Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

Lee Fang discovers, "Opioid Lobbyist Left A Digital Fingerprint On A Campaign By 'Patient Advocates.'"

Uri Avnery longs for, "A New Start."

Glen Ford wonders, "Socialism Or Amazonism."

William Rivers Pitt uncovers, "Unreality Distilled: The United States Of Trump."

Jim Hightower asks, "Are You Ready For Corporate America's Robot Economy?"

John Nichols says, "Senate Republicans Are Trying To Give The 1 Percent A $1.9 Trillion Tax Break."

James Donahue reports, "Haunted Houses Are Everywhere."

Pepe Escobar shows, "Xi's Road Map To The Chinese Dream."

Heather Digby Parton says, "Look Who's Been Doing Business With The Iranian Revolutionary Guard."

David Suzuki finds, "Oil Spills Pose Unacceptable Threats To Marine Life."

Charles P. Pierce explores, "It's One Big, Happy Family-And They're All In It For The Money."

David Swanson wonders, "Can Architecture Fix Our Health, Minds, Societies, Environment?"

Juan Cole concludes, "No, Trump, British Crime Isn't Going Up Because Of Muslims."

US Senator Heidi Heitkamp D-N.D. wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "How To End Crony Capitalism."

Chris Hedges examines, "Our Ever-Deadlier Police State."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "White House Says It Is Unpatriotic To Offer Irrefutable Video Evidence That A General Lied," but first Uncle Ernie quotes, "The Debasement Of Our Nation."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Mark Streeter, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Ria Tan, Jabin Botsford, Brendan Smialowski, Rodrigo Galindez, iStock, AFP, The Washington Post, Reuters, Shutterstock, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, HBO, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

Bookmark and Share

Visit me on Face Book

The Debasement Of Our Nation
By Ernest Stewart

"The debasement of our nation will be what he'll be remembered most for, and that's regretful." ~~~ Bob Corker ~ US Senator from Tennessee.

"President Trump knows that the climate is changing. He knows that the U.S. has to be responsible with it, and that's what we're going to do." ~~~ Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. ~ June 3, 2017

"What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to billionaires, but we can't take care of the elderly and the children?" ~~~ Bernie Sanders

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." ~~~ Charles Dickens

Normally I wouldn't have anything good to say about Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, or for that matter, John McCain, but as of late I find myself actually agreeing with them to an extent. Politically they're all a couple of light years to the right of Darth Vader, but it seems they still know fact from fiction, a test that most Republicans couldn't pass, try as they may!

These three stooges, and corporate stooges they are; no doubt, with their policial careers now over, took the time to warn the other con-gressional stooges, just what is at stake. They said out loud what we've all been thinking since January 20th, we have a brain-dead monster in the White House with his tiny little hands on the button. Not in those exact words but that is the gist of their statements! Flake said:

"We've gotten nine months into the administration. Those of us who had hoped for a pivot, I think, agree now it's just not going to come and so it's up to us to stand up and say this is not acceptable."

Flake called on his colleagues to end "our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable." That's right guys, supporting Trump will stick to you in your coming elections!

You may recall some of Corkers thoughts from the White House being an "adult day care center" and that Trump was "pushing the US on a path toward World War III."

After another Trump tweet storm Corker said, "you would think he would aspire to be the president of the United States and act like the president of the United States." "I've seen no evolution in an upward way. It appears to me that he's almost devolving."

Seems to me, Trump's Alzheimers is getting worse.

Like I said, I agree with them to an extent, for example, Corker said: "The debasement of our nation will be what he'll be remembered most for, and that's regretful." I would have changed the last word to "treason!" Oh, and after Flake made his speech during Trumps "love fest" he turned around and joined 16 other Republican Sinators to try and cut off all aid to Puerto Rica, fortunately everyone else vote for $35 billion aid package and the bill passed by a 5 to 1 margin.

In Other News

Whether Trump likes it or not record breaking Atlantic hurricanes and storms, reaching from Texas to Ireland, along with record firestorms in California linked to record drought raise the question of whether the Earth moved this year into another phase of global warming. And some wonder if climate disruption is slipping into a runaway trajectory that feeds on itself.

You may recall that Trump used to be a believer, in fact he wants to build a seawall around his golf course in Ireland to protect it from rising seas. The Trump International Golf Links Ireland, a golf course by the sea in Ireland's County Care, faces the Atlantic's pounding waves and coastal erosion. The Trump Organization has submitted a permit to build a sea wall, which cites rising sea levels from climate change as a threat. Not just any wall will do - one plan called for a limestone barricade 20 metres wide, what Friends of the Irish Environment's Tony Lowes described as a "monster sea wall."

You may recall that Trump and three of his children signed a 2009 letter to President Barack Obama calling for a global climate deal. "We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today," declared the letter, which was signed by dozens of business leaders and published as an ad in the New York Times. "If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet."

Compare and contrast with what Trump said in 2010 when he told an audience at one of his golf clubs, "With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore...Gore wants us to clean up our factories and plants in order to protect us from global warming, when China and other countries couldn't care less. It would make us totally noncompetitive in the manufacturing world, and China, Japan and India are laughing at America's stupidity." Of course, India, Japan and China are all on board with the Paris climate accords.

Perhaps Trump is ever so slightly Bipolar? Naw, he has just been bought and paid for by the polluters who are causing Global Warming. Remember Trump will do and say anything for a buck, anything!

And Finally

You may have heard that Senate Republicans on Wednesday voted down a measure to prevent tax cuts for the top 1 percent earners, an amendment introduced by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ron Wyden to extract a price from the GOP as it moves toward tax reform legislation.

The amendment pertained to the Senate budget that Republicans need to pass so they can proceed with a tax bill that can't be filibustered by Democrats. It failed in a 52-46 vote, with Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota joining Republicans in voting "no."

So you know what I did, right? I wrote Heidi the following note on her facebook page:

Hey Heidi,

I see where you have joined the dark side and voted to give our 1% masters a 1.9 trillion dollar tax cut by stealing money from the poor, the sick and the elderly. Did you do it for the position Trump offered you? I bet your mamas proud, huh? One question Heidi, when you look in the mirror in the morning to put your makeup on how is it you don't cut your throat? An honorable person would fall on her sword at this point but we all know you won't. But congratulations are in order, as you've just won next Friday's "Vidkun Quisling Award" our weekly award for the biggest traitor in America! Hooray Heidi!

If you'd like to share your thoughts with Heidi you may at:
Her Facebook page:

If she is your Sinator, then you can find her here:

And if you do, tell her Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

Issues & Alibis needs your help so that we can keep on, keeping on. It takes a lot of effort to stay abreast of the latest, greatest plans for your demise. To get to the truth in a mountain of BS we've cut our costs to the bone and no one is paid anything for their help. In 16 1/2 years, I've never made a dime at this but we do have expenses to pay every year to keep fighting the good fight! In order to continue we need your support!

The good folks who have been supporting us for so many years are, like a growing number of Americans, are out of work and can no longer afford to help us. Someone has to step up and take their places. We thank them for their help and hope they come through this in one piece! We've done everything in our power to see that they do. All of those years of weekly "how to" project articles are still in the archives, from how to live off the grid to creating electricity and clean water on the cheap! What to do if it hits the fan!

And thank you for those of you who are stepping up for the first time. Welcome to the good fight, brothers and sisters! In order to keep overhead low we can only accept, checks, money orders and cash. To make a donation go here and follow the instructions and thanks!


11-06-1946 ~ 10-22-2017
Thanks for the music!

04-28-1968 ~ 10-22-2017
Thanks for the music!

07-25-1932 ~ 10-23-2017
Thanks for the adventure!

11-30-1927 ~ 10-24-2017
Thanks for the film!

02-26-1928 ~ 10-24-2017
Thanks for the music!


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

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

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


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

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

Opioid Lobbyist Left A Digital Fingerprint On A Campaign By 'Patient Advocates'
By Lee Fang

IN THE WAKE of the 60 Minutes/Washington Post story on the drug industry using its political influence to pass a law to undercut Drug Enforcement Administration's ability to police pill mill suppliers, the sponsors of the bill have lashed back, claiming they were simply acting in the interest of patients.

"Leave the conspiracy theories to Netflix," wrote Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. In a column responding to the story, Hatch said the piece falsely depicted lawmakers as "in the pocket of the drug industry."

Hatch wrote that he was concerned about reasonable access to drugs, and "with the support of patient advocates and others," negotiated a version of the bill to introduce in the Senate.

Not only does the story provide robust evidence that pharmaceutical supply companies were involved in every step of the legislative process - with a drug lobbyist even ghostwriting the original bill - the patients rights' organizations supporting the effort have extensive ties to the drug industry.

One of the primary letters to lawmakers in support of the legislation was signed by several self-described "patient advocacy and health professional" organizations, including Patient Access Alliance, a group that receives support from drug companies involved in the opioid industry.

The metadata of the letter, dated three days after the bill was introduced, shows a name unrelated to the patient groups that signed it. The document properties show that the letter was created by Kristen L. Freitas, the vice president for federal affairs of the Healthcare Distributors Alliance. HDA is the trade group that represents McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisourcebergen, the principal suppliers of pharmaceutical opioids in the country. Freitas, filings show, was one of the drug industry lobbyists working to influence lawmakers in support of the bill.

Freitas did not respond to a request for comment; neither did the patient organization that sponsored the letter.

An investigation last year by the Charleston Gazette-Mail revealed that major distributors had disregarded rules to report suspicious orders to the DEA while flooding West Virginia with over 480 million pain pills over a five year period. The unusually large shipments, from firms such as McKesson and Cardinal, have been directly linked to the skyrocketing opioid addiction problem in the region.

