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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi returns with, "DA Who Dropped Fraud Case Against Trump Kids Did Opposite With Immigrant Family."

Uri Avnery discovers, "Separation Is Beautiful."

Glen Ford reports, "The FBI Targets Black 'Ideology.'"

Ralph Nader finds, "Obama: Too Cool For Trump's Crises."

Jim Hightower asks, "When Will Wall Street Quit Being Stupid?"

John Nichols says, "Let's Talk About Paul Ryan's Scorching Duplicity On Gun Violence, Mental Health, And, Well, Everything."

James Donahue concludes, "Ma And Pa Aren't On The Farm Anymore."

Medea Benjamin gives, "10 Reasons The US Should Stick With The Iran Nuclear Deal."

Heather Digby Parton reveals, "Sinatra Knew How To Deal With Trump."

David Suzuki warns, "Bye-Bye, Bug Splatter."

Charles P. Pierce asserts, "If The Democrats Don't Learn This Lesson, They Deserve To Lose."

David Swanson wonders, "Is The Nobel Committee Finally Abiding By Nobel's Will?"

Bernie Sanders explains, "Why We Must Make Public Higher Education Tuition Free."

Spokes-weasel Sarah Sanders Huckabee wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich compares, "Trump And Weinstein."

Chris Hedges sees, "Faces Of Pain, Faces Of Hope."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Supreme Court Justices Gather In Chambers To Receive Latest Mission From Large Talking Head Of Justice John Marshall" but first Uncle Ernie explores, "President Psychopath."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jen Sorensen, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Peter Miller, Code Pink, Zach D Roberts, Aaron Barksdale, CNBC,, 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...
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Parting Shots...

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President Psychopath
By Ernest Stewart

"My IQ is one of the highest - and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault. ~~~ Donald Trump

It's always something
There's always something going wrong
That's the only guarantee
That's what this is all about
Life Is A Lemon ~~~ Meat Loaf

"The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it's not a friend to freedom, it's not a friend even to the United States of America where, as you know, it has its home. And it surely is not a friend to Israel." ~~~ Donald Trump

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?
Help me, help me, ooo
Help ~~~ The Beatles

For those of you who aren't hip a psychopath is defined as:


a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior. synonyms: madman * madwoman * maniac * lunatic * psychotic * sociopath * loony * fruitcake * nutcase * nutjob * nut * psycho * schizo * head case * sicko * screwball * crazy * kook * loon



an unstable and aggressive person:
"schoolyard psychopaths will gather around a fight to encourage the combatants"

Does that description ring any bells, America? It should!

Or how about this one?

Or this one...

Or this one...

Or this one...

I could go on and on, but I won't, as life is short but, I'm sure you see my point. We are so screwed, America. You may recall that Sir Alfred Hitchcock, once told a similar tale?

In Other News

Normally it's the Pacific that spawns killer hurricanes but this years it's the Atlantic that has produced 10 names storms with 6 of this year's hurricanes making landfall. Our latest Hurricane Ophelia is heading towards Spain and then to Ireland so we got a break there. As you can see many hit land more than once along the way. Franklin and Katia hit both hit central Mexico. Harvey devastated southeastern Texas as a category four storm and unleashed historic floods while gradually winding down over the following week. Irma totaled the island of Barbuda with 185 MPH winds, and forever changed the landscape of many more Caribbean islands as it tore towards a final landfall in Florida. Maria devastated Dominica and Puerto Rico; it was the worst storm to hit these islands in generations. The unincorporated U.S. territory, and its 3.4 million U.S. citizens will almost certainly be without power for months, at least if Trump has his way. In fact he put the Jones act back in place so the islanders will pay twice what they should have to pay! Sad!

How did this happen? Warm water beneath a storm is often discussed as the single factor that determines the strength of a hurricane. While the warmth of the water does dictate how strong a hurricane can grow, the environment in which a storm forms is just as important. High wind shear can lop off the tops of thunderstorms that try to organize into a tropical cyclone. Dry air, especially the dusty air that blows off the African Sahara, can choke a cyclone and cause it to fizzle out. Stable air prevents thunderstorms from developing at all.

That's what we've seen happen, for most part, for the past couple of years. Beginning in 2013 and lasting through 2016, the Atlantic Ocean spat out a couple of formidable storms (like category five Hurricane Matthew and category four Hurricane Joaquin), but most of the storms that managed to spin up were a mess because of those three factors, high wind shear, dry air, and stable air. The storms were lopsided and disheveled, and as a result many looked like regular springtime thunderstorms instead of intense tropical cyclones. This year, though, the atmosphere has cooperated with just about every storm that managed to form since August. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria, especially, were able to take full advantage of calm winds, tropical moisture, and extremely warm waters to explode into the kind of storm emergency officials talk about when training for the worst-case scenario.

With global warming and rising tides even minor storms can cause major flooding when they come ashore as folks from Alabama to Florida just found out and it's only going to get worse as times goes on and the North and South poles continue to melt along with the worlds various glaciers.

And if the floods don't get you the fires will, as California is finding out. At least 31 dead with hundreds missing and none of the fires are under control. As Meat Loaf once sang, "There's always something going wrong," especially in this age of global warming!

And Finally

I see where Trump is pulling out of UNESCO. UNESCO is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world. The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately poor countries and in scientific fields, to promote better understanding and to defend media freedom, amongst its other activities. So it's obvious why Trump hates it, it stands for everything he's against!

You may recall that Barry stopped funding UNESCO after his puppet master in Israel pulled his strings when UNESCO voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The withdrawal was confirmed Thursday by U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to be publicly named discussing the decision. This move will keep the U.S. from having any say in UNESCO matters.

Now Trump is dancing to the same puppet master that Barry once danced for, Benjamin Netanyahu, as both are Israeli fifth columnist, but then again so are most members of Con-gress, which is, of course, an act of Treason!

However, this is just the first step for Trump and the U.N.. His next step, is when he pulls us totally out of the U.N., at the very same time that his Zionazi masters in Tel Aviv pull Israel out too. These moves will probably be the beginning of WWIII if Trump doesn't start it first with wars against North Korea and Iran. Stayed tuned in, America, and get ready for a bumpy ride!

Keepin' On

I don't want to bring you down; but unless we get some ducats for the bucket real soon, this could be the final straw! I know there are some out there who like to watch me squirm and go through "dem changes" when it's fundraising time. I hope that that's the case this time around, too.

Hopefully, one or more of the "Usual Suspects" will step up and save the day once again like they have so many times in the past. going on 17 years, downline from the December 12, 2000 judicial coup d'etat that started the magazine. We're more able and even more committed to keep the truth flowing; but unfortunately, we don't have the money to continue and won't without your help.

Ergo, if you find us useful as your conveyance of political truth and current happenings, then it might be to your advantage to pay your fair share as you would for any other important service. In this case, it could be life-or-death important. Therefore, if you're able, would you lend a helping hand and send us whatever you can, as often as you can? And we'll keep informing you of what's really happening around you and what that might mean!


02-17-1972 ~ 10-06-2017
Thanks for the laughs!

10-21-1940 ~ 10-08-2017
Thanks for the doo-wop!


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

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


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

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

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Albin

DA Who Dropped Fraud Case Against Trump Kids Did Opposite With Immigrant Family
Manhattan DA Cy Vance, in the news this week, was the prosecutor who pushed the ill-fated Abacus prosecution
By Matt Taibbi

A big story hit the news this week after a joint investigation by ProPublica, WNYC and The New Yorker. Reporters Andrea Bernstein, Jesse Eisenger, Justin Elliott and Ilya Marritz discovered that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped a potential felony fraud case against Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., before a campaign contribution made to Vance.

It was a real estate fraud case involving Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo project. Investigators believed the Trumps had made falsely reassuring statements to prospective buyers of units in the complex, where sales had been tepid.

The reporters learned that the evidence included email chains in which the Trumps "discussed how to coordinate false information." In another set of communications, they apparently reassured a broker who was concerned about the deception.

When the investigation got hot in May of 2012, Trump personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz went to meet with Vance. Three months later, the case went away. Kasowitz reportedly later bragged about his work, saying it was "amazing I got them off."(The lawyer now denies making that statement). Subsequently, Kasowitz made an additional contribution to Vance of $32,000, and reportedly helped route additional contributions to the DA.

At almost exactly the same time he was meeting with Trump's lawyer, Cy Vance was pushing another case through the Manhattan courts. On May 31st, 2012, just two weeks after his meeting with Kasowitz, Vance's office moved to indict for mortgage fraud a tiny Chinese immigrant bank called Abacus Federal Savings, along with 19 of its employees.

For the arraignment in the case, the 19 individual defendants were frog-marched into court in a literal chain gang - you can see the now infamous photo in a contemporary New York Times piece - in a scene that was clearly designed to show Vance's office was throwing the book at white-collar offenders. Some of the people in the chain gang made as little as $35,000 a year.

Though the case had absolutely nothing to do with the 2008 financial crisis - more on that in a moment - Vance shamelessly pitched Abacus as a prosecution directed at the causes of the crash.

"If we've learned anything from the recent mortgage crisis," he said, "it's that at some point, these schemes will unravel and taxpayers could be left holding the bag."

Abacus was a small family-owned bank, a mainstay of the Chinatown neighborhood, that had self-reported the discrepancy that led to the prosecution. In exact contrast to the broader financial crisis dynamic, it made home loans to people who made their payments. The alleged victim, Fannie Mae, did not experience a penny of loss. Abacus was ultimately found not guilty, in a major embarrassment to Vance's office.

The absurdity of the Abacus case was that Vance could have walked in just about any direction in lower Manhattan and run into a viable mortgage fraud prosecution involving a much bigger actor. Virtually all of the country's biggest banks have since settled, in many cases for billions, for behavior far worse than anything Abacus was even alleged to have done.

But Vance picked Abacus for prosecution, seemingly because it was small and easily pushed around, rather than take on the behemoths in lower Manhattan.

The case was a metaphor for the criminal justice system as a whole, which consistently avoided treating fraudsters at big banks as criminals. The more typical resolution involved back-room settlements in which money changed hands but no executives did time or got a record.

The news about the Trumps highlights this dynamic. Underscoring that I don't know how solid the prosecution's case was against Don Jr. and Ivanka, this new story fits the pattern: The rich and connected get off, while those outside the tent are prosecutable. We've effectively divided the country into two classes, Too Big to Fail and Small Enough to Jail.

I ended up writing about the Abacus case in my book, The Divide. Hoop Dreams director Steve James and producer Mark Mitten ultimately also made a movie about the case. The film, Abacus: Small Enough To Jail, has achieved critical acclaim this year and apparently is an Oscar contender.

There is an irony in the side-by-side cases of Abacus and the Trumps. Abacus, founded by Thomas Sung and run by daughters Vera and Jill Sung, was also a New York family business with strong real estate interests. The Sungs were not politically connected in the same way the Trumps were.

This was simply a case of one successful New York family being inside the tent, and the other family being outside looking in.

When I first heard Vance had kicked the Trump case while he was targeting the Sungs, I had mixed feelings.

On the one hand, the Trump SoHo case sounds like exactly the sort of fraud prosecution that at some point long before last year's presidential run should have taken place in the orbit of Donald Trump, a man who has demonstrated over and over that he has no compunction about lying in the most high-leverage situations.

