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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi explores, "The Great College Loan Swindle."

Uri Avnery asks, "Who Is Afraid Of The Iranian Bomb?"

Glen Ford sees, "Those Magical, Fantastical Russians vs. U.S. Empire."

William Rivers Pitt reports, "Donald Trump, Child Of Immigrants, Seeks To Destroy Immigration."

Jim Hightower wonders, "Would You Trust John Yoo?"

John Nichols finds, "A Minneapolis Socialist Thanks The Local Paper For Not Endorsing Her."

James Donahue examines, "The Great Social Security Heist."

Bernie Sanders returns with, "As President, Trump Doing Exact Opposite of What He Promised On The Campaign Trail."

Heather Digby Parton studies, "Jared And The Other Crown Prince."

David Suzuki concludes, "Democracy Works When We Don't Forfeit It To The Oil Industry."

Charles P. Pierce finds, "It Wasn't Just Sutherland Springs On Sunday."

David Swanson longs for, "A New Armistice Day."

Juan Cole reveals, "Saudis' Saturday Night Massacre: Princes, Cabinet Members Arrested."

Con-gressman Matt Gaetz R-Fla. wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich exposes, "Trump's Most Damning Legacy."

Chris Hedges counts, "The Cost Of Resistance."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst says, "Trump Takes Aim At His Own Feet" but first Uncle Ernie wants to know, "On November 11th, Which Will You Celebrate, War Or Peace?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Kirk Walters, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Walt Kelly, Tom Tomorrow, Molly Adams, Mathieu Belanger, Heads of State, Chip Somodevilla, Richard B. Levine, Fibonacci Blue, ZUMA, Reuters, Shutterstock, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, HBO, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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On November 11th, Which Will You Celebrate, War Or Peace?
By Ernest Stewart

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..." ~~~ President Woodrow Wilson

"[We] still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future," ~~~ Erik Solheim ~ the UN environment chief

"Now Is Not the Time to Talk About Gun Control." ~~~ Sarah Huckabee Sanders

This coming and going
Is driving me nuts
This to-ing and fro-ing
Is hurting my guts
So get off the fence
Its creasing your butt
Life is a party
Lets get out and strut
Mixed Emotions ~~~ The Rolling Stones

You may recall that World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles -- hence its title. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of "the war, to end all wars." That worked out well, huh?

In November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day. The original concept for the celebration was for a day to celebrate peace.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far-reaching war in human annals, and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday-a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Seems simple enough, huh?

Then along came the fascist takeover of Washington in the 50s, (you may recall the witch hunts?) and Armistice Day a day of peace became Veterans Day a celebration of killers. The 83rd Congress, at the urging of the military/industrial complex, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated:
"In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
Screw you, Ike; I refuse to honor veterans on Armistice Day; instead, I honor peace! How about you, America?

In Other News

I see where when UN climate negotiators meet for summit talks this month, there will be a new figure on the table: 3C.

Until now, global efforts such as the Paris climate agreement have tried to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. However, with latest projections pointing to an increase of 3.2C by 2100, these goals seem to be slipping out of reach, especially with Trump in power. We are second only to China in global warming causes and China has gotten incredibly serious about global warming and it won't be long before were #1. Can't you just hear Trump trying to spin that away?

We're talking hundreds of millions of people from Miami to Alexandria, to Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai either moving or drowning as these places will be permanently underwater with a 3C rise. Scientists at the non-profit organisation Climate Central estimate that "275 million people worldwide live in areas that will eventually be flooded at 3C of global warming." Others place total at over 300 million!

One of the biggest resulting threats to cities around the world is sea-level rise, caused by the expansion of water at higher temperatures and melting ice sheets on the north and south poles. From England to NYC a large amount of land will be sinking under the tides. However, according to the UN, the regional impact of these changes is highly uneven, with four out of five people affected living in Asia.

You would think that Trump knowing that the US faces tens of trillions of dollars in damages would do something. Just a 2C rise will cause the bottom third of Florida to go under the waves and a 3C rise would take another third. At the 3 degree level all that is lost will stay lost no matter what we do. Most everything coastal will diappear so you west coasters may want to "tie up the boat in Idaho!"

And Finally

So I'm guessing that, "Now Is Not The Time" to speak of gun control so soon after the new Texas massacre? Yes, we must take some time and give the matter some serious thought, oops time out, there's been a another massacre. No time to act, just time to consider the next massacre, and the next massacre, and the next massacre and, well you get my point!

I wonder if a few guys with M-15s were to walk into the Sin-ate or the House and start mowing down our members of Con-gress if the survivors would change their minds, throw off their NRA puppet strings and change the laws? Ya think? Probably not! When they've been bought and paid for, they tend to stay that way. As Mark Twain once said, "We have the best government that money can buy."

I have a simple solution to this problem! When Con-gress wrote the Bill of Rights and the 2nd amendment to the Constitution they were talking about rifles that shot one round and took about a minute to reload or perhaps a double barrel pistol that had a accurate range of about 10 yards. They didn't envision machine guns firing hundreds of rounds a minute or automatic pistols that might fire 17 rounds from their clip. So I say that Americans, can own those old guns, and if they flip out and go on a killing spree, chances are they won't be able to kill or wound more than a couple people before they're brought down themselves. Simple, huh? The gun nuts can keep their guns, but the damage they can do to others is very limited.

Of course, the gun nuts argue their AR-15s are for protection from the government. As an old Army veteran I can testify those assault rifles are worthless against a tank, or helicopter gunship or F-22 or a Reaper drone firing Hell Fire missiles from 50,000 feet up, because if the government goes rouge, that's what they'll bring to break up your little militia club. Does that sound like a plan, America?

Keepin' On

I caught a break from the folks where I get the right to publish some authors and artists. They excepted partial payment and will allow me to pay them off by the first of the year. Which means we'll be publishing at least through December 29th. Ah, the friends you make in Hollywood!

Trouble is, we still need to raise $1000 to keep publishing beyond that date. So a little help ya'll before it's too late. with the exception of last week there's been zilch in the po box as of late, nor have I heard any rumors of an impending check on it's way.

Still, we have time to take it over it goal and perhaps bring back some old departments; if we do. As always, it's totally up to you, if we continue or if we don't. If what we do for you is important to you, and is important that we keep working for you, then send us whatever you can, as often as you can, and we'll keep bringing you today's most important commodity, the truth!


08-27-1933 ~ 11-05-2017
Thanks for the read!

12-20-1932 ~ 11-09-2017
Thanks for the film!


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

The Great College Loan Swindle
How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole
By Matt Taibbi

On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted '92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.

Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. "This is it, I'm done," he remembers thinking. "I sat there and just sort of felt like I'm going to take my life. I'm going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever."

Nailor's problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.

But he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher's $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan "rehabilitation" program that added to his overall balance. "That's when the noose began to tighten," he says.

The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. "In the middle of class too, while I was teaching," he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward "rehabilitation," and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. "Not one dollar of it goes to principal," says Nailor. "I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die."

After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. "At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching," he says.

Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. "I'd been there before, that just was the worst of it," he says. "It scared me, bad."

He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. "I don't know why I called my wife. I'm glad I did," he says. "I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it's going to be all right. And she did."

From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem - the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans - remains.

Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry - from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education.

Americans don't understand the student-loan crisis because they've been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems. They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.

In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days?

In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending.

But the separateness of these stories clouds the unifying issue underneath: The education industry as a whole is a con. In fact, since the mortgage business blew up in 2008, education and student debt is probably our reigning unexposed nation-wide scam.

It's a multiparty affair, what shakedown artists call a "big store scheme," like in the movie The Sting: a complex deception requiring a big cast to string the mark along every step of the way. In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.

America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie - sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate - have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams - that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvane

It starts with the sales pitch colleges make to kids. The thrust of it is usually that people who go to college make lots more money than the unfortunate dunces who don't. "A bachelor's degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime" is how Georgetown University put it. The Census Bureau tells us similarly that a master's degree is worth on average about $1.3 million more than a high school diploma.

But these stats say more about the increasing uselessness of a high school degree than they do about the value of a college diploma. Moreover, since virtually everyone at the very highest strata of society has a college degree, the stats are skewed by a handful of financial titans. A college degree has become a minimal status marker as much as anything else. "I'm sure people who take polo lessons or sailing lessons earn a lot more on average too," says Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice, which advocates for debt forgiveness and other reforms. "Does that mean you should send your kids to sailing school?"

But the pitch works on everyone these days, especially since good jobs for Trump's beloved "poorly educated" are scarce to nonexistent. Going to college doesn't guarantee a good job, far from it, but the data show that not going dooms most young people to an increasingly shallow pool of the very crappiest, lowest-paying jobs. There's a lot of stick, but not much carrot, in the education game.

