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In This Edition

Will Bunch wonders, "Oil Is The Poison That Burns Paradise, Kills Kashshoggi, Inflames Paris. When Will We Quit?"

Ann Wright reports, "U.S. Relations With Pakistan Hit Rock Bottom With Trump's Tweets."

Glen Ford reports, "Bernie Sanders Puts Forward A Program That Could Split The Democratic Party."

Norman Solomon declares, "Democratic Party 'Leadership' Is Upside Down."

Jim Hightower demands, "It Should Be Easy For Every Citizen To Vote."

John Nichols reports, "GM's Plant Closures Confirm That The President Is A Liar And A Fool."

James Donahue asks, "So What Was That Strange Thing?"

William Rivers Pitt says, "Without New Leadership, The New House Majority Will Fail (Again)."

Heather Digby Parton abhors, "Gassing Kids At The Border."

David Suzuki finds, "Ocean Study Criticism Shows Benefits Of Scientific Method."

Charles P. Pierce says, "We Bear Responsibility For The Conditions In Honduras Causing Its People To Flee."

Dahr Jamail finds, "California Wildfire Likely Spread Nuclear Contamination From Toxic Site."

Jane Stillwater reports, "Eyewitness Juarez."

Oklahoma state GOP Rep. George Faught wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich considers, "Trump's Assault On The Rule Of Law."

Chris Hedges follows, "Neoliberalism's Dark Path To Fascism."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst is, "Giving Thanks 2018" but first Uncle Ernie is, "Waiting On The 'Perp' Walk."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Monte Wolverton, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Noah Berger, Chip Somodevilla, Kevin Lamarque, Thomas Peter-Pool, Alex Wong, Hans Gutknecht, Rodrigo Abd, Weak In Trump, Yannis Papanastasopoulos, Unsplash, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, 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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Waiting On The 'Perp' Walk
By Ernest Stewart

"I'm looking forward to seeing him do the perp walk, down the front steps of the White House in manacles as the flash bulbs pop in his ghastly orange face." ~~~ Andrew Nicoll

"I believe in clean air. Immaculate air. But I don't believe in climate change." ~~~ Donald tRump

"Make America 1984 Again - Trump wants to create a 'Ministry of Truth' to combat CNN. ~~~ Tyler Durden

Well, I'm going down.
Down, down, down, down, down.
Going Down ~~~ Jeff Beck

Aren't you, like me, waiting to see the Donald take his 'perp' walk? tRump's behavior isn't doing much to bolster White House assurances that he's got nothing to worry about from Robert Mueller's probe, after a series of potentially ominous turns in the Russia investigation.

tRump's recent barrage of tweets and comments and testimony from sources close to him, coinciding with thickening intrigue around the special counsel, hint instead at deep concern on tRump's part. Donnie can hear that metal clang of his cell door slamming shut.

Donnie whined "While the disgusting Fake News is doing everything within their power not to report it that way, at least 3 major players are intimating that the Angry Mueller Gang of Dems is viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts & they will get relief. This is our Joseph McCarthy Era!" tRump angrily tweeted last Wednesday, a day after blasting the special counsel as a "conflicted prosecutor gone rogue."

White House spokes-weasel Sarah Sanders said:

"I don't think the President has any concerns about the report because he knows that there was no wrongdoing by him and that there was no collusion."

This came after significant developments and reports swirling around his jailed ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and other associates.

Giuliani said that, "tRump's been upset for weeks over Mueller the un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort. tRump is in a deeply vulnerable spot and appears to feel cornered and in increasing peril." As well he should as the noose is beginning to tighten!

tRump has little choice but to watch as Mueller, an adversary whose discrete public profile makes him an elusive target, grinds away, apparently getting ever closer to Trump's inner circle and even to the Donald himself.

"The Mueller investigation is what it is. It just goes on and on and on," Trump told The Washington Post Tuesday when asked about Mueller.

My guess is when it starts to hit the fan, tRump will step down to avoid impeachment and if there any criminal charges Pence will pardon him.

In Other News

I see where a new US government report delivers a dire warning about climate change and its devastating impacts, saying "the economy could lose hundreds of billions of dollars -- or, in the worst-case scenario, more than 10% of its GDP -- by the end of the century."

The federally mandated study was supposed to come out in December but was released by the Trump administration on Friday, at a time when many Americans are on a long holiday weekend, distracted by family and shopping. The standard government ploy when something embarrassing has to be released is to relese it on a Friday.

David Easterling, director of the Technical Support Unit at the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, emphasized that there was "no external interference in the report's development." He added that the climate change the Earth is experiencing is unlike any other.

"The global average temperature is much higher and is rising more rapidly than anything modern civilization has experienced, and this warming trend can only be explained by human activities," Easterling added.

Coming from the US Global Change Research Program, a team of 13 federal agencies, the Fourth National Climate Assessment was put together with the help of 1,000 people, including 300 leading scientists, roughly half from outside the government.

It's the second of two volumes. The first, released in November 2017, concluded that there is "no convincing alternative explanation" for the changing climate other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases."

tRump of course thinks climate change is a hoax. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted:
You would have thought that someone would have explained to this moron that the temps have only risen 2 degrees fahrenheit, so winter is still going to be cold and since the arctic is warming faster than we are all that cold arctic air is being pushed southward. And since global warming is adding moisture to the air in summer and winter there'll be colder and worse snowstorms than we used to get. Kindergartners get global warming, why doesn't tRump? If you want to know why? Just follow the money!

And Finally

You may recall that back in 1949 the CIA came up with a way to send our propaganda into eastern Europe to counter the Soviet propaganda called "Radio Free Europe." Within 4 years they also came up with "Radio Liberty" that did the same thing to Russia itself. Which began as you can imagine a cold war by itself with us moving transmitters around and the Soviets jamming the transmisions. If caught listening in you got the same punishment as the Germans listening to the BBC got!

Of course, the Germans had Axis Sally and Lord Haw-Haw the counterparts of Japan's Tokyo Rose.