The infamous Trump University mess, which then candidate Donald "I don't settle lawsuits" Trump settled for $25 million, is an example of something that feels like it should have stuck to the Trump empire long before we got to this place.

In that highly similar situation, incidentally, Trump reportedly made an illegal campaign contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, after Bondi had begun investigating Trump University.

My other reaction, though - and I know how this is going to sound - was that even the Trumps were relatively small-time compared to the targets Vance could have chosen.

The financial crisis of 2008 was caused by fraud on a massive, industrial scale, far beyond anything Don Jr. and Ivanka could have pulled off. The misrepresentations made by megabanks were systematic and involved hundreds of billions of dollars worth of financial instruments. When the toxic deals went south, they nearly sank the world economy.

Even if Vance had gone forward with a prosecution of the famous Trumps, in other words, it would have been a paltry effort compared to what he could have done, in terms of targeting the systemic problem. But he lacked the backbone even to take on connected individuals.

Still, the aborted prosecution(s) involving the Trumps should help Americans understand the high stakes of the Too Big to Fail era. Donald Trump has successfully danced around the law his whole life, and the consequence we share for indulging that system of kid-glove treatment for the rich and connected is that a sociopathic truthophobe and his goofball family now occupy the White House.

We don't yet know what the consequences will be for the bigger miss: letting Wall Street skate with a back-room payoff after causing the 2008 crash. Unfortunately, we'll likely find out sooner or later.
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

Separation Is Beautiful
By Uri Avnery

JUST IMAGINE: A new movement among the Mizrahim is born in Israel.

It declares that all the existing organizations of Mizrahim (Oriental Jews) are phony. That they are all instruments of the Ashkenazi (European Jewish) elite to keep the Mizrahim in subjugation. That the Oriental Shas party is a joke, especially since the death of Rabbi Ovadia Josef, who was an authentic Mizrahi leader.

It says the Likud is the most cunning instrument for keeping the Mizrahim down. That the endless rule of Binyamin Netanyahu, the very personification of the Ashkenazi elite, symbolizes the powerlessness of the ignorant Mizrahi masses, who keep him and his entire Ashkenazi gang in power.

SO a new Mizrahi party is set up, led by energetic young people who put forward a shocking revolutionary idea: separation.

Their plan is to partition the State of Israel along the Jaffa - Jerusalem road, dividing the country into two halves. Everything north of the dividing line will remain the property of the Ashkenazis, everything south of it will become the new sovereign Mizrahi state, to be called Medinat Mizrah.

From there, your imagination can lead you anywhere you want.

WHERE WOULD I stand in such a situation? Asking myself seriously, I find myself in a very ambiguous situation.

I am an Ashkenazi. As Ashkenazi as you get. I was born in Germany. My family had been there for ages. But I never defined myself as such. The very idea of being "Ashkenazi" is completely alien to me.

More so, I have a very deep attachment to the Mizrahi society. I had it even before four young recruits from Morocco risked their young lives to save my life in the 1948 war. I was attached to Oriental culture from early childhood.

So, confronted with a vigorous Oriental separation movement, where would I stand? Frankly, I do not know. I certainly would not send the Israeli army and police to put it down. That would be impossible anyhow, considering that most soldiers and police are themselves Mizrahim.

Fortunately, the whole idea is preposterous. Can't happen. Even less than Kurdish or Catalonian separation.

CURIOUSLY ENOUGH, the Kurds and the Catalans are two peoples I have always liked.

I don't know when I started to like the Kurds or why. In my youth, Kurds were considered nice but primitive. The saying "Ana Kurdi" (Arabic for "I am a Kurd") meant that I am a simple person who fulfills his task without asking questions.

Jewish immigrants from Iraqi Kurdistan spoke of their former hosts with affection - unlike most Jewish immigrants from other countries.

In the 1950s I came to know a semi-clandestine cell of Egyptian Jewish emigres in Paris. They assisted the Algerian struggle for independence - a cause which I fervently supported myself. Its leader was Henri Curiel, and one of its members was a young Egyptian Jewish woman, Joyce Blau, who was also an ardent supporter of the Kurdish cause. This was also the field of her academic studies.

Through her, I learned more about the Kurdish story, or tragedy. Though Kurdistan is a compact territory, it is divided into pieces that belong to different states - Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, with more communities dispersed in other countries.

At the end of World War I, there was an effort to set up a Kurdish state, but the rapaciousness of the victors and the re-emergence of a strong Turkey made this impossible. The Kurds themselves were not completely blameless: they were and are consistently unable to unite. Their leading families act against each other.

After having set up the "Israeli Council for Algerian Independence", I found an Israeli group of immigrants from Iraqi Kurdistan and together we founded the "Israeli Council for an Independent Kurdistan".

As a member, I had some unforgettable experiences. Twice I was invited to address mass meetings of Kurds in Germany. Mass meetings in the literal sense: huge numbers of Kurds from all over Europe cheered my speech, quite a boost for my ego.

My efforts petered out when I discovered that high-level Israeli army officers were already in Iraqi Kurdistan, helping to train the Peshmerga ("Before Death") guerrillas. The motive of the Israeli government in sending them there was quite cynical: to undermine the Iraqi state, according to the eternal Roman maxim "Divide et Impera", divide and rule.

How did they get there? Easy, they were under the benevolent protection of the Shah of Iran. But one day the Shah made peace with Saddam Hussein, and that was the end of this particular Israeli project. When the Shah was toppled and Iran became Israel's deadly enemy, Israeli military intervention in Kurdistan became impossible.

But the sentiment remains. I believe that the Kurds deserve independence, especially if they are able to unite. Since they are blessed - or cursed - with oil riches, foreign interests are deeply involved.

THERE IS no similarity whatsoever between the Kurds and the Catalans, except that I like them both.

Catalonia is a highly developed country, and during my several short visits there I felt quite at home. Like all tourists, I strolled in the Rambla of Barcelona - both Hebrew names, so it seems. They are remnants from the times when Spain was a colony of Carthago, a city founded by Semitic people from Phoenicia, who spoke a kind of Hebrew. Barcelona is probably derived from Barak (lightning in Hebrew), and Rambla from the Arabic Ramle (sandy.)

Trouble is, I also love other parts of Spain, especially places like Cordoba and Sevilla. Would be a pity to break it up. On the other hand, one cannot really prevent a people from achieving its independence, if it wants to.

Fortunately, nobody asks me.

THE LARGER question is why smaller and smaller peoples want independence, when the world is creating larger and larger political units?

It looks like a paradox, but really isn't.

We in this generation are witnessing the end of the nation state, which has dominated world history for the last few hundred years. It was born out of necessity. Small countries were unable to build modern mass industries which depended on a large domestic market. They could not defend themselves, when modern armies required more and more sophisticated weapons. Even cultural development depended on larger language-areas.

So Wales and Scotland joined England, Savoy and Sicily created Italy, Corsica and the Provence joined France. Small nationalities joined larger ones. It was necessary for survival.

History is moving on, and now even the nation-State is not large enough to compete. States unite in ever-larger units, such as the European Union. I have no doubt that by the end of this century, there will be in place an effective world government, turning the entire world effectively into one state. (If some extra-terrestrials threaten this world, it will help.)

So how does the separation into smaller and smaller states fit this trend? Simply, if the state of Spain is not necessary anymore for economic and military purposes and its central functions are moving from Madrid to Brussels, why shouldn't the Catalans and the Basques secede and join the Union under their own flags? Look at Yugoslavia, look even at the Soviet Union. Germany is the great exception but it is quite large by itself.

The two processes are not contradictory, they complement each other.

The idiotic Brexit is ahistorical. But if the Scots and the Welsh want to separate from England, they will succeed.

I have great respect for the power of nationalism. In our era, it has prove, to be stronger than religion, communism or any other creed. It is strongest when it combines with religion, as in the Arab world. So the nationalism of small peoples will gain satisfaction in football games, while the real business will be conducted elsewhere.

AT THIS very moment, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, is busy with enacting a new law, called the Nation Law, which is intended to make clear that the Jewishness of the Jewish State takes precedence over democracy and human rights.

Israel has no constitution, but until now it was assumed that Israel was equally "Jewish" and "democratic". The new law is about to abolish that notion.

As usual, we are one or two centuries behind world history.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The FBI Targets Black 'Ideology'
It is a catch-all for blanket repression of Black activism of any kind.
By Glen Ford

The FBI has apparently chosen a new heading under which to lump Black Americans targeted for political persecution: "Black Identity Extremists." There's a simple explanation for the new categorization. The FBI is a bureaucracy whose day-to-day work involves drawing up lists of people and organizations to be surveilled, disrupted and prosecuted. The dramatic increase in Black "movement" activity since the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has presented the FBI with a much larger field of targets, including youthful elements loosely grouped under the Black Lives Matter banner. When bureaucracies compile new lists, they typically file them under new names.

In a sense, the change in nomenclature is an acknowledgement by the FBI that, after nearly two generations of Black political stagnation and capitulation, there is finally a Black "movement" with the potential to upset the status quo. The leaked FBI counterterrorism division report, scooped by Foreign Policy magazine, also signifies that Black grassroots political activity is under the purview of the national security state's War on Terror and, therefore, subject to the awesome array of repressive measures authorized to law enforcement and intelligence agencies since 9/11.

COINTELPRO - the FBI's program to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" those designated as enemies of the state - was itself exposed as an illegal police state mechanism in the mid-1970s. Since 2001, the government's COINTELPRO-like programs have been superseded by a far more repressive regime, inaugurated by President George W. Bush and strengthened under Barack Obama. The post-9/ll national security state has legalized the world's most intrusive surveillance apparatus and detention without trial or charge, a system designed specifically to crush targeted ideologies - meaning, modes of thought and political identification.

It is in this context that the FBI's umbrella designation "Black Identity Extremists" is so insidious and dangerous, in that it targets people based on their (stated, imagined or inferred) beliefs and ethnic loyalties, rather than specific criminal acts or even organizational affiliation. It is a catch-all for blanket repression of Black activism of any kind.

The FBI mindset has clearly been shaped by its frustration with so-called "lone wolf" Islamic jihadists -- individual actors not directly affiliated with al Qaida or its offshoots. U.S. police and intelligence operatives speak constantly of the need to identify and neutralize Muslims in our midst that have been "radicalized" or "self-radicalized" and thus are fair game to be subjected to every tactic of entrapment and dirty tricks. The FBI views Black activists in the same light -- as potentially dangerous, "self-radicalized" threats. The counterterrorism division report cites six armed attacks on U.S. cops in the post-Ferguson period, including Dallas, Baton Rouge and New York City, as justification for its ideology-based categorization of the Black menace. Micah Johnson, who shot 11 cops in Dallas, "appeared to have been influenced by BIE ideology" based on his "journal writings and statements to police," said the Bureau.

"BIE ideology" is whatever the FBI thinks it is. In the tortured logic of white supremacist law and order, Black identification with other Blacks is inherently subversive and a prima facie justification for surveillance. The Bureau's BIE list could eventually accommodate every conceivable political tendency of Black thought -- including the "ideologies" resident in the venerable old NAACP, which issued a statement on the leaked FBI document.