It's a vicious cycle. Since everyone feels obligated to go to college, most everyone who can go, does, creating a glut of graduates. And as that glut of degree recipients grows, the squeeze on the un-degreed grows tighter, increasing further that original negative incentive: Don't go to college, and you'll be standing on soup lines by age 25.

With that inducement in place, colleges can charge almost any amount, and kids will pay - so long as they can get the money. And here we run into problem number two: It's too easy to find that money.

Parents, not wanting their kids to fall behind, will pay every dollar they have. But if they don't have the cash, there is a virtually unlimited amount of credit available to young people. Proposed cuts to Pell Grants aside, the landscape is filled with public and private lending, and students gobble it up. Kids who walk into financial-aid offices are often not told what signing their names on the various aid forms will mean down the line. A lot of kids don't even understand the concept of interest or amortization tables - they think if they're borrowing $8,000, they're paying back $8,000.

Nailor certainly was unaware of what he was getting into when he was 19. "I had no idea [about interest]," he says. "I just remember thinking, 'I don't have to worry about it right now. I want to go to school.'" He pauses in disgust. "It's unsettling to remember how it was like, 'Here, just sign this and you're all set.' I wish I could take the time machine back and slap myself in the face."

The average amount of debt for a student leaving school is skyrocketing even faster than the rate of tuition increase. In 2016, for instance, the average amount of debt for an exiting college graduate was a staggering $37,172. That's a rise of six percent over just the previous year. With the average undergraduate interest rate at about 3.7 percent, the interest alone costs around $115 per month, meaning anyone who can't afford to pay into the principal faces the prospect of $69,000 in payments over 50 years.

So here's the con so far. You must go to college because you're screwed if you don't. Costs are outrageously high, but you pay them because you have to, and because the system makes it easy to borrow massive amounts of money. The third part of the con is the worst: You can't get out of the debt. Since government lenders in particular have virtually unlimited power to collect on student debt - preying on everything from salary to income-tax returns - even running is not an option. And since most young people find themselves unable to make their full payments early on, they often find themselves perpetually paying down interest only, never touching the principal. Our billionaire president can declare bankruptcy four times, but students are the one class of citizen that may not do it even once.

An Occupy Wall Street protester in April 2012

October 2017 was supposed to represent the first glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, one of the few avenues for wiping out student debt. The idea, launched by George W. Bush, was pretty simple: Students could pledge to work 10 years for the government or a nonprofit and have their debt forgiven. In order to qualify, borrowers had to make payments for 10 years using a complex formula. This month, then, was to start the first mass wipeouts of debt in the history of American student lending. But more than half of the 700,000 enrollees have already been expunged from the program for, among other things, failing to certify their incomes on time, one of many bureaucratic tricks employed to limit forgiveness eligibility. To date, fewer than 500 participants are scheduled to receive loan forgiveness in this first round.

Moreover, Trump has called for the program's elimination by 2018, meaning that any relief that begins this month is likely only temporary. The only thing that is guaranteed to remain real for the immediate future are the massive profits being generated on the backs of young people, who before long become old people who, all too often, remain ensnared until their last days in one of the country's most brilliant and devious moneymaking schemes.

Everybody wins in this madness, except students. Even though many of the loans are originated by the state, most of them are serviced by private or quasi-private companies like Navient - which until 2014 was the student-loan arm of Sallie Mae - or Nelnet, companies that reported a combined profit of around $1 billion last year (the U.S. government made a profit of $1.6 billion in 2016!). Debt-collector companies like Performant (which generated $141.4 million in revenues; the family of Betsy DeVos is a major investor), and most particularly the colleges and universities, get to prey on the desperation and terror of parents and young people, and in the process rake in vast sums virtually without fear of market consequence.

About that: Universities, especially public institutions, have successfully defended rising tuition in recent years by blaming the hikes on reduced support from states. But this explanation was blown to bits in large part due to a bizarre slip-up in the middle of a controversy over state support of the University of Wisconsin system a few years ago.

In that incident, UW raised tuition by 5.5 percent six years in a row after 2007. The school blamed stresses from the financial crisis and decreased state aid. But when pressed during a state committee hearing in 2013 about the university's finances, UW system president Kevin Reilly admitted they held $648 million in reserve, including $414 million in tuition payments. This was excess hidey-hole cash the school was sitting on, separate and distinct from, say, an endowment fund.

After the university was showered with criticism for hoarding cash at a time when it was gouging students with huge price increases every year, the school responded by saying, essentially, it only did what all the other kids were doing. UW released data showing that other major state-school systems across the country were similarly stashing huge amounts of cash. While Wisconsin's surplus was only 25 percent of its operating budget, for instance, Minnesota's was 29 percent, and Illinois maintained a whopping 34 percent reserve.

When Collinge, of Student Loan Justice, looked into it, he found that the phenomenon wasn't confined to state schools. Private schools, too, have been hoarding cash even as they plead poverty and jack up tuition fees. "They're all doing it," he says.

While universities sit on their stockpiles of cash and the loan industry generates record profits, the pain of living in debilitating debt for many lasts into retirement. Take Veronica Martish. She's a 68-year-old veteran, having served in the armed forces in the Vietnam era. She's also a grandmother who's never been in trouble and consid
ers herself a patriot. "The thing is, I tried to do everything right in my life. But this ruined my life."

This is an $8,000 student loan she took out in 1989, through Sallie Mae. She borrowed the money so she could take courses at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut. Five years later, after deaths in her family, she fell behind on her payments and entered a loan-rehabilitation program. "That's when my nightmare began," she says.

In rehabilitation, Martish's $8,000 loan, with fees and interest, ballooned into a $27,000 debt, which she has been carrying ever since. She says she's paid more than $63,000 to date and is nowhere near discharging the principal. "By the time I die," she says, "I will probably pay more than $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan. It's a scam, you see. Nothing ever comes off the loan. It's all interest and fees. And they chase you until you're old, like me. They never stop. Ever."

And that's the other thing about lending to students: It's the safest grift around.
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

Who Is Afraid Of The Iranian Bomb?
By Uri Avnery

I HATE self-evident truths.

Ideals may be self-evident. Political statements are not. When I hear about a self-evident political truth, I immediately doubt it.

The most self-evident political truth at this moment concerns Iran. Iran is our deadly enemy. Iran wants to destroy us. We must destroy its capabilities first.

Since this is self-evident, the anti-nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the five Security Council members (plus Germany) is terrible. Just terrible. We should have ordered the Americans long ago to bomb Iran to smithereens. In the unlikely event that they would have disobeyed us, we should have nuclear-bombed Iran ourselves, before their crazy fanatical leaders have the opportunity to annihilate us first.

All these are self-evident truths. To my mind, all of them are utter nonsense. There is nothing self-evident about them. Indeed, they have no logical basis at all. They lack any geopolitical, historical or factual foundation.

NAPOLEON ONCE said that if one wants to understand the behavior of a country, one has to look at the map.

Geography is more important than ideology, however fanatical. Ideologies change with time. Geography doesn't. The most fanatically ideological country in the 20th century was the Soviet Union. It abhorred its predecessor, Czarist Russia. It would have abhorred its successor, Putin's Russia. But lo and behold - the Czars, Stalin and Putin conduct more or less the same foreign policy. Karl Marx must be turning in his grave.

When the Biblical Israelite people was born, Persia was already a civilized country. King Cyrus of Persia sent the "Jews" to Jerusalem and founded what can be called the "Jewish people." He is remembered in Jewish history as a great benefactor.

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, David Ben-Gurion saw in Iran a natural ally. It may now sound strange, but not so long ago Iran was indeed the most pro-Israeli country in the Middle East.

Ben-Gurion was an out-and-out realist. Since he had no intention whatsoever to make peace with the Arabs, a peace which would have prevented the original small State of Israel expanding without boundaries, he looked for allies beyond the Arab world.

Looking at the map (yes, he believed in the map) he saw that the Muslim Arabs were surrounded by a number of non-Arab or non-Muslim entities. There were the Maronite Christians in Lebanon (not Muslims), the Turks (Muslims, but not Arabs), the Kurds (Muslims but not Arabs), Iran (Muslim, but not Arab), Ethiopia (neither Muslim nor Arab) and more.

Seeing this, Ben-Gurion devised a grand plan: a "partnership of the periphery", an alliance of all these entities surrounding the Arab world and which felt threatened by the emerging pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and other Sunni-Muslim-Arab states. ONE OF the greatest enthusiasts for this idea was the Shah of Iran, who became Israel's most ardent friend.

The "King of Kings" was a brutal dictator, hated by most of his people. But for many Israelis, Iran became a second home. Tehran became a Mecca for Israeli businessmen, some of whom became very rich. Experts of the Israeli Security Service, called Shabak (Hebrew initials of General Security Service) trained the Shah's detested secret police, called Savak.

High-ranking Israeli army commanders traveled freely through Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they trained the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fight against Saddam Hussein's regime. (The Shah, of course, did not dream of giving freedom to his own Kurdish minority.)

