, and we can stop it if we act … but those who could take action on a massive scale, immediately, aren't acting, and then we get wet, and we either lose everything or we die, and the TV cameras take it all in for the dwindling few who haven't met the ocean yet.

One of these days, there is going to be a bright brutal line drawn right down the middle of our stories: before the ocean came, and after the ocean came. The stories from after the ocean came will be grim things, few and far between, just like us.

It does not have to be this way. Forget about seemingly impossible tasks like "saving the planet" -- the planet is going to be just fine whether we are on it or not, thank you very much -- and save your stories from the sea. Save mine. Do something to make the powerful listen, and do it today. There is much to be done just within reach of your arm. Do that, and you'll have one hell of a story, along with people to hear the telling.
(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.

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

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

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

They don't admit this, of course, instead wrapping their scheme in the pious rhetoric of religious freedom. Their point of attack is "The Johnson Amendment," a 1954 law passed by LBJ that prohibits tax-exempt charities, including churches, from endorsing candidates, funding campaigns, and directly engaging in politics. The Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist Christian operation pushing repeal of Johnson's amendment, asserts that banning churches from overt political campaigning let's the IRS "tell pastors what they can and cannot preach."

Clever, but totally dishonest. First, the issue is not whether the government can tell church groups what to say (it can't) -but whether taxpayers should subsidize a church group's electioneering views and activities.

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

Taxpayers would be underwriting the corruption of American politics. How ungodly is that?
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price attends a congressional confirmation hearing on January 24, 2017.

Good Riddance, Tom Price. But What About The Other Grifters?
The secretary of health and human services is out. The Treasury secretary and the EPA administrator should go next.
By John Nichols

Another Friday, another deplorable Trump administration insider is out.

Like Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Sebastian Gorka before him, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has exited under pressure before a weekend when his troubles would have been the talk of the Sunday-morning political shows.

Price was shamed into quitting after it was revealed that the man who thinks helping people sign up for Affordable Care Act coverage is too costly had run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses by taking private plane trips when cheaper commercial flights were available.

Price should never have been in the HHS post. As an extreme right-wing Republican congressman from Georgia, he had developed a reputation as a fierce critic of the programs he was charged with administering. And he was plagued by personal scandal-including reports that, as a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Price had introduced legislation to help a medical-device company in which he had recently bought stock. Senate minority leader Charles Schumer complained when Trump's nomination of Price was being considered about "a clear and troubling pattern of Congressman Price trading stock and using his office to benefit the companies in which he is investing."

"The President-elect claims he wants to drain the swamp, but Congressman Price has spent his career filling it up," said Schumer.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flew his new bride to Kentucky so they could watch the solar eclipse from a prime spot at Fort Knox.

That was true, yet Price was confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate that failed to provide proper oversight during the confirmation process-and that hasn't provided proper oversight since Trump appointees took charge of the federal government.

It's good that Price is gone. But a little unfair. After all, it's not as if the secretary of health and human services has been the only high-flier in the Trump administration.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has for some time now been the subject of inquiries into his transportation abuses. Even as Price was going down, The Washington Post was reporting that "EPA's Pruitt took charter, military flights that cost taxpayers more than $58,000" in an article that explained: "The most expensive of the four trips came in early June, when Pruitt traveled from Andrews Air Force Base to Cincinnati to join President Trump as he pitched a plan to revamp U.S. infrastructure. From there, the administrator and several staff members continued on a military jet to John F. Kennedy airport in New York to catch a flight to Italy for an international meeting of environmental ministers. The cost of that flight was $36,068.50."

Then there's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the billionaire Trump appointee who in August flew his new bride to Kentucky on a government plane so they could watch solar eclipse from a prime spot at Fort Knox. Reports about that flight led to a review by the Treasury Department's inspector general.

In September, it was revealed that Mnuchin had asked the White House whether he could use a government jet for his summer honeymoon in Europe. Mnuchin, who eventually withdrew the request, claimed that he simply wanted access to secure lines of communication while celebrating his third marriage.

Donald Trump's cabinet is packed with grifters who see "public service" as a way to live large at the expense of the taxpayers. Tom Price is out, thanks to some excellent investigative reporting by Politico. But if accountability is now on the agenda, he won't be the last presidential appointee to make a Friday-afternoon exit from the administration.

If Congress wants to hasten the process, and it should, House and Senate committees should start doing their jobs by providing oversight of departments and agencies that are being plundered by the aides and allies of a president who promised to "drain the swamp." And the oversight should not stop there. As Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, says: "Tom Price spent $1 million in taxpayer money on private jets and military planes because he was completely out of touch with regular Americans. The waste of taxpayer money is important, but far more consequential is the policy agenda that the health secretary pushed, seeking to deny health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans. The other jet-setting Cabinet officials suffer from exactly the same problems: They have no self-awareness of their profligacy because they are out of touch with regular folks. They view their constituents as the corporate class, to whom jet-setting is the norm, and it's the corporate class that they are aiming to serve."
(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.