"In a time when white supremacists are marching down city streets with loaded weapons and tiki torches - organizing rallies of terror around the country - it comes as a great shock that the FBI would decide to target black identity groups protesting police brutality and their right to exist free of harm, as a threat," said NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson.

Johnson then attempts to lay the blame for this state of affairs on President Trump, who has "emboldened... right-wing extremists, white nationalists and white supremacists." But, the FBI has been surveilling Black Lives Matter activists ever since the explosion of resistance in Ferguson. As early as December, 2014, the FBI was discovered to have tracked Black Lives Matter activists at the huge Mall of the Americas in Bloomington, Minnesota, in conjunction with state and local officers of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In July of 2015 The Intercept reported that "Feds Regularly Monitored Black Lives Matter Since Ferguson," exposing extensive surveillance of the rejuvenated Black movement by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

The FBI has been spying on Black activists since its founding in the early 20th century. COINTELPRO was created during the Eisenhower administration, and never died. Under President Obama, Black activists became targets of the War on Terror, and now the FBI has conjured up a rationale to criminalize African American political thought as "Black Identities Ideology." The Bureau will ultimately decide what this ideology actually is, and whose head it is lurking in.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

It isn't as if Barack Obama doesn't realize what he is doing and what is happening to him in this
self-enriching bubble he has shaped, post Presidency. He can't seem to help himself, and going to nearly
500 fat-cat political fund-raisers outside Washington, D.C. as President didn't help to change or expand his chosen circle.

Obama: Too Cool For Trump's Crises
Say the right thing and the people won't mind so much when your words don't match your deeds.
By Ralph Nader

Back in the nineteen seventies, there was a best-seller, widely read in the business community, called Winning through Intimidation. Barack Obama should pick up a copy, because that is what Donald Trump may be doing to him. Obama stays mostly silent as the belligerent Trump rolls back or destroys the legacies of Obama's eight years in office. The mere thought of tangling with the Trumpster's foul, prevaricatory, sneering tweets offends Obama's own sense of civil discourse between politicians.

Given the present crises, this revulsion is just another form of self-indulgence by the former, self-described community organizer, Senator and President. There is no other political leader, in our celebrity culture, as well known or so high in the polls. Consequently Obama owes a different attitude and level of engagement to the American people.

In a previous column, I described some of these engagements, none of which involve a twitter fight with Trump. They provide focal points for Americans to rally around agendas and opposition to the politics of anxiety, dread and fear generated by the unstable occupant of the White House. That is, a way to respond to Trump's raging tantrums, fact-impairment, loss of self-control and ego-centric vanities.

Mr. Obama could, for example, work to strengthen civic groups and help substantially to create new organizations to address urgent needs (such as averting wars); he could back opposition to Trump's destructive policies that are running America into the ground while shielding Wall Street and the dictatorial corporate supremacists whose toadies Trump has put into high government positions.

Obama is a big draw and can raise hundreds of millions of dollars faster than most. Furthermore, he has the unique ability to fill the void the mass media is desperately looking to fill by serving as a counterweight to Trump. Hillary, hawking her latest book, doesn't fit the bill here.

Instead, Obama, besides raising funds for his presidential library (about $1 billion), is getting press primarily for being paid $400,000 or more per speech before Wall Street and other big business audiences. Most recently, the New York Times located him in Sao Paulo, Brazil, speaking generalities to businesspeople who were charged from $1,500 to $2,400 to hear him say essentially nothing of note. The speech title was grandly cheerleading: "Change the World? Yes, You Can"-a nod to his unofficial 2008 campaign slogan, "Yes We Can."

Obama's spokesman would not say how much Obama gets to keep of the approximate $2 million generated by this event, which was sponsored by the Spanish bank Santander and Brazilian media conglomerates. The paying attendees were attracted to his celebrity status and didn't care about the sizable tab probably picked up by their companies. One attendee was quoted by the Times as saying, "It was a bit disappointing. I don't feel like he said anything new."

There is plenty to be said in the U.S. that is both new and significant by Obama. However, apart from a few words here and there on bigotry and immigration, Obama has preferred to bounce between high-priced lecture gigs and wealthy watering holes where he is a guest of the super-rich, and to work on his book, for which he is receiving over $30 million. Michelle Obama is receiving many millions of dollars for her book and has also been attending celebrity-filled gatherings. When asked at one such event, whom she would most like to be if she had another career, she answered, Beyonce.

Meanwhile, down at the grassroots level, where people live, work and raise their families, tens of millions are without living wages or health insurance. Underemployment and people dropping out of the labor market in frustration over their rejected skills, mask what is in reality a deceptively low unemployment rate, and yet poverty indicators are everywhere. Under Trump, families will be exposed to more hazards in the workplace, the environment and the marketplace, and they will face rip-offs by companies that have been liberated from regulatory law and order.

The list of protective programs and responsible business laws destroyed by Trump's wrecking crew of a cabinet grows longer every week.

It isn't as if Barack Obama doesn't realize what he is doing and what is happening to him in this self-enriching bubble he has shaped, post Presidency. He can't seem to help himself, and going to nearly 500 fat-cat political fund-raisers outside Washington, D.C. as President didn't help to change or expand his chosen circle.

In his best-selling 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, then Senator Obama admitted: "I found myself spending time with people of means-law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent of the income scale."

Classic Obama: Say the right thing and the people won't mind so much when your words don't match your deeds.

Think of your millions of supporters, Mr. Obama. They want you to regularly stand up for them and fight the Trump-led assault on our weakening democracy.
(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).

When Will Wall Street Quit Being Stupid?
By Jim Hightower

The self-described "Geniuses of Wall Street" are being stupid. Again. In 2007, their stupid schemes and frauds crashed our economy, destroying middle-class jobs, wealth, and opportunities. Far from being punished, however, the scofflaws were bailed out by their Washington enablers - so the moral lesson they learned was clear: Stupid pays! Go Stupid!

Sure enough, here they come again! Rather than investing America's capital in real businesses to generate grassroots jobs and shared prosperity, Wall Street is siphoning billions of investment dollars into speculative nonsense - such as bundles of high-risk, subprime auto loans.

It works like this: Car dealers, eager to goose up sales, hawk new vehicles to lower-income people, offering quick loan approval, even to those with poor credit ratings. Banks - eager to hook more people on monthly car payments - okay these subprime car loans without verifying the buyer's ability to pay. Then, a Wall Street bank's investment house buys up thousands of these iffy individual loans, bundles them into multimillion-dollar "debt securities," and sells them to wealthy global speculators. Last year alone, banks sold $26 billion-worth of these explosive bundles of car loans.

This is a gaseous repeat of Wall Street's subprime mortgage bubble that burst a decade ago. The scam generates easy money at the start for speculators and banksters - but as more and more low-income buyers are unable to make their car payments, defaults build up and the whole financial bubble pops.

Wasting America's much-needed investment capital on a scheme that intentionally puts people in cars they can't afford with loans they can't repay is not only stupid, but immoral... and it's killing our real economy. Why are we letting elite Wall Street loan sharks do this to us?
(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

Let's Talk About Paul Ryan's Scorching Duplicity On Gun Violence, Mental Health, And, Well, Everything
Congressman Joe Kennedy III calls out the speaker of the House for bending the truth following Las Vegas massacre.
By John Nichols

Paul Ryan, the shameless political careerist who has surrendered the US House of Representatives to campaign donors and lobbyists, has a well-documented history of doing everything in his power to prevent meaningful debate about gun violence. But it's getting harder for the the speaker of the House to game the system on behalf of his benefactors.

Ryan knows that his traditional "thoughts and prayers" response to mass shootings does not work any longer. People are on to the fact that his pious pronouncements in the aftermath of massacres are never followed up by action to prevent future massacres.

But Ryan, who as a top Republican fund-raiser is well aware that the National Rifle Association PAC now devotes roughly 99 percent of its campaign spending to the election of the sort of Republicans who keep the speaker in power, is still doing what he can to mangle discussions about the role that guns play in shooting sprees like the one that killed at least 59 people and left more than 500 others injured in Las Vegas.

Ryan will go only so far as the NRA allows, which, at this point, is toward a constrained discussion of regulating "bump stock" devices that modify rifles so that they can fire bullets as rapidly as machine guns. Beyond that tangential response, the speaker is determined to change the topic.

This week, he attempted to do so. "One of the things we have learned from these these shootings," he announced, "is that often underneath this is a diagnosis of mental illness."

"It's important that as we see the dust settle and we see what was behind some of these tragedies, that mental health reform is a critical ingredient to making sure that we can try and prevent some of these things from happening in the past,"

declared Ryan, who may have meant "in the future."

Paul Ryan's response to another massacre is as convoluted as it is cruel. No matter how he phrases it, Ryan is talking about "mental-health reform" in order to avoid talking about guns.

That's problematic on a number of levels.

For one thing, as the Department of Health and Human Services reminds us, "Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3 percent-5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population."

But even if Ryan believes that mental-health care needs to be reformed, he refuses to take engage in serious discussions about it. After bringing up the topic at his weekly press conference on Tuesday, the speaker did his best to avoid questions about whether it was "a mistake to make it easier for mentally ill people to get a gun." (CBS News reported that, after he was pressed to give an answer, "Ryan insisted that people's rights were being 'infringed' and protecting their rights was 'very important.'")

The most unsettling thing about Ryan's consistently dishonest responses to the issues that Congress should be addressing-from gun violence, to access to health care, to tax reform, to matters of war and peace-is that many in the media still treat the speaker as a credible commentator rather than a crudely manipulative politician.

This is what makes the challenges to Ryan's duplicity that have been posed by Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) so necessary.

Kennedy, the grandson of a presidential contender who was murdered by a gun-wielding assassin, the great-nephew of a president who was felled by a barrage of bullets from another assassin, understands more about gun violence than most members of Congress. As such, he grounds his concern in facts-and in a faith that it might still be possible to convince colleagues to put aside partisanship and ideology in the pursuit of public safety and human decency. His remarks in the aftermath of Sunday night's Las Vegas massacre were among the most poignant and powerful statements in the outpouring of grief and frustration from congressional Democrats.

"Ending gun violence isn't political. This is personal," Kennedy explained on the floor of the House. "So we are not powerless. We are not helpless. We are not hostages to some political organization. We are not bystanders-as bullets tear through concerts and prayer circles and elementary school classrooms and nightclubs and military compounds and quiet neighborhoods. This is up to us-to every single American. This is our country and our home and our families. We can decide that one person's right to bear arms does not come at the expense of a neighbor's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That was a truth that needed to be spoken.

But the congressman from Massachusetts did not stop there. He recognized the need to hold the speaker of the House to account.

When Paul Ryan tried to present himself as an advocate for mental-health programs, Kennedy called him out. He posted the speaker's remarks on Twitter, adding a simple admonition: "All due respect Mr. Speaker, you and your party celebrated taking mental health care from millions just months ago at the White House."

This is not the first time Kennedy has challenged Ryan's claims-and those of the Trump administration that Ryan so steadily serves-regarding Republican support for mental-health initiatives.

When Ryan stood with Trump at the White House to hail passage of the House version of the "repeal and replace" assault on the Affordable Care Act, Kennedy argued that advocates for mental-health and behavioral health-care programs had nothing to celebrate.