This paradise came to a sudden end when the Shah made a deal with Saddam Hussein, in order to save his throne. To no avail. Radical Shiite clerics, who were very popular, overthrew the Shah and established the Shiite Islamic republic. Israel was out.

By the way, another element of the "Periphery" broke away too. In 1954 Ben-Gurion and his army chief, Moshe Dayan, hatched a plan to attack Lebanon and establish a pro-Israeli Maronite dictator there. The then Prime Minister, Moshe Sharet, who knew something about the Arab world, nixed this adventure, which he considered stupid. Thirty years later Ariel Sharon, another ignoramus, implemented the same plan, with disastrous results.

In 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon. It duly installed a Maronite dictator, Basheer Jumayil, who signed a peace agreement with Israel and was soon assassinated. The Shiites, who populate the South of Lebanon, welcomed the Israeli army enthusiastically, believing that it would help them against the Sunni Muslims and withdraw. I was an eye-witness: driving alone in my civilian car from Metullah in Israel to Sidon on the Lebanon coast, I passed several Shiite villages and could hardly extricate myself (physically) from the embraces of the inhabitants.

However, when the Shiites realized that the Israelis had no intention of leaving, they started a guerrilla war against them. Thus Hezbollah was born and became one of Israel's most effective enemies - and an ally of the Shiite regime in Iran.

BUT IS the Shiite Iranian regime such a deadly enemy of Israel? I rather doubt it. Indeed, when the religious fanaticism of the new regime in Iran was at its height, a curious business occurred. It became known as "Iran-Contra" affair. Some conservatives in Washington DC wanted to arm rightist insurgents in leftist Nicaragua. American laws prevented them from doing so openly, so they turned to - who else? - Israel.

Israel sold arms to the Iranian Ayatollahs (yes, indeed!) and gave the proceeds to our Washington friends, who transferred them illegally to the Nicaraguan rightist terrorists, called "Contras."

The moral of the story: when it served their practical purposes, the Ayatollahs had no qualms at all about making deals with Israel, the "little Satan."

Iran needed the weapons Israel sent them because they were fighting a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was not the first one. For many centuries, Iraq served the Arab world as a bulwark against Iran. Iraq has a large Shiite population, but the Iraqi Shiites were Arabs and had no real sympathy for their fellow-Shiites in Iran. They still have little.

Israel helped Iran in that war because it feared Saddam Hussein. Therefore, Israel helped to convince the US to invade Iraq. The invasion was highly successful: Iraq was destroyed, and the historic bulwark against Iran disappeared. So it was Israel which helped to remove the main obstacle to Iran's hegemony over the Middle East.

Sounds crazy? Is crazy. Ben-Gurion's grand design has been stood on its head. At present, the "periphery" of Lebanon and Iran, supported by Turkey, is our mortal enemy, and the Sunni bloc of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Egypt are our open or half-secret allies.

HERE I hear the impatient reader shout: "Cut the bullshit, what about the nuclear danger? What about the mad ayatollahs obtaining atomic bombs and annihilating us?"

Well, I am not afraid. Even if Iran obtains nuclear bombs, I shall sleep well. Why, for God's (or Allah's) sake? Because Israel is well provided with nuclear weapons and a second-strike capability.

Bombing Israel would mean the annihilation of Iran, the multi-millennial civilization, the proud heritage of innumerable philosophers, artists, poets and scientists. (The very word "algorithm" is derived from the name of the Persian mathematician al-Khwarizmi).

The current Iranian rulers may be fanatics (I doubt it) but they are not suicidal. There is not a single indication in that direction. On the contrary, they seem eminently practical people.

So why do they clamor against Israel? Because their aim is to become the dominant force in the Muslim world, and cursing Israel is the obvious way. As long as Israel does not make peace with the Palestinians, the Arab and Muslim masses everywhere hate Israel. Iran's current leaders are very good at cursing the Little Satan.

Experts report that Islam has recently been losing strength as the main force in Iran, while Iranian nationalism has been gaining. The cult of Cyrus, who preceded Muhammad by more than 1200 years, is gaining ground.

SINCE THE nuclear bomb was invented, no nuclear-armed country has ever been attacked. Attacking a nuclear-armed country simply means suicide. Even the mighty USA (the "Big Satan") does not dare to attack little North Korea, whose endeavor to obtain a nuclear strike force is far from irrational.

So I shall sleep soundly even if Iran goes nuclear. Though perhaps with one eye half open.
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Those Magical, Fantastical Russians vs. U.S. Empire
By Glen Ford

The only people that can make Russiagate fade away are the ones that invented it in the first place: the spooks, Wall Street Democrats and institutional servants of capital that gathered in Hillary Clinton's overstuffed campaign tent, last year, to plot the next moves of a beleaguered U.S. empire.

Although a Bernie Sanders' upset in 2016 had always been a statistical impossibility, Donald Trump's capture of the Republican Party machinery had destabilized the duopoly political system at a time of great stress for U.S. imperialism.

The previous year, the Russian military had set up shop in Syria, blocking U.S.-backed jihadists from ousting the secular, Arab nationalist government of Bashar al Assad. It was Vladimir Putin's answer to the global military offensive launched by Barack Obama in 2011, with NATO's overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, followed immediately by the jihadist push into Syria; the Washington-engineered 2014 coup in Ukraine, on Russia's doorstep; and, also beginning in 2011, Obama's military "pivot" to the Pacific to confront China.

U.S. imperialism was on a roll, with a vengeance, occupying most of Africa and recovering the momentum lost with George W. Bush's humiliating defeat in Iraq. But Putin changed the game board in 2015, militarily intervening in Syria and declaring, with the world as his witness at the opening of the UN General Assembly, that the U.S. had been acting as a de facto ally of the very jihadists that it claimed to be fighting in its global war on terror. The 21st century's biggest lie had been exposed with a Russian megaphone, and confronted by Russian arms. America's jihadist foot soldiers were put on the run.

Perhaps even more fundamental, the bell tolled resoundingly on the terminal decline of U.S. empire when the International Monetary Fund announced that China had surpassed the United States as the world's biggest economy, based on "purchasing power parity." The "American Century" -- whenever it was supposed to have begun -- was now definitively over, despite the U.S. expending more on weapons than the rest of the world, combined. As 2014 came to end, Washington's mood turned morbid, yet meaner and more desperate than ever.

That same year, the domestic U.S. pot boiled over, as Black protest reawakened in Ferguson, Missouri, after a fitful, two-generation-long sleep. The centrality of race was reasserted in the world's first white settler state, further darkening the mood of a white populace whose skin privilege could not save them from the ravages of capitalist austerity and enforced, general precariousness. Donald Trump decided to make his move to seize the commanding heights of the White Man's Party.

The Orange Menace, a calculating real estate racist whose mass media marketing strategy is mistaken for "populism," ran a counter-establishment campaign that challenged the Lords of Capitals' right to move money and jobs across borders at will, and -- horror of horrors! -- questioned the need for the U.S. to wage endless wars around the world.

President Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership was already dead as the general election campaign began, but Trump's capture of the Republican Party -- the most reliable backer of the free flow of capital -- was deeply disturbing to the capitalist order. When Trump's mass base -- top-heavy with self-styled American "patriots" -- failed to recoil at their candidate's apparent willingness to explore some kind of detente with Russia, the national security state descended into utter panic. If Trump's "middle American" (white, socially right-wing) fans could not be counted on to give unquestioning support to U.S. imperial war policy, then where was the popular base to sustain Washington's military offensive in the world?

From that point on, Trump was viewed as an existential threat by most of the U.S. ruling class and its attendant national security and military-industrial complex sectors, and by the corporate media that represents their interests. They rushed into Hillary Clinton's Big Tent, claiming to make common cause with Blacks and other minorities. However, their actual agenda was preservation of the global capitalist order and sustaining the momentum of the U.S. military offensive that was begun in 2011.

The CIA, in particular, made Trump their National Security Enemy #1. They are the main architects of Russiagate -- a "conspiracy" in which the predicate Kremlin "crime" of DNC document-stealing remains unproven, and which pales into almost laughable insignificance when compared to decades of U.S. wars of regime change, economic strangulation, assassinations, and outright genocide around the world. Syria and Congo (6 million-plus dead) are crimes of the worst order known to humankind. Russiagate is a lie that would be no more than a Russian diplomatic blunder, even if true.

The corporate media are the public agents of the mass psychological operation. With media consolidation at such an advanced state, it turns out to be not all that difficult for a handful of media conglomerates, each tied inextricably to finance capital and in close collaboration with one of the corporate parties and all of the intelligence outfits, to create and sustain a "state of emergency" for a long period of time -- more than year, so far. This induced "state of emergency" is designed to prepare the American public, politically and psychologically, to maintain the momentum of the U.S. imperial offensive in the world, by demonizing Russia as an internal, as well as external, threat to the United States. In other words, Russiagate is an artificial crisis that was made necessary by the actual crisis of U.S. imperialism -- its economic decline and military dependence on jihadist foot soldiers, and just as importantly, the utter collapse of U.S. moral authority in the world.