Books From Alexandrian Library Found
By James Donahue

Among the greatest of historical tragedies was the destruction by the Romans of the great University of Alexandria, Egypt, and the burning of its Great Library, said to contain all of the written knowledge of the known world.

This happened in about 400 A.D.

Stored there in two different buildings was a collection of carefully scribed manuscripts, scrolls and clay tablets, carefully gathered by Ptolemy I Soter, a successor to Alexander the Great.

The late American astrophysicist Carl Sagan once offered a television documentary in which he noted that the university drew "a community of scientists who discovered the sciences of physics, linguistics, medicine, astronomy, geography, philosophy, mathematics, biology and geology. Here scientific studies reached adulthood. Here genius flourished." Within the walls of the Great Library were ancient documents that undoubtedly contained a clear picture of world history . . . something lost to mankind when the Roman army, under orders from the Christian Roman leader Theophilus, during his years as Patriarch of Alexandria from 385 to 412 AD, allegedly burned the library buildings. Another account by Plutarch, claims Julius Caesar set fire to the dockyards to repel enemy forces during the siege of Alexandria and the fire spread to the library.

Other theories have also been proposed since the true facts remain lost in the dust of time. What is clear, however, is that this marvelous collection of the finest writings by world scholars was tragically lost.

The destruction of these and many other records all over the world by Christian invaders opened the door to the superstitious religious blindness that prevailed through the Dark Ages and continues to influence historical and religious doctrine to this day.

The documents were destroyed, but not all of them lost, however. It turns out that archaeologists, sifting through an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, came upon a cache of original papyrus documents about 100 years ago.

While suspected of being an important find, the documents appeared to have been lost to age and weather. They were not only decayed and blackened from age, but worm-eaten. The information written on the parchment was impossible to view at that time. But the parchments were carefully preserved in the hope that new scientific methods would be developed for capturing the data.

Well there is good news. After a century of waiting, a new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, is bringing the original writing back into view. And what they are finding in that old rubble is astounding.

The manuscripts are found to contain work by some of the greats of classical literature that include Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. A team from Oxford University has been pouring over the old text, finding thousands of works of art and literature that have been lost to the world for 2000 years.

Other works expected to turn up are writings by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus many of the lost gospels that present a more complete picture of the life of Jesus.

Christopher Pelling, Regis Professor of Greek at Oxford, described what he called "central texts which scholars have been speculating about for centuries."

Some scholars believe the uncovered text will mark a major increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence.

That so much information was so cold-heartedly burned by Christian invaders probably meant that there was something written in those manuscripts that they did not want us to know. It is exciting to think what information they will discover.
(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.

The corporate state -the autocratic joining of business and government -exerts its influence all the way down
to the state and local levels, not just in Washington. It works through boards of education and trustees of colleges and
universities, drawing heavily from the business world and its professional servants in such disciplines as law, accounting and engineering.

How Big Corporations Game Our Democracy Into Their Plutocracy
When public institutions are governed by private interests.
By Ralph Nader

A major chapter in American history -rarely taught in our schools -is how ever larger corporations have moved to game, neutralize and undermine the people's continual efforts to protect our touted democratic society. It is a fascinating story of the relentless exercise of power conceived or seized by corporations, with the strategic guidance of corporate lawyers.

Start with their birth certificate -the state charters that bring these corporate entities into existence, with limited liability for their investors. In the early 1800s, the Massachusetts legislature chartered many of the textile manufacturing companies. These charters could be renewed on good behavior, because lawmakers then viewed charters as privileges contingent on meeting the broad interests of society.

Fast forward to now. The charter can be granted online in a matter of hours; there are no renewal periods and the job is often given over to a state commission. Over the decades, corporate lobbyists have had either the legislatures or the courts grant them more privileges, immunities and concentration of power in management, rendering shareholders -their owners -increasingly powerless. The same corporate fixers work for corporations and their subsidiaries abroad to help them avoid US laws, taxes and escape disclosures.

Remarkably, the artificial creation called the "corporation" has now achieved almost all of the rights of real people under our "We the People" Constitution that never mentions the words "corporation" or "company."

Corporations cannot vote, at least not yet; only people can. That was seen as a major lever of democratic power over corporations. So what has happened? Commercial money to politicians started weakening the influence of voters because the politicians became increasingly dependent on the corporate interests that bankrolled their campaigns. The politicians use their ever-increasing corporate cash to saturate voters with deceptive political ads, and intimidate any competitors who have far less money, but may be far better representative of the public good.

To further shatter the principle of voter sovereignty, corporations have rewarded those politicians who construct restrictive political party rules, gerrymander electoral districts and obstruct third party candidate ballot access. By concentrating political power in fewer and fewer hands, corporate influence becomes more deeply entrenched in our democratic society. Politicians quickly learn that political favors will attract more corporate campaign cash and other goodies.