"With deeply misplaced pride, President Trump and a Republican Congress immediately responded to our nation's ongoing mental health crisis and opioid epidemic by shamelessly celebrating the passage of the single largest attack on behavioral health care in recent history," said Kennedy, who added: "The Administration's budget follows in the footsteps of TrumpCare by attacking millions of Americans suffering from mental illness and addiction through draconian cuts to critical community mental health programs."

Speaker Ryan, the most powerful Republican in Congress, needs to be held to account when he practices to deceive on issues so consequential as gun violence and health care.

Congressman Kennedy has made it his business to fact check the speaker, to expose the Wisconsin Republican's intellectual dishonesty, and to challenge the dereliction of duty that is the distinguishing mark of Paul Ryan's political career.
(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.

Ma And Pa Aren't On The Farm Anymore
By James Donahue

I grew up during a time when families could make a good living on farms no larger than 160-acres. We lived on such a farm in Michigan. Those were the days when many dairy farmers milked their cows by hand and families dared to drink "raw" non-pasteurized milk laced with real cream.

My father was a modern thinker who used our place as a hobby farm. He experimented with new chemicals and hired the owner of a combine to harvest his crops. Our neighbors, many of them first or second generation German, Dutch or Polish immigrants, still preferred the old way of doing things. They fertilized with cow manure. At harvest time they cut their grain, stacked it in shocks in the field, and thrashed. While I was too young to participate in the heavy work, I was often recruited to operate the tractor and pull a wagon as the workers walked beside it, loading the shocks. I then would pull the loaded wagon to the thrashing machine, usually powered by a large John Deere tractor, operating somewhere near the barn.

We could work our farm then with a tractor just large enough to pull a two-bottom plow. I recall spending most of a day pulling a harrow over a 40-acre plot of ground, or perhaps a day or two getting that same field plowed. If we could harvest 30 bushels of wheat from an acre, we thought we had a good crop. I remember the year my father, who was a chemist by profession, experimented with a high-nitrogen byproduct from the factory where he worked. He tried it as a fertilizer on strips across his wheat field. That year we amazed our neighbors when the experimental part of the field yielded 50 bushels to the acre. Today's farmer hangs his head if he brings in anything less than 60 bushels from that same acre.

When we plowed in the spring, we always watched for killdeer. These delightful birds laid their eggs in the weeds on the surface of the ground. It was not unusual for us to leave an unplowed island in the middle of our field because a killdeer nested there.

I remember the rich smell of the freshly turned earth. I remember the satisfying feeling I had when a day's work was finished and I walked to the house, my face and clothes covered in dirt (no air conditioned cabs on that tractor), for a bath and a good hearty supper. How grand it was to lie in my bed, next to an open window, listening to the frogs, loons and other creatures of the night. It was as if they were singing a lullaby as I drifted off to sleep.

Things have changed in a big way since I left the farm. During my years on various Michigan newspapers, I never forgot the farm life. I watched the small family farms disappear as they were bought by the more prosperous area farmers. These new farm operators, forced by tighter pricing, reduced profits and rising operating costs, turned farming into a highly mechanized business. Only the best and most aggressive operators survived. They bought land, expanded to hundreds and sometimes thousands of acres, tore down fences, cut down trees, bulldozed over the little ponds, and farmed with massive machines capable of plowing, conditioning and planting a 200-acre field in a single afternoon. I am sure they never stopped for a killdeer nest. They were too busy to care. They seemed to be in a race against the wolf, which always threatened to call at their door.

Instead of spending a day on a tractor lovingly cultivating their crops, I watched these farmers hire crop dusters to spray pesticides and weed killers from the sky. Rather than go the old organic route, "modern farmers" switched to chemicals that killed bugs and weeds and saved hours of labor.

Dairy, beef, poultry and hog production moved from having a few animals in the barn to massive buildings and feedlots. Today thousands of animals live out their brief lives eating foods laced with chemicals designed to make them grow fast so they can be butchered younger. Farming is no longer a way of life. They are "food factories."

With farmers racing into new and innovative ideas designed to grow more crops at lower cost, it should not be surprising that they now find themselves caught up in a great bio-tech dilemma. They battle such unbelievable things as Mad Cow Disease, believed caused by placing ground animal parts in animal feed, and attacking the environment because of the chemicals they use to keep their crops free of pests. Many are buying genetically modified seed that "accidentally" spread its pollen all over the American farmland and produces food that people believe are dangerous to consume.

People in Japan and Europe don't want to eat our corn because its DNA is crossed with toxic chemicals that they fear might make them sick.

Hoof and mouth disease, first detected in English livestock, also is spreading. This is a fatal disease only in that the standard approach to stopping its spread is to destroy all of the livestock on an infected farm.

Then there are the big food and meat recalls because of the new super bugs like salmonella, listeria and E-coli. People are getting sick and dying from eating foods that once were considered safe.

Yet another innovative practice by meat producers . . . to lace their animals with growth hormones and antibiotics to reduce losses . . . is coming back to haunt us. Medical people are expressing alarm that the agricultural practices are helping bacteria become immune to the existing antibiotics. Not only that, we now are beginning to find these antibiotics and other chemicals mixed in with the water we drink from our wells. What we are doing to our livestock we also may be doing to our own bodies. The bottom line to all of this is that we may be creating new super bugs on our farms.

Where is all this leading? There seems to be a general insanity linked to food production, just as exists in most other forms of modern industry. Nobody seems to care for the ecology or the public health, as long as money can be made. Farmers don't have large smoke stacks spewing massive clouds of toxins in the air but what they are doing to our planet is equally as bad as the other big industries. They are busy dumping tons of dangerous chemicals into the mouths of their livestock and on the ground they work. This stuff is getting into our food chain and into the ground and water supplies.

Modern farming practices have depleted the soil of its nutrients so the food we grow no longer supplies those important nutrients to our bodies. Consequently, we are forced to take a variety of vitamins and minerals to compensate, just to stay healthy.

There presently exists a giant "dead zone, a large area in the Gulf of Mexico a few miles from the point where the Mississippi River empties, where nothing lives. The toxic chemicals leaching from the farms of America are washing down this great river and collecting there. Researchers say similar dead zones are now found near the mouths of other rivers that pass through large tracts of agricultural land.

This should be a warning that we need to change our ways. Because the world is overpopulated and the supplies of food are dwindling, we can be assured that little is going to change. If farmers are going to fight the changing world climate and the advance of insects and diseases that attack their crops, these methods of farming, developed by such chemical giants as Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont, appear to be a necessary dilemma.

When the chickens come home to roost, however, we will be sorry we took the course we chose.
(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.

A CodePink rally in support of the Iran deal outside the White House.

10 Reasons The US Should Stick With The Iran Nuclear Deal
On Trump's wildly false arguement that the agreement is not in the country's national interest
By Medea Benjamin

President Trump is expected to announce this week that he will not recertify that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal. He will argue, falsely, that the agreement is no longer in the national interest of the United States.

The president's announcement will not end the deal but will pass the buck to Congress. In the next 60 days, Congress could impose new sanctions that would scuttle the deal or it could pass new legislation addressing issues that were never part of the original mandate, which would also effectively kill the agreement. Enough public pressure could keep the agreement intact.

Here are 10 good reasons why the US should uphold the deal.

1. President Trump's claim that Iran is not complying with the conditions of the deal is false. Iran is complying, as certified in eight reports over the past two years by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the entity charged of monitoring the deal. The Trump administration has not produced any evidence that Iran is not holding up its part of the bargain. Trump's concern about Iran's missile tests and its ties to militia groups are different issues; they're not part of this narrow, clearly defined nuclear deal.

2. The deal is actually a good one for the United States and the region because it does what it set out to do: keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It eliminates two-thirds of Iran's centrifuges and 98 percent of its enriched-uranium stockpile, and it is verified by the most intrusive verification and inspection regime ever negotiated. That's why even AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby group that sunk millions of dollars into trying to defeat the deal, is not calling on Trump to "decertify" Iran's compliance or withdraw from the agreement.

3. Scuttling the agreement would isolate the United States, not Iran. Of the six nations that signed the deal, only the United States is complaining. The other signatories are the four permanent members of the UN Security Council-Britain, France, Russia and China-plus Germany and the European Union. All are happy with the deal and intend to uphold it. A US pullout would leave the US out in the cold and collapse the consensus hashed out among our allies.

4. Nixing the Iran deal would send a disastrous signal to North Korea at this moment of crisis. If the US refuses to uphold a deal with Iran that it spent 20 months negotiating, why should North Korea even consider talks? A US exit from the Iran deal would signal to the North Korean leadership that there is only one path forward: speed up its nuclear and missile tests and its preparations for war. It would also alienate the Chinese, who not only want to preserve the Iran deal but are also essential to resolving the North Korean stand-off.

5. The US needs to work with Iran on ending the violence in the region, from Yemen to Syria. Trump's concerns about Iranian support for the "three Hs," Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, will be exacerbated if the deal is undone, as Iran will have an even greater incentive to oppose US policies. If the deal holds, it will be pave the way for talks with Iran about all these other issues.

6. Without this deal, Iran would be free to rapidly reconstitute its nuclear program, installing more centrifuges and accumulating a larger stockpile of bomb-usable material. It would free Iran to produce as much enriched uranium or plutonium as it wants. If US officials are troubled by Iran's foreign policy now, imagine how much more powerful a nuclear-armed Iran would be. That is why Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Adviser HR McMaster have argued against withdrawal.

7. De-certification would weaken global confidence in the United States and multilateralism. The deal was not only made between six nations, but the entire UN system. The UN Security Council approved the deal by a 15-0 vote. Putting the deal in jeopardy would compromise the entire international framework for non-violent conflict resolution and sink international respect for US leadership to a new low.

8. If the US pulls out and imposes more sanctions restricting business with Iran, those most affected would be US businesses. US firms are anxious to jump into this massive market of 80 million people. While Trump is busy whining about the "worst deal ever," the Chinese have just signed cooperation agreements with Iran on energy, transport, science, technology and national defense-agreements worth up to $600 billion in the next ten years. Europeans companies from Total to Citroen to Airbus have signed agreements as well. Meanwhile, US businesses will be left empty-handed.

9. Trump's bombastic talk about a "military option," with strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, could lead to a catastrophic war. Iran could immediately retaliate by attacking Israel and US troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan and on military bases throughout the Middle East. That's why Republican Senator and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker has warned that Trump's actions risk setting the nation "on the path to World War Three."

10. Upending the agreement will be a boon to Iran's conservative clerics, the very ones we DON'T want to embolden. President Rouhani will lose power to the hardliners, who were against negotiating with the West from the get-go. Their hand will be strengthened on the nuclear issue and other issues pertaining to Iran's foreign affairs, which would spell more chaos in the region. It could also lead to a backlash internally against the more secular, liberal forces in Iran.

Toying with a serious nuclear agreement to influence Iran in other areas is simply irresponsible and dangerous. That is precisely what defines President Trump: irrational and dangerous. Before he destroys the best global foreign policy achievement in the last decade, the world community--from the UN to the US Congress to the public--has to stop him.
(c) 2017 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

Sinatra Knew How To Deal With Trump
By Heather Digby Parton

He told him to go fuck himself:

Weisman managed Sinatra from 1975 to 1998 and recounted the incident in his book The Way it Was, released this month. He said Sinatra was due to perform at the opening of Mr Trump's Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City and had a deal in place with the new venues original operator Mark Grossinger Etess, who died in a helicopter crash.