The U.S. imperial orbit is shrinking, dramatically. Russiagate is the domestic response to this geopolitical reality. The real "conspirators" – the spooks, Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the Clintonite leaders of the Democratic Party, and the corporate media that serves them all -- are shrinking the American people's political vision to Halloween dimensions. Not only are there Russians lurking in every dark corner and under every bed, but they can buy a U.S. election or foment civil disturbance and political unrest for about $100,000 -- the price of a luxury car.

They are magical, fantastical, unreal.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Activists display signs at a march for immigrant rights on September 11, 2017, in Los Angeles, California.

Donald Trump, Child Of Immigrants, Seeks To Destroy Immigration
By William Rivers Pitt

We are all fully aware of the appalling terrorist attack that took place in New York City on Tuesday. Eight people were killed, including five classmates from Argentina who were in the city for a 30th anniversary school reunion. Eleven other people were injured, including Martin Marro of Newton, Massachusetts. Marro was also there for the reunion, having been a classmate of the five Argentinians who were lost. Martin Marro, like millions of Americans including the president's mother, is an immigrant.

Donald Trump encompassed the horror of the event and nearly broke both legs getting to his phone so he could blame the attack on Chuck Schumer and legal immigration -- via Twitter, of course. "The terrorist came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,'" he wrote, "a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based." All this while there was still blood on the bike path in Manhattan.

The function and history of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program is just complicated enough to make it an easy target for shameless grandstanders like the president. No, Chuck Schumer did not invent it. The program is the product of a bipartisan effort in the late 1980s to inspire more immigration from Western Europe, and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

There is nothing special or different about the vetting process for the Diversity Lottery. Over the years, as economies improved in Western Europe, the bulk of immigrants applying for the Diversity Lottery shifted to countries like Nigeria, Nepal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All that is required to enter the lottery is the equivalent of a high school diploma or work experience in a skilled profession. Most people in the world, for a variety of reasons, have little chance of successfully immigrating to the US. The Diversity Lottery is often their best and only opportunity. Some 9 million people from 200 different nations applied in 2015, but only 50,000 a year are selected.

All are vetted the same way any potential immigrant from any other program is vetted. There is nothing special or different about the vetting process for the Diversity Lottery. The Manhattan attacker, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, was vetted and admitted under this program. By all reports, he became radicalized only after arriving in the US. Unless a homegrown terrorist walks onto a stage and announces their intentions, there is no vetting process presently on the planet capable of sniffing them out before they act.

Tuesday's Twitter comments were only the beginning. Trump made some remarks on Wednesday before his cabinet meeting on the matter of immigration, and they amounted to the same verbal demolition derby we have all come to expect and dread:

"I am today starting the process of terminating the diversary lottery program. I'm going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program. Diversary and diversity lottery. Diversity lottery. Sounds nice. It's not nice. It's not good. It hasn't been good. We've been against it. So we want to immediately work with Congress on the Diversity Lottery Program, on terminating it, getting rid of it."
Let us pause a moment before getting to the meat of the matter to consider "Diversary." Twice. This was printed and distributed by the White House on the official letterhead of the press secretary. He finally got it right before raking it with his verbal machine gun -- "Sounds nice. It's not nice. It's not good. It hasn't been good. We've been against it." But it is worthy of note because something like this happens every single day.

Like all of us, every president endures the occasional wrestling match with the language. Obama had his "57 states" gaffe, and George W. Bush made so many linguistic blunders that people in Texas started naming their children "Nukular" because they thought it was a word. This, though ... along with the king of China thing, the president of the Virgin Islands thing, calling all Germans "evil, very evil," very publicly failing to understand the concept of the national debt and so many more moments that would be piled around us in vast snowdrifts if groans could be granted substance ... this speaks to a larger and more disturbing phenomenon.

Within those four examples live relations with our greatest international adversary and trade partner, the aftermath of the hurricanes, international relations with Europe and fundamental monetary policy. Every topic he touches with his tongue curdles like old milk. The man is not ignorant. He simply, brazenly, aggressively does not care to know what he is talking about when he opens his gob or pounces on his phone.

Immigration -- like China, the hurricanes, trade and finance -- is an incredibly serious issue that directly impacts the lives of millions and plays a massively important role in our national economy. It is part of who we are as a country, as the big green lady in the water off Manhattan will attest to. The white nationalists who infest Trump's administration and brain trust like so many goose-stepping fleas understand immigration down to the last detail. They despise it and want to end it. Trump is racist enough to let them write the copy, details take the hindmost, and if he drops yet another commentary cowpie in the pasture, so much the better: Another distraction for the corporate "news" people to follow.

The pre-cabinet aria continued:

"We want a merit-based program where people come into our country based on merit. And we want to get rid of chain migration. This man that came in -- or whatever you want to call him -- brought in, with him, other people ... So we want to get rid of chain migration, and we've wanted to do that for a long time. And I've been wanting to do it for a long time. And we'll be asking Congress to start working on it immediately. There are bills already about ending chain migration and we have a lot of good bills in there. We're being stopped by Democrats because they're obstructionists."
Fun fact: Without "chain migration," Donald Trump would not exist. If he did exist, he would be a Glasgow farmer stiffing the shepherds on grazing fees. In 1929, a 17-year-old woman named Mary Anne MacLeod boarded the SS Transylvania for passage from Scotland to the United States, where she joined her two sisters. In the fullness of time she had a son named Donald who would one day become president. Farther up Trump's family tree sits his paternal grandfather, a man named Friedrich Trump, who immigrated to the US with his family from Germany in 1885.

Back then, chain migration focused on bringing over people from the same villages and communities in order to foster continuity within new immigrant enclaves in the US. The process has evolved to one where "chains" of family members are allowed to immigrate in order to foster that same continuity. The Diversity Visa Lottery Program is one iteration of a process that now spans three centuries. It is how the bulk of immigration to the US takes place.

Trump and his fascist white-power cadre seek to obliterate this fundamental aspect of the United States, and the president is more than willing to use a gruesome terror attack to grease the skids. The fact that he doesn't know what he is talking about, and that his own existence is owed to the very programs he seeks to destroy, only adds yet another layer of embarrassing unreality to the spectacle that is his administration.

We cannot and must not allow Trump and his friends to fumble-mouth their way to a gross reimagining of an immigrant-free nation. Targeting immigrants as a political tactic is as old as the gangs of New York. It has worked in the past all too often. Not again. Never again.
(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.

Would You Trust John Yoo?
By Jim Hightower

Noting that the US military was developing armed, autonomous robots to serve as battleground soldiers in our wars, a 2015 New York Times article asked an important question: "Can they learn to make moral choices?"

But wait, what about us humans - when it comes to war, can we learn to make moral choices? Remember that President George W. Bush chose to torture al Qaeda suspects (including innocent civilians) by waterboarding them. Where was the morality in that? It was, of course, immoral. But, at the request of the White House, an ambitious, eager-to-please lawyer in the Justice Department wrote a memo that whitewashed waterboarding, summarily decreeing that such torture was not, technically, torture.

The author of that memo sanctioning Bush's immoral warfare was John Yoo. His name is relevant to the current question about robot morality, because Yoo is now at the American Enterprise Institute - a nest of far-right, neo-con war hawks - where he's become a leading booster of turning robots into our killing machines. In a September Wall Street Journal article, Yoo exults that, unlike humans, robots won't get fatigued in battle or become "emotionally involved" in the business of killing humans. Not merely cold-blooded warriors, these efficient machines are no-blooded - plus, they're much cheaper than a flesh-and-blood army.

But, you might ask, what if they go rogue, turning into an army of rampaging "Terminators" and using their artificial intelligence against us civilians? Tut-tut, says Yoo, admonishing us to "have more confidence in our ability to develop autonomous weapons within the traditional legal and political safeguards."

Huh? Come on, John - you're the guy who carelessly, flagrantly, and immorally violated those very safeguards in your torture memo! We're to trust you? No thanks.
(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

Ginger Zentzen speaks at a Minneapolis rally for a $15 minimum wage.

A Minneapolis Socialist Thanks The Local Paper For Not Endorsing Her
Ginger Jentzen, an anti-establishment candidate for City Council, makes a critique of local media part of her campaign.
By John Nichols

Newspaper endorsements still matter, particularly in the local elections that will be held across the country on November 7. But some newspapers are not going to endorse some candidates. Case in point: Newspapers that are owned by wealthy investors or multinational corporations have a tendency to dismiss candidates who run as socialists-and that is even more true when these anti-establishment contenders propose to use the power of local government to "tax the rich," "stop out-of-control rent hikes," and "challenge corporate power."