Institutions that are supposed to represent democratic values, such as Congress and state legislatures are meticulously gamed with the daily presence of corporate lawyers and lobbyists to shape the granular performance of these bodies and make sure little is done to defend civic values. These pitchmen are in the daily know about the inner workings of legislative bodies long before the general public. They often know who is going to be nominated for judicial and executive branch positions that interpret and administer the law and whether the nominee will do the bidding of the corporate bosses.

Then there is the press. Thomas Jefferson put great responsibility on the newspapers of his day to safeguard our democracy from excessive commercial power and their runaway political toadies. Certainly, our history has some great examples of the press fulfilling Jefferson's wish. For the most part, however, any media that is heavily reliant on advertisements will clip its own wings or decide to go with light-hearted entertainment or fluff, rather than dig in the pits of corruption and wrongdoing.

What of the educational institutions that purport to convey facts, the lessons of history and not be beholden to special interests? The corporate state -the autocratic joining of business and government -exerts its influence all the way down to the state and local levels, not just in Washington. It works through boards of education and trustees of colleges and universities, drawing heavily from the business world and its professional servants in such disciplines as law, accounting and engineering.

Moreover, the most influential alumni, in terms of donations, endowments and engagements, come from the business community. They know the kind of alma mater they want to preserve. The law and business schools are of particular interest, if only because they are the recruiting grounds for their companies and firms.

Their subversion even extends to the sacrosanct notion of academic freedom -that these institutions must be independent centers of knowledge. For example, Monsanto, General Motors, Exxon and Eli Lilly are only a few of the companies that have pushed corporate, commercial science over academic, independent science through lucrative consultantships and partnerships with professors.

The unfortunate reality is that the wealthy and powerful are driven to spend the necessary time and energy to accomplish their raison d'etre, which are profits and the relentless pursuit of self-interest. Citizens, on the other hand, have so much else on their minds, just to get through the day and raise their families.

The path forward is to learn from history how citizens, when driven by injustice, organized, raised the banners of change and concentrated on the ways and means to victory. These initiatives require civic self-respect and an understanding that the status quo is demeaning and intolerable.

The requisite to such an awakening is the awareness that our two precious pillars of democracy -freedom of contract and freedom to use the courts -are being destroyed or seriously undermined by corporate influence. The contract servitude of fine-print contracts, signed or clicked on, is the basis of so many of the abuses and rip-offs that Americans are subjected to with such regularity. Add this modern peonage to the corporate campaign to obstruct the people's full day in court and right of trial by jury guaranteed by our Constitution. The plutocrats have succeeded in gravely doing just that. Tight court budgets, the frequency of jury trials and the number of filed wrongful injury lawsuits keep going down to case levels well under five percent of what the needs for justice require.

Some fundamental questions are: Will we as citizens use our Constitutional authority to reclaim and redirect the power we've too broadly delegated to elected officials? Will we hold these officials accountable through a reformed campaign finance system that serves the people over the plutocrats? Will we realize that a better society starts with just a few people in each electoral district and never requires more than one percent of the voters, organized and reflecting public opinion, to make the corporations our servants, not our masters?
(c) 2017 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is Unstoppable, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Bypass Social Media On The Overpass

By Heather Digby Parton

Before there was Twitter and Facebook there was the Freeway blogger. And he is still at it. I think it may be more important than ever. People are siloed into their little Facebook and Fox News world and they may not even hear the actual news anymore. Other may just be oblivious.

If nothing else, it probably gives drivers a little chuckle on their way to work --- and the knowledge that they aren't alone.
(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.

Environmentalism Is A Way Of Being, Not A Discipline
By David Suzuki

I'm often introduced as an environmentalist. I prefer to be called a father, grandfather, scientist or author, as these terms provide insight into my motivation. Environmentalism isn't a discipline or specialty like law, medicine, plumbing, music or art. It's a way of seeing our place in the world and recognizing that our survival, health and happiness are inextricably dependent on nature. To confront today's environmental crises, everyone - garage mechanics, construction workers, dentists, politicians and judges - has to see the world through an environmental lens.

I recently attended an event with a panel of outstanding athletes and artists who had become activists on various environmental issues. The moderator asked what role awe had played in their commitment. Their answers revealed how inspiring it is to experience that sense of awe in the face of nature's beauty.

I couldn't help thinking that two more words should have been added to the discussion: humility and gratitude. As the panel grappled with the issue of ecological degradation, the idea emerged that all we need is to be more aware so we can use science and technology to solve the crises.

We're clever animals - so smart that we think we're in command. We forget that our inventions have created many crises. Atomic bombs represented an incredible scientific and technological achievement, releasing the power within atoms. But when the U.S. dropped them on Japan in 1945, scientists didn't know about radioactive fallout, electromagnetic pulses or the potential for nuclear winter. Those were discovered after we used the weapons.

Swiss chemist Paul Mueller won a Nobel Prize in 1948 for his discovery that DDT was a potent insecticide. Many years after the compound was put into widespread use, biologists discovered a previously unknown phenomenon: biomagnification up the food chain.