In 2016, there were 14,400 overdose deaths caused by prescription opioids such as Percocet and Oxycontin. Many of the addicts that use increasingly popular street opioids, such as heroin and black market fentanyl, gained their addiction first through pain pills prescribed by a physician. A recent analysis found that over the next decade, opioid deaths could claim the lives of as many as 500,000 Americans.

In 2012, the DEA moved to temporarily revoke the license of a Cardinal Health distribution center in Florida after the firm was found violating its own internal safeguards and providing increasingly massive opioid shipments to several CVS pharmacies in the state.

The Cardinal incident provoked the industry to push back against the DEA. Cardinal hired former Department of Justice officials, including former Clinton administration Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, to pressure the Obama administration against enforcement actions. D. Linden Barber, a former DEA official-turned industry lobbyist, drafted legislation that was given to Rep. Tom Marino, R-Penn., to curtail the DEA's ability to revoke distributors' licenses. After initially hitting a roadblock in 2014, the bill passed the following year. In July of this year, Linden secured a job working directly for Cardinal as the company's chief regulatory counsel.

Campaign finance records show that the drug industry provided hefty donations to the legislators spearheading the legislation. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., two of the other sponsors of the legislation, received $5,000 each from the the Healthcare Distribution Alliance PAC. Scott Gottlieb, now serving as President Donald Trump's Food and Drug Administration chief, published a column sharply criticizing DEA action to revoke the Cardinal license, and, as we reported, later received speaking fees from the Healthcare Distribution Alliance and opioid manufacturers.

Backlash from the story has been swift. Several lawmakers have expressed an interest in repealing the law in question.

On Tuesday, in response to the story, Marino removed himself from consideration as the next federal drug czar, a position he had been nominated to by President Trump.
(c) 2017 Lee Fang is a journalist with a longstanding interest in how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups and money. He was the first to uncover and detail the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in financing the Tea Party movement. His interviews and research on the Koch brothers have been featured on HBO's "The Newsroom," the documentaries "Merchants of Doubt" and "Citizen Koch," as well as in multiple media outlets. He was an investigative blogger for ThinkProgress (2009-2011) and then a fellow at the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation.

In 2012, he co-founded, a blog to cover political corruption that syndicates content with, Salon, National Memo,, TruthOut, and other media outlets. His work has been published by VICE, The Baffler, The Boston Globe, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Progressive, NPR, In These Times, and The Huffington Post. His first book, "The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right," published by The New Press, explores how the conservative right rebuilt the Republican Party and its political clout in the aftermath of President Obama's 2008 election victory. He is based in San Francisco.

A New Start
By Uri Avnery

ONE DAY the Israeli Labor Party felt that it needed a new leader.

That happens to this party every couple of years. The party is in bad shape. It looks more like a political corpse than a living organism. Wanted: a new leader, charismatic, energetic, enthusiastic.

So they found Avi Gabbay.

Why him? Nobody is really sure.

Avi Gabbay has no visible qualities of political leadership. No charisma at all. No special energy. No enthusiasm himself and no ability to inspire enthusiasm in others.

After serving as a government employee dealing with the mobile phone industry, he himself became the successful director of the largest mobile phone concern. Then he went into politics and joined a moderate right-wing party, and was appointed Minister for the Protection of the Environment. When the extreme right-winger Avigdor Lieberman was appointed Minister of Defense, Gabbay resigned from the government and his party and joined Labor. That was only a year ago.

He has one significant asset: he is a Mizrahi, an oriental Jew. His parents are immigrants from Morocco, he is the seventh of eight children. Since the Labor party is considered a Western, Ashkenazi, elitist grouping, these passive attributes are important. Up to a point.

GABBAY DID not waste time in presenting his political identity card.

First he made a speech asserting that he will not sit in the same government with the "Joint List."

The Joint List is the united (or disunited) list of the Arab community in Israel. It joins together the three very different "Arab" parties: the Communist party, which is overwhelmingly Arab, but includes some Jews (including a Jewish member of parliament), the Balad party, which is secular and nationalist, and a religious Islamic party.

How come these diverse parties created a joint list? They owe this achievement to the genius of the great Arab-hater, Avigdor Lieberman (see above), who saw that all three parties were small and decided to eliminate them by raising the electoral threshold. But rather than perish separately they decided to survive together. There is no doubt that their list represents the vast majority of Israel's Palestinian citizens, who constitute more than 20% of the population. Strange as this may sound, every fifth Israeli is an Arab.

The simple numerical fact is that without the support of the Arab members in the Knesset, no left-wing government can exist. Yitzhak Rabin would not have become prime minister, and the Oslo agreement would not have come into being, without the support "from the outside" of the Arab bloc.

Then why did they not join Rabin's government? Both sides were afraid of losing votes. Many Jews cannot envision a government including Arabs, and many Arabs cannot envision their representatives sharing "collective responsibility" in a government mainly occupied with fighting Arabs.

This has not changed. It is highly unlikely that the Arabs would join a Gabbay government if invited, and even more unlikely that they would receive such an invitation.

So why make such a declaration? Gabbay is no fool. Far from it. He believes that the Arabs are in his pocket anyhow. They could not join a Likud government. By making a blatantly anti-Arab declaration, he hopes to attract right-wing voters.

His predecessor, Yitzhak Herzog, publicly complained that too many people considered the Labor party to consist of "Arab-lovers". Terrible.

IF ANYONE hoped that this was a one-time anomaly, Gabbay put them right. After the first blow came more.

He declared that "we have no partner for peace." This is the most dangerous slogan of the populists. "No partner" means that there is no sense in making an effort. There will never be peace. Never ever.

He declared that God promised the Jews the entire land between the sea and the Jordan. That is not quite correct: God promised us all the land from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt. God never made good on that promise.

Last week Gabbay declared that in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, not a single Jewish settlement in the West Bank would be evacuated.

Until now, there has been tacit agreement between Israeli and Palestinian peace activists that peace will be based on a limited exchange of territories. The so-called "settlement blocs" (clusters of settlements near the green-line border) will be joined to Israel, and an equivalent area of Israeli territory (for example, along the Gaza Strip) will be ceded to Palestine. This would leave some dozens of "isolated" settlements in the West Bank, generally inhabited by fanatical religious right-wingers, which must be evacuated by force.

Gabbay's new statement means that after a peace agreement, these islands of racist extremism will continue to exist where they are. No Palestinian will ever agree to that. It makes peace impossible, even in theory.

In general, Gabbay agrees to the "two-state solution" - but under certain conditions. First, the Israel army would be free to act throughout the demilitarized Palestinian state. The Israeli army would also be positioned along the Jordan River, turning the Palestinian "state" into a kind of enclave.

This is a "peace plan" without takers. Gabbay is much too clever not to realize this. But all this is not devised for Arab ears. It is meant to attract right-wing Israelis. Since a Labor-led "center-left" coalition needs rightist or religious votes, the reasoning looks sound. But it isn't.

There is no chance whatsoever that a significant number of rightists will move to the left, even if the left is led by a person like Gabbay. Rightists detest the Labor party, not since yesterday, but have done so for generations.

THE LABOR party was born a hundred years ago. It was the main political force that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and led it for almost thirty years. Its power was immense, many (including me) accused it of dictatorial tendencies.

During all these years, the main occupation of the Zionist leadership was the historical fight against the Palestinian people for the possession of the country. Except for a tiny minority, the party was always nationalist, even militaristic. It was left-wing only in its social activities. It created the Jewish workers movement, the powerful trade union (the "Histadrut"), the Kibbutzim and much more.

This social network has long since degenerated. Corruption became endemic, many scandals were uncovered (mainly by my magazine). When the right-wing under Menachem Begin finally took over, in 1977, the Labor Party was already a living corpse. It has changed its name many times (its current name is "the Zionist Camp") but it has dwindled from election to election.

Avi Gabbay was called in as a savior. His nationalist declarations are conceived as patent medicines. No chance.

CAN THE Labor Party be saved at all? I doubt it.

In the last elections, after a powerful, spontaneous social upheaval, there seemed to be a new chance. Some of the young leaders, female and male, who had appeared from nowhere, joined the Labor Party and entered the Knesset. They are genuine leftists and peace activists. Somehow, their voices became quieter and quieter. Instead of inspiring the party, the party subdued them. It seems to be beyond repair.

A question never asked is - does the party really, really want to assume power? On the face of it, the answer is yes, of course. Isn't that the supreme prize of politics?

Well, I doubt it. The existence of a parliamentary opposition is a cozy one. I know, because I was in that situation for ten years. The Knesset is a good place, you are coddled all the time by the ushers, you get a good salary and an office, you have no responsibilities at all (unless you create them for yourself). You must, of course, make an effort to be re-elected every four years. So, if you are not particularly keen on becoming a minister, with all the work and responsibilities and public exposure that this entails, you just stay put.

WHAT IS the practical conclusion? To forget the Labor Party and create a new political force.

We need new leaders, young, charismatic and resolute, with clear-cut aims, who can energize the peace camp.

I do not subscribe to the picture of a public divided between a right-wing majority and a left-wing minority, with the orthodox on one side and the Arabs on the other.

I believe that there is a right-wing minority and a left-wing minority. Between the two there is the great mass of the people, waiting for a message, desiring peace but brainwashed into believing that peace is impossible ("there is no partner").

WHAT WE NEED is a new start.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Socialism Or Amazonism
By Glen Ford

Two unfolding developments show the stark choices faces humanity.