While the CIA and the State department brodcast over seas they couldn't do it in America because of the Smith Mundt Act. The act was first introduced by Congressman Karl E. Mundt (R-SD) in January 1945 in the 79th Congress. It was subsequently passed by the 80th Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on January 27, 1948. So we were free of government propaganda, not so with corporate propganda.

Then, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (part of the National Defense Authorization Act) was signed into law by Obama which repealed the domestic prohibition, allowing the government's broadcasting to be directed at/created for Americans for the first time in over 40 years.

Then someone told tRump about this, I know, UH OH, and we got this:
Yes, tRump already has Fox Spews to tell his lies at home, but look out for the rest of the world. So when that's up and running, look out for tRump tv, America! A netwok that will make Fox Spews look like the far left wing by comparison!

Keepin' On

Well the time has come and gone, and so some of our arthors and artists won't be available to us. We turned up $1160 short of paying our bills for this year. That's the first time in the magazines history since our beginning in 2000 that we failed to raise the "rent."

For once I'm at a loss for words, imagine that! That's the trouble with being a sooth sayer. When people ask me what is it that I do, I have been known to say, "I piss people off." You'd be amazed how mad you can make some people by just telling the truth, saying the sooth! The Matrix, I hear, is very warm and comfortable, and over the years while we did unplug this, or that person, we found ourselves, mainly, just preaching to the choir! C'est la guerre!"

We'll keep fighting the good fight until the rest of the money runs out. If you think that what we do is important and would like to see us keep on, keeping on, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep saying the sooth!


05-17-1942 ~ 11-24-2018
Thanks for the magic!

03-16-1941 ~ 11-26-2018
Thanks for the film!

08-21-1961 ~ 11-26-2018
Thanks for the film!

06-22-1944 ~ 11-27-2018
Thanks for the music!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!

(c) 2018 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.

Flames burn inside a van as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif. Authorities say the fire
was 95 percent contained by Thanksgiving Day. Paradise is about 140 miles north of San Francisco.

Oil Is The Poison That Burns Paradise, Kills Kashshoggi, Inflames Paris. When Will We Quit?
The blindness of Trump's oil-flooded eyes - rendering the United States the only nation on the planet to reject the Paris climate accord - shouldn't blind us to the fact that the rest of the world is also struggling to transition away from fossil fuels.
By Will Bunch

The elevator pitch is that global warming should terrify fiscal conservatives because the costs are enormous (wiping out 10 percent of America's gross domestic product, double the hit from the Great Recession of a decade ago), its negative effects are already here in ways that are obvious (the drought-fueled wildfires that killed scores of people in Paradise, Calif.) and not so obvious (the warm-weather spread of ticks that cause Lyme disease), and the impact will only intensify as we get deeper into the 21st century, from California-style wildfires in the U.S. Southeast to trade disruptions as natural disasters around the globe interrupt the supply chain.

Friday's blunt warning got more attention than most stories about climate change - our slow-motion disaster that never breaks through the 24/7 news cycle of fast-moving ones - but yet the overwhelming reaction was still cynicism and sad resignation, like a cancer diagnosis for a patient that refuses treatment. Maybe 13 government agencies understand the world is on fire, but the 14th and the only one that matters - the White House - remains in deep denial. In a statement accompanying the Black Friday news dump, the White House especially "blamed" the Obama administration for beginning work on a report that was "largely based on the most extreme scenario."

Climate denial is as deeply ingrained in the Trump brand as overpriced steaks and diploma scams - because anything that annoys pointy-headed liberals must be good, because it was something he could lord over Hillary in West Virginia "coal country," and because slippery oil barons and even slipperier Middle Easterm sheikhs are Donald Trump's kind of people. Seeing the devastation of Paradise firsthand isn't going to change his mind - "I want great climate," he babbled afterword - nor is a 1,656-page egghead-scientist report. Instead, Trump recently ridiculed climate science on Twitter.

But what's really so frustrating, if not stunning, about the Trump White House's denial on climate is that all you have to do is watch cable news for a couple of hours - which is pretty much how the president spends his "executive time" every morning - and you can see the ways that oil and other fossil fuels soak both our domestic and foreign policies, in ways that are increasingly poisonous. There will be blood? - to echo the foreboding title of a popular Hollywood movie about early 20th century oil exploration. It's already here.

The most obvious cry for help on global warming is coming right now from Northern California, where the fast-moving Camp Fire turned entire subdivisions in Paradise into grim rectangles of grey rubble in a matter of hours, as those surrounded by flames frantically called and texted their family members to say goodbye. The death toll stands at 85, but officials still don't know how many of the hundreds still listed as missing actually escaped and how many are dead amid the ashy ruin. Experts widely agree that man-made climate change and hotter temperatures have severely exacerbated California's years-long drought, leaving a whopping 129 million dead trees and dry brush that serve as kindling for each new spark.

And yet Trump continues to worship at the altar of 20th century fossil fuels, and not just here at home where the president's political romance with both struggling Appalachian workers and billionaire energy barons has inspired horrific policy decisions to bring back coal-fired power plants. In the Middle East, there has been blood because the White House has thrown all-in behind the murderous Saudi Arabia regime of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, or MBS - even after the CIA confirmed that MBS ordered his goons to murder and dismember an American resident, Jamal Khashoggi, who was a columnist for the Washington Post.

The United States under Trump has essentially been an accessory to this act of barbaric immorality - there are even reports that we advised MBS on the American way of damage control - because the president still believes that we can't live without the Saudis, or perhaps that he can't get reelected in 2020 without low-priced crude from the Persian Gulf. He tweeted last week on the recent global drop in oil prices and concluded: "Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!"

Frankly, I don't think America can get any lower than condoning the killing of a journalist - and thus an attack on all press freedom - by the butcherous Saudi regime. But the blindness of Trump's oil-flooded eyes - rendering the United States the only nation on the planet to reject the Paris climate accord - shouldn't blind us to the fact that the rest of the world is also struggling to transition away from fossil fuels and into safer renewable fuels such as solar and wind power.