What to do?

Candidates who seek to change the broken politics of our times cannot ignore the role that media play in local, state, and national elections. They have to address it. So Ginger Jentzen, a living-wage activist who is running a serious campaign for an open seat on the Minneapolis City Council, greeted her rejection by the major paper in town by celebrating the fact that she was not endorsed.

The influential Minneapolis Star Tribune went out of its way to make clear that it did not favor Jentzen-explaining that, in a four-candidate field, she was not the paper's first, second, or third choice.

Minneapolis has a ranked-choice voting system where voters can rank up to three different candidates for a City Council seat. As the city's superb "Elections & Voter Services" team explains:

Each ballot will have three repeating columns. In each office, voters will complete the ballot from left to right, indicating their first choice for each race in the first column by filling in the oval next to the selected candidate's name. If voters wish to rank different second and third choices, they will select them in the second and third columns on the ballot.
Election officials explain that, once the votes are cast
[o]n Election Night, ballot counting machines will be used to provide first-round results, counting every first-choice selection. Candidates who have enough first-choice votes to win their particular races will be declared winners. Races in which it is not possible to determine winners solely on the first-choice rankings will proceed to round-by-round RCV tabulation beginning the day following the election.… Candidates with no mathematical possibility of winning (including the candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes) are defeated, and votes for those candidates are transferred to the next ranked candidate on those ballots. Votes are re-tallied. If no candidate reaches the threshold to be elected, this process is repeated until either a candidate reaches the required threshold and is declared the winner, or only two candidates remain and the candidate with the most votes is elected.
The Star Tribune is one of the dwindling number of metropolitan daily newspapers nationwide that still make an effort to cover, analyze, and express preferences in the myriad urban and suburban contests for mayor, city-council and school-board seats, and other posts on off-year election ballots. That's an admirable commitment. But it can also be controversial, especially in a new-media moment when there are so many avenues for responding to traditional media.

Historically, the Star Tribune was criticized by Minnesota conservatives for being too liberal. But when billionaire businessman Glen Taylor bought the paper in 2014, the longtime Republican signaled that changes would be made. MinnPost, a local news and analysis website, explored the issue with Taylor in a piece headlined: "New owner Glen Taylor: less liberal Star Tribune ahead."

The paper, which has endorsed plenty of Democrats and Republicans in recent years, still takes some hits from hard-line conservatives. But this year the paper is also taking flak from a serious contender who has pushed beyond narrow partisan and ideological boundaries and seeks a deeper debate about fundamental economic and social issues. In Jentzen's District 3 City Council race, the Star Tribune praised the three contenders it was recommending-including candidates backed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) and Green parties. Then a curt final line noted: "The other candidate in the race is Ginger Jentzen, 32, the Socialist Alternative Party candidate and rent-control advocate." (Read the full editorial here.)

In fact, Jentzen is a high-profile activist in the community who served as the executive director of 15 Now, a grassroots campaign that championed enactment of the city's groundbreaking $15-an-hour minimum-wage law. (The weekly City Pages newspaper describes her as "the face of the movement to raise the city's minimum wage to $15" and says of her council run that, "much to the chagrin of Minneapolis' reigning power structure, she just might win.")

Jentzen is an anti-establishment candidate. She is not running with the backing of the DFL, which has dominated local politics for decades, and she's certainly not a favorite of the Republican Party. But she is backed by the Minnesota Nurses Association, the Minnesota State Council of the Communications Workers of America, the United Transportation Union's Minnesota Legislative Board, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Twin Cities branch of Our Revolution

The Jentzen campaign is highlighting all those endorsements.

The campaign is also highlighting its biggest non-endorsement.

"We're proud to be the only campaign not endorsed by the billionaire-owned Star Tribune," announced the Socialist Alternative candidate's website after the Star Tribune ran what the campaign terms an "Anybody But Ginger" editorial.

It's no surprise that in Ward 3, the Star Tribune endorsed anybody but Ginger. The Star Tribune's owner, billionaire businessman and Timberwolves [NBA basketball team] owner Glen Taylor, is a major Republican donor who has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the [Republican National Committee] and to conservative politicians like Michele Bachmann and George Bush. Time and time again, the Star Tribune has vehemently opposed pro-worker policies and been a mouthpiece of big business.

While Ginger led the grassroots movement to win a $15 minimum wage, the Star Tribune called on City Council to reject $15 and advocated that the Working Families Agenda be "scrapped." While Ginger calls for taxing the rich, the Star Tribune supported corporate welfare to fund the [Minnesota Vikings football] stadium.

Jentzen's camp has noted that several Star Tribune endorsements paralleled those of the developer-funded "Minneapolis Works!" political action committee, which has flooded the 3rd district with mailings that attack her as "a self-proclaimed socialist" who is "nuts (and dangerous)" for promoting rent control and progressive taxation.

We're proud to be the only campaign in Ward 3 not endorsed by the billionaire-owned Star Tribune. We're proud that, instead, we're endorsed by union nurses, communication workers, the Sierra Club, and other Bernie [Sanders] supporters like Our Revolution Twin Cities and Dr. Cornel West....

We can't let big developer money and the corporate media sway this election. Together, let's make history and win a voice in Minneapolis City Hall that's fully accountable to working people.

This Minneapolis City Council election is one of thousands of local contests in cities, villages, and towns across the country this fall. But, as with the 2013 Seattle City Council race that saw the election of Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant, this one could send a powerful signal regarding the ability of anti-establishment candidates who embrace "the S word" to upset the traditional political calculus-and the traditional media calculus.
(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.

The Great Social Security Heist
By James Donahue

Back in the early 1960's when my late wife and I first began employment and building a potential nest egg for our future, we were shocked to discover how much the government was deducting from our paychecks each week for Social Security.

We were not earning much in those days. I remember that my first job paid something like seventy-five cents an hour. My wife, who slipped into a post where she was running a small hospital laboratory, was earning somewhat more. Our income was more than enough to cover our costs of living.

Even then we calculated that if we could take the money deducted from our weekly paychecks for Social Security and invest it in personal low risk bonds promising a steady interest return we had the potential of becoming quite wealthy if we remained on the job for the next 40 years. I remember there was a rebellion among the hospital workers at that time. They wanted to withdraw from Social Security and create their own retirement plan. But the government refused to allow this to happen.

We were forced to accept Social Security. In the long run I realized it was probably a good thing because once the children arrived we were usually short of cash and setting aside money to build a savings account was considered next to impossible. Other retirement plans like 401K and personal retirement accounts were invented over the years to back up our so-called nest-egg. Once we retired we were glad to have the Social Security checks each month to fall back on.

Now, under the Trump Administration, the ultra-conservative Republicans are plotting to steal the money we were forced to invest all of our working lives. The plan is to start a national cover-up of the vast government heist by calling those monthly checks "Federal Benefit Payments."

We need to clarify the implication here. These payments aren't part of a "benefit." It was money we paid from our weekly earned income. While we were making our payments, our employers were matching them. The amount paid into our retirement amounted to 15 percent of our income before taxes.

If we averaged a modest income of just $30,000 a year during our working life, we would have accumulated nearly $180,000 in Social Security. As it was, those meager early paychecks quickly grew as inflation swept the nation. Most of us earned far more than $30,000 a year. And those numbers doubled when both husbands and wives were on the job.

The Social Security program was designed to grow into a large nest of cash to accommodate a nation of workers, wives, children and retired people and assure everyone some quality of life, no matter what their situation. I recall a staff meeting at one of the newspapers I worked at where we were advised that in the beginning, it was calculated that most people would only draw Social Security checks for about a year or two after retiring at age 65. The average life span when Social Security began apparently was just 67 or 68 years.

Now if my wife and I had been allowed to carry out our original plan to invest this money into a personal retirement account, with interest compounded at only one percent monthly, our nest egg could easily have climbed to well over a million dollars. That isn't considered a lot in today's market, but it is far better than the meager payments averaging $1,230 a month now received.

If we had accumulated over a million dollars in retirement funds, and began withdrawing only three percent of that money per year, we would be receiving payments of over $3,000 a month. That is more than double what the government is paying.

Do you get the sense here that the American workers have been ripped off by their trusted legislators?

Indeed, if our government had only invested that money in low-risk, interest-earning accounts, our monthly checks would have been quite spectacular. Not only did they fail to invest the money, our legislators literally stole it.

Dan Perrin, a Social Security advocate, reports that the money poured into Social Security over the years should have left a current balance of about $2.85 Trillion Dollars. But Congress appears to have spent it all. Most of the money went for war.

They called it borrowing, but the money "borrowed" from Social Security has never been paid back. And now we are being told that because people are living longer, and because of inflation and a growing population, the Social Security system is running out of enough money to assure future workers a good retirement program. This, of course, is a lie.

The Republicans are beginning to refer to Social Security and Medicare programs (which we also paid for) as "charity."