In China, president Xi Jinping laid out the Communist Party's 30-year grand plan to become "a moderately prosperous country" by 2020 and "a modern prosperous society" by 2049. The roadmap was both detailed and realistic, based on the world's most populous nation's steady -- but nevertheless breathtaking -- growth over more than three decades. As Eric Li noted in The World Post, "China has led improvements in health, education, science and overall standard of living at a speed and scale that is unprecedented in human history," even as most of the rest of the world economy caught "the American disease" with the meltdown of 2008. The Party's vision for building socialism with Chinese characteristics is stunning in its specificity on the whole range of developmental issues, "including housing, health, science, defense, artificial intelligence and the sharing economy."

Unless this trajectory is interrupted by war with the United States, there is no reason to doubt that China will surpass the U.S. as the planet's most important economic center long before 2049, having already overtaken the U.S. in purchasing parity power (PPP). Chinese society is being transformed at dizzying speed, with 60 million people emerging from poverty in just the past five years. In recent years there has even been significant progress in stemming the horrific environmental damage that has accompanied China's breakneck growth. The same "command economy" that fouled the air and water now leads the world in renewable energy and technology and has decreed that electric cars are the wave of the future.

In foreign policy, China is the global vector of voluntary, non-coercive "connectivity" among nations, by far the biggest international investor in infrastructure development. The Chinese build African ports and railroads, while the U.S. builds drone bases.

U.S. rulers also have grand plans -- not for raising domestic or global living standards, but for war. As servants of the Lords of Capital, both corporate political parties promise their citizenry nothing but austerity. The political hegemony of the oligarchs is so complete -- especially since the Clinton years in the White House -- the very idea of governmental intervention on the side of the non-rich has become foreign to much of the public, including the Black political class. Corporate media define "left" and "right" based mainly on so-called "social," non-economic issues, as if the argument over economic justice has already been settled -- in the oligarchs' favor.

The people's representatives grovel at the feet of the rich, begging for crumbs that might fall from on high. As of last week, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world with a net worth of $90 billion, has received 238 proposals from local governments across North America begging for a chance to host a second headquarters for his Seattle-based corporation. Nearly every city worthy of name recognition, and some you've never heard of, has positioned itself booty-up for Bezos and the prospect of 50,000 jobs. The only states from which no applications have been received are North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Vermont, Arkansas and Hawaii.

Bezos is an extortionist. Amazon has already gotten more than $1 billion in local and state subsidies for its warehouse centers around the country, where workers are paid 15 percent less, on average, than other warehouses in the region. According to a recent study, Amazon's business model has destroyed nearly 150,000 more jobs in retail stores than have been created in its warehouses. Author Simon Head writes that Amazon's "system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive" he has ever come across -- even worse than Walmart. However, the whole point of establishing an austerity regime is to starve working people and their communities into submission to employers like Walmart and Amazon - and to make governments pay for the privilege of hosting the extortionist.

Greg LeRoy, of Good Jobs First, says Bezos has gotten tax break extraction down to a science. Amazon is shameless in its pursuit of public subsidies. "Most companies - 99.9 percent of them - go to great lengths to keep their search a secret, so this is a very unusual, highly public episode. What we're about to see is a textbook auction for tax breaks."

Amazon's grand auction will doubtless become the model for further corporate predation, just as Walmart led the retail industry's race to the bottom. Both evil behemoths deploy high-tech systems to extract every possible advantage from employees and suppliers. But, advanced technology is not the villain -- capitalism is.

Amazon is allowed to prey on workers and communities because Jeff Bezos and his ilk have used their political power to create an economic order of near absolute worker insecurity. Austerity enforces insecurity; that's why it is always on the capitalist politician's menu, in good times or bad.

Jeff Bezos is already in heaven. Late stage capitalism has concentrated wealth like never before in history, so that Bezos and seven guys like him are as rich as the poorest half of the rest of humankind. The Lords of Capital have no vision of a "modern prosperous society" - in American, Chinese or any other terms. They are concerned only with eliminating every threat to their wealth and power. That is the extent of their vision.

China -- or rather, the global movement towards connectivity and peaceful relations at which China is at the center -- will inevitably overwhelm Bezos' world, unless the process can be halted by war.

That's why, if you are anti-war, you must be anti-capitalist.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

President Donald Trump speaks with Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico during a
meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

Unreality Distilled: The United States Of Trump
By William Rivers Pitt

Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)? -- Donald J. Trump via Twitter, 19 October 2017, 7:56am

Sometimes I talk to the president of the United States in my head. It's weird, but I have to.

Dude, I say (I can hyperlink words when I talk to the president in my head). Dude, what? Really? It always begins this way. We've covered some serious ground, the president and I, over the 40 miles of bad road that has been the last two years of American politics. His attacks on Muslims and Mexicans, his marauding misogyny, the border wall, penis measuring during a nationally-televised debate, the bag of hammers he chose for his Cabinet, Russia Russia Russia, Puerto Rico, North Korea, his embrace of Nazis and Klansmen, the NFL, the families of fallen soldiers, meeting the president of the Virgin Islands, Comey, Clinton, Mueller, Obama and all his favorite people -- there isn't much we haven't discussed. It always starts the same way.

Dude. Let me get this straight. You accused Russia, the Democratic Party and the Federal Bureau of Investigation of conspiring to confabulate a dossier filled with damaging information about you. These three entities, you claimed, came together in secret to undo you by creating a package of reports that include detailed descriptions of deep ties between you, your campaign and Russia ... because Russia would enter into a plot that would expose their own clandestine operations, just to burn you? That's so them.

The FBI part is even more odd. You're comfortable accusing the law enforcement arm of the Justice Department of a vendetta against you? Of falsifying information to foment political change -- against you? The bureau has a sordid history, to be sure, but the targets of its sordidness are not powerful, wealthy, white men.

As for the Democrats, whatever dude. The scary freakin' Democrats did it. We're talking about the same party, right? The one that lost to you? You! They lost to you, Donald fa-chrissakes Trump. The Atlanta Falcons ain't got nothing on the Democratic Party when it comes to stalled momentum, chump mistakes and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Democrats are having trouble conspiring to put in a lunch order these days. Coming up with something this spectacularly hilarious isn't really in their wheelhouse.

It's all of a piece with you, isn't it. All that stuff about Obama bugging your tower was pretty spiffy but this one is special. This is you changing reality into unreality with your mighty foghorn of nonsense. The world says, "Wha? Huh? How can he say ...?" and you smile, because they're talking about you again, and that's what matters.

You are certainly a man of the times, The Man, avatar of all that ails us. You are, among other things, the end product of a decades-debunked economic model that consigns a vast majority of Americans to poverty and stasis while lavishing trillions on the wealthy. This we call "trickle down," and we've waited half a century now for the rain that never comes.

Work doesn't make money anymore. Money makes money. Money made by money made you. From what I hear, the last person you trickled down on got a page in that famous dossier. The economic model has failed dramatically, but you couldn't care less. It did well by you, and that's the dot at the end of the line.

Reality TV star, right? Perfect. Just exactly right. Television, Edward Murrow's wires and lights in a box, will prove in time to be one of the greatest derangers of civilizations in the history of the planet. A spigot of fiction, fear, calamity, greed and deception flows daily from every screen, unmaking reality stitch by stitch. Many see themselves now not as who and what they truly are, but as how they are depicted in the box. That's where you came from, that land of bombast and lies, and it makes seamless sense. "Reality" TV, indeed.

Not that you give a damn, but a lot of people are genuinely terrified right now. Pursuing your catastrophic brand of foreign policy with unstable nuclear nations is only slightly less smart than jumping into a shark tank with a pork chop tied around your neck. I know the folklore of noble American militarism by heart, too. Taking on the flag, the anthem and the football players was you rewriting reality, again, by swaddling yourself in that folklore. John Kelly helped tuck you in. It's the safest place there is in politics, and it only cost tens of trillions of dollars to make it happen. Meanwhile, the country you claim to lead is hiding under the bed.

And since we're on the topic of conspiracies, what about "Climate change is a Chinese hoax"? This past hurricane season must have put at least a small dent in your denialism, not that it's doing Puerto Rico any good. This is the stuff that is going to get us all killed. You have to know that, right? Of course you do. You're the guy who wanted to use his money, which was made by money, to build a wall around his golf course in Scotland to protect it from the rising seas.

You are the distilled essence of the age, a blurred orange watercolor that looks different every time the light changes. There is no substance to you, only menace and the same confused fiction that seeks to define and control this nation. Too many ignore or dismiss you as some sort of terrible mistake, a wrong turn down a blind driveway we can back out of, but that is not the truth of it. You were inevitable, a product of unreality many years in the making. If you didn't exist, someone would have made you up.

Tomorrow, you will wake up and tell another obvious lie, threaten someone else, let fly with that mighty foghorn of nonsense, but I've got the measure of you. You are made of everything that lays us low, and the sooner we dismantle all that, the sooner we dismantle you. You're exactly as strong as the lies that sustain you. There's an answer for that, too.
(c) 2017 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

Are You Ready For Corporate America's Robot Economy?
By Jim Hightower

There's a robot in your future. Not one of those cute little labor-saving automatons -like a "Roomba" vacuum cleaner.

Far from saving you from doing extra labor, this new wave of robots is being brought into your workplace to rescue corporate bosses from paying you to work for them. Oh, you might think, not my workplace, for I'm not a factory worker -I've got a college degree and I work with my brain, so no contraption doing rote mechanical tasks can take my job.

But wait, these are "thinking machines," implanted with complex neural networks and superfast algorithmic computers that operate in sync, functioning much like the cluster of specialized cells in the human brain. These brainy bots have a fast-evolving ability to watch, listen, and learn on their own, even able to produce and teach other robots. Not only are they displacing flesh-and-blood workers on factory assembly lines, but millions of them are now being moved into professional, managerial, creative, and other occupations previously assumed to be the secure domains of higher-educated, higher-paid people... maybe even yours.