Just a day after the devastating U.S. climate assessment broke, the front page of the New York Times reported that Asia's growing giants like India and even China (despite its leadership in solar power) continue an opioid-level addiction to burning coal. And what of world leaders like France's Emmanuel Macron who've pushed climate-change-busting policies like higher taxes on fuel? On Saturday, flaming barricades and violent clashes pockmarked Paris' historic Champs-Elysees as working-class French citizens, some aligned with growing right-wing movements, protested those taxes. This is hardly a surprise to experts who've long predicted that failure to move early and decisively on the climate crisis would ultimately lead to widespread political unrest.

Will there be more blood? Perhaps, but there's also a few tiny rays of hope breaking through the thick smog that seems to be enveloping the world right now. In Washington, Trump will be confronted for the next two years by a Democratic-led House chock full of new members who ran unbeholden to Big Oil and with ambitious ideas for a transition away from fossil fuels. The cynical view is that with Trump in the White House and Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader, this energetic new climate caucus will be tilting at, and not with, windmills. But here's a more optimistic take: The House moves on fossil fuels will set a clear agenda for the future, heighten the contradictions with the GOP's anti-science denialism, and make 2020 a referendum on climate action.

The avatar of this new movement is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and arguably the most progressive of the incoming new members, New York's Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She made a bold and politically risky statement earlier this month when she joined a climate protest outside the office of her probable future boss, Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, and she and other newcomers have made a so-called Green New Deal their No. 1 legislative priority, aiming for a select committee to focus on the best policies.

"People are going to die if we don't start addressing climate change ASAP," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday after the climate assessment came out. "It's not enough to think it's 'important.' We must make it urgent." She added that it's time for people with ties to the fossil fuel industry to stop writing climate policy - a reality that may not happen, unfortunately, until January 2021.

From the flaming embers of Paradise to the Saudi crime scene in Istanbul to chaos on the boulevards of Paris, oil and its aging cousin coal have become the poisons not just rendering our air unbreathable but increasingly inspiring wars, murder and mayhem. It's a regime that's even less morally sustainable than those of MBS or his No. 1 cheerleader, Trump. Despite the president's blather, we don't need to Make Climate Great Again. We just need to make climate normal again. But we're running out of time.

(c) 2018 Will Bunch is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and author of its popular blog Attytood.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan sparred with President Donald Trump this week over its role in the so-called War on Terror.

U.S. Relations With Pakistan Hit Rock Bottom With Trump's Tweets
The U.S. isolates itself from Pakistan at its own peril.
By Ann Wright

After I wrote the following story about my trip to Pakistan ten days ago, President Trump began tweeting about Pakistan's lack of effort in the war on terror which triggered a tweet storm with new Pakistani Prime Minister Iran Khan. Trump told Fox News on Sunday, November 18 that Pakistan should have revealed that Osama bin Ladin was "living in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, right next to the military academy. Everybody in Pakistan knew he was there. And we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year... I ended it because they don't do anything for us, they don't do a damn thing for us."

Khan responded on Monday morning on Twitter with three tweets: First tweet: "Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump's tirade against Pakistan: 1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US "aid" was a minuscule $20 bn.

Second tweet: "3. Our tribal areas were devastated & millions of ppl uprooted from their homes. The war drastically impacted lives of ordinary Pakistanis. 4. Pak continues to provide free lines of ground & air communications(GLOCs/ALOCs).Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?"

Third tweet: "Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before."

President Trump then sent out his own series of tweets:

First tweet: "Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!.."

Second tweet: "....We no longer pay Pakistan the $Billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another. They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return. That's ENDING!"

Prime Minister Khan then responded: "Trump's false assertions add insult to the injury Pak has suffered in US WoT in terms of lives lost & destabilised & economic costs. He needs to be informed about historical facts. Pak has suffered enough fighting US's war. Now we will do what is best for our people & our interests."

As I write in the following article, the US isolates and antagonizes Pakistan at its own peril due to Pakistan's role in Afghanistan and with relations with Iran and China.

I was in Pakistan ten days ago speaking at the conference "The Geopolitics of Knowledge and Emerging World Order" organized by the Pakistani National Defense University. The symposium brought together scholars and journalists from six countries at the top military university in Pakistan. My contribution was "How Perceived Exceptionalism, Racism, Hatred, Bigotry and Rejection of the Rule of Law Can/Will Dethrone an Empire."

Other presenters from China, Germany, Sweden and Pakistan included Pepe Escobar, editor of Asia Times, Dr. Robert Jensen, recently retired Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas-Austin, Dr. Sami Al-Arian, Director and Public Affairs Professor at the Center for Islam and Global affairs, Istanbul, Turkey and Dr. Mohammad Marandi, Professor of Literature and Orientalism, University of Tehran, Iran.

The relationship between the Trump administration and Pakistan is frosty after the United States cut $330 million in military aid to Pakistan in October 2018 over its failure to reign in militant groups operating in Afghanistan. The Obama administration had also suspended $800 million in aid in 2011 and $350 in military aid in 2016 for the same reasons.

The U.S. isolates itself from Pakistan at its own peril. With a population of over 202 million, Pakistan has the sixth largest population in the world following China, India, USA, Indonesia and Brazil, is one of nine countries that have developed nuclear weapons and is a key player in regional security issues involving its neighbors Afghanistan, Iran, India and China.

Not surprisingly, with the U.S. government turning away again, the new government of Pakistan led by Imran Khan has turned to its neighbors for assistance-Iran and China. The first international dignitary that the new Prime Minister met with after his election in July was the Foreign Minister of Iran.

While I was in Pakistan, Khan was busy with both domestic and international issues. That week, the Iranian Foreign Minister again visited Pakistan to speak with Khan and Khan travelled to China to be the Guest of Honor of the Chinese government at the First China International Import Expo held in Shanghai November 2-3, 2018. The Khan administration is banking on the $60 billion in land and sea projects underway with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a link in China's massive project of the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) or the New Silk Road.