When people started using chlorofluorocarbons, no one knew they would persist in the environment and float into the upper atmosphere where the sun's ultraviolet rays would cleave away chlorine-free radicals. As a geneticist, I only learned about the protective ozone layer when other scientists reported that chlorine from CFCs was breaking it down.

Our knowledge of the biological, chemical and physical components of the biosphere and their interconnections and interactions is too limited to enable us to anticipate the consequences of our inventions and intrusions. Nevertheless, we look to our creativity to lead us to a better world with nanotechnology, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, geoengineering and space travel.

What we need is humility. Clever as we are, nature is far more creative. Over 3.8 billion years, every species has had to evolve ways to find food, water and energy, and to dispose of wastes, find mates, reproduce, avoid predators and fend off parasites and infections. Nature offers myriad solutions that we have yet to discover. If we had the humility to learn from nature, using an approach called "biomimicry," we would find far more and better solutions.

The Canadian Cancer Society recently reported that half our population will develop cancer. This isn't normal, but it shouldn't surprise us. After all, we have synthesized hundreds of thousands of new molecules that have never existed on Earth. Most have never been tested for their biological effects and tens of thousands are now used in products and enter our waste stream.

When we dump this vast assortment of new molecules into air, water and soil, we can't anticipate how they might interact within living organisms or what their long-term consequences might be. Throwing more money into cancer treatment and research will not alone stem the disease. To arrest the cancer crisis (and it is a crisis), we must stop using the biosphere as a garbage can or sewer for these new molecules.

Along with humility, we should be grateful for nature's generosity, something I've learned from Indigenous peoples. They acknowledge the source of their well-being, clean air, clean water, clean food and clean energy - all things that are created, cleansed or replenished by the web of life around us. In the urbanized industrial world we inhabit, we tend to think the economy is the source of all that matters to us, and so we have little regard for what we're doing to the natural systems that sustain us. It's time to see with new eyes.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

This Is How We Once Changed Gun Laws
Look at the steps taken by Lyndon B. Johnson.
By Charles P. Pierce

By October 22, 1968, President Lyndon Baines Johnson was as lame a duck as ever sat in the White House. Reviled by more than half of his own party, he'd dropped out of a race for re-election in March of that year. His party's convention had been a bloodbath. Its nominee, Hubert Humphrey, was hated almost as much as Johnson was by most of the same people. The Republicans were gearing up to put Richard Nixon, of all people, into the White House. In Miami, while accepting his party's nomination, Nixon had said:

For a few moments, let us look at America, let us listen to America to find the answer to that question. As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night. We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home. And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish. Did we come all this way for this? Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea, and in Valley Forge for this?

Listen to the answer to those questions. It is another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans-the non-shouters; the non-demonstrators. They are not racists or sick; they are not guilty of the crime that plagues the land. They are black and they are white-they're native born and foreign born-they're young and they're old. They work in America's factories. They run America's businesses. They serve in government. They provide most of the soldiers who died to keep us free. They give drive to the spirit of America. They give lift to the American Dream. They give steel to the backbone of America. They are good people, they are decent people; they work, and they save, and they pay their taxes, and they care.

So, in addition to LBJ's other problems, the howling of backlash and reaction was growing, and Nixon was just the right vehicle for it. But shortly after LBJ had dropped out, Martin Luther King had been shot to death in Memphis and Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles. Enough, thought Lyndon Johnson, and he put together a gun control bill and forced its passage even though he was at the nadir of his career in terms of political power. He did not get everything he wanted, but what he got was remarkable enough and, when he signed the bill, this is what he said:
Some of you may be interested in knowing-really-what this bill does:

--It stops murder by mail order. It bars the interstate sale of all guns and the bullets that load them.

--It stops the sale of lethal weapons to those too young to bear their terrible responsibility.

--It puts up a big "off-limits" sign, to stop gunrunners from dumping cheap foreign "$10 specials" on the shores of our country.

Congress adopted most of our recommendations. But this bill--as big as this bill is--still falls short, because we just could not get the Congress to carry out the requests we made of them. I asked for the national registration of all guns and the licensing of those who carry those guns. For the fact of life is that there are over 160 million guns in this country--more firearms than families. If guns are to be kept out of the hands of the criminal, out of the hands of the insane, and out of the hands of the irresponsible, then we just must have licensing. If the criminal with a gun is to be tracked down quickly, then we must have registration in this country.

The voices that blocked these safeguards were not the voices of an aroused nation. They were the voices of a powerful lobby, a gun lobby, that has prevailed for the moment in an election year. But the key to effective crime control remains, in my judgment, effective gun control. And those of us who are really concerned about crime just must--somehow, someday--make our voices felt. We must continue to work for the day when Americans can get the full protection that every American citizen is entitled to and deserves-the kind of protection that most civilized nations have long ago adopted. We have been through a great deal of anguish these last few months and these last few years-too much anguish to forget so quickly.

In case you'd forgotten, that's what presidential leadership-even from the lamest duck ever to hold the office-looks like.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of how things are supposed to work.
(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...

"Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
~~~ Abraham Lincoln

The World Is Banning Nuclear Weapons - Can Trumpland Join The World?
By David Swanson

Scientists tell us that a single nuclear weapon could cause devastating climate change.

Donald Trump tells us . . . well, a bunch of incoherent gibberish that seems to include the illegal threat to use nuclear weapons if he should be in the mood to commit genocide in North Korea.

Meanwhile 122 countries have creates a treaty to ban the possession of nuclear weapons, and 52 have already signed it, these 52:

Compare that map with the map of countries that own nuclear weapons:

Israel may be too small to see there. And one also needs to add Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, all of which illegally possess nuclear weapons belonging to the U.S. government.

If you're from the United States, click here to easily send an email to your U.S. Representative and your two Senators.

With President Trump pushing the U.S. Congress to start funding former president Obama's one trillion dollar nuclear weapons and infrastructure program before he even completes the traditional expected "nuclear posture review," there is not one champion in the Senate or the Congress for nuclear abolition! At most we have a bill supported by some members of Congress calling for cuts in spending on nuclear bombs, and requiring that only Congress can decide to annihilate a country with a nuclear attack, instead of leaving it solely to the President.

Despite the extraordinary fact that 122 nations have negotiated a treaty to ban the bomb, prohibiting possession, use, threatening to use, sharing, developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, stockpiling, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory, nuclear terrorism, as practiced by the United States, still goes unabated. This is in violation of a commitment made in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty to make "good faith efforts" for nuclear disarmament. The latest U.S. nuclear threat has been made to North Korea, with Trump announcing that "all options are on the table"-nukespeak for we will use the bomb to slaughter you.

The new treaty opened for signature on September 20 at the United Nations, and 50 nations were required to sign and ratify it to make nuclear weapons unlawful, just as the world has already done for chemical and biological weapons. This threshold was met on Day 1.

It's time to let the U.S. Congress and all the world's governments know that we want them to support nuclear abolition. Write a letter to your Senators and member of Congress, asking them to press for nuclear abolition by joining the ban treaty with a commitment to follow the treaty's provisions for nuclear armed countries to join and dismantle their arsenals.

Plan events around this on November 11, Armistice Day 99.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

People run from the scene of a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.

The White Privilege Of The "Lone Wolf" Shooter
By Shaun King

LAST NIGHT, THE United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. At least 58 people are dead and over 500 more wounded. No, that's not a typo: More than 500 people were injured in one single incident.

As tens of thousands enjoyed a music festival on the streets of Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, was perched 32 floors above them in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. Paddock had 19 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammo - supplies that are plentiful in a nation that has more guns than people. A few minutes after 10 p.m., Paddock opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd. They were sitting ducks.

No expensive wall along the Mexican border would've prevented this. No Muslim ban stopping immigrants and refugees from a few randomly selected countries from reaching our shores would've slowed this down.

Paddock, like the majority of mass shooters in this country, was a white American. And that simple fact changes absolutely everything about the way this horrible moment gets discussed in the media and the national discourse: Whiteness, somehow, protects men from being labeled terrorists.

The privilege here is that the ultimate conclusion about shootings committed by people from commonly nonwhite groups often leads to determinations about the corrosive or destructive nature of the group itself. When an individual claiming to be Muslim commits a horrible act, many on the right will tell us Islam is the problem. For centuries, when an act of violence has been committed by an African-American, racist tropes follow - and eventually, the criminalization and dehumanization of an entire ethnic group.

A bloodied victim lies on the ground during a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas

PRIVILEGE ALWAYS STANDS in contrast to how others are treated, and it's true in this case, too: White men who resort to mass violence are consistently characterized primarily as isolated "lone wolves" - in no way connected to one another - while the most problematic aspects of being white in America are given a pass that nobody else receives.

Stephen Paddock's whiteness has already afforded him many outrageous protections in the media.

While the blood was still congealing on the streets of Las Vegas, USA Today declared in a headline that Paddock was a "lone wolf." And yet an investigation into his motivations and background had only just started. Police were only beginning to move to search his home and computers. His travel history had not yet been evaluated. No one had yet thoroughly scrutinized his family, friends, and social networks.

Paddock was declared a "lone wolf" before analysts even started their day, not because an exhaustive investigation produced such a conclusion, but because it is the only available conclusion for a white man in America who commits a mass shooting.

"Lone wolf" is how Americans designate many white suspects in mass shootings. James Holmes was called a "lone wolf" when he shot and killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. And Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot and killed the pastor and eight other parishioners, was quickly declared a "lone wolf."

For people of color, and especially for Muslims, the treatment is often different. Muslims often get labeled as "terrorists" before all the facts have come out.