Don't let them fool you. It is our money. We paid dearly for these programs, sometimes against our will. And now we want to get back what is rightfully ours. Never let them get away with calling those monthly payments a benefit.
(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.

Whoa, says Sen. Sanders. "Trump as a candidate promised the American people one thing, as president he is doing the exact opposite.

As President, Trump Doing Exact Opposite of What He Promised On The Campaign Trail
In the year since his election, Trump has repeatedly reneged on his promises by supporting the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of working families
By Bernie Sanders

When Donald Trump campaigned for president, he told the American people that he would stand up for the working class and take on the political and economic establishment. One year since his election, he has repeatedly reneged on his promises by supporting the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of working families.

During his campaign, candidate Trump said that he was going to "drain the swamp." Now that he is president, Trump has brought more billionaires into his administration than any president.

While campaigning, Trump told the American people he was going to provide health "insurance for everybody." As president, he supported a disastrous bill that would have thrown millions off of health insurance, substantially raised premiums for older workers and defunded Planned Parenthood.

As a candidate, Trump said he understood the pain of working families. His budget would slash funding for affordable housing, college financial aid and Head Start.

And while Trump wants to make devastating cuts to programs that working families desperately need, he is working overtime to provide a massive tax break to billionaires like himself.

During the campaign, Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in our nation's infrastructure to create millions of jobs. Instead, Trump's budget would cut funding to repair our roads, bridges, railways and water facilities.

As a candidate, Trump promised he would not cut Medicare or Medicaid. Now he supports a budget that calls for $473 billion in cuts to Medicare and more than $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid.

On the campaign trail, Trump said he would stop the pharmaceutical industry from "getting away with murder." Trump's pick to head the Food and Drug Administration received millions of dollars from pharmaceutical corporations and is strongly opposed to lowering drug prices.

During the election, Trump promised to "stop Wall Street from getting away with murder." As president, Trump signed an executive order to deregulate the same financial institutions whose illegal behavior caused millions of Americans to lose their homes, jobs and life savings.

In other words, Trump as a candidate promised the American people one thing, as president he is doing the exact opposite.

But simply stopping Trump's agenda is not enough. We can join every other major country and guarantee healthcare to all as a right. We can demand that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. We can create millions of decent paying jobs by rebuilding our nation's infrastructure. We can reform our broken criminal justice system and pass comprehensive immigration reform. We can raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and make public colleges and universities tuition-free.

Together we need to build a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%.
(c) 2017 Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders

Jared And The Other Crown Prince
By Heather Digby Parton

Now we know why Trump likes the new Saudi Arabian despot so much.

"The Saudi Vision 2030 is increasingly turning out to be a failure in economic terms. It has more and more the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme. This new city, Neom, in the Gulf of Aqaba that is supposed to attract five hundred billion dollars of investment and where normal rules of Saudi society aren't going to apply-meaning women can do things-will have more robots than people. This isn't serious. This is the kind of thing used to divert people from the real issues," Riedel said.
And the consequences look like they may be perfectly Trumpian too:
The Crown Prince's regional strategy has also either stalled or backfired, too. "His signature policy is the Yemen war, which has come home to haunt Riyadh," Riedel, now at the Brookings Institution, said. "Its Qatar blockade is a failure. It wants Qatar to be like Bahrain, just an appendage. And Qatar hasn't given in."
Those are excerpts from a new story in the New Yorker about the current events in Saudi Arabia. It's complicated and like all stories about Middle East politics it seems to depend upon who you talk to and what angle you choose to take.

Keep your eyes on this:

As David Ignatius wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday, the 32-year-old crown prince has developed a special relationship with the person closest to holding that title in America - Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and adviser.

According to Ignatius, the Saudi royal was emboldened to make his move by the support he has received from members of Trump's inner circle, who view him as "a kindred disrupter of the status quo" with a Trump-like combination of populism and personal wealth. Kushner is seen as key among these backers, and spent days with the prince during a trip to the kingdom last month. "The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy," Ignatius reported.

What could go wrong?
(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.

Democracy Works When We Don't Forfeit It To The Oil Industry
Corporations can't vote, but by putting enormous amounts of money into campaigns and lobbying, they can hijack the political agenda.
By David Suzuki

I consider voting a privilege and a responsibility. But I wish politicians would take their responsibility to voters more seriously. We elect them to represent us. Sometimes our interests coincide with corporate priorities. After all, corporations create jobs and economic opportunities, and often develop products and services citizens need. Corporations can't vote, but by putting enormous amounts of money into campaigns and lobbying, they can hijack the political agenda.

That's the case with the fossil fuel industry - the most profitable in human history. It's taken such hold on the U.S. that the current administration refuses to accept advice and research from climate scientists, biologists, military experts, economists and others who warn that continuing to burn fossil fuels will steer us to climate catastrophe, with horrendous impacts on agriculture, human migration, health, security, the economy and resources, and that failing to act will be far more costly and lacking in economic opportunity than confronting the challenge.

Canadians shouldn't be smug. Although most of our elected representatives acknowledge climate change and the need to act, some have been compromised by the fossil fuel industry. Many people expected changes in 2015 when the Liberals won the federal election and the NDP won Alberta's election. The new governments said the right things and came up with reasonably good plans but then continued to approve and promote fossil fuel development and infrastructure to the extent that one has to question whether they understand the urgency of the climate crisis.

As former Alberta Liberal Party leader and Oil's Deep State author Kevin Taft writes in a Maclean's article, "The link between fossil fuels and global warming has been known since the 1980s, and so has the solution to global warming: phasing out fossil fuels. Rather than accepting the science and adapting to other sources of energy, the oil industry has developed an aggressive campaign to obscure the science and advance its own interests."

In Oil's Deep State, Taft outlines how the oil industry worked to influence governments and their bureaucracies, as well as public institutions like universities. From the 1980s and into the '90s, Taft writes in Maclean's, "University and government scientists conducted research; civil servants prepared plans and legislation to reduce emissions; political parties committed to action; and Canada's Parliament endorsed international climate change agreements." Then the Harper government pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, cut research funding and silenced scientists. Since their 2015 election, the federal Liberals and Alberta NDP have maintained support for fossil fuel projects and infrastructure.

In early October, federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand gave the government a failing grade on climate change, noting only five of 19 government departments she looked at had even assessed climate risks and how to deal with them.

Taft also examines how oil money has compromised universities' independence. A recent report by the University of Western Ontario's Alison Hearn and York University's Gus Van Harten backs him up, showing Enbridge funding for the University of Calgary created conflicts of interest, compromised academic freedom and gave the company influence over decision-making.

It's not the first time the University of Calgary has been caught up in oil industry scandals. In 2004, political science professor Barry Cooper set up research accounts to secretly funnel donations, mostly from oil and gas industries, to the misnamed group Friends of Science for its efforts to dispute climate science and reject the Kyoto Protocol.

Taft also examines the case of Bruce Carson, a senior adviser to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was appointed to set up an energy institute at the University of Calgary and later convicted on three counts of illegal lobbying on behalf of the oil industry.

In a Desmog Blog interview, Taft says, "The universities, starting in the 1960s, were the foundation of much of the scientific research underlying global warming. To win the battle and delay action on global warming, the oil industry needed to gain influence in universities to smother or distort or counter the science that was coming out. And they succeeded substantially."

Democracy works - if we participate. But it doesn't function well if we forfeit our rights to corporate interests. We must speak out at the ballot box and between elections, and tell politicians our support depends on them putting our interests first.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

It Wasn't Just Sutherland Springs On Sunday
Take a look around the country.
By Charles P. Pierce

As long as we're on the subject, Sutherland Springs was not the only place in America where there were multiple gunshot murders at services this Sunday. From The Fresno Bee:

A divorce turned deadly Sunday morning when a Fresno man waiting at a church parking lot shot and killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend after they emerged from Mass at St. Alphonsus Church in southwest Fresno. The husband, Manuel Garcia, 64, then drove to the family home 11 blocks away and, as SWAT officers massed outside, took his own life, police said… Martha Garcia, 61, died at the parking lot. More than an hour later, her body, covered by a blue tarp, was still lying between two cars. The man, age 51, was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died Sunday night. Police chief Jerry Dyer earlier in the day did not release the man's name so family could be notified.
And, as long as we're on the subject, Sutherland Springs and Fresno were not the only places in America over the past few days where ordinary life was punctuated by deadly gun violence. From The Denver Post:
Ostrem allegedly used a handgun to shoot the three people in Walmart, Avila said. According to several witnesses the 6:10 p.m. shooting at the Walmart Supercenter, 9901 Grant St., appeared to be random, Avila said. "He walked in very nonchalantly with his hands in the pockets, raised a weapon and began shooting. Then he turns around and walks out of the store," Avila said. "From what we have right now it appears to be random. It's a crazy world we live in."
And it turns out, according to the LA Times via The Chicago Tribune, that the Wal-Mart shooting was complicated because there were so many Good Guys With Guns drawing down after the shooting that they screwed up the investigation.