The Trump administration has been left on the sidelines-again-in a very important region where the U.S. has embarked on its eighteenth year of war on Pakistan's neighbor Afghanistan.

In the days (October 31-November 3, 2018) I was in Pakistan, the challenges for the new Pakistani government were on display. Protests paralyzed the country over the decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court to acquit a Pakistani Christian woman named Aasia Bibi of charges of blasphemy-of insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammed-after she had been on death row for eight years.

The mere allegations of blasphemy have resulted in deaths of those accused by religious zealot vigilantes led largely by the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party which is well known for its hardline stance on blasphemy issues. Founded in 2015, the TLP blockaded Pakistan's capital Islamabad for several weeks in 2017 calling for stricter enforcement of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws which forced the resignation of the federal law minister and paved the way for the group to poll more than 2.23 million votes in the July 25, 2018 general election.

The Supreme Court that ruled that there was no evidence eight years ago on which to convict Ms. Bibi and who cited parts of the Koran to bolster their decision, are themselves under threat of death by the vigilantes.

The Supreme Court acquittal resulted immediately in thousands of Muslims (primarily men) taking to the streets, blocking traffic, burning tires, cars. The protests continued for three days with Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistani Army Chief of Staff warning the protesters that the Army would take action if "chaos" resulted.

On Friday, November 2, the government shut down the entire mobile phone system including data for mobile internet for the entire country to make communications within the protest element more difficult. For twelve hours, all communications in Pakistan had to rely on landline telephones and internet within homes and businesses. All the schools in the country were closed for two days and traffic in all the major cities of Pakistan was extremely difficult due to roadblocks that had been set up by demonstrators.

And then, in the late afternoon of November 2, Taliban leader Maulana Sami Ul-Haq was stabbed and killed in his home in the military town of Rawalpindi. He was an internationally known cleric and chancellor of Pakistan's Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary/madrassah/university. The university had awarded Taliban chief Mullah Omar an honorary doctorate and the majority of the leaders of the Afghan Taliban, including Jalaluddeen Haqqani, founder of the Haqqani network, and Akhtar Mansoor, former leader of the Taliban had studied at the university.

After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, eight ministers in its governmental cabinet had studied at Darul Uloom Haqqania, giving Sami-ul-Haq, the title "father of the Taliban." Although reportedly not active in the past few years, Sami-ul-Haq earlier had served as a mediator between the Taliban and the rest of the world. Fazlur Rehamn Khalil has reportedly taken Sami-ul-Haq's place as chief mediator and was one of the religious leaders who met in a conference in Islamabad in October 2018 and endorsed a peace process in Afghanistan.

As a result of this meeting in Islamabad that brought together Pakistan's federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, a Taliban delegation and Pakistani Ulema (the body of Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law who are the interpreters of Islam's doctrine and laws and chief guarantors of continuity in the spiritual and intellectual history of the Islamic community), including Fazlur Rehman Khalil, and as a follow-on to the first round of Taliban-USA direct talks held in Qater, the government of Pakistan released Taliban co-founder and second in command Abdul Ghani Bradar, Mullah Abdul Samad Sani and five other Taliban commanders. Baradar had been detained in Pakistan since Al Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. would be wise to engage, rather than distance itself from the new Pakistani administration as many of the regional issues relating to Afghanistan, Iran and China have key security and economic implications in Pakistan.

(c) 2018 Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience." (

Bernie Sanders Puts Forward A Program That Could Split The Democratic Party
By Glenn Ford

Bernie Sanders has opened his 2020 campaign with a 10-point program that could bust the Democratic Party wide open - which would be best thing Bernie could do for the world. Bernie Sanders last week unveiled a 10-point legislative agenda that he believes will galvanize the Democratic base in much the way that Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract With America" propelled the GOP to its biggest electoral sweep since 1946. The Vermont senator's wish list is genuinely impressive in sweep, a full-blown progressive domestic platform for his expected second run for the presidency in 2020. But the immediate obstacle to Sanders' proposals for Medicare-For-All, tuition-free public higher education, expanded Social Security, a $15 an hour minimum wage, "bold action" on climate change, fixing the criminal justice system, comprehensive immigration reform, progressive tax reform, a $1 trillion infrastructure overhaul and cheaper prescription drugs, is not Donald Trump's GOP troglodytes -- it's Nancy Pelosi and her corporate Democrats, who answer to a much higher power: big capital.

Writing in the Washington Post, Sanders said it's "not good enough for Democrats to just be the anti-Trump party." If Democrats "want to keep and expand their majority in the House, take back the Senate and win the White House, Democrats must show the American people that they will aggressively stand up and fight for the working families of this country — black, white, Latino, Asian American or Native American, men and women, gay or straight."

True enough. Democrats win when their base turns out, but they must have something to turn out for. Sanders' signature legislation, Medicare-for-All, is a blockbuster issue backed by 85 percent of Democrats and half of Republicans -- a genuine consensus bread and butter "cause" that is ultimately unbeatable in the court of public opinion. It would be unbeatable in Congress, too, if even one of the duopoly parties were solidly behind it. But the corporate Democrats know that their job is to render harmless those measures that threaten the Lords of Capital, their masters. Nancy "We're Capitalist" Pelosi's real job is bag woman for corporate contributors.

The health insurance, pharmaceutical and corporate hospital industries -- the people that wrote Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act with the aim of forestalling single payer health care for a generation - believe that stopping a true Medicare-for-All bill is an existential issue. They would lose many trillions in ill-gotten profits, and many companies would go bankrupt if the United States joined the rest of the developed world (and much of the formerly Third World) in providing comprehensive single payer health care, combined with drug price controls. These oligarchs will abandon and decisively turn against the half of the duopoly that slips from their grasp on this issue.