To be clear, it's not robots that are taking our jobs, but corporate profiteers. They're creating a robot economy in order to displace you and me with inexpensive machines that don't demand higher wages or health care, don't take sick days or vacations, and don't organize unions, file lawsuits, or vote for pro-worker politicians. It's to be a plutocratic utopia designed by and for the corporate elite -and they're pushing it hard and fast, hoping We the People don't wake up until it's too late.

Robots are not our enemy -the corporate bosses, bankers, and BSers who own robots are the ones doing this to us, and now is the time for all of us whom they're about to discard to rebel against their socially destructive greed.
(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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announces that the
Senate is moving ahead on a Republican budget plan on October 17, 2017.

Senate Republicans Are Trying To Give The 1 Percent A $1.9 Trillion Tax Break
Senators Bernie Sanders and Tammy Baldwin led the opposition with a pair of amendments that challenged a "horrible bill."
By John Nichols

The Senate voted Thursday to massively increase income inequality in the United States by using the power of the federal government to redistribute wealth upward. By a narrow 51-49 vote, the chamber backed a budget measure that clears the way for Republicans to enact epic tax cuts for corporate elites, mega-millionaires and billionaires.

How epic? "At a time of massive income inequality, this budget provides $1.9 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1 percent," argued Senator Bernie Sanders. "This is not a bad budget bill, it is a horrific budget bill."

Sanders was not alone in his assessment. As the Los Angeles Times noted, Senate Republicans approved massive deficits in order "to pay for Trump's tax cuts."

The horrible budget bill-which allows for the implementation of sweeping tax cuts for the rich without bipartisan support and without controls on the use of deficits to fund those tax cuts-won only the votes of Republicans.

Forty-six Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats (Sanders and Maine Senator Angus King), and one Republican (Kentucky's Rand Paul, who has objected to Pentagon-spending hikes) voted no.

One of the budget's most ardent foes, Wisconsin Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin, argues that:

This budget resolution paves the way for a partisan tax proposal that favors big corporations and gives a majority of the tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent. I just don't think it's right to make Wisconsin's hardworking middle class families pay for it by blowing a hole in the deficit and cutting Medicare and Medicaid.
Sanders and Baldwin exposed the true agenda of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans with a pair of amendments that clarified the tax and deficit issues.

The Sanders amendment sought to prevent tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans, including billionaire campaign donors such as David and Charles Koch, whose enthusiasm for the Trump administration's "tax reform" schemes was summed up by a Boston Globe headline that read: "The Koch brothers (and their friends) want President Trump's tax cut. Very badly." Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity cabal, announced that the push for the tax cut is "the most significant federal effort we've ever taken on."

That significance is measured not just in benefits to the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends but also in cuts to programs that serve the great mass of Americans. To avert the shift of money to the Kochs, Sanders proposed a simple standard that would have directed tax cuts that are outlined in any reform package to the 99 percent of Americans who are neither mega-millionaires nor billionaires.

Sanders, the ranking Democratic Caucus member on the Senate Budget Committee, explained that:

It's not a radical idea to suggest that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the people on top are doing unbelievably well, at a time when the middle class is shrinking, now is not the time to provide hundreds of billion of dollars of tax breaks to the very wealthiest families in this country.
Forty-four Democrats, Maine independent Angus King, and Sanders backed the amendment. But it was blocked by 51 Republicans and one Democrat: North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp. (Though Heitkamp opposed the overall budget measure, her vote on the amendment broke faith not merely with her fellow Senate Democrats but also with the historic populist tradition of the Nonpartisan League that gave its name to her home state's Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.)

Baldwin, a Wisconsinite who traces her politics to another populist movement of the upper Midwest (that of the Wisconsin progressives who supported Senator Robert M. La Follette's battles against wealth and privilege), proposed an amendment that focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of the GOP scheme. She sought to reinstate a Senate rule that would effectively prevent Republicans from increasing the deficit in order to fund tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Proponents of sound budgeting hailed the Wisconsinite's proposal, with Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Budget, declaring that:

The amendment offered by Senator Baldwin would restore a shield to prevent reconciliation from being used to add to the debt. It is fiscal common sense and important especially now as lawmakers confront growing debt.
Fiscal common sense won the votes of 47 Democrats and independents who caucus with the Democrats. But 51 Republican votes blocked the Baldwin amendment.

So it was that the Senate voted to advance a Trump-backed, Koch-promoted "tax reform" agenda that is is intended not only to make the rich richer but also to pay for this transfer of wealth by robbing from the rest of us and by creating deficits that will weaken the ability of the federal government to function and that will burden working-class taxpayers for decades to come.

This is, as Sanders says "Robin Hood in reverse" budgeting. But it does not stop there. If the Trump-GOP plan is enacted, generations of working families will continue to be robbed, year and year, in order to keep taxes low for the Koch brothers and the billionaire class.
(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.

Haunted Houses Are Everywhere
By James Donahue

The new rage among realtors in selling haunted houses may seem peculiar. But in this new somewhat insane world, people are demanding strange and exotic things. Why wouldn't they be interested in owning and sharing a house with spirits of the past?

What surprises me is that buyers are being goaded into paying extra to purchase a home with ghosts. In my years of reporting and because of the hobby my wife and I shared, of buying and restoring old homes, I can report from personal experience that most older homes are very likely haunted.

Sometimes it takes a few months of living in a house before you discover the spirit that lives there with you. On other occasions, face-to-face encounters occur quickly.

It isn't that we actually see the spirit. But the mere presence of a wraith in a particular room can sometimes make the skin crawl, give us the sensation of a chill, and we can be overwhelmed by an uneasy sensation that makes us want to leave the room. My daughter and I were walking through a large two-story downtown building we had just bought in Michigan when we discovered a second floor room that really gave us the heebie-jeebies. We couldn't put our finger on just why we had this sensation. We just did not like being in the room and got out of there quickly.

The building was an old Masonic Hall that had been used by the community as a court house, police station, jail, speak-easy during prohibition, community meeting building, and lastly a township hall before it was abandoned. The building, which was marked among the oldest in the region and was marked in the Michigan Historical Registry, was in serious need of repair. We were taking it on as a project after buying it for a dollar.

That building turned out to be the most haunted structure we have ever encountered. You couldn't shoot a photograph in it without having the picture turn up filled with orbs. Orbs are little circular images of light that the camera sees, but they appear invisible to the human eye. We have always theorized that spirits show up as orbs when they are around but we can't prove this.

That upper floor room was spooky enough. But the worst part of that building was the basement. It could only be entered through a rear door that opened into a vast dark room. There was a single light hanging from the ceiling just inside the door. At the far end of the room, which is under the front of the building and once had a door access to the street, are the remains of the old police office. Two jail cells still remain in place, their doors swung open. It is here where the most frightening spiritual encounters were experienced.

There were times, while working in the building, that we heard strange noises coming from the basement, even though we always kept the door locked. Once there was a loud crash that shook the building. When we investigated, nothing was found.

I would not declare that particular building to be a safe place to live with spiritual forces. But we suspected that the building had a long history that attracted a lot of spirits to gather there. Some of them may have been kindly, but others were obviously angered at what we were doing in the building.

When we owned older homes that proved to be occupied by a ghost, we usually discovered that some earlier resident had died violently there. Two homes that we owned, occupied and repaired were the scenes of suicides. The entities that lived with us were not friendly. They made noises in the night. There were flies and wasps that filled unoccupied rooms. Lights sometimes went out for no apparent reason. The family suffered severe illness, a dangerous barn fire and problems just getting along with one another while living in one of them.

Haunted buildings can be problematic. But in other cases, we lived with spirits that seemed to enjoy our company. While we became aware of their presence, they did nothing to try to drive us away. In one apartment we lived with the ghost of an elderly lady who liked to sit in a rocking chair by the window. Sometimes I could hear her footsteps walking over the wood floor but when I looked, there was nothing there.

We lived in one house for about a year before we discovered that we were sharing it with a spirit. I suspect that many homes are haunted like this, and people have no idea that ghosts are sharing the building. If we are accepted by the spirit, we all can usually get along quite well.

When my wife and I lived one winter with a Navajo family in Arizona, we learned that those people try to never allow people to die inside a house. If it happens, nobody ever lives in the house again. Tribal members are literally carried out in the yard to die rather than allow their spirit to linger in the house.
(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.

It all starts with Hong Kong as a major BRI financing hub

Xi's Road Map To The Chinese Dream
China's Belt and Road Initiative - the New Silk Road - will spark the country's development and turn the dream into reality
By Pepe Escobar

Now that President Xi Jinping has been duly elevated to the Chinese Communist Party pantheon in the rarified company of Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, the world will have plenty of time to digest the meaning of "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era."

Xi himself, in his 3½-hour speech at the start of the 19th Party Congress, pointed to a rather simplified "socialist democracy" - extolling its virtues as the only counter-model to Western liberal democracy. Economically, the debate remains open on whether this walks and talks more like "neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics."

All the milestones for China in the immediate future have been set.

"Moderately prosperous society" by 2020.
Basically modernized nation by 2035.
Rich and powerful socialist nation by 2050.

Xi himself, since 2013, has encapsulated the process in one mantra; the "Chinese dream". The dream must become reality in a little over three decades. The inexorable modernization drive unleashed by Deng's reforms has lasted a little less than four decades. Recent history tell us there's no reason to believe phase 2 of this seismic Sino-Renaissance won't be fulfilled.