Police began combing through store security camera footage to identify him and determined whether he had an accomplice. "Once the building was safe.... we started reviewing that [surveillance video] as quickly as we could," Victor Avila, a spokesman for the Thornton Police Department, told reporters. But the videos showed several people in the store with their guns drawn. That forced detectives to watch more video, following the armed shoppers throughout the store in an effort to distinguish the good guys from the bad guy, Avila said. Investigators went "back to ground zero" several times as they struggled to pinpoint the suspect, he said.

Two churches and a big box store. Thirty-one people dead.

Life's hard in a free society.
(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 corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent."
~~~ Gore Vidal

A New Armistice Day
By David Swanson

Exactly at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 99 years ago, people across Europe suddenly stopped shooting guns at each other. Up until that moment, they were killing and taking bullets, falling and screaming, moaning and dying. Then they stopped, on schedule. It wasn't that they'd gotten tired or come to their senses. Both before and after 11 o'clock they were simply following orders. The Armistice agreement that ended World War I had set 11 o'clock as quitting time.

And then the world had a party, the likes of which we have not seen or dreamed of - a party now in bad need of a sequel.

Each year, for a lot of years, there was a remembrance on November 11th. The U.S. Congress called Armistice Day a holiday to "perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, a day dedicated to the cause of world peace." When churches rang their bells at 11:00, that's what they meant. And they meant it right up until the war on Korea, the one the North Koreans all still remember with shudders of horror. And then Congress turned Armistice Day into Veterans Day, and veterans into props for marketing more wars and a permanent state of war preparations.

What we need now is a brand new armistice. Pick a day and a time, I don't care when. Pick 11-11-11 again - why not? - and plan a party like it's Armistice 99.

I'm serious. What would happen if, at that hour, the United States and Saudi Arabia ceased bombing Yemen? What if the ports opened and the food and the doctors and the journalists rushed into that hell to begin undoing the damage? What would be the harm in that?

What if, at that very hour, guns ceased to fire, drones ceased to buzz, bombs and white phosphorus ceased to fall across the world, in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Niger, Congo, Sudan, Mexico, Kenya, Turkey? What would be the harm? Who would miss the carnage? Who would object to the biggest force for death and disease and famine and environmental destruction taking a pause? Who would protest an end to the central justification for secretive and authoritarian government?

Armistice Day 99 would mean a miraculous transformation in the lives of many millions of people through the ending of wars we hardly hear about, plus the end of all the threats of new wars that we do hear about. New wars cannot be threatened in the Armistice Era. Instead, the bases and troops and weapons and provocations that risk the new wars have to be shut down, brought home, and converted into beneficial and sustainable enterprises.

Instead of Veterans For Peace groups hiring lawyers to argue for their right to participate in Veterans Day parades - part of the annual tradition for many years now - they could hire musicians for the celebration!

Kurt Vonnegut, a U.S. World War II veteran, wrote in 1973: "Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not. So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things." Let's create such things anew.
(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.

Billionaire al-Walid Bin Talal was among those arrested

Saudis' Saturday Night Massacre: Princes, Cabinet Members Arrested
By Juan Cole

King Salman of Saudi Arabia created a high-powered "anti-corruption" commission on Saturday, appointing his son, the crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, to head it. The committee is a sort of star chamber, with wide powers to freeze bank accounts, ground private jets, and order suspects jailed.

Almost immediately after the announcement, ten princes, four sitting cabinet members, and several former cabinet secretaries were abruptly charged with corruption and taken into custody. The princes are being held at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton, since 'there is no jail for princes.'

One of those arrested is al-Waleed Bin Talal, the billionaire owner of Kingdom Holdings, who is a major shareholder in Twitter, CitiBank, Four Seasons, and Lyft, among other things (and until recently a shareholder in Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp.)

While no doubt there is corruption in Saudi Arabia, this move is more likely a power grab by the crown prince.

Indeed, it looks very much like Vladimir Putin's destruction of those Russian oligarchs who got in his way. In essence, the crown prince is cutting the Saudi oligarchs down to size.

Mohammad Bin Salman has many advantages over Putin. The crown prince already controls media inside the kingdom, as well as the appointment of governorships (though some of those arrested had media outlets, such as al-Waleed's Rotana). Putin had to strive hard to obtain leverage over those institutions.

When the smoke clears, look for Mohammad Bin Salman and his circle to have consolidated power dramatically.
(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...

Matt modeling his prison orange

Heil Trump,

Dear Unterfuhrer Gaetz,

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 bill to remove Robert Mueller before he makes Trump and Pence take their Perp-Walk, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Trump's Most Damning Legacy
By Robert Reich

In a radio interview on Thursday, Trump said "the saddest thing is, because I am the President of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things I would love to be doing."

Trump then asked, referring to the Department and the FBI, "why aren't they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with her dossier?"

In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump directly called on the Justice Department and the FBI to "do what is right and proper" by launching criminal probes of Hillary Clinton.

Trump's obvious aim was to deflect attention from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of his campaign, and of the indictments issued against his campaign aides.

But by calling on the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton, and lamenting he cannot do "the kind of things I would love to be doing," Trump crossed a particularly dangerous line.

In a democracy bound by the rule of law, presidents do not prosecute their political opponents. Nor, until now, have they tried to stir up public anger toward their former opponents.

Our democratic system of government depends on presidents putting that system above their own partisan aims.

As Harvard political scientist Archon Fung has noted, once an election is over, candidates' graciousness to one another is an important demonstration of their commitment to the democratic system over the specific outcomes they fought to achieve.

This helps reestablish civility and social cohesion. It reminds the public that our allegiance is not toward a particular person or party but to our system of government.

Think of Al Gore's concession speech to George W. Bush in 2000, after five weeks of a bitterly contested election and just one day after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Bush. "I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country."

Gore publicly bowed to the institutions of our democracy. "Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it ... And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."

Bush's response to Gore was no less gracious: "Vice president Gore and I put our hearts and hopes into our campaigns; we both gave it our all. We shared similar emotions. I understand how difficult this moment must be for vice president Gore and his family. He has a distinguished record of service to our country as a congressman, a senator and as vice president."

Many voters continued to doubt the legitimacy of Bush's victory, but there was no social unrest, no civil war. Americans didn't retreat into warring tribes.

Think of what might have occurred if Gore had bitterly accused Bush of winning fraudulently, and blamed the five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court for siding with Bush for partisan reasons.

Think of what might have happened if, during his campaign, Bush had promised to put Gore in jail for various improprieties, and then, after he won, called on the Justice Department and the FBI to launch a criminal investigation of Gore.

These statements - close to ones that Donald Trump has actually made - might have imperiled the political stability of the nation.

Instead, Gore and Bush made the same moral choice their predecessors made at the end of every previous American presidential election, and for the same reason.

They understood that the demonstrations of respect for each other and for the Constitution confirmed the nation's commitment to our system of government. This was far more important than their own losses or wins.

Donald Trump has no such concern.

This is the essence of Trump's failure as president - not that he has chosen one set of policies over another, or has lied repeatedly and chronically, or even that he has behaved in childish and vindictive ways unbecoming a president.

It is that he has sacrificed the processes and institutions of American democracy to achieve his own selfish ends.

By saying and doing whatever he believes it takes for him to come out on top, Donald Trump has abused the trust we place in a president to preserve and protect the nation's capacity for self-government.

This will be his most damaging and most damning legacy.
(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

A Minneapolis protest on Jan. 20, the day of Donald Trump's inauguration

The Cost Of Resistance
By Chris Hedges

Resistance entails suffering. It requires self-sacrifice. It accepts that we may be destroyed. It is not rational. It is not about the pursuit of happiness. It is about the pursuit of freedom. Resistance accepts that even if we fail, there is an inner freedom that comes with defiance, and perhaps this is the only freedom, and true happiness, we will ever know. To resist evil is the highest achievement of human life. It is the supreme act of love. It is to carry the cross, as the theologian James Cone reminds us, and to be acutely aware that what we are carrying is also what we will die upon.

Most of those who resist-Sitting Bull, Emma Goldman, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.-are defeated, at least in the cold calculation of the powerful. The final, and perhaps most important quality of resistance, as Cone writes, is that it "inverts the world's value system." Hope rises up out of defeat. Those who resist stand, regardless of the cost, with the crucified. This is their magnificence and their power.

The seductive inducements to conformity-money, fame, prizes, generous grants, huge book contracts, hefty lecture fees, important academic and political positions and a public platform-are scorned by those who resist. The rebel does not define success the way the elites define success. Those who resist refuse to kneel before the idols of mass culture and the power elites. They are not trying to get rich. They do not want to be part of the inner circle of the powerful. They accept that when you stand with the oppressed you get treated like the oppressed.

The inversion of the world's value system makes freedom possible. Those who resist are free not because they have attained many things or high positions, but because they have so few needs. They sever the shackles used to keep most people enslaved. And this is why the elites fear them. The elites can crush them physically, but they cannot buy them off.

The power elites attempt to discredit those who resist. They force them to struggle to make an income. They push them to the margins of society. They write them out of the official narrative. They deny them the symbols of status. They use the compliant liberal class to paint them as unreasonable and utopian.

Resistance is not, fundamentally, political. It is cultural. It is about finding meaning and expression in the transcendent and the incongruities of life. Music, poetry, theater and art sustain resistance by giving expression to the nobility of rebellion against the overwhelming forces, what the ancient Greeks called fortuna, which can never ultimately be overcome. Art celebrates the freedom and dignity of those who defy malignant evil. Victory is not inevitable, or at least not victory as defined by the powerful. Yet in every act of rebellion we are free. It was the raw honesty of the blues, spirituals and work chants that made it possible for African-Americans to endure.

Power is a poison. It does not matter who wields it. The rebel, for this reason, is an eternal heretic. He or she will never fit into any system. The rebel stands with the powerless. There will always be powerless people. There will always be injustice. The rebel will always be an outsider.

Resistance requires eternal vigilance. The moment the powerful are no longer frightened, the moment the glare of the people is diverted and movements let down their guard, the moment the ruling elites are able to use propaganda and censorship to hide their aims, the gains made by resisters roll backward. We have been steadily stripped of everything that organized working men and women-who rose up in defiance and were purged, demonized and killed by the capitalist elites-achieved with the New Deal. The victories of African-Americans, who paid with their bodies and blood in making possible the Great Society and ending legal segregation, also have been reversed.

The corporate state makes no pretense of addressing social inequality or white supremacy. It practices only the politics of vengeance. It uses coercion, fear, violence, police terror and mass incarceration as social control. Our cells of resistance have to be rebuilt from scratch.

The corporate state, however, is in trouble. It has no credibility. All the promises of the "free market," globalization and trickle-down economics have been exposed as a lie, an empty ideology used to satiate greed. The elites have no counterargument to their anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist critics. The attempt to blame the electoral insurgencies in the United States' two ruling political parties on Russian interference, rather than massive social inequality-the worst in the industrialized world-is a desperate ploy. The courtiers in the corporate press are working feverishly, day and night, to distract us from reality. The moment the elites are forced to acknowledge social inequality as the root of our discontent is the moment they are forced to acknowledge their role in orchestrating this inequality. This terrifies them.

The U.S. government, subservient to corporate power, has become a burlesque. The last vestiges of the rule of law are evaporating. The kleptocrats are pillaging and looting like barbarian hordes. Programs instituted to protect the common good-public education, welfare and environmental regulations-are being dismantled. The bloated military, sucking the marrow out of the nation, is unassailable. Poverty is a nightmare for half the population. Poor people of color are gunned down with impunity in the streets. Our prison system, the world's largest, is filled with the destitute. And presiding over the chaos and the dysfunction is a political P.T. Barnum, a president who, while we are being fleeced, offers up one bizarre distraction after another, much like Barnum's Feejee mermaid-the head and torso of a monkey sewed to the back half of a fish.

There is no shortage of artists, intellectuals and writers, from Martin Buber and George Orwell to James Baldwin, who warned us that this dystopian era was fast approaching. But in our Disneyfied world of intoxicating and endless images, cult of the self and willful illiteracy, we did not listen. We will pay for our negligence.

Søren Kierkegaard argued that it was the separation of intellect from emotion, from empathy, that doomed Western civilization. The "soul" has no role in a technocratic society. The communal has been shattered. The concept of the common good has been obliterated. Greed is celebrated. The individual is a god. The celluloid image is reality. The artistic and intellectual forces that make transcendence and the communal possible are belittled or ignored. The basest lusts are celebrated as forms of identity and self-expression. Progress is defined exclusively by technological and material advancement. This creates a collective despair and anxiety that feeds and is fed by glitter, noise and false promises of consumer-culture idols. The despair grows ever-worse, but we never acknowledge our existential dread. As Kierkegaard understood, "the specific character of despair is precisely this: it is unaware of being despair."

Those who resist are relentlessly self-critical. They ask the hard questions that mass culture, which promises an unachievable eternal youth, fame and financial success, deflects us from asking. What does it mean to be born? What does it mean to live? What does it mean to die? How do we live a life of meaning? What is justice? What is truth? What is beauty? What does our past say about our present? How do we defy radical evil?

We are in the grip of what Kierkegaard called "sickness unto death"-the numbing of the soul by despair that leads to moral and physical debasement. Those who are ruled by rational abstractions and an aloof intellectualism, Kierkegaard argued, are as depraved as those who succumb to hedonism, cravings for power, violence and predatory sexuality. We achieve salvation when we accept the impediments of the body and the soul, the limitations of being human, yet despite these limitations seek to do good. This burning honesty, which means we always exist on the cusp of despair, leaves us, in Kierkegaard's words, in "fear and trembling." We struggle not to be brutes while acknowledging we can never be angels. We must act and then ask for forgiveness. We must be able to see our own face in the face of the oppressor.

The theologian Paul Tillich did not use the word "sin" to mean an act of immorality. He, like Kierkegaard, defined sin as estrangement. For Tillich, it was our deepest existential dilemma. Sin was our separation from the forces that give us ultimate meaning and purpose in life. This separation fosters the alienation, anxiety, meaninglessness and despair that are preyed upon by mass culture. As long as we fold ourselves inward, embrace a perverted hyper-individualism that is defined by selfishness and narcissism, we will never overcome this estrangement. We will be separated from ourselves, from others and from the sacred.

Resistance is not only about battling the forces of darkness. It is about becoming a whole and complete human being. It is about overcoming estrangement. It is about the capacity to love. It is about honoring the sacred. It is about dignity. It is about sacrifice. It is about courage. It is about being free. Resistance is the pinnacle of human existence.
(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
~~~ Kirk Walters ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