The businessman then stepped in to take over the deal which is when he questioned how much Sinatra expected to be paid for his 12 performances. According to Weisman, Mr Trump began the new negotiations by saying the cost for the 12 dates Sinatra was slated to perform was "a little rich."

Mr Trump then also decided he did not need to book the other acts included including Sammy Davis Jr, who had just been diagnosed with cancer, and husband-and-wife pop duo Steve and Eydie. When challenged by Weisman, Mr Trump asked "Who's Steve and Eydie?" Weisman says he then tried choking the future president by his tie, but that his son restrained him.

He said he then called Sinatra to tell him what had happened, and singer told him he had two choices; either tell Mr Trump "to go fuck himself" or give the reality show star's phone number to Sinatra so that he could do it himself.

Weisman says he returned to Trump's office and told him "Sinatra says go fuck yourself!" Sinatra ended up playing at the Sands in Las Vegas instead.

Trump made a big mistake. But then Trump is a terrible businessman. He's cheap and he's stupid. I mean, how many people have lost money on casinos, golf courses and Manhattan real estate? No wonder he was reduced to being a pitch man for cheap ties and steaks with his name on them before he ran for president. He needed the money. .
(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.

Bye-Bye, Bug Splatter
Is this the new silent spring?
By David Suzuki

Masses of monarch butterflies fluttering across Toronto's waterfront. Painted ladies (often mistaken for monarchs) descending on Montreal. Combined with the hottest September ever recorded in the Great Lakes region, it's been a strange time in Eastern Canada. We should savour the joys of these captivating critters while we can, because their future - and that of insects generally - is uncertain.

Many Ontarians noticed this year's unexpected monarch bounty. It's difficult to determine population size during migration, but after two decades of fewer and fewer sightings, the number of monarchs this summer has been astounding. Hundreds of thousands are now flitting to Point Pelee, where they congregate, before heading across Lake Ontario to begin their 4,000-kilometre journey back to the alpine Mexican forests, where their great-great-great grandparents began in March.

Why have monarchs had such a stellar summer? For the past few years, they've faced a number of climate-related calamities, from winter storms in Mexico to scorching heat in their breeding grounds in Texas, the U.S. Midwest and Southern Canada. Widespread herbicide and pesticide use has been linked to dramatic declines in monarchs and the milkweed host plants they depend on.

This year they've had great conditions throughout their journey. Even the weirdly wet summer that put Toronto Island and many beaches underwater appeared to be a boon, as it ensured wildflowers were in full bloom, providing plentiful nectar to fuel their return trip.

The painted ladies stopover story is different, though also related to strange summer weather. Scientists believe shifting weather patterns and winds pushed the thousands of butterflies that descended on the Montreal area to the ground by as they migrated from the northern boreal region to the southern United States.

The unexpected appearance of charming critters like monarchs and painted ladies could cloud a greater issue: the dramatic loss of less alluring insect species, such as moths, fireflies, beetles and hover flies. Monarchs and honeybees have increasingly been in the media spotlight, but as University of New Brunswick ecologist Joe Nocera noted in a recent Science magazine article, "We have a pretty good track record of ignoring most noncharismatic species."

In the article, writer Gretchen Vogel describes what entomologists call "the windscreen phenomenon." Many people recall having to clean bugs from car windshields during drives through farmland and countryside. Today, it seems drivers everywhere are spending less time scrubbing and scraping.

Although bug splatter reduction is anecdotal, a growing body of research shows many once-common insects are declining. A study published in Science found most known invertebrate populations have dropped by 45 per cent over the past four decades. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reports the U.K. has seen a 59 per cent decline in insects since 1970. Global estimates point to a 40 per cent reduction of all pollinating insects.

As reporter Tom Spears asks in an Ottawa Citizen article, "So, who cares about bugs?" It's a fair question. Many of us were raised to disdain, or even fear, critters. Numerous species remain unloved or fly below our radar.

As we learn in elementary school, honeybees and wild bees pollinate much of our food. We are now coming to grips with the alarming consequences of losing pollinators, even if it's been difficult to diagnose the multiple causes. Insects also provide a host of other essential services, from making soil healthy and controlling pests to being a nutritious food source for birds. A 2006 study suggests wild insects provide ecological services worth $57 billion annually.

Beyond any economic value, these species are irreplaceable parts of the natural world. We must acknowledge and remedy their quiet decline before we experience the next "silent spring," a term popularized by scientist Rachel Carson, who noticed in the 1960s that widespread pesticide use was killing songbirds.

As we move into fall, I encourage you to take note of the bugs in your life. Many are now flitting to warmer climates or crawling into crevices and burrows to wait out the winter. Given the rapidly changing climate, we don't know what impact the next hurricane, Arctic vortex or 35 C September day will have on charismatic and not-quite-as-appealing insects. So, savour the moment, monarch lovers. And let's redouble our efforts to make our communities more green and resilient.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

There are now two mayors who've proven that progressive candidates
can win just about anywhere. Learn that lesson or you deserve to lose forever.

If The Democrats Don't Learn This Lesson, They Deserve To Lose Forever
Progressive candidates can win anywhere. Contest every race.
By Charles P. Pierce

I'm reluctant to point this out, lest I blow the covert aspects of some good news, but it seems that, almost without anyone's noticing, very progressive African-American candidates have been getting elected to be mayors in cities in the very deepest parts of the deep South. First, it was Chokwe Lumumba, an actual Socialist, who was elected mayor in Jackson in Mississippi Goddamn. From Oxford American:

In Lumumba's successful campaigns for city council in 2009 and for mayor in 2013, "Free the land" had been a common refrain of his supporters. His platform, too, echoed the vision he and his fellow New Afrikans had harbored for their new society on Land Celebration Day. He pledged that his office would support the establishment of a large network of cooperatively owned businesses in Jackson, often describing Mondragon, a Spanish town where an ecosystem of cooperatives sprouted half a century ago. In debates and interviews, he promised that Jackson, under the leadership of a Lumumba administration, would flourish as the "Mondragon of the South"-the "City of the Future."
If I may repeat, this is Jackson. The one in Mississippi. Goddamn.

Then, on Tuesday, a man named Randall Woodfin challenged and beat the incumbent mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, William Bell. Woodfin is 36, which will make him the youngest mayor of that city in over a century. More significantly, Woodfin had the active support of Bernie Sanders and the people allied with Sanders' late campaign for president. Sanders recorded a robo-call on Woodfin's behalf late in the race and Nina Turner, the head of Our Revolution, the Sanders-affiliated political operation, made two trips to Birmingham on Woodfin's behalf.

(It should be noted that the Sanders folks also scored victories on Tuesday night in preliminary contests for mayor of Albuquerque and for an open seat in the California Assembly.)

If the Democratic Party weren't so terminally bumfuzzled, and if many of its activists could get over the wounds their delicate fee-fees suffered during the 2016 presidential primaries, the party could see a great advantage in coordinating efforts between the formal party apparatus and what could be described as the progressive shock troops that carried Woodfin to victory in Birmingham.

Right now, for example, if you can believe it, the Democratic National Committee seems to be slightly baffled about what to do as regards the race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. The Democratic candidate is Douglas Jones, the former U.S. Attorney who sent to prison the last of the terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. The Republican candidate is a lawless theocratic nutball named Roy Moore, who lost his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice because of flagrant judicial misconduct.

It would seem to the casual observer that people generally should realize it to be their patriotic duty to keep Moore out of the Senate for the good of the country. However, as reported by The Daily Beast, the Democratic Party apparatus can't even decide if it should go all in for Jones.

A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said only that the group is closely monitoring the race and providing support if necessary to the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones. The spokesman also said that Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the chairman of the DSCC, had made a personal contribution to the Jones campaign. Democratic super PACs, meanwhile, are evaluating their options when it comes to the Alabama general election, which isn't until December. Before making any investments in the race, they first want to assess how vulnerable Moore is in the state. The former chief justice has emerged from a primary during which virtually every establishment Republican institution was against him. Democratic operatives said on Wednesday that they're looking to see if some GOP voters keep their distance from Moore before deciding to come to Jones' aid.

Good god, how is this even a question? Roy Moore is a howling extremist, if that word has any meaning at all anymore. Why would the Democratic Party worry about whether or not Republicans in Alabama are going to "keep their distance" from their party's lunatic candidate? (Pro Tip: They almost never do.) Get in there with both feet immediately and don't get out until the job's done. Or, if you insist on overthinking yourselves into paralysis, turn Nina Turner and the people allied with her loose and then come in at the end-cooperatively, mind you-and drown the race with money and ads. And if the Our Revolution people hold back because they don't want somebody on the Internet to get mad at them for "selling out," they should tell that person to shut up and dance. This is too important. There are now two mayors who've proven that progressive candidates can win just about anywhere. Learn that lesson or you deserve to lose forever.
(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...