Just consider President Donald Trump. This morning, Trump tweeted, "My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!" That's fine, but Trump doesn't even seem angry. It's peculiar that he didn't call the shooter a "son of a bitch," like he did the NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem. He didn't create an insulting nickname for Paddock or make an immediate push for a policy proposal.

Compare that to how Trump treats incidents where he believes the assailants are Muslims. After a bomb exploded in the London subway, Trump tweeted that the attackers were "loser terrorists" - before British authorities had even named a suspect. He went on to immediately use the attack to push his Muslim ban.

We must ask ourselves: Why do certain acts of violence absolutely incense Trump and his base while others only elicit warm thoughts and prayers? This is the deadliest mass shooting in American history! Where is the outrage? Where are the policy proposals?

What we are witnessing is the blatant fact that white privilege protects even Stephen Paddock, an alleged mass murderer, not just from being called a terrorist, but from the anger, rage, hellfire, and fury that would surely rain down if he were almost anyone other than a white man. His skin protects him. It also prevents our nation from having an honest conversation about why so many white men do what he did, and why this nation seems absolutely determined to do next to nothing about it.

I spoke to two people this morning, one black and the other Muslim. Both of them said that, when they heard about this awful shooting in Las Vegas, they immediately began hoping that the shooter was not black or Muslim. Why? Because they knew that the blowback on all African-Americans or Muslims would be fierce if the shooter hailed from one of those communities.

Something is deeply wrong when people feel a sense of relief that the shooter is white because they know that means they won't suffer as a result. White people, on the other hand, had no such feeling this morning, because 400 years of American history tells them that no such consequences will exist for them today as a result of Paddock's actions.

It is an exemplar of white privilege: not just being given a headstart in society, but also the freedom from certain consequences of individual and group actions.
(c) 2017 Jeffery Shaun King is an American writer and civil rights activist. He is noted for his use of social media to promote religious, charitable, and social causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement. He is the senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, and a political commentator for The Young Turks.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Trump,

Dear NRA Fuhrer Cors,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your fight to see that every American lunatic can get his hands on a many assault rifles as he likes, 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 Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 11-25-2017. We salute you herr Cors, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

He has the title and he has the bully pulpit, but he's not actively governing the United States.

The Growing Irrelevance Of President Trump
He is still a dangerous showman and conman, but when it comes to the actual work of governing America, the president is becoming utterly and completely irrelevant.
By Robert Reich

Announcement: Donald Trump is no longer the president of the United States.

Oh sure, he has the title and he has the bully pulpit-from which he's bullying everyone from NBA players to people protesting white supremacists to DACA kids.

But he's not actively governing the United States. That work is happening elsewhere-in Congress, the courts, the Fed, the career civil service, lobbyists, and in the states. Or it's not happening at all.

It's not just that Trump lost the epic battle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump never understood the Affordable Care Act to begin with, and played no part in developing Republican alternatives.

The budget Trump submitted to Congress in March was dead on arrival. House Republicans ignored Trump's request for $54 billion in cuts to departments and agencies and decided instead to cut non-defense spending by just $5 billion, and explode the defense budget.

The nine-page tax plan congressional Republicans and Trump unveiled last week only vaguely resembles Trump's original tax proposal from April, and all the important decisions have been left to the tax-writing committees of Congress.

Trump's relations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnelland House Speaker Paul Ryan have become so strained they have no interest in looping him into policies before they have to.

Meanwhile, Trump has run out of Obama executive orders he can declare void. Major regulations, such as the EPA's Clean Power Plan, can't just be repealed. They have to go through a legal process that could take years.

Trump doesn't seem to be aware of this. He told a cheering crowd in Alabama recently that he had ended the Clean Power Plan by executive order. "Did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone."P> Nope. The EPA will soon reveal its strategy for reversing the Plan, but whatever it is, environmental groups are almost certain to appeal it in the courts. Big businesses and utilities, fearing that the courts may rule against the administration, are lobbying the EPA to come up with a replacement rather than try to eliminate the Plan altogether.

Although General John Kelly has reduced White House chaos somewhat, the firings and shakeups are unremitting.

Trump's Cabinet secretaries don't seem to have a clue. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos still wants to spend taxpayer money on for-profit schools and colleges that cheat their students. Won't happen. The EPA's Scott Pruitt is trying to strip the agency of scientists. Another brainless scheme.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin still has no idea how to deal with Congress. He tried to persuade Republican House members to support Trump's budget deal with the Democrats by asking them to do it "for me."

Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price wasn't fired for his ethical breaches. If ethics were the criteria, most of the Trump administration would be gone. Price broke Trump's cardinal rule, which was never to get bad headlines for Trump.

Top echelons of departments and agencies are still empty. Trump has said "in many cases, we don't want to fill those jobs," which means decisions are being made by career civil servants and industry lobbyists.