John Kelly tries to get his lies straight

Trump Takes Aim At His Own Feet
Never question a four star general, but calling a Gold Star widow a liar is A-OK
By Will Durst

Like the previous week and every one since February, the last seven day period has been a perfect example of why the current administration gets less traction than a flamingo wearing galoshes on an ice rink. The problem is Donald Trump: King of the unforced error, who shoots himself in the foot so many times, it's amazing he has either of his knees left.

The week started out innocently enough. A reporter asked why the White House hadn't mentioned the four Green Berets killed in Niger two weeks earlier. Misunderstanding the query, the president said he was preparing to call the families of the fallen. That wasn't the question, but it would have been fine if he stopped there. But he didn't and proceeded to take aim with a shotgun at his shoes.

Shifting focus, the president targeted his Oval Office predecessors by saying "most of them didn't make calls." It was a statement that raised the hackles of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and every other president going back to the first John Adams.

In an attempt to stem the continuing negative press covfefe, Trump hastily called a Gold Star widow who was on the way to pick up her husband's remains and consoled her by saying "your guy" "knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway." It was as comforting as cuddling up to a quiver of poisoned arrows in a barbed wire sleeping bag.

Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson recounted the conversation, having been in the car with her close friend, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, when the president called on speakerphone. Trump insisted he never said what the Congresswoman said he said and he had proof. But the proof was never identified or revealed or spoken of again. Proof go poof!

The next day the White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, a Gold Star father as well as a retired four star Marine general, showed up at a press conference with a rhetorical mop and said, yes, Trump did say what the Congresswoman said he said, but only because he, John Kelly, told him to say it. The president simply did it inelegantly. Our rookie president may have many skills, but touchy-feely is not one of them.

Kelly went on to refer to Congresswoman Wilson as an "empty barrel," saying he was stunned she listened in on the call, ignoring the fact he was listening as well. Being "stunned" the phone call you were listening in on was being monitored by someone else is like expressing "shock" the wallet you ripped off was stolen.

Kelly has been reluctant to speak publicly of his son's death, but touched on it to defend his boss, recklessly squandering the credibility of the Adult Supervision Office. Press Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about inconsistencies in Kelly's account, and said questioning the word of a four star general was highly inappropriate. As opposed to calling a Gold Star widow a liar. Which is very appropriate.

Everybody understands such a phone call is one of the toughest things a president or any human has to do. And Trump could have stopped the misadventure by apologizing for his clumsy attempt. But it's increasingly apparent why Donald Trump never apologizes; because if he ever started, he'd be forced to spend every waking minute doing it.
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award- winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former roasted corn salesman at the Wisconsin State Fair. For a calendar of personal appearances including his new one - man show "Durst Case Scenario" appearing every Tuesday at the San Francisco Marsh starting July 11, please visit

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 45 (c) 11/10/2017

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