For a thoroughly corporate party like the Democrats, single payer is Armageddon. That's why you can be sure that Sen. Cory Booker, a whore for the pharmaceutical industry, and many of his colleague's have only endorsed Medicare-for-All in order to eviscerate the legislation from the inside. However, with Republicans in firm control of the Senate and no chance of single-payer getting out of committee, Booker and Co. have plenty of time to pretend they're on the right side. Pelosi has a much harder task containing and weakening the bill in the House. For her, passage of single payer means defeat for the party as a corporate class organ, financed primarily by the One Percent. Her job is to make sure that the ruling class does not split with its creature, the Democrats.

Keen to tamp down the partisan fervor of rank and file Democrats, lest it be channeled in dangerous directions, soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi spoke of her hope to collaborate with the Trump administration. Pelosi's biggest problem is pretending that the 800 pound single payer gorilla isn't squatting on the House floor, itching to savage her party's relationship with the health care and insurance sector of the ruling class.

And now here comes old man Sanders, trying to burden the party with a whole raft of progressive causes -- Medicare-for-All plus nine other points - all of which would shift the party away from the bipartisan corporate consensus on permanent austerity.

Sanders is to be applauded, even though his grand domestic plan is totally incompatible with his abject failure to confront the military budget, the latest $716 billion version of which was supported by 60 percent of Democratic lawmakers. The Republicans have already made known that they will return to Congress next year in a "cut the deficit" mood -- after adding $1 trillion to the debt with their tax cuts to the rich, including $80 billion more than requested for the Pentagon. Sanders remains the imperialist pig (see here, here and here) who can't break with empire -- like most white folks in the United States, whose sense of identity seems to include the exceptional right to unimpeded global rampage. Bernie can't bring himself to confront the military budget in any substantial way.

Nancy Pelosi insists that she'll only go along with legislation that is "pay-as-you-go," that doesn't raise the debt -- a still-living legacy of President Obama's "grand bargain" with the GOP. Full implementation of Sanders' entire 10-point plan, including several trillion dollar items, is impossible under the bipartisan austerity scheme, and more impossible still without big cuts in the military budget, unless Congress drops all pretense of debt limitation.

That's why I have nothing but the best of wishes for Sanders' 10 point plan. If Sanders can get the presidential momentum going again, he can force an extended national conversation on Medicare-For-All, tuition-free public higher education, expanded Social Security, a radical roll-back in mass incarceration (an expensive proposition if combined with "investments in jobs and education for our young people") and the rest of his domestic agenda. With these core issues shaping his message, every step closer he gets to the nomination brings the Democratic Party nearer to the split that is necessary if a mass social democratic party is to come into being in the United States.

Not being a social democrat, I won't be a part of that party, but the welfare of the nation and the world requires that the two corporate parties lose their monopoly on electoral politics in the belly of the superpower beast. And, despite the deep imperial streak in the American psyche -- including lots of Black people -- even a Bernie-type social democratic party would find it necessary to oppose gargantuan U.S. military budgets, just as the Green Party does, today.

So, kudos to Bernie Sanders. Hopefully, his progressive10-point plan will blow the Democratic Party to pieces, over the next two years, so that a mass politics that is not owned by white corporate men can finally exist in the U.S. Sanders doesn't have to win the White House to bring about this historic "creative destruction." He just has to wreck the Party. If the Party sabotages him in the primaries, as in 2016, then progressives will get another chance to do the right thing, and say goodbye to the Democrats. Or, if Sanders wins, hopefully the corporatists will follow the money and run away to the GOP, or form their own Third Way party, and leave the Democratic carcass to the poor folks. Any split will do the trick, as long as the result is a non-corporate mass party.

(c) 2018 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

(From left) Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi, and Michael Swalwell during a press conference on Capitol Hill last year.

Democratic Party "Leadership" Is Upside Down
No matter how intense the top-down pressure gets from Speaker Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, we should insist from the bottom up that members of Congress stand their ground for progressive principles.
By Norman Solomon

When Democrats take control of the House in early January, they'll have two kinds of leadership-one from the top of the party's power pyramid, the other from its base. With formal control, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer can brandish huge carrots and sticks to keep Democratic lawmakers in line. With grassroots support, a growing number of those lawmakers can-and should-strategically step out of line to fight for progressive agendas.

Pelosi and Hoyer have been running the Democratic machinery in the House of Representatives since 2003, and they're experts at combining liberal rhetoric with corporate flackery. Pelosi is frequently an obstacle to advancing progressive proposals. Hoyer is significantly worse as he avidly serves such "constituents" as giant banks, Pentagon contractors and other Wall Street titans. The duo has often functioned as top-drawer power tools in the hands of powerful corporate-military interests.

Pelosi is a longtime wizard at generating and funneling hundreds of millions of election-cycle dollars, and as speaker she'll wield enormous power over committee assignments. But she must keep Democratic House members minimally satisfied-and along the way that should mean yielding more power to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Buoyed by wins in the midterm elections, the caucus includes two-fifths of all Democrats in the House.

That's where the other kind of leadership comes in-if a hefty number of self-identified progressives in Congress go to the mat to vigorously represent progressive constituencies. For that to happen, a dubious aspect of the Progressive Caucus past must not repeat itself.

"When historic votes come to the House floor, party functionaries are able to whip the Progressive Caucus into compliance," I wrote six years ago. A grim pattern set in during the Obama presidency, "with many Progressive Caucus members making fine statements of vigorous resolve-only to succumb on the House floor under intense pressure from the Obama administration."

Backing down had tragic consequences for the nation's healthcare system. In September 2009, Progressive Caucus leaders sent a letter to President Obama pledging not to vote for any healthcare bill "without a robust public option." They wrote: "Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates-not negotiated rates-is unacceptable." Six months later, every member of the Progressive Caucus abandoned the demand and voted for a healthcare bill with no public option at all.

In recent years, the leadership of the Progressive Caucus has become more impressive. The current mix of leaders and new members-which includes veteran lawmaker Raul Grijalva, more recent House arrivals like Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna, and notable incoming progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley-seems to augur well.