By the start of September, more than a third of the leadership positions at the Federal Emergency Management Agency were still vacant. Not a good way to begin hurricane season. Puerto Rico, anyone?

As of mid-September, out of 599 key government positions that require Senate confirmation, Trump had made only 159 nominations, according to the Washington Post. Trump had yet to submit nominations for 320 positions.

Trump's political clout is waning among Republicans. He couldn't even get his pick elected to a Senate primary in Alabama, a state bulging with Trump voters.

Business leaders have deserted him over his remarks over Charlottesville. NFL owners have turned on him over his remarks about players. Tom Brady, who once called Trump "a good friend," now calls him "divisive" and "wrong."

Don't get me wrong. Trump is still a dangerous showman and conman-tweeting condemnations of critics and ranting before friendly crowds at his never-ending campaign rallies. He continues to fuel bigotry and meanness. He has reduced America's standing in the world. His outbursts could start a nuclear war.

But when it comes to the actual work of governing America, Trump is becoming utterly and completely irrelevant.
(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

U.S. Marine stands with Vietnamese children as they watch their house burn after a
patrol set it ablaze after finding AK-47 ammunition, Jan. 13, 1971, 25 miles south of Da Nang.

The Ken Burns Vietnam Documentary Glosses Over Devastating Civilian Toll
By Nick Turse

"I THINK THAT when Americans talk about the Vietnam War - we tend to talk only about ourselves. But if we really want to understand it - or try to answer the fundamental question, 'What happened?' You've got to triangulate," says filmmaker Ken Burns of his celebrated PBS documentary series "The Vietnam War." "You've got to know what's going on. And we have many battles in which you've got South Vietnamese soldiers and American advisors or - their counterparts and Vietcong or North Vietnamese. You have to get in there and understand what they're thinking."

Burns and his co-director Lynn Novick spent 10 years on "The Vietnam War," assisted by their producer Sarah Botstein, writer Geoffrey Ward, 24 advisors, and others. They assembled 25,000 photographs, feature close to 80 interviews of Americans and Vietnamese, and spent $30 million on the project. The resulting 18-hour series is a marvel of storytelling, something in which Burns and Novick take obvious pride. "The Vietnam War" provides lots of great vintage film footage, stunning photos, a solid Age of Aquarius soundtrack, and plenty of striking soundbites. Maybe this is what Burns means by triangulation. The series seems expertly crafted to appeal to the widest possible American audience. But as far as telling us "what happened," I don't see much evidence of that.

Like Burns and Novick, I also spent a decade working on a Vietnam War epic, though carried out on a far more modest budget, a book titled "Kill Anything That Moves." Like Burns and Novick, I spoke with military men and women, Americans and Vietnamese. Like Burns and Novick, I thought I could learn "what happened" from them. It took me years to realize that I was dead wrong. That might be why I find "The Vietnam War" and its seemingly endless parade of soldier and guerrilla talking heads so painful to watch.

War is not combat, though combat is a part of war. Combatants are not the main participants in modern war. Modern war affects civilians far more and far longer than combatants. Most American soldiers and Marines spent 12 or 13 months, respectively, serving in Vietnam. Vietnamese from what was once South Vietnam, in provinces like Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, as well as those of the Mekong Delta - rural population centers that were also hotbeds of the revolution -lived the war week after week, month after month, year after year, from one decade into the next. Burns and Novick seem to have mostly missed these people, missed their stories, and, consequently, missed the dark heart of the conflict.

To deprive their Vietnamese enemies of food, recruits, intelligence, and other support, American command policy turned large swathes of those provinces into "free fire zones," subject to intense bombing and artillery shelling, that was expressly designed to "generate" refugees, driving people from their homes in the name of "pacification." Houses were set ablaze, whole villages were bulldozed, and people were forced into squalid refugee camps and filthy urban slums short of water, food, and shelter.

A U.S. Marine carries a blindfolded woman suspected of Vietcong activities. She and other
prisoners were rounded up during the joint Vietnamese-U.S. Operation Mallard, near Da Nang, Vietnam.

I spoke with hundreds of Vietnamese from these rural areas. In hamlet after hamlet, they told me about being rousted from their homes and then being forced to drift back to the ruins, for deeply-held cultural and religious reasons, and often simply to survive. They explained what it was like to live, for years on end, under the threat of bombs and artillery shells and helicopter gunships. They talked about homes burned again and again and again, before they gave up rebuilding and began living a semi-subterranean existence in rough-hewn bomb shelters gouged into the earth. They told me about scrambling inside these bunkers when artillery fire began. And then they told me about the waiting game.

Just how long did you stay in your bunker? Long enough to avoid the shelling, of course, but not so long that you were still inside it when the Americans and their grenades arrived. If you left the shelter's confines too soon, machine-gun fire from a helicopter might cut you in half. Or you might get caught in crossfire between withdrawing guerrillas and onrushing U.S. troops. But if you waited too long, the Americans might begin rolling grenades into your bomb shelter because, to them, it was a possible enemy fighting position.

They told me about waiting, crouched in the dark, trying to guess the possible reactions of the heavily-armed, often angry and scared, young Americans who had arrived on their doorsteps. Every second mattered immensely. It wasn't just your life on the line; your whole family might be wiped out. And these calculations went on for years, shaping every decision to leave the confines of that shelter, day or night, to relieve oneself or fetch water or try to gather vegetables for a hungry family. Everyday existence became an endless series of life-or-death risk assessments.