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
~~~ Plato

Is The Nobel Committee Finally Abiding By Nobel's Will?
By David Swanson

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) - listen to my radio show with one of ICAN's leaders two years ago here. It's conceivable that some Americans will now learn, because of this award, about the new treaty that bans the possession of nuclear weapons.

This treaty has been years in the works. This past summer 122 nations agreed on the language of it, including these words:

Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(b) Transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(c) Receive the transfer of or control over nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly;

(d) Use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;

(e) Assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(f) Seek or receive any assistance, in any way, from anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty;

(g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

Not bad, right? This treaty is something of a rebuke to the nuclear-armed nations, chiefly the United States and Russia, that are in violation of existing law, which requires them to work toward disarmament. This new law will require every nation to not possess nuclear weapons at all. It's also a corrective to the additional current violation, unique to the United States, of placing nuclear weapons that supposedly belong to it in other nations, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Turkey, all of which possess U.S. nuclear weapons.

Already in the past week, since the new treaty opened for signatures, 53 nations have signed and 3 ratified. Once 50 have ratified, the nuke ban becomes law, and its violators become outlaws. You can urge the U.S. government to sign on, join the world, support the rule of law, and promote human survival here. The New York Times is already suggesting that the Nobel Committee's choice of awardee is somehow related to the lawlessness of North Korea. It's worth noting, however, that the only nuclear-armed nation in the world (there are nine of them, not counting those with "U.S." weapons) that voted last October to create the new treaty was North Korea. Of course, North Korea, in the Trump era, has not signed or ratified and is unlikely to do so. But I'd bet heavily that North Korea would do so if just one particular other nation agreed to do so as well.

Behind this award is years of work by ordinary people struggling for the survival of life on earth. And behind their receiving of the award may be another struggle that very few have heard about. I refer to the campaign led by Fredrik Heffermehl to persuade the Nobel Committee to abide by the legal mandate of Alfred Nobel's will, the document that created the prize. The press release announcing this year's prize contains this key paragraph:

"The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a solid grounding in Alfred Nobel's will. The will specifies three different criteria for awarding the Peace Prize: the promotion of fraternity between nations, the advancement of disarmament and arms control and the holding and promotion of peace congresses. ICAN works vigorously to achieve nuclear disarmament. ICAN and a majority of UN member states have contributed to fraternity between nations by supporting the Humanitarian Pledge. And through its inspiring and innovative support for the UN negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, ICAN has played a major part in bringing about what in our day and age is equivalent to an international peace congress."
This is exactly right, and very new. It is also exactly what legal suits and public lobbying have pressured the committee to do.

The fact is that we need a new prize, separate from the peace prize, for "general good stuff." When someone proposes that Colin Kaepernick get the Nobel Peace Prize for protesting racism, it ought to be possible to name a prize that he should get, rather than getting oneself labeled a racist for pointing out that Kaepernick has done nothing to qualify himself for the peace prize. Or when Malala Yousafzai actually receives the prize for promoting education, or Al Gore for opposing climate destruction, we ought to be able to say "No, no. Those are wonderful things. Give those people the General Nice Stuff Prize. The peace prize is legally mandated to go to those working for peace and disarmament."

Now, the prize was meant for individuals, not organizations, but even Heffermehl doesn't demand adherence to that detail. In fact, for what I believe may be the first time, the prize has now gone to a nominee that Heffermehl recommended as among those suitable by the criteria in the will. Is this part of a trend? That's not as clear. Recent winners have included a militarist president of Columbia for negotiating a peace treaty (but with his partners in that treaty left out), a group that organized a nonviolent revolution in Tunisia, the second-biggest warmakers and weapons dealers on earth in the form of the European Union, a U.S. President who bombed 8 countries and developed drone warfare to the point that the UN declared war, rather than peace, to have become the norm, and other quite dubious awardees - but also an organization seeking to eliminate chemical weapons, a diplomatic-minded former president of Finland, etc.

The purpose of the will, not included in the three criteria, but made clear by Nobel, was to provide funding for work on the three criteria. Thus giving prize money to the EU, which could have had ten times the money simply by buying a bit less weaponry, or giving it to famous, wealthy presidents and politicians, seems off. But giving it to ICAN seems, finally, to have caught on to what the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize was supposed to be. Three cheers for somebody doing something right in this world!
(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.

Tuition-free higher education "is not a radical idea. Many other nations around the
world invest in an educated workforce that isn't burdened with enormous student debt."

Why We Must Make Public Higher Education Tuition Free
Americans face almost $1.5 trillion in debt in the name of higher education
By Bernie Sanders

Our nation needs the best-educated workforce in the world to succeed in the ever more competitive global economy. Sadly, we are moving further and further away from that goal. As recently as 1995, the United States led the world in college graduation rates, but today we have fallen to 11th place. We are now behind such countries as Japan, South Korea, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, and Switzerland. Eleventh place is not the place for a great nation like the United States.

Why is this so important? Because fifty years ago, if you had a high school degree, odds were that you could get a decent-job and make it into the middle class. But that is no longer the case. While not all middle-class jobs in today's economy require post-secondary education, an increasing number do. By 2020, two-thirds of all jobs in the United States will require some education beyond high school.

And these jobs tend to pay better, too. Nationally, a worker with an associate's degree will earn about $360,000 more over their career than a worker with a high school diploma. And a worker with a bachelor's degree will earn almost $1 million more.

If it makes sense to get a college degree, why aren't more high school students enrolling in and graduating from college? The main reason is because the ever-rising cost of higher education puts college out of reach for many families, or requires students to take on a mountain of debt.

It's time to change that dynamic. It's time to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the working families of our country. It is time for every child to understand that if they study hard and takes their school work seriously they will be able to get a higher education, regardless of their family's income. It's time to reduce the outrageous burden of student debt that is weighing down the lives of millions of college graduates.

Today, our system of higher education is in a state of crisis. As tuition and fees steadily rise and as states cut funding for colleges and universities year after year, American families are finding it increasingly difficult to afford college. Every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people can't get a higher education because it is simply too expensive. Equally disgraceful, millions of college graduates have had to take on life-long debt for the "crime" of getting the education they need.

Some 44 million Americans already owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loans, and the vast majority of current college students will graduate deeply in debt. For most graduates, this debt will take many years to repay, which not only impacts their career choices, but also their ability to get married, have kids, or buy a home.

In the richest country in the history of the world, everyone who has the desire and the ability should be able to get a college education regardless of their background and ability to pay. That's why I introduced the College for All Act, to make public colleges and universities in America tuition-free for families earning $125,000 per year or less-which covers 86 percent of our population.

"In the richest country in the history of the world, everyone who has the desire and the ability should be able to get a college education regardless of their background and ability to pay."

This is not a radical idea. Many other nations around the world invest in an educated workforce that isn't burdened with enormous student debt. In Germany, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden public colleges and universities are free. In Germany, public colleges are free not only for Germans, but also for international students.

It wasn't that long ago that our own government understood the value of investing in higher education. In 1944, Congress passed the GI Bill, which provided a free college education to millions of World War II veterans. This was one of the most successful pieces of legislation in modern history, laying the groundwork for the extraordinary post-war economic boom and an unprecedented expansion of the middle class.

But it was not just the federal government that acted. In 1965, average tuition at a four-year state public university was just $256, and many excellent colleges-such as the City University of New York -- did not charge any tuition at all. The University of California system, considered by many to be the crown jewel of public higher education in this country, did not charge tuition until the 1980s.

The good news is that governors, state legislators, and local officials around the country now understand the crisis and are acting. This year, the City College of San Francisco began offering tuition-free college, and its enrollment for residents is up by 51 percent compared to last year. In New York, tens of thousands will go to the city's public colleges and universities this year without paying tuition. Similar programs have popped up in Tennessee, Oregon, Detroit and Chicago.

We are making progress on this issue, but we still have a long way to go. Making America great is not spending tens of billions more on weapons systems or providing trillions in tax breaks for the very rich. Rather, it is having a well-educated population that can compete in the global economy, and making it possible that every American, regardless of income, has the opportunity to get the education they need to thrive.
(c) 2017 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders

The Dead Letter Office...

Sarah breaks the news

Heil Trump,

Dear Propaganda Ansager Huckabee,

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 constant ability to tell lie after lie, even when everybody knows it's a lie, 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 Frau Huckabee, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Trump And Weinstein
By Robert Reich

Donald Trump weighed in on the scandal engulfing movie mogul and Democratic funder Harvey Weinstein, accused by multiple women of sexual harassment (Weinstein has been fired from his company). "I've know Harvey Weinstein a long time. I'm not at all surprised to see it," Trump said.

Trump was subsequently asked by CNN's Elizabeth's Landers how Weinstein's conduct differed from the conduct Trump bragged about on the "Access Hollywood" tape, where he said "when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything." Trump responded that the tape was just "locker-room talk."

Rubbish. It wasn't just "locker-room talk." At least 15 women have publicly accused Trump of sexual harassment and assault, and People Magazine Natasha Stoynoff has six independent witnesses to back up her allegation that Trump "pushed her against a wall, shoved his tongue in her mouth, and told her they were going to have an affair."

Trump is actively assaulting women in other ways. The Trump administration's Education Department has moved to make it harder for women at universities to prove sexual harassment. Trump's Health and Human Services Department has made it harder for women to get contraceptives. Trump has nominated 32 men and just one woman to become U.S. Attorneys. Trump's 2018 budget calls for a 93 percent cut in funding for federal programs that aid survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Trump and Weinstein are both sexual harassers and predators. But Trump is also president of the United States. That makes him even more dangerous to women.
(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

Faces Of Pain, Faces Of Hope
By Chris Hedges

ANDERSON, Ind.-It was close to midnight, and I was sitting at a small campfire with Sybilla and Josh Medlin in back of an old warehouse in an impoverished section of the city. The Medlins paid $20,000 for the warehouse. It came with three lots. They use the lots for gardens. The produce they grow is shared with neighbors and the local homeless shelter. There are three people living in the warehouse, which the Medlins converted into living quarters. That number has been as high as 10.

"It was a house of hospitality," said Josh, 33, who like his wife came out of the Catholic Worker Movement. "We were welcoming people who needed a place to stay, to help them get back on their feet. Or perhaps longer. That kind of didn't work out as well as we had hoped. We weren't really prepared to deal with some of the needs that people had. And perhaps not the skills. We were taken advantage of. We weren't really helping them. We didn't have the resources to help them."

"For the Catholic Workers, the ratio of community members to people they're helping is a lot different than what we had here," Sybilla, 27, said. "We were in for a shock. At the time there were just three community members. Sometimes we had four or five homeless guests here. It got kind of chaotic. Mostly mental illness. A lot of addiction, of course. We don't know how to deal with hard drugs in our home. It got pretty crazy."

Two or three nights a month people gather, often around a fire, in back of the warehouse, known as Burdock House.

"The burdock is seen as a worthless, noxious weed," Josh said. "But it has a lot of edible and medicinal value. A lot of the people we come into contact with are also not valued by our society. The burdock plant colonizes places that are abandoned. We are doing the same thing with our house."

Those who come for events bring food for a potluck dinner or chip in five dollars each. Bands play, poets read and there is an open mic. Here they affirm what we all must affirm-those talents, passions, feelings, thoughts and creativity that make us complete human beings. Here people are celebrated not for their jobs or status but for their contributions to others. And in associations like this one, unseen and unheralded, lies hope.