Xi emphasized, "the dreams of the Chinese people and those of other peoples around the world are closely linked. The realization of the Chinese dream will not be possible without a peaceful international environment and a stable international order."

He mentioned only briefly the New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as having "created a favorable environment for the country's overall development." He didn't dwell on BRI's ambition and extraordinary scope, as he does in every major international summit as well as in Davos earlier this year.

But still it was implicit that to arrive at what Xi defines as a "community of common destiny for mankind," BRI is China's ultimate tool. BRI, a geopolitical/geoeconomic game-changer, is in fact Xi's - and China's - organizing foreign policy concept and driver up to 2050.

Xi has clearly understood that global leadership implies being a top provider, mostly to the global South, of connectivity, infrastructure financing, comprehensive technical assistance, construction hardware and myriad other trappings of "modernization.

It does not hurt that this trade/commerce/investment onslaught helps to internationalize the yuan.

It's easy to forget that BRI, an unparalleled multinational connectivity drive set to economically link all points Asia to Europe and Africa, was announced only three years ago, in Astana (Central Asia) and Jakarta (Southeast Asia).

What was originally known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road were endorsed by the Third Plenum of the 18th CCP Central Committee in November 2013. Only after the release of an official document, "Visions and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Roads," in March 2015, the whole project was finally named BRI.

According to the official Chinese timeline, we're only at the start of phase 2. Phase 1, from 2013 to 2016, was "mobilization." "Planning," from 2016 to 2021, is barely on (and that explains why few major projects are online). "Implementation" is supposed to start in 2021, one year before Xi's new term expires, and go all the way to 2049.

The horizon thus is 2050, coinciding with Xi's "rich and powerful socialist nation" dream. There's simply no other comprehensive, inclusive, far-reaching, financially solid development program on the global market. Certainly not India's Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).

Have BRI, will travel

It starts with Hong Kong. When Xi said, "We will continue to support Hong Kong and Macau in integrating their own development into the overall development of the country," he meant Hong Kong configured as a major BRI financing hub - its new role after a recent past of business facilitator between China and the West.

Hong Kong's got what it takes; convertible currency; total capital mobility; rule of law; no tax on interest, dividends and capital gains; total access to China's capital market/savings; and last but not least, Beijing's support.

Enter the dream of myriad financing packages (public-private; equity-debt; short-long term bonds). Hong Kong's BRI role will be of the Total Package international financial center (venture capital; private equity; flotation of stocks and bonds; investment banking; mergers and acquisitions; reinsurance) interlinked with the Greater Bay Area - the 11 cities (including Guangzhou and Shenzhen) of the Pearl River Delta (light/heavy manufacturing; hi-tech venture capitalists, start-ups, investors; top research universities).

That ties up with Xi's emphasis on innovation; "We will strengthen basic research in applied sciences, launch major national science and technology projects, and prioritize innovation in key generic technologies, cutting-edge frontier technologies, modern engineering technologies, and disruptive technologies."

The integration of the Greater Bay Area is bound to inspire, fuel, and in some cases even mould some of BRI's key projects. The Eurasian Land Bridge from Xinjiang to Western Russia (China and Kazakhstan are actively turbo-charging their joint free trade zone at Khorgos). The China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor. The connection of the Central Asian "stans" to West Asia - Iran and Turkey. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from Xinjiang all the way to Gwadar in the Arabian Sea - capable of sparking an "economic revolution" according to Islamabad. The China-Indochina corridor from Kunming to Singapore. The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor (assuming India does not boycott it). The Maritime Silk Road from coastal southeast China all the way to the Mediterranean, from Piraeus to Venice.

Yiwu-London freight trains, Shanghai-Tehran freight trains, the Turkmenistan to Xinjiang gas pipeline - these are all facts on the ground. Along the way, the technologies and tools of infrastructure connectivity - applied to high-speed rail networks, power plants, solar farms, motorways, bridges, ports, pipelines - will be closely linked with financing by the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the security-economic cooperation imperatives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to build the new Eurasia from Shanghai to Rotterdam. Or, to evoke Vladimir Putin's original vision, even before BRI was launched, "from Lisbon to Vladivostok."

Xi did not spell it out, but Beijing will do everything to stay as independent as possible from the Western Central Bank system, with the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) to be avoided in as many trade deals as possible to the benefit of yuan-based transactions or outright barter. The petrodollar will be increasingly bypassed (it's already happening between China and Iran, and Beijing sooner rather than later will demand it from Saudi Arabia.)

The end result, by 2050, will be, barring inevitable, complex glitches, an integrated market of 4.5 billion people mostly using local currencies for bilateral and multilateral trade, or a basket of currencies (yuan-ruble-rial-yen-rupee).

Xi has laid China's cards - as well as the road map - on the table. As far as the Chinese Dream is concerned, it's now clear; Have BRI, Will Travel.
(c) 2017 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

Look Who's Been Doing Business With The Iranian Revolutionary Guard
By Heather Digby Parton

If you guessed The Trump Organization, you were right: Last week, in what the White House billed as a major foreign-policy speech, Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. He unveiled a new strategy that he said would curb Iran's growing influence in the Middle East. One part of his plan is to impose sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Treasury Department is also designating several ostensibly private Iranian companies (and one Chinese firm) as aides in Tehran's efforts to fund terrorism and build weapons of mass destruction. But something important has been left unsaid: the Trump Administration has not sanctioned an Iranian firm with ties to both the Revolutionary Guard and to one of the Trump Organization's business partners.

In response to decades of U.S. and global sanctions, the Revolutionary Guard has created hundreds of private companies that work as a loose network, allowing the Revolutionary Guard to conceal the movement of sanctions-evading money into and out of Iran, purchase crucial components for weapons of mass destruction, and evade sanctions in other ways. These companies follow a similar pattern: they are, typically, construction or engineering firms run by veterans of the Revolutionary Guard that appear, to the outside world, as independent companies but act under the direction of Guard leadership.

After Trump's speech, the Treasury named Shahid Alamolhoda Industries, Rastafann Ertebat Engineering Company, and Fanamoj as, essentially, tools of the Revolutionary Guard. Strikingly, the Treasury did not name Azarpassillo, an Iranian firm with a leadership made up of lifelong Revolutionary Guard officers. Azarpassillo's leaders have been named by U.S. officials as likely money launderers for the Revolutionary Guard and, through their international construction operations, the company is ideally suited to provide W.M.D. components.

Azarpassillo has another interesting connection; one of its apparent partners in money laundering, the Mammadov family of Azerbaijan, was also, until quite recently, in business with the Trump Organization. In fact, for the entire Presidential campaign, the Trump Organization knew that it was actively involved with a company that was likely laundering money for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is not a wild conspiracy theory; it is an acknowledged fact, confirmed by Alan Garten, the Trump Organization's general counsel, and not disputed by the White House or any of the people involved. Ivanka Trump directly oversaw the relationship with the Mammadov family, led by Ziya Mammadov, a man whom American diplomats have called "notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan."

The details of Trump's indirect relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were revealed in The New Yorker in March, and, soon afterward, several Democratic senators asked for more details from the Administration. They were hoping to learn if the more than five million dollars the Trump Organization received from the Mammadovs had originated with the Revolutionary Guard. No answer ever came. Several Republicans who have taken a hard line against Iran declined to comment on Trump's profitable relationship with such enthusiastic allies of the Guard.

There is no reason to think that anyone in the Trump Organization was intentionally seeking to help the Iranians. Trump's top lawyer at the time, Jason Greenblatt, oversaw the contract with the Mammadovs and is now at the White House, serving as an adviser on the Middle East. An Orthodox Jew, Greenblatt is known as a supporter of Israel and an antagonist of Iran. Still, the Trump firm's relationship with Iran seems almost inevitable, given the type of business it has pursued since it was nearly bankrupted by the 2009 financial crisis and various business missteps. Over the past decade, Trump's business focussed on providing its name, for a large fee, to those operating in the shadows of the global economy. These were people and businesses who were unable-or unwilling-to work with the vast majority of international companies which demand comprehensive due diligence. A remarkable number of Trump's business partners met one or more of the warning signs of troubling business practices: they had been investigated or convicted of fraud or other economic crimes; they were government officials in a position to abuse their power for financial gain; or they were secretive entities, hidden behind shell companies.

No big deal. He's normal now. No worse than any other establishment politician. Move along.
(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.

Oil Spills Pose Unacceptable Threats To Marine Life
By David Suzuki

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says oil pipelines have no place in B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest. Opponents of the approved Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the West Coast and the cancelled Energy East pipeline to the East Coast argue pipelines and tankers don't belong in any coastal areas. Research led by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation confirms the threat to marine mammals in B.C. waters from a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic is considerable.

After examining potential impacts of a 15,000-cubic-metre oil spill in B.C. waters on 21 marine mammals, researchers concluded most individuals would be at risk and a few local populations wouldn't survive. Baleen whales, for example, are highly susceptible to ingesting oil because they breathe through blowholes, filter and eat food from the ocean surface and rely on invertebrate prey. Oil residue can stick to the baleen, restricting the amount of food they consume.

Resident and transient killer whales, sea otters and Steller sea lions were most likely to see a drop in population levels from an oil spill. Killer whales are especially vulnerable because of their small populations, low reproductive rates, dietary specialization, long lives and complex social structure. The 76 southern resident killer whales off the B.C. coast, Canada's most endangered marine mammal, are particularly threatened by oil spills, as well as ship strikes and underwater noise that hinders their ability to feed and communicate.