There are encouraging signs that Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders are using new leverage to gain more power for progressives. After meeting with Pelosi on Nov. 15, Co-Chair Pocan and First Vice-Chair Jayapal released a statement saying "we are pleased that Leader Pelosi shares our commitment to ensuring that CPC members are represented proportionally on the key exclusive committees-including Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, Financial Services and Intelligence."

Progressive leaders can gain persuasive influence largely because they're advocating for proposals that-as polling verifies-have wide support from the U.S. public, such as a $15-an-hour minimum wage (59 percent), Medicare for All (70 percent), progressive criminal justice reform (65 percent) and higher taxes on the wealthy (76 percent). Behind such political agenda items is an activist base eager to achieve many programs that have been obstructed by most top-ranking Democrats in Congress.

Clearly, much of the Democratic Party's momentum is now coming from the left. And many of the positions that the timeworn Democratic leadership has staked out are now being overrun-outmatched by the cumulative power of dynamic social movements that have generated electoral clout. Medicare for All is a case in point, with numerous likely Democratic presidential candidates climbing on board.

Ultimately, the most profound progressive leadership for Congress isn't in Congress at all. It's in communities and movements across the country-nurturing diverse progressive strengths in many aspects of social change, including at election time.

No matter how intense the top-down pressure gets from Speaker Pelosi, we should insist from the bottom up that members of Congress stand their ground for progressive principles. And-no matter how fervently they embrace the "progressive" label-if congressmembers aren't willing to fight for those principles, then the grassroots should mobilize: to create an outcry, to lobby and to consider launching primary challenges. No elected officials should be immune from scrutiny and accountability.

(c) 2018 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

It Should Be Easy For Every Citizen To Vote
Republicans have made it way, way harder.
By Jim Hightower

Like a mad Roman emperor, the man in the White House paces the dark hallways in the wee hours, cursing all who defy him and screeching at the gremlins torturing his mind. "Where's the collusion?" he bellows through his thumbs. "Witch hunt!" the emperor shrieks, blaming the dreaded Mueller, the craven Sessions, traitorous Democrats, the fake news media, the rotten Rosenstein, and so many other diabolic forces ruining his reign with accusations that his 2016 Electoral College victory was boosted by Russian meddling. "It is all a big hoax," he mutters manically, pointing out that he's been told by Putin himself that Russia did not interfere.

In fact (a place Trump never wants to visit), election meddling was rampant in 2016, and his campaign's blatant collusion in it corrupted America's democratic process and perverted our nation's public policies for the benefit of those behind the rigging. Moreover, the riggers are doing it again, with the goal of stealing the November midterm elections. But Putin and his Kremlin trolls are the least of it. The chief US election meddlers are not Russians. They're Republicans.

For more than a decade, such GOP political schemers as Karl Rove, the Koch cabal, and ALEC have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars from corporate supremacists like ExxonMobil, the US Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, and AT&T to collude in a massive, nationwide offensive to re-write rules and take actions to prevent you from voting. Yes, you. The GOP's relentless voter suppression strategy is both way less and much more than they want us to know. Start with less. The party's suppressionists insist they are patriots coping with a crisis of fraudulent voters, including hordes of "illegal aliens" swarming across the Mexican border to vote Democratic in 2016. Trump alleges that he, not Clinton, handily won the popular vote-"if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." (The final tally by the non-partisan Cook Political Report shows Clinton winning the popular vote by 2,864,974 votes.)

Oddly though, only Republicans have the super-sense to see so many foreigners casting ballots. Odder yet, when grandstanding GOP politicians launch official investigations to uncover, capture, and prosecute the miscreants, they can't find them.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that Trump created in May 2017 to snare those chimerical Hillary voters only met twice, and its fractious and goofy members turned up no villainous voters.

How goofy? Trump's choice for vice chair was Kris Kobach, a clownish Tea Party extremist, Kansas secretary of state, and now the Republican gubernatorial nominee. He's an infamous basher of immigrants and Muslims and pursuer of illicit Latino voters. In his eight years as Kansas secretary of state, huffing and puffing about the horror of mass voting violators, Kris nailed a grand total of nine poll violators. Nine. None were Mexicans sneaking in to elect Democrats. Indeed, most were older, white Republican men caught voting twice. There are your "hordes."

Kobach's bumbling followed him to the commission, which was so unsuccessful that Trump abruptly disbanded it after eight months of catching nothing but withering public ridicule for frittering away taxpayer money to chase a partisan fiction. Even then, Trump maintained the lie: "[There is] substantial evidence of voter fraud."

Huh? So zero is now "substantial"?

It comes down to the Elementary Principles of Political Lying: First, make it a BIG lie, the more outlandish the better; second, reiterate and embellish it constantly, using your most authoritative voice; third, add a bugaboo that plays to xenophobia and racism; and fourth, don't worry about proving the lie, just create suspicion within a small but noisy and hyper-partisan minority that it might be true. Thus, we have Trump, members of Congress, governors, and other far-right officials claiming that masses of malevolent foreigners are slipping undetected into voting booths to pervert America's democratic process.

This is where and why the GOP's suppression strategy switches from being less than meets the eye to being much, much more. While the number of foreigners voting illegally is insignificant, they are the hobgoblin spotlighted to distract public attention from the real agenda: implementing scores of repressive anti-voting measures and blocking millions-yes, millions-of qualified voters from any demographic group that might be inclined to favor Democrats and progressive ballot initiatives.

VOTE! (if you can)

At election time, our nation's establishment blossoms in a glorious display of patriotic purpose as political parties, the media, banks, corporations, etc., drape themselves with bunting and implore everyone to exercise their "right and duty" to vote. But wait, this rousing bugle call to democratic participation omits a little-known sour note: There is no explicit, Constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote.