"We are an intentional community," said Josh. "This means we are a group of people who have chosen to live together to repurpose an old building, to offer to a neighborhood and a city a place to express its creative gifts. This is an alternative model to a culture that focuses on accumulating as much money as possible and on an economic structure based on competition and taking advantage of others. We value manual labor. We value nonviolence as a tactic for resistance. We value simplicity. We believe people are not commodities. We share what we have. We are not about accumulating for ourselves. These values help us to become whole people."

The message of the consumer society, pumped out over flat screen televisions, computers and smartphones, to those trapped at the bottom of society is loud and unrelenting: You are a failure. Popular culture celebrates those who wallow in power, wealth and self-obsession and perpetuates the lie that if you work hard and are clever you too can become a "success," perhaps landing on "American Idol" or "Shark Tank." You too can invent Facebook. You too can become a sports or Hollywood icon. You too can rise to be a titan. The vast disparity between the glittering world that people watch and the bleak world they inhabit creates a collective schizophrenia that manifests itself in our diseases of despair-suicides, addictions, mass shootings, hate crimes and depression. Our oppressors have skillfully acculturated us to blame ourselves for our oppression.

Hope means walking away from the illusion that you will be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Kim Kardashian. It means rejecting the lust for public adulation and popular validation. It means turning away from the maniacal creation of a persona, an activity that defines presence on social media. It means searching for something else-a life of meaning, purpose and, ultimately, dignity.

The bottomless narcissism and hunger of consumer culture cause our darkest and most depraved pathologies. It is not by building pathetic, tiny monuments to ourselves that we become autonomous and free human beings; it is through acts of self-sacrifice, by recovering a sense of humility, by affirming the sanctity of others and thereby the sanctity of ourselves. Those who fight against the sicknesses, whether squatting in old warehouses, camped out at Zuccotti Park or Standing Rock or locked in prisons, have discovered that life is measured by infinitesimal and often unseen acts of solidarity and kindness. These acts of kindness, like the nearly invisible strands of a spider's web, slowly spin outward to connect our atomized and alienated souls to the souls of others. The good, as Daniel Berrigan told me, draws to it the good. This belief-held although we may never see empirical proof-is profoundly transformative. But know this: When these acts are carried out on behalf of the oppressed and the demonized, when compassion defines the core of our lives, when we understand that justice is a manifestation of this solidarity, even love, we are marginalized and condemned by the authoritarian or totalitarian state.

Those who resist effectively will not negate the coming economic decline, the mounting political dysfunction, the collapse of empire, the ecological disasters from climate change, and the many other bitter struggles that lie ahead. Rather, they draw from their acts of kindness the strength and courage to endure. And it will be from their relationships-ones formed the way all genuine relationships form, face to face rather than electronically-that radical organizations will be created to resist.

Sybilla, whose father was an electrician and who is the oldest of six, did not go to college. Josh was temporarily suspended from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., for throwing a pie at William Kristol as the right-wing commentator was speaking on campus in 2005. Josh never went back to college. Earlham, he said, like most colleges, is a place "where intellectualism takes precedence over truth."

"When I was in high school I was really into the punk rock community," Sybilla said. "Through that I discovered anarchism."

"Emma Goldman?" I asked.

"Yeah, mostly that brand of anarchism," she said. "Not like I'm going to break car windows for fun."

She was attracted to the communal aspect of anarchism. It fit with the values of her parents, who she said "are very anti-authoritarian" and "who always taught me to think for myself." She read a book by an anonymous author who lived outside the capitalist system for a couple of years. "That really set me on that direction even though he is a lot more extreme," she said, "only eating things from the garbage. Train hopping. As a teenager, I thought, 'Wow! The adventure. All the possible ways you could live an alternative lifestyle that's not harmful to others and isn't boring.' "

When she was 18 she left Anderson and moved to Los Angeles to join the Catholic Worker Movement.

"I [too] became pretty immersed in the anarchist scene," Josh said. "I'm also a Christian. The Catholic Worker Movement is the most well known example of how to put those ideas in practice. Also, I really didn't want anything to do with money."

"A lot of my friends in high school, despite being a part of the punk rock community, went into the military," Sybilla said. "Or they're still doing exactly what they were doing in high school."

The couple live in the most depressed neighborhood of Anderson, one where squatters inhabit abandoned buildings, drug use is common, the crime rate is high, houses are neglected and weeds choke abandoned lots and yards. The police often never appear when someone from this part of the city dials 911. When the police do appear they are usually hostile.

"If you're walking down the street and you see a cop car, it doesn't make you feel safe," Josh said.

"A lot of people view them [police] as serving the rich," Sybilla said. "They're not serving us."

"Poor people are a tool for the government to make money with small drug charges," she added. "A lot of our peers are in jail or have been in jail for drugs. People are depressed. Lack of opportunity. Frustration with a job that's boring. Also, no matter how hard you want to work, you just barely scrape by. One of our neighbors who is over here quite a bit, he had a 70-hour-a-week job. Constant overtime. And he still lives in this neighborhood in a really small one-bedroom apartment. I think Anderson has really bad self-esteem. A lot of young people, a lot of people my age I know are working for $9, $10 an hour. Moving from job to job every six months. Basically, enough money to buy alcohol, cigarettes and pay the rent."

"My mom's generation grew up thinking they were going to have a solid job," she said. "That they were just going to be able to start a job and have a good livelihood. And that's not the case. Just because you want to work really hard it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to make it."

"I work as a cashier at the local Christian college,"she said. "It's a small school with 2,000 students. I work in the cafeteria. The contract changed. The school stopped doing its own food service many years ago. Has been hiring private companies. After I worked there for a year the contract was up. It was a new company and they're huge. ...I think it's the biggest food service company. They do most hospitals, schools, prisons. And the job conditions changed so dramatically. Our orientation with this new company, they had this HR guy come. He's like, 'You're going to work for the biggest company in the world. You should be so excited to be a part of our team. We're going to make you great. Anderson used to be this really powerful city full of industry. The employees demanded so much from the companies. And [the companies] all left.' "

"We're just looking at him," she said. "Why is this relevant? Basically the message was, 'You guys have no other choice. So you don't choose to work with us. You have to. And we're going to do what we want you to do.' At the time I was taking $7.50 an hour. They hired me at $7.50 from the old company. They hired the people beside me for $8, which I was not happy with. The old employees were making more money because they got consistent raises throughout the years. They would have them do jobs like carrying crates of heavy food up the stairs. Or they moved them to the dish room. Jobs that they knew they physically couldn't do, in hopes that they would quit. I think. They didn't want to pay that higher wage. And the students weren't happy either. So many employees were really upset. Everyone was talking about quitting. We lost about half the workforce. There were 100 employees when they came in. They had reduced down to 50. That makes my job twice as hard. But I still make $7.50. With no hope for a raise anytime soon."

"I went up to them," she continued. "I said, 'I need to make as much as these people at least. I've been here for a year. I'm a more valuable employee.' And they were like, 'If you don't like it, quit. Maybe you can get a job at Burger King.' I was so angry. How dare they tell me to quit. I started talking to some of my co-workers to see if they were interested in making the job better rather than quitting. And a lot of them were. Especially the people who'd been there for years and years and who were familiar with GM and UAW [the United Automobile Workers union]. And weren't scared of it. So we started having meetings. I think the campaign took two years. And we successfully organized. It's been a huge improvement. Even though it's still a low-paying job, everything is set. They can't change their mind about when we get raises. They can't change their mind about what the hiring rate is. They can't take these elderly people and make them start carrying boxes rather than run a cash register. They were also firing people for no reason. That doesn't happen anymore. ...The employees have a voice now. If we don't like something, when our contract is up for renegotiation we can change it."

"The jobs we have are boring," she said. "My job was so boring. Having this as an outlet, also with the challenge of creating the union there, I was able to not feel so useless."

Sybilla also publishes The Heartland Underground. The zine, which sells for $2 a copy and comes out every four or five months, reviews local bands like the punk group Hell's Orphans, publishes poets and writers and has articles on subjects such as dumpster diving.

In a review of Hell's Orphans, which has written songs such as "Too Drunk to Fuck" and "Underage Donk," the reviewer and the band sit in a basement drinking until one of the band members, Max, says, "Feel free to take anything we say out of context. Like, you can even just piece together individual words or phrases." (Donk, as the article explains, is "a slang term for a very round, attractive, ghetto booty and is a derivative of the term Badonkadonk.") The review reads:

Hell's Orphans has really played some unusual shows like a high school open house, a show in a garage where the audience was only four adults, four kids, a dog and a chicken, and out of the Game Exchange a buy/sell/trade video game store. They've also played under some uncomfortable circumstances like a flooded basement in which Nigel was getting shocked by the mic and guitar every few seconds and at the Hollywood Birdhouse one night when Max and Nigel were both so paranoid on some crazy pot that they were also too frozen to perform and couldn't look at the audience. For such a young band that has done zero touring they've had a lot of adventures and experiences.

A poet who went by the name Timotheous Endeavor wrote in a poem titled "The Monkey Song":

please just let me assume
that there is room for us and our lives
somewhere between your lies
and the red tape that confines

please just let me assume
we're all monkeys
we're trained to self alienate
but it's not our fates

i was walking down the road
i wonder if there's anywhere around here
that i am truly welcome
spend my dollar move along
past all of the closed doors

In one edition of The Heartland Underground there was this untitled entry:
They pay me just to stay out of thier [sic] world. They don't want me at work I would just get in their way. They pay me just to sit at home. I feel things harder and see with such different eyes it's easier for everyone if I just stay at home, if I just stay out of their world and wait to die. I am not inept. I just don't fit into their neatly paved grids, their machines and systems.

There is no place for a schizophrenic in this world and there is no place for anything wild, crooked, or untamed anymore. When did things go so wrong? Everything is wrong!! They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. They paved the entire fucking planet. I'm on a mission to liberate myself from all the lies that poison me and rot inside my mind, holding me captive and causing me to hate myself and the world. I'm ready to stop hating! I'm ready to become fully human and join life.

The truth is: We're all drowning.

They think I'm crazy? At least I can see that I'm drowning. No one else is in a panic because they can't see or feel how wrong everything is. I don't want to drown. I want to swim and climb up to a high place. I want to rise above.

Arbitrary Aardvark wrote an article called "I was a Guinea Pig for Big Pharma," about earning money by taking part in medical experiments. He would stay in a lab for about two weeks and take "medicine, usually a pill, and they take your blood a lot. You might be pissing in a jug or getting hooked up to an EKG machine or whatever the study design calls for, and they take your blood pressure and temperature pretty often." He made between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on how long the study lasted. Most of his fellow "lab rats" were "just out of jail or rehab." In one study he had a bullet-tipped plastic tube inserted down his nose into his intestines. "It was the most painful thing I've been through in my adult life." He said he and the other subjects did not like reporting side effects because they were "worried that they'll be sent home without a full paycheck, or banned from future studies." He admitted this probably affected the viability of the studies. He became ill during one of the experiments. The pharmaceutical company refused to pay him, blaming his illness on a pre-existing condition. He wrote:
I signed up for one that was going to pay $5,000, but a week into it my liver enzymes were all wrong, and they took me out of the study but kept me at the site, because I was very sick. It turned out I'd come down with mono just before going into the study. And then I got shingles, not fun. ... I'd spent 3 years trying to be a lawyer and failed. I'd worked in a warehouse, as the Dalai lama's nephew's headwaiter, as a courier and a temp. Lost money day trading and then in real estate. I was ready to try medical experiments again. I tried 3 times to get in at Eli Lilly but never did. Lilly no longer does its own clinical trials after a girl ...killed herself during an anti-depressant study. ...
Jared Lynch wrote an essay titled "Sometimes the Voices in Your Head are Angry Ghosts" that included these lines:
Death shrouded the whole spacetime of the latter half of high school, coating it in an extra vicious layer of depression. The first night we stayed in the house I sat in the living room, writing about ghosts in a composition book...I had a package of single edge blades in the back of my top desk drawer and sometimes I flirted too closely with that edge of darkness. I thought a lot about the blades at school. My daydreams were consumed by untold suicides, and countless times I came home to find one of my past selves in the tub with his forearm opened wide and grinning with his life essence surrounding him in the tub on the wrong side of his skin.