If Trans Mountain's Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion proceeds and an oil spill occurs, the study estimates it would affect between 22 and 80 per cent of these whales' critical Salish Sea habitat. They already face severe chinook salmon prey shortages and other challenges. In court, opponents argued that adding pipeline and tanker impacts to the mix could lead to their extinction.

Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound, a unique pod of north coast orcas vanished forever. Nine of the 22 whales died and remaining pod members didn't produce any living offspring.

All marine mammals are vulnerable to oil spills because they surface to breathe. If that happens in a spill, oil can adhere to their bodies, and they can inhale toxic vapours and ingest oil. Marine mammals exposed to oil spills may suffer damaged airways, congested lungs, stomach ulcerations, eye and skin lesions, weight loss and stunted growth. When whales and dolphins surface to breathe, oil can restrict their blowholes and airways. When seals and otters try to clean oil matted on their coats, they ingest it. They also lose heat because spilled oil ruins their natural insulation, so they can die of hypothermia.

Even indirect exposure to small amounts of oil chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can have profound toxic effects on animals and fish, particularly the young. Two years after the Exxon Valdez spill, mortality rates in pink salmon eggs were 96 per cent higher than pre-spill levels. Researchers estimated that shoreline habitats such as mussel beds could take up to 30 years to recover fully.

Chronic oil pollution from ships travelling off Canada's coasts kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds every year. In the late 1990s, an estimated 300,000 birds died annually off Newfoundland's coast alone.

No technology will adequately clean most oil spills, especially diluted bitumen. Unlike conventional crude, bitumen can sink if spilled in water, according to a 2016 study by the National Academy of Sciences. It also found that current regulations and spill-response techniques can't manage the unique behaviour and higher risks of a bitumen spill. Tar balls sink to the bottom or hang in the water column, eluding conventional booms used to contain oil spills.

An Oil Tanker Moratorium Act before Parliament recognizes that B.C.'s north coast ecosystems and local economies must be protected from oil spill risks. B.C.'s new government will argue in its case against the Kinder Morgan pipeline that the federal government failed to evaluate the project's risks to the marine environment - a breach of its obligation to consider the national interest.

It's certainly not in the interests of any marine mammal, especially endangered ones, to add more shipping traffic or increase oil spill risks - nor is it in keeping with our Paris Agreement commitments to shift away from fossil fuels. Let's hope that the Kinder Morgan project goes the way of the Energy East pipeline.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Steve Bannon

It's One Big, Happy Family-And They're All In It For The Money
Steve Bannon, Erik Prince, the lot of them.
By Charles P. Pierce

One of the things that often eludes people about Steve Bannon, still apparently a presidential* adviser and the only surviving heir to House Harkonnen, is the money. For example, without the Mercer fortune, he's stapling his Deep Thoughts about world politics to a lamp post in Washington Square. He's also cozied up to people like Erik Prince, the founder of the former Blackwater murder gang and-Bannon hopes-possible future U.S. Senator from Wyoming.

And, as the McClatchy folks tell us, he's also luxuriating in the warm embrace of the United Arab Emirates in their fight against the existential planetary threat that is the nation of Qatar.

On Monday, Bannon is scheduled to speak at a day-long conference in Washington organized by the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank and paid for by multiple donors, entitled "Countering Violent Extremism: Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood." The speech follows Bannon's September meeting in the UAE with its crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The two weren't strangers: Bannon, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn met with the crown prince at Trump Tower during the presidential transition in December. That meeting triggered controversy, as the UAE hadn't notified the outgoing Obama administration about the visit as is customary. The UAE also helped broker a meeting in January between a Bannon friend, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin to try to establish a back-channel line of communication to Moscow for Trump just days before Trump's inauguration, according to the Washington Post; Prince met with the Russian in the Seychelle islands off East Africa. Prince lives in the UAE and had a multimillion dollar contract with that government to assemble a mercenary security force there. His firm also does security work in Africa, much of it for Chinese interests. But Bannon has encouraged Prince to move back to the U.S. and run for office, and in recent weeks, Prince has begun to publicly consider a primary challenge to Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso.

One big happy family. For hire.

I once spent 13 days in Qatar. This was back before the United States decided to turn the country into an aircraft carrier. I never want to go back. The main job of the native Qataris seemed to consist of making sure they could shanghai enough Filipinos to do the real work. It struck me as a stagnant, oppressive, parasitic society, and the country's record in this regard has not improved substantially in the ensuing years. Still, Bannon's not in this to improve the lot of captive labor any more than he really was in this last United States election to improve the lot of idle coal miners in West Virginia or idle mill-hands in Pennsylvania.

Erik Prince

He's in it for the money, and the UAE, which presents all the same problems that Bannon attributes to Qatar, was willing to meet his price. If we had an actual president*, he might be concerned that this breed of bunco artist is mucking around in a pretty dangerous part of the world.

Bannon has said he is planning to start a global conference series through Breitbart. "We are in advance discussions about having Breitbart sponsor a major security conference in sub-Saharan Africa, the Persian Gulf, central Europe, and East Asia, in early to mid-2018," he told Bloomberg recently. Trump's comments attacking Qatar this summer were at odds with what other administration officials were saying. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called for the Gulf countries to resolve the dispute. "We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences," he said.

But, of course, we don't.
(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...