Indeed, from the start of our United States of democratic ideals, exclusion from the voting franchise has been the norm. It has taken decade after decade of epic struggles to bring more Americans-ever so gradually-into our country's voting community. This political and social drama has often been violent, sometimes shameful, and occasionally triumphant, including these plot twists:

1790 In the first national election, only white, male property owners (6 percent of the population) could vote.
1848 The women's suffrage movement was launched at a "rights of woman" convention in Seneca Falls, NY.
1850 The property ownership requirement was eliminated, so nearly all white men were legally permitted to vote.
1855 Connecticut and Massachusetts adopted a literacy test to prevent Irish Catholic immigrants from voting.
1870 The 15th Amendment was adopted, allowing male citizens of all races, including former slaves, to vote.
1889 Southern states began imposing poll taxes to exclude poor people generally (and racial minorities specifically) from voting.
1890 Numerous states (not just in the South) began imple-menting "literacy tests" aimed at keeping African-Americans and Latinos from voting.
1913 The 17th Amendment required US senators to be elected directly by popular vote, not appointed by state legislatures.
1915 The Supreme Court ruled literacy tests unconstitutional.
1920 The 19th Amendment finally gave women the right to vote, 72 years after Seneca Falls.
1924 The Indian Citizenship Act allowed Native Americans
1944 The Supreme Court outlawed "White Primaries" run by private associations, declaring the nomination process a public process.
1960 The Supreme Court ruled gerrymandering unconstitutional.
1964 The 24th Amendment banned the poll tax in federal elections ($1.50 at the time, $12 today) per voter.
1965 In Selma, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., headed a voter registration campaign that led to President Lyndon Johnson's push for passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The VRA outlawed blatant legal barriers that shut racial minorities out of the polls and required the Justice Department to review new voting requirements proposed by Southern states.
1971 The 26th Amendment, pushed by the anti-Vietnam War movement, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
1995 The "Motor Voter Law" passed, making it easier to register to vote.
2000 In an unprecedented act of judicial activism, a slim majority of Supreme Court justices (driven by anti- democracy ideologue and fierce Republican partisan, Antonin Scalia) fabricated a contorted legal argument in Bush v. Gore to prevent a recount of Florida's presidential vote, thus making George W president by judicial fiat. is brazen theft of democratic authority was an eye-opener for GOP funders and operatives, who saw that partisan courts could give legal cover to their large-scale rigging of election mechanics to take away Democratic votes-all in the name of assuring election integrity. Suppression is us!

In the best of circumstances, getting workaday people to vote is not easy. Some can't afford to skip work. Some say, My vote doesn't matter anyway, or It'll put me on the list for jury duty, and I can't afford to serve. It's been consistently shown that any added hindrance reduces turnout. Eureka! shouted right-wing interests, as it dawned on them that this natural tendency could be exploited with a two- pronged game plan: (1) deliberately create barriers and burdens to make voting difficult or dicey in targeted precincts, and (2) pour money and political energy into electing and appointing activist Republican judges who would uphold those burdens as lawful.

Thus, outright voter suppression has quickly become the core component of the GOP's electoral strategy. Republican leaders became wholly committed to this approach after Barack Obama won the national election in 2008 with a heavy outpouring of support from young people, African-Americans, women, Latinos, union members, and other components of America's progressive majority. Many of their repressive tactics have been in play for decades, but recently, their expansive plan has grown more urgent (i.e., desperate) as their man Trump has grown more obviously unhinged and unpopular. Incapable of increasing the number of Republican voters, their hope rests on decreasing the number of Democratic ballots. Thus, a shocking array of scurrilous schemes will be in place next month to deny the most fundamental means of democratic participation to entire groups of valid, Democratic-leaning voters.

Just as the GOP intended, its decade-long effort to stack courts has cleared the way for this massive daylight robbery, with a five-person Supreme Court majority under Chief Justice John Roberts taking the lead. Five Supremes blew open the door to electioneering chicanery in a 2013 ruling, in Shelby County v. Holder, that eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The decision was written by Roberts, who blithely decreed that the federal government no longer needs to protect voters, even from rank racial discrimination, because -hallelujah!-"things have changed dramatically." Evidently racism has been eliminated!

Of course, Roberts' phony, kumbaya sentiment was pure sophistry, disguising his real intent: signaling to Republican officials across the country that it was now open season on Democratic-inclined voters. Sure enough, within hours of the court's ruling, North Carolina's rabidly repressive GOP legislature slammed the ballot box shut on multitudes of Black, Latino, and other voters with its voter ID law. One Tar Heel official gloated: "If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it." Likewise, Republican-controlled governments in Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Indiana, and elsewhere immediately rushed out to a briar patch of vote-denying tactics:

Purging nearly 16 million eligible voters from registration rolls on the arbitrary grounds that they haven't voted in six years.
Rejecting voter-registration applications on absurd technicalities (Ohio's election chief nullified tens of thousands in 2016 because the applications were printed on paper he deemed too thin.)
Demanding proof of citizenship to get a ballot
Discriminating among voters with the forms of acceptable photo IDs (In Texas, open-carry gun permits are sufficient; college student IDs are not.)
Refusing to reinstate citizenship rights to former felons who've served their time, taking the ballot from 6 million people
Autocratically ruling that college students must vote in their parents'-not their campus-precinct
Disqualifying the votes of people who make trivial mistakes on their ballots, such as putting the date on the wrong line
Imposing logistical barriers such as: shrinking early voting periods from a month to just days; cutting the number of polling places in Democratic-inclined communities; and shriveling budgets so only a handful of voting machines and election officials are available, thus creating such intolerable lines and waits that many people give up their franchise
Using old-fashioned intimidation and trickery, such as circulating fliers listing a wrong date or bad address for neighborhood polling places, putting pistol-packing white "poll watchers" in black precincts, or loudly warning voters in Latino neighborhoods that immigration officials are coming.
Let me put this as bluntly as it deserves: The governors, lawmakers, corporate front groups, election officials, and all other shamefully partisan actors in the vote suppression game are lowlife gangsters. In an honest world, all of them would be required on Election Day to wear ski masks that exemplified their role in the GOP's grand theft of the American people's most valuable civic property: their votes.