It was a strange, beautiful time. Melancholia wrapped around the edges with the golden glow of nostalgia for a time that felt like I had died before it existed...I fell into an expected, but incredibly deep pool of depression and I found the single edge razors that one of my future had so graciously left behind in my top drawer. I bled myself because I wanted to be with the lovely, lonely ghosts. I bled myself more than I ever had, but I didn't bleed enough to capture myself in the barbs of the whirlpool of my depression. He ended the essay with "I still bear my scars."

Tyler Ambrose wrote a passage called "Factory Blues."
What is a factory? What is a factory? A factory is a building of varied size. Some immense tributes to humanistic insatiability, others homely, almost comfortable. Mom and Pop type places, each run-down corner lot a puzzle piece in a greater maze. Gears if you will, all part of the capitalism machine. Some so small they fall out like dandruff, plummeting into the furnaces that keep the monster thriving. Constantly shaking loose another drop of fuel from its decaying hide. For the more fuel it consumes, the drier and deader does its skin become. Until one day, when all the skin has fallen into the fires, and all that remains are rustic factory bones, the beast will fall, and all the peoples of the earth will feel its tumble. And all will fall beside it, when its decaying stench kills the sun.
The cri de coeur of this lost generation, orphans of global capitalism, rises up from deindustrialized cities across the nation. These Americans struggle, cast aside by a society that refuses to honor their intelligence, creativity and passion, that cares nothing for their hopes and dreams, that sees them as cogs, menial wage slaves who will do the drudgery that plagues the working poor in postindustrial America.

Parker Pickett, 24, who works at Lowe's, is a poet and a musician. He frequently reads his work at Burdock House. He read me a few of his poems. One was called "This is a poem with no Words." These were the concluding lines.

out of, the affection I receive from concrete whether broken or spray painted, the old men want that money now want that control even though they are sad and delusional, if I could I would die from the beauty of her eyes as they shudder and gasp and relax with natural imperfections which I hold in high regards, the glow of the city around me reaches to the night sky, a slate of black chalkboard I wipe off the stars with my thumb one by one, songs end stories end lives end, but the idea of some grand, silly truth to everyone and everything with never die, we are born in love with precious life, and with that truth I will giggle and smile until I'm laid to rest in my sweet, sweet grave.
I sat on a picnic table next to Justin Benjamin. He cradled his guitar, one of his tuning pegs held in place by locking pliers. The fire was dying down. Justin, 22, calls himself WD Benjamin, the "WD" being short for "well dressed." He wore a white shirt, a loosely knotted tie and a suit coat. He had long, frizzy hair parted in the middle that fell into his face. His father was a steelworker. His mother ran a day care center and later was an insurance agent.

"Kids would talk about wanting something better or leaving," he said. "Yet they weren't doing steps to take it. You saw they were going to spend their whole lives here begrudgingly. They would talk stuff. They would never do anything about it. It was all just talk."

He paused.

"Substance [abuse] ruined a lot of lives around here," he said. <> He estimates that by age 14 most kids in Anderson realize they are trapped.

"We had seen our parents or other people or other families not go anywhere," he said. "This business went under. Pizzerias, paint stores, they all go under. About that time in my life, as much as I was enthralled with seeing cars rushing past and all these tall buildings, we all saw, well, what was the point if none of us are happy or our parents are always worrying about something. Just not seeing any kind of progression. There had to be something more."

"I've had friends die," he said. "I had a friend named Josh. We'd say, 'He Whitney Houston-ed before Whitney Houston.' He pilled out and died in a bathtub. It happened a month before Whitney Houston died. So that was a weird thing for me. Everyone is going to remember Whitney Houston but no one will remember Josh. At the time he was 16."

"I see friends who are taking very minimal jobs and never thinking anywhere beyond that," he said. "I know they're going to be there forever. I don't despise them or hold anything against them. I understand. You have to make your cut to dig out some kind of a living. ...I've done manual labor. I've done medical, partial. Food service. I've done sales. Currently I'm working on a small album. Other than that, I play for money. I sell a lot of odds and ends. I've been doing that for years. Apparently I have a knack for collecting things and they're of use for somebody. Just paying my way with food and entertainment for somebody. I live right across from the library. Eleventh Street. I can't remember the address. I'm staying with some people. I try to bring them something nice, or make dinner, or play songs. I do make enough to pay my share of utilities. I wouldn't feel right otherwise."

He is saved, he said, by the blues-Son House, Robert Johnson, all the old greats.

"My finger got caught in a Coke bottle trying to emulate his style of slide guitar," he said of House. "I asked my dad to help me please get it out. There was just something about people being downtrodden their whole lives. I used to not understand the plight of the black community. I used to think why can't they just work harder. I was raised by a father who was very adamant about capitalism. Then one day my sister-in-law told me, 'Well, Justin, you just don't understand generational poverty. Please understand.' People were told they were free yet they have all these problems, all these worries. ...It's the natural voice. You listen to Lead Belly's 'Bourgeois Blues,' it's a way of expressing their culture. And their culture is sad. 'Death Don't Have No Mercy' talks about the great equalizer of death. It didn't matter if you're black or white, death will come for you."

He bent over his guitar and played Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil Blues."

Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, oooo
When you knocked upon my door
And I said hello Satan
I believe it's time to go
"I've seen a lot of GM people, they just live in this despair," he said of the thousands of people in the city who lost their jobs when the General Motors plants closed and moved to Mexico. "They're still afraid. I don't know what they're afraid of. It's just the generation they came out of. I worked with plenty of GM people who were older and having to work for their dollars begrudgingly. They're like, 'I was made promises.' "

"I was born 3 pounds," he said. "I was not destined for this world. Somehow I came out. I did the best I could. That's all I've done. I'll never say I'm good at anything. At least I have the ability to think, speak and act. Three pounds to this now. I just can't see the use of not fighting. You always have to think about what's going to lay down in the future. What's going to happen when the factories close down? Are you going to support your fellow co-workers? Are you going to say, 'No, things will come back?' Are you going to cast everything to damnation? Cast your neighbors down, say it was their fault the jobs are gone."

"I've never seen the heights of it," he said of capitalism. "But I've seen the bottom. I've seen kids down here naked running around. I've seen parents turn on each other and kids have to suffer for that. Or neighbors. I'd just hear yelling all night. It's matters of money. It's always the kids that suffer. I always try to think from their perspective. When it comes down to kids, they feel defeated. When you grow up in a household where there's nothing but violence and squabbling and grabbing at straws, then you're going to grow up to be like that. You're going to keep doing those minimum jobs. You're fighting yourself. You're fighting a system you can't beat."

"I've seen poets, phenomenal guitarists, vocalists, percussionists, people who have tricks of the trade, jugglers, yo-yo players, jokesters," he went on. "I admire those people. They might go on to get a different job. They might find a sweetheart. They might settle down. They have that thing that got them to some point where they could feel comfortable. They didn't have to work the job that told them, 'So what if you leave? You don't matter.' I know a fellow who works at the downtown courthouse. Smart as can be. One of my favorite people. We talk about Nietzsche and Kafka in a basement for hours. The guy never really let the world get him down. Even though he's grown up in some rough situations."

And then he talked about his newborn niece.

"I wrote this in about 10 minutes," he said. "I race down the street because no one else was available. I went to a friend. I said, 'I wrote a song! I think it's neat. I don't think it's good. But I like the idea.' I'd never done that."

He hunched back over his guitar and began to play his "Newborn Ballad."

You were brushed and crafted carefully
They knew young love and now they know you
How two lives figure into one beats me
But either I'm sure they'll agree with you

Your eyes will open proud I pray
May the breakneck sides around you come down
Little darling I'll be your laughing stock
So the mean old world won't get you down

I ain't gonna say I ain't crazy
All are fronting and pestering your soul
When we first meet I can promise to
To listen, to play with, to talk to, to love

There's nothing no better they'll tell you
Than your youth, no weight will end
No matter the preference child hear me
Not a moment you'll have will be absent

My pardon, my dearest apologies
For the scenes and the faces I make
For now you might find them quite funny
But they'll get old as will I, I'm afraid

Your comforts they don't come easy
With an hour twenty down the road
We made lives in telling you sweetly
But you can make it, we love you, you know.

(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

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jen Sorensen ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The talking head of former Chief Justice Marshall reminded the justices that only by
working together as a team on this mission could they avoid a divisive 5-4 split decision.

Supreme Court Justices Gather In Chambers To Receive Latest Mission From Large Talking Head Of Justice John Marshall
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Springing into action the moment their SCOTUS wristwatch transponders signaled the alert, all nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court reportedly gathered in their top-secret subterranean chambers Friday to receive their latest directive from the giant holographic head of former Chief Justice John Marshall.

After racing into the Supreme Court Building and seating themselves on the bench in order of seniority, current Chief Justice John Roberts and his eight associate justices are said to have raised their right hands and exclaimed, "We, the Guardians of Liberty!" Then, sources said, a lever activated by pulling down the scales on a marble statue of Lady Justice dropped them into nine separate chutes, through which they slid down toward the high-tech underground command center where the disembodied face of the early 19th-century jurist briefs them on new missions.

"Justices, it seems there's trouble afoot with the regulatory oversight of interstate commerce, and we need your special combination of skills to resolve the matter," the 20-foot hologram of John Marshall said as the court members arrived in the massive titanium-lined bunker and stood attentively in a circle around him, their arms crossed or akimbo. "Justice Kagan, we'll need your disciplined jurisprudence and opinion-writing powers. Justice Thomas, we need the full strength of your textualist interpretations. And Chief Justice Roberts, we'll count on you to hold any noncompliant parties in contempt of this court. Only with the combined powers of the Nine can we fairly interpret precedent and the Constitution as it applies to U.S. law."

"Now, gaze into the Globe of A Fortiori!" Marshall added as hundreds of holographs of appellate filings appeared in a mist-filled sphere in the room's center. "Remember: The fate of federal shipping regulation depends upon you!"

Marshall reportedly summoned the justices at 8:38 p.m., forcing many to abandon their grocery shopping, trips to the opera, and scouting missions high above the D.C. skyline, which they regularly patrol in the Habeas Copter. According to sources, Justice Alito hurriedly pulled on his black robe, turned to the beautiful Swiss model lying in the bed of his Alpine chateau, and said, "I'm sorry, justice has called." Meanwhile, Justice Ginsburg, who was spotted shooting pool at the Foggy Bottom Roadhouse, was said by witnesses to have sunk her last shot, grabbed a large pile of bills off the table's rail, and thanked a group of scowling gang members for their generosity before hopping on her Kawasaki Ninja EX300 and tearing off down Constitution Avenue.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, several Supreme Court clerks told reporters their bosses are routinely summoned by the projection of the nation's longest-serving chief justice, who is now in his third century of contacting court members, often in the middle of the night, to handle juridical emergencies relating to matters such as contract law, commercial litigation, patent disputes, arbitration agreements, and more.

"I warn you, this will be your most crucial mission yet-you'll need these tools of the judiciary to protect yourselves," Marshall said as nine golden gavels descended from the ceiling into the justices' outstretched hands. "Not since last year's Kansas v. Carr mission, when we lost our beloved colleague Justice Scalia, have we faced a challenge like this."

"May the powers of Article III watch over you all," Marshall added before his hologram burst into smoke and the chamber filled with light.

Sources confirmed the Supreme Court's robotic clerk, Amicus, then stumbled into the room with a rickety cart of case files, prompting the justices to roll their eyes. The hapless automaton exclaimed, "Oh, heavens!" and knocked to the floor hundreds of pages of applicable documents from United States v. Lopez, Wickard v. Filburn, and the Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938.

Having received their briefing, the highest-ranking members of the federal judiciary spent a few moments inside the Certiorari Pod-a glowing, neon-green capsule that allows the justices to communicate telepathically, debating the merits of a case at light speed-and then assembled on a round elevator platform emblazoned with the seal of the Supreme Court.

"Well, team, you heard Marshall: It sounds like we've got our deliberations cut out for us," Roberts said as the elevator brought the justices back up to the courtroom. "But if I know one thing, it's that injustice can never win when we work together as a team-and, yeah, I mean you, too, Amicus. Now repeat after me: Equal justice under the law!"

"Equal justice under the law!" the jurists shouted as they joined their gavels together in a triumphant salute and then slammed them down in unison.

At press time, officials confirmed the Supreme Court had declined to render a verdict on the case, sending the decision back down to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration.
(c) 2017 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 41 (c) 10/13/2017

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