"The time is always right to do what is right."
~~~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Scottish Parliament

Can Architecture Fix Our Health, Minds, Societies, Environment?
By David Swanson

Of all the factors that impact our lives in major ways, with ripple effects into all corners of human existence, the question of how we build our built environment receives impressively little attention. We're far more likely to hear what can be done with sleep, diet, switching to a civilized healthcare system, emphasizing education rather than incarceration, creating a sustainable local economy, or investing in trains instead of wars. OK, you won't hear much about that last one, but you'll hear even less about the impact of architecture on your physical and mental health.

Sarah Williams Goldhagen's book, "Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives" makes the case that buildings and urban spaces impact us whether we pay any attention to them or not - and impact us for the worse because we pay so little attention. She cites studies to document that people are actually more open to creative new concepts when they are in rooms with higher ceilings, that good design can create positive emotions and consequently positive human relations, can improve our physical health, childhood development, intelligence, life expectancy, and creativity.

The elements of a built environment that Goldhagen points to as impacting these things include visual elements, color, light, and the form of a structure, but also sound, smell, texture, materials, temperatures, incorporation of nature, and natural materials and forms, integration of architecture with landscape design, and the degree of crowding or lack thereof.

While a shack built of found materials in the median of a highway can be improved only so much, and a McMansion designed by a realtor can be only so horrible, Goldhagen makes a case that what she is advocating is not as much a question of cost as one might think, that better designs can cost as little as worse ones in many cases, and that today's technologies make it far easier than it used to be to create buildings with well-designed and curving and irregular shapes rather than simple boxes.

It seems to me that we ought to be struck by and resentful of the fact that most new automobiles are created with well-designed and complex forms, while a Frank Gehry building still stands out as a sort of freak creation in the realm of permanent structures. There are many car bodies that, if I could enlarge them to the proper scale, I would much rather live or work in than in most buildings being put up in U.S. cities, towns, and sprawl. Goldhagen's book provides numerous examples of good and bad design from around the world.

What does she propose that we do about it? She suggests that everything built be designed by a properly trained designer - a project that certainly cries out for an organization to get behind it and begin drafting legislation, codes, and standards. She also proposes that the lessons in her book be taught in design schools, and that the public at large learn these lessons so as to overcome the common preference for the familiar, which Goldhagen argues can sometimes override a preference for the demonstrably better.

Goldhagen's arguments claim to rest on a body of knowledge that I lack any ability to judge because it's neuroscience and I'm not a neuroscientist. However, I will dare to state what seems available to the outsider, namely that references to neuroscience are often both less necessary and less definitive than is imagined - and that seems to be the case here.

I think neuroscience is less necessary here than Goldhagen seems to believe, because the impact of the built environment is less inaccessible to our conscious minds than Goldhagen at times suggests. Goldhagen refers to "the cognitive revolution's complete rethinking of human experience" before citing numerous examples of past architects apparently already understanding the future "revolution." Our "surroundings," affect us much more viscerally and profoundly than we could possibly be aware of, because most of our cognitions, including those about where we are, happen outside our conscious awareness." But that concept is not strictly new, and people's levels of awareness of how the physical world is impacting them seems to vary a great deal, both from person to person and from moment to moment.

Alvar Aalto, Goldhagen writes, "intuited" that looking at a handrail made of wood can create a feeling of warmth. Because he didn't observe this thought in a brain under a microscope, he merely "intuited" it in his own brain. Frank Lloyd Wright had similar intuitions about hexagonal spaces, Goldhagen tells us.

Many people, Goldhagen writes, dislike Yale's Art and Architecture building because they "nonconsciously" imagine that its rough surfaces would hurt if brushed up against. That hardly strikes me as a thought that no one could become conscious of - and certainly not after Goldhagen has pointed it out. I also doubt she found it in a laboratory. Similary, she writes that visitors to a church or a hotel may never become consciously aware of the sounds their feet are making because of the material chosen for the floor. Then again, they may.

I don't mean to discount Goldhagen's insights, but I'd like to see people encouraged to expand their awareness, more than to study the brain's mysteries as taught to them by scientists. Those teachings may be less decisive than is often imagined. To treat a manner in which people experience the world as permanent simply because some of the locations in which it occurs in their brains have been identified, seems like a fallacy to me. Experiences change, and so does brain activity.

Richard Neutra's theory about how signs of a building's construction will be experienced by those inhabiting the finished project is "all but confirmed" by the discovery of certain neurons, Golhagen believes. But wasn't the theory confirmed by Neutra's clients? And didn't we know their experience was happening in their brains, as opposed to in some other organ, even prior to naming some neurons?

We're supposed to learn, as if brand new knowledge, from the "cognitive revolution" that surfaces and materials impact our "nonconscious and conscious cognitions about the built environment." Fine. You'll get no argument from me, primarily because I have to run change my kid's diaper because he has no idea why he's grumpy. Yes, of course, it's more complex than that example, I just think there's a little hyping being added to the insights.

Now, to a more serious problem. Goldhagen uses predictions of population growth and urbanization to predict that by 2050 an additional 2.4 billion people will need spaces built for them to live and work in. I find it hard to believe that any quality of design of which this species is capable can make that level of growth survivable. The accompanying destruction of ecosystems and climate seems insurmountable. That's no argument for not trying to do the very best job of it possible, with an emphasis on the least damaging construction as well as on the best aesthetics. But it is an argument for putting a huge emphasis on preventing that population expansion.
(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.

Hate crimes are up 30 percent in the UK from last year, with
Islamophobia thought to be the cause, while violent crimes overall are down.

No, Trump, British Crime Isn't Going Up Because Of Muslims
A baseless claim by President Trump played into fears of Muslim immigrants in the U.K.
By Juan Cole

Hate crimes are up 30% in the UK over the previous year, rising from 62,518 reported offenses in 2015-16 (the year ends in March). The following year, 2016-17, that number rose to 80,393. Brexit and Islamophobic reactions against extremist terrorism are thought to explain the increase.

At the same time, violent crime is up by 13% in the UK this past year. Why that should be is unclear, since crime had been falling during the previous decades. Some of the increase, however, is simply greater willingness to report such crimes and better police record-keeping. Violent crimes tracked included knife crime, sexual offenses and violence against the person.

The murder rate was up 8% to 629 deaths, and the official report excluded the 35 killed in terrorism in Manchester and London.

On the other hand, the increase of violent crimes apart from murder could be an optical illusion. The BBC says, "The separate Crime Survey of England and Wales, which estimates offences including those that are not reported to police, suggests that 2016 crime levels were broadly stable with 2015." That is, more violent crimes may be being reported than in the past. You have to wonder whether social media and ubiquitous closed circuit tv on Britain's streets are implicated in the rise of victims reporting crimes to police. Since we're now all under surveillance and Facebook and Twitter friends know when something awful happened to us, we may as well tell the police, too.

But here's the real kicker. The BBC points out, "about two in every 100 adults had been victims of violent crime last year, compared with a peak in 1995 of five in every 100 adults."

British crime graph --- h/t Great Britain Office for National Statistics

That is, there has been a profound reduction in the percentage of Britons affected by violent crime over the past twenty years. At the same time, millions of immigrants have come in, including Muslims (the Muslim population in Britain has doubled over this period). So we can only conclude that high immigration rates, which began after 1995, go along with a reduction in the proportion of the population affected by violent crime.

British immigration graph --- h/t BBC

Predictably, Trump managed falsely to blame the increases on Britain's small Muslim population, which is 4.3 percent of the population of 65 million. This sort of conspiracy theory is extremely dangerous, and is the sort of thing that led to the Nazi genocide of German Jews. As it is, Trump is feeding into the trend toward increased hate crimes against minorities in the UK with which I began this essay.

The slight increase in violent crime, after two decades of steep decline, is completely unrelated to British Muslims.

Violence is connected to poverty, but it is as connected to white Christian poverty as to any other kind. A study that looked at the social class of perpetrators and victims, according to the Guardian, has been conducted on a scientific basis:

"A study titled Young People and Street Crime, commissioned by the Youth Justice Board across 32 London boroughs, illustrated that when other relevant social and economic factors were taken into account, race and ethnicity had no significance at all. Crime is more prevalent in poor areas, and since black people are disproportionately poor, they are disproportionately affected - as perpetrators and victims. It's class - not race or culture - that is the defining issue. "When we took everything else into account, ethnicity dropped out of the model altogether," says Marian Fitzgerald, a visiting professor of criminology at the University of Kent."
The problem of knife violence is disproportionately a problem of young men. But you cannot blame the younger generation, as the Guardian says, "the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time nationwide is at the lowest rate for a decade." Alcohol and drug use among young people in Britain have plummeted.

Trump wasn't nearly as upset about the 59 people a right wing white guy gunned down in Las Vegas as about this small statistical fluctuation in another country. Nor has he tweeted about white supremacist violence against Muslims in Britain and France. He isn't interested in reality, just in scapegoating those he's already decided to hate, or those he thinks his constituency hates. Fascism.
(c) 2017 Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Trump,

Dear Uberfuhrer Heitkamp,

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 crossing party lines to vote for a bill that would give the 1% a $ 1.9 trillion tax cut by taking the money from the poor, sick and elderly, 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 "Corporate Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

How To End Crony Capitalism
By Robert Reich

The largest corporations and richest people in America - who donated billions of dollars to Republican candidates the House and Senate in the 2106 election - appear on the way to getting what they paid for: a giant tax cut.

The New York Times reports that business groups are meeting frequently with key Republicans in order to shape the tax bill, whose details remain secret.

Speed and secrecy are critical. The quicker Republicans get this done, and without hearings, the less likely will the rest of the country discover how much it will cost in foregone Medicaid and Medicare or ballooning budget deficits.

Donald Trump has been trashing democratic institutions - the independence of the press, judges who disagree with him, uncooperative legislators - while raking in money off his presidency. But don't lose sight of the larger attack on our democracy that was underway even before Trump was elected: A flood of big money into politics.

Lest you conclude it's only Republicans who have been pocketing big bucks in exchange for political favors, consider what Big Tech - the industry that's mostly bankrolled Democrats - is up to.

It's mobilizing an army of lobbyists and lawyers - including senior advisors to Hillary Clinton's campaign - to help scuttle a proposed law requiring Google, Facebook, and other major Internet companies to disclose who is purchasing their online political advertising.

After revelations that Russian-linked operatives bought deceptive ads in the run-up to the 2016 election, you'd think this would be a no-brainer. But never underestimate the power of big money, whichever side of the aisle it's aimed at.

Often, it's both sides. Last week The Washington Post and "60 Minutes0" reported that Big Pharma contributed close to $1.5 million to Democrats as well as Republicans in order to secure enactment of the so-called "Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016."

This shameful law weakened the Drug Enforcement Authority's power to stop prescription opioids from being shipped to pharmacies and doctors suspected of taking bribes to distribute them - a major cause of the opioid crisis. Last year, Americans got 236 million opioid prescriptions, the equivalent of one bottle for every adult.

Overwhelming majorities of House and Senate Democrats voted for the bill, as well as Republicans, and President Obama signed it into law.

There you have it, folks. Big money is buying giant tax cuts, allowing Russia to interfere in future elections, and killing Americans. That's just the tip of the corrupt iceberg that's sinking our democracy.

Republicans may be taking more big money, but both parties have been raking it in.

Average Americans know exactly what's going on.

I just returned from several days in Kentucky and Tennessee, both of which voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

A number of Trump voters told me they voted for him because they wanted someone who'd shake up Washington, drain the swamp, and get rid of crony capitalism. They saw Hillary Clinton as part of the problem.

These people aren't white nationalists. They're decent folks who just want a government that's not of, by, and for the moneyed interests.

Many are now suffering buyer's remorse. They recognize Trump has sold his administration to corporate lobbyists and Wall Street. "He conned us," was the most polite response I heard.

The big money that's taken over American politics in recent years has created the biggest political backlash in postwar American history - inside both parties.

It's splitting the Republican Party between its large corporate patrons and a base that detests big corporations and Wall Street.