I had to hear versions of this story over and over before I began to get a sense of the trauma and suffering. Then I started to appreciate the numbers of people affected. According to Pentagon figures, in January 1969 alone, air strikes were carried out on or near hamlets where 3.3 million Vietnamese lived. That's one month of a war that lasted more than a decade. I began to think of all those civilians crouched in fear as the bombs fell. I began to tally the terror and its toll. I began to understand "what happened."

I started to think about other numbers, too. More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel and 254,000 of their South Vietnamese allies lost their lives in the war. Their opponents, North Vietnamese soldiers and South Vietnamese guerrillas, suffered even more grievous losses.

But civilian casualties absolutely dwarf those numbers. Though no one will ever know the true figure, a 2008 study by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and a Vietnamese government estimate, suggest there were around two million civilian deaths, the vast majority in South Vietnam. A conservative killed-to-injured ratio yields a figure of 5.3 million civilians wounded. Add to these numbers 11 million civilians driven from their lands and made homeless at one time or another, and as many as 4.8 million sprayed with toxic defoliants like Agent Orange. "The Vietnam War" only weakly gestures at this civilian toll and what it means.

An old Vietnamese woman reaches into large jar to draw water in an attempt to fight flames
consuming her home in a village 20 miles southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam on Feb. 14, 1967.

Episode five of "The Vietnam War," titled "This Is What We Do," begins with Marine Corps veteran Roger Harris musing about the nature of armed conflict. "You adapt to the atrocities of war. You adapt to killing, dying," he says. "After a while, it doesn't bother you. I should say, it doesn't bother you as much."

It's a striking soundbite and is obviously offered to viewers as a window onto the true face of war. It made me think, however, about someone who experienced the war far longer and more intimately than Harris did. Her name was Ho Thi A and in a soft, measured voice she told me about a day in 1970 when U.S. Marines came to her hamlet of Le Bac 2. She recounted for me how, as a young girl, she'd taken cover in a bunker with her grandmother and an elderly neighbor, scrambling out just as a group of Marines arrived -and how one of the Americans had leveled his rifle and shot the two old women dead. (One of the Marines in the hamlet that day told me he saw an older woman "gut-shot" and dying and a couple of small clusters of dead civilians, including women and children, as he walked through.)

Ho Thi A told her story calmly and collectedly. It was only when I moved on to more general questions that she suddenly broke down, sobbing convulsively. She wept for ten minutes. Then it was fifteen. Then twenty. Then more. Despite all her efforts to restrain herself, the flood of tears kept pouring out.

Like Harris, she had adapted and moved on with her life, but the atrocities, the killing, the dying, did bother her.

Ho Thi A in 2008.

That didn't surprise me. War arrived on her doorstep, took her grandmother, and scarred her for life. She had no predefined tour of duty. She lived the war every day of her youth and still lived steps from that killing ground.

Add together all the suffering of all of South Vietnam's Ho Thi A's, all the women and children and elderly men who huddled in those bunkers, those whose hamlets were burned, those made homeless, those who died under the bombs and shelling, and those who buried the unfortunates that did perish, and it's a staggering, almost unfathomable toll - and, by sheer numbers alone, the very essence of the war.

It's there for anyone interested in finding it. Just look for the men with napalm-scarred or white phosphorus-melted faces. Look for the grandmothers missing arms and feet, the old women with shrapnel scars and absent eyes. There's no shortage of them, even if there are fewer every day.

If you really want to get a sense of "what happened" in Vietnam, by all means watch "The Vietnam War." But as you do, as you sit there admiring the "rarely seen and digitally re-mastered archival footage," while grooving to "iconic musical recordings from [the] greatest artists of the era," and also pondering the "haunting original music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross," just imagine that you're actually crouched in your basement, that your home above is ablaze, that lethal helicopters are hovering overhead, and that heavily-armed teenagers -foreigners who don't speak your language -are out there in your yard, screaming commands you don't understand, rolling grenades into your neighbor's cellar, and if you run out through the flames, into the chaos, one of them might just shoot you.
(c) 2017 Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning investigative journalist, he has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Nation, and is a contributing writer for The Intercept. His latest book is Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is

The Cartoon Corner...

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

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Betsy DeVos Says She Did Math On Trump's Tax Plan And It Will Save Nation Eleventy Krillion
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-In a ringing endorsement from the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that she did the math on Donald Trump's tax plan and that she estimates it will save the United States roughly eleventy krillion dollars.

"I took out a pencil and paper and figured it out the old-fashioned way," DeVos told reporters. "I wound up going through a lot of paper, because eleventy krillion has ten hundredteen zeroes."

DeVos stressed that the eleventy-krillion figure was actually a conservative estimate. "The exact number was between eleventy and ninety-quelve, but I rounded down to eleventy," she said.

The Education Secretary said that the national debt, which currently stands at more than twenty trillion dollars, would be greatly reduced by the eleventy-krillion-dollar windfall.

"If you subtract eleventy krillion from twenty trillion, you get a number so small it has no name," she explained.
(c) 2017 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 37 (c) 10/06/2017

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