Trump is trying to straddle both by pretending he's a champion of the working class while pushing for giant tax cuts. But if my free-floating focus group in Kentucky and Tennessee is any indication, the base is starting to see through it.

Which you might think creates a huge opportunity for Democrats heading into the 2018 midterms and the presidential election of 2020.

Think again. Much of the official Democratic Party is still in denial, continuing to debate whether it should be on the proverbial "left" or move to the "middle."

But when it comes to getting big money out of politics and ending crony capitalism, there's no right or left, and certainly no middle. There's just democracy or oligarchy.

Democrats should be fighting for commonsense steps to reclaim our democracy from the moneyed interests - public financing of elections, full disclosure of all sources of political funding, an end to revolving door between government and business, and attempts to reverse the bonkers Supreme Court decision "Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission."

For that matter, Republicans should be fighting for these, too.

Heres'a wild idea. What if the anti-establishment wings of both parties came together in a pro-democracy coalition to get big money out of politics?

Then it might actually happen.
(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

Our Ever-Deadlier Police State
By Chris Hedges

None of the reforms, increased training, diversity programs, community outreach and gimmicks such as body cameras have blunted America's deadly police assault, especially against poor people of color. Police forces in the United States-which, according to The Washington Post, have fatally shot 782 people this year-are unaccountable, militarized monstrosities that spread fear and terror in poor communities. By comparison, police in England and Wales killed 62 people in the 27 years between the start of 1990 and the end of 2016.

Police officers have become rogue predators in impoverished communities. Under U.S. forfeiture laws, police indiscriminately seize money, real estate, automobiles and other assets. In many cities, traffic, parking and other fines are little more than legalized extortion that funds local government and turns jails into debtor prisons.

Because of a failed court system, millions of young men and women are railroaded into prison, many for nonviolent offenses. SWAT teams with military weapons burst into homes often under warrants for nonviolent offenses, sometimes shooting those inside. Trigger-happy cops pump multiple rounds into the backs of unarmed men and women and are rarely charged with murder. And for poor Americans, basic constitutional rights, including due process, were effectively abolished decades ago.

Jonathan Simon's "Governing Through Crime" and Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow" point out that what is defined and targeted as criminal activity by the police and the courts is largely determined by racial inequality and class, and most importantly by the potential of targeted groups to cause social and political unrest. Criminal policy, as sociologist Alex S. Vitale writes in his new book, "The End of Policing," "is structured around the use of punishment to manage the 'dangerous classes,' masquerading as a system of justice."

The criminal justice system, at the same time, refuses to hold Wall Street banks, corporations and oligarchs accountable for crimes that have caused incalculable damage to the global economy and the ecosystem. None of the bankers who committed massive acts of fraud and were responsible for the financial collapse in 2008 have gone to prison even though their crimes resulted in widespread unemployment, millions of evictions and foreclosures, homelessness, bankruptcies and the looting of the U.S. Treasury to bail out financial speculators at taxpayer expense. We live in a two-tiered legal system, one in which poor people are harassed, arrested and jailed for absurd infractions, such as selling loose cigarettes-which led to Eric Garner being choked to death by a New York City policeman in 2014-while crimes of appalling magnitude that wiped out 40 percent of the world's wealth are dealt with through tepid administrative controls, symbolic fines and civil enforcement.

The grotesque distortions of the judicial system and the aggressive war on the poor by the police will get worse under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. There has been a rollback of President Barack Obama's 2015 restrictions on the 1033 Program, a 1989 congressional action that allows the transfer of military weaponry, including grenade launchers, armored personnel carriers and .50-caliber machine guns, from the federal government to local police forces. Since 1997, the Department of Defense has turned over a staggering $5.1 billion in military hardware to police departments.

The Trump administration also is resurrecting private prisons in the federal prison system, accelerating the so-called war on drugs, stacking the courts with right-wing "law and order" judges and preaching the divisive politics of punishment and retribution. Police unions enthusiastically embrace these actions, seeing in them a return to the Wild West mentality that characterized the brutality of police departments in the 1960s and 1970s, when radicals, especially black radicals, were murdered with impunity at the hands of law enforcement. The Praetorian Guard of the elites, as in all totalitarian systems, will soon be beyond the reach of the law. As Vitale writes in his book, "Our entire criminal justice system has become a gigantic revenge factory."

The arguments-including the racist one about "superpredators"-used to justify the expansion of police power have no credibility, as the gun violence in south Chicago, abject failure of the war on drugs and vast expansion of the prison system over the last 40 years illustrate. The problem is not ultimately in policing techniques and procedures; it is in the increasing reliance on the police as a form of social control to buttress a system of corporate capitalism that has turned the working poor into modern-day serfs and abandoned whole segments of the society. Government no longer makes any attempt to ameliorate racial and economic inequality. Instead, it criminalizes poverty. It has turned the poor into one more cash crop for the rich.

"By conceptualizing the problem of policing as one of inadequate training and professionalization, reformers fail to directly address how the very nature of policing and the legal system served to maintain and exacerbate racial inequality," Vitale writes. "By calling for colorblind 'law and order' they strengthen a system that puts people of color at a structural disadvantage. At the root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo. Police reforms that fail to directly address this reality are doomed to reproduce it. ...Well-trained police following proper procedures are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden of that will continue to fall primarily on communities of color because that is how the system is designed to operate-not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers."

In a recent interview, Vitale told me, "We've been waging a war on drugs for 40 years by putting people in prison for ever longer sentences. Yet drugs are cheaper, easier to get, and at a higher quality than they've ever been. Any high school student in America can get any kind of drugs they want. Yet we persist in this idea that the way to respond to the problem of drugs, and many other social problems, is through arrest, courts, punishments, prisons. This is what Trump is playing to. This idea that the only appropriate role for the state is one of coercion and threats-whether it's in the foreign policy sphere or in the domestic sphere."

Police forces, as Vitale writes in his book, were not formed to ensure public safety or prevent crime. They were created by the property classes to maintain economic and political dominance and exert control over slaves, the poor, dissidents and labor unions that challenged the wealthy's hold on power and ability to amass personal fortunes. Many of America's policing techniques, including widespread surveillance, were pioneered and perfected in colonies of the U.S. and then brought back to police departments in the homeland. Blacks in the South had to be controlled, and labor unions and radical socialists in the industrial Northeast and Midwest had to be broken.

The fundamental role of the police has never changed. Paul Butler in his book "Chokehold: Policing Black Men" and James Forman Jr. in his book "Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America" echo Vitale's point that the war on drugs "has never been about public health or public safety. It's been about providing a cover for aggressive and invasive policing that targets almost exclusively people of color."

"People often point to the London Metropolitan Police, who were formed in the 1820s by Sir Robert Peel," Vitale said. "They are held up as this liberal ideal of a dispassionate, politically neutral police with the support of the citizenry. But this really misreads the history. Peel is sent to manage the British occupation of Ireland. He's confronted with a dilemma. Historically, peasant uprisings, rural outrages were dealt with by either the local militia or the British military. In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, in the need for soldiers in other parts of the British Empire, he is having more and more difficulty managing these disorders. In addition, when he does call out the militia, they often open fire on the crowd and kill lots of people, creating martyrs and inflaming further unrest. He said, 'I need a force that can manage these outrages without inflaming passions further.' He developed the Peace Preservation Force, which was the first attempt to create a hybrid military-civilian force that can try to win over the population by embedding itself in the local communities, taking on some crime control functions, but its primary purpose was always to manage the occupation. He then exports that model to London as the industrial working classes are flooding the city, dealing with poverty, cycles of boom and bust in the economy, and that becomes their primary mission."

"The creation of the very first state police force in the United States was the Pennsylvania State Police in 1905," Vitale said. "For the same reasons. It was modeled similarly on U.S. occupation forces in the Philippines. There was a back and forth with personnel and ideas. What happened was local police were unable to manage the coal strikes and iron strikes. ... They needed a force that was more adherent to the interest of capital. ... Interestingly, for these small-town police forces in a coal mining town there was sometimes sympathy. They wouldn't open fire on the strikers. So, the state police force was created to be that strong arm for the law. Again, the direct connection between colonialism and the domestic management of workers. ... It's a two-way exchange. As we're developing ideas throughout our own colonial undertakings, bringing those ideas home, and then refining them and shipping them back to our partners around the world who are often despotic regimes with close economic relationships to the United States. There's a very sad history here of the U.S. exporting basically models of policing that morphs into death squads and horrible human rights abuses."

The almost exclusive alliance on militarized police to deal with profound inequality and social problems is turning poor neighborhoods in cities such as Chicago into miniature failed states, ones where destitute young men and women join a gang for security and income and engage in battles with other gangs and the police. The "broken windows" policy shifts the burden for poverty onto the poor. It criminalizes minor infractions, arguing that disorder produces crime and upending decades of research about the causes of crime.

"As poverty deepens and housing prices rise, government support for affordable housing has evaporated, leaving in its wake a combination of homeless shelters and aggressive broken-windows-oriented policing," Vitale writes. "As mental health facilities close, police become the first responders to calls for assistance with mental health crises. As youth are left without adequate schools, jobs, or recreational facilities, they form gangs for mutual protection or participate in the black markets of stolen goods, drugs, and sex to survive and are ruthlessly criminalized. Modern policing is largely a war on the poor that does little to make people safer or communities stronger, and even when it does, this is accomplished through the most coercive forms of state power that destroy the lives of millions."

The accelerated assault on the poor and the growing omnipotence of the police signal our transformation into an authoritarian state in which the rich and the powerful are not subject to the rule of law. The Trump administration will promote none of the conditions that could ameliorate this crisis-affordable housing; well-paying jobs; safe and nurturing schools that do not charge tuition; better mental health facilities; efficient public transportation; the rebuilding of the nation's infrastructure; demilitarized police forces in which most officers do not carry weapons; universal, government-funded health care; an end to the predatory loans and unethical practices of big banks; and reparations to African-Americans and an end to racial segregation. Trump and most of those he has appointed to positions of power disdain the poor as a dead weight on society. They blame stricken populations for their own misery. They seek to subjugate the poor, especially those of color, through police violence, ever harsher forms of punishment and an expansion of the prison system.

"We need an effective system of crime prevention and control in our communities, but that is not what the current system is," Alexander writes in "The New Jim Crow." "The system is better designed to create crime, and a perpetual class of people labeled criminal. ... Saying mass incarceration is an abysmal failure makes sense, though only if one assumes that the criminal justice system is designed to prevent and control crime. But if mass incarceration is understood as a system of social control-specifically, racial control-then the system is a fantastic success."

Click here to see Chris Hedges interview writer Alex Vitale.
(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
~~~ Mark Streeter ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

White House Says It Is Unpatriotic To Offer Irrefutable Video Evidence That A General Lied
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-In a stirring defense of Donald Trump's chief of staff, General John Kelly, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said on Friday that it was "unpatriotic in the extreme" to offer irrefutable video proof that a four-star general lied.

"It is unpatriotic enough to accuse a four-star general of lying," Sanders told the White House press corps. "But to make available a video that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that that general lied is unpatriotic bordering on treasonous."

Warming to her subject, Sanders said that any American who sees undeniable video evidence that a general lied and chooses to believe the video "shows disrespect for our country and hatred for our flag."

"General Kelly has served our country with courage and valor," she said. "He has earned the right to lie without fear of being contradicted by the facts."

Minutes after Sanders concluded her remarks, Kelly also received a vote of confidence from Trump, who called his chief of staff "a good liar, for a beginner."
(c) 2017 Andy Borowitz

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 43 (c) 10/27/2017

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

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

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

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

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