Conspiring in statehouses, courts, and corporate dens, their treachery is also pillaging our society's essential foundation: faith in the fairness and integrity of elections. I didn't grasp the scale and depravity of the thievery until I started preparing this piece. They've stooped to the level of stealing democracy itself.

Striving to minimize turnout for partisan gain is not only base and destructive, it is, in a word, immoral. Voting ought to be made easy and open-an inviting, uplifting, and patriotic experience for all. Voter registration should be simple, automatic, and permanent. Election day should be a national holiday, so work doesn't inhibit participation. Early voting, voting by mail, and secure in-person voting systems should be the norm in every precinct. Polling places should be abundant, easily accessible, open at convenient hours, and amply staffed with cordial and capable problem solvers. All voting machines should include verifiable paper-ballot backups. Intimidation and trickery should be not only scorned, but outlawed. In short, the guiding ethic behind every election should be to encourage participation by every citizen.

Like getting plutocratic money out of politics, freeing the polls so that every citizen can participate in elections is essential for our democracy. The good news is that, while many electoral changes are needed at the national level, grassroots coalitions can still enact substantial democratic advances right where they live-at the state, country, city, and even precinct levels. The vote you save might be your own!

(c) 2018 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

GM's Plant Closures Confirm That The President Is A Liar And A Fool
He has never cared about the men and women who build cars in places like Michigan and Ohio.
By John Nichols

Donald Trump campaigned for president on a promise to Michigan auto workers that "If I'm elected, you won't lose one plant, you'll have plants coming into this country, you're going to have jobs again, you won't lose one plant, I promise you that."

Barely two years later, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, General Motors announced that it was closing major auto plants in Michigan, as well as Ohio and Maryland. Thousands of jobs are being cut, and the future for many of the remaining plants suddenly seems very insecure.

Trump, the candidate who claimed in 2016 that his Democratic rival hasn't got a clue" about how to maintain American manufacturing, is now exposed as the president who really hasn't got a clue about maintaining American manufacturing.

The heartbreaking reality is that Trump was never going to be a good president for the American workers who build cars and other vehicles in the nation's historic factory towns. A reality-TV star with almost no understanding of the complex and demanding circumstance of domestic manufacturing in an age of globalization and automation, Trump peddled a combination of bumper-sticker slogans and past-their-expiration-date policy proposals on the 2016 campaign trail. That was enough to win narrow victories in a number of manufacturing states-Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin-that were hurting after years of bipartisan neglect. It is true that many voters who felt they had been let down by both parties took a chance on Trump. But Trump assumed the presidency without an agenda, and he embraced the schemes of a Congress led by two of the worst players in Washington on manufacturing issues: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

"President Trump has been asleep at the switch." -Congressman Tim Ryan It was only a matter of time before Trump's facade of empty rhetoric and false premises crashed into the reality of 21st-century economics and technological change. The midterm elections revealed the extent to which confidence in Trump had already crumbled. In the three Great Lakes states that gave Trump the presidency by delivering the Electoral College votes he had needed two years ago-Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin-voters handed victories to the Democrats in three gubernatorial races and three US Senate races.

Confidence will crumble now that General Motors has announced that it will end production at five facilities in North America while laying off 8,000 salaried workers and 6,000 hourly workers. In a brutal slashing of jobs, which aims at saving $6 billion a year by the end of 2020, a company that just a decade ago was bailed out by US taxpayers plans to close major manufacturing facilities, beginning with the sprawling Detroit-Hamtramck plant that is GM's last facility in "the Motor City." The now highly profitable company also plans to shutter a Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant-not far from where Trump told workers just last year that jobs that had left the state are "all coming back"-and to cut production at Michigan's Warren Transmission factory and a parts plant in Baltimore.

The company will stop making a long list of Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac sedans that have been mainstays of its production lines. And this will not be the end of the change as GM makes a transition toward production of self-driving cars using manufacturing models that share components across vehicles, utilize virtual tools, and embrace robotification.

Many of these changes were anticipated. It was possible to make smart policy moves and send savvy signals that might have bettered the prospects of American auto workers. Yet Trump, Ryan and McConnell got everything wrong. Instead of angling for programs and policies that could have positioned US workers on the winning side of technological transitions-and that would have eased hits that could not be avoided-Trump and his fellow Republicans governed as if it was 1985, with an emphasis on tax cuts for multinational corporations, reduction of regulations, and dismissal of environmental concerns. They played games with trade policy and tariffs, failing to recognize the reality of the global game that is afoot. And now, notes United Auto Workers Vice President Terry Dittes, the director of the union's GM Department, GM is moving "to reduce or cease operations in American plants, while opening or increasing production in Mexico and China plants for sales to American consumers."

Decrying "a bad combination of greedy corporations and policy makers with no understanding of economic development," Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, who represents Ohio's Mahoning Valley, said on Monday, "President Trump has been asleep at the switch and owes this community an explanation. We tried to get his attention on this issue two years ago. He promised us that his massive corporate tax cut would lead to dramatic reinvestments in our communities. That clearly is not happening. The Valley has been yearning for the Trump Administration to come here, roll up their sleeves and help us fight for this recovery. What we've gotten instead are broken promises and petty tweets."

Instead of responding to warnings that his decision to scrap fuel-efficiency standards could harm US manufacturers of compact cars, instead of creating incentives for US corporations to embrace innovative work-sharing programs, Trump pursued a foolhardy course that left GM workers vulnerable to what Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown on Monday referred to "corporate greed at its worst."

Brown, one of the savviest analysts of trade and manufacturing policy in Congress, pointed out that "the company reaped a massive tax break from last year's GOP tax bill and failed to invest that money in American jobs, choosing to build its [Chevy] Blazer in Mexico."

Brown has been warning for months about the threat to the Lordstown plant and to other GM facilities. He proposed responses, including a host of innovative measures designed to create incentives for the purchase of US-made vehicles and to address loopholes in the GOP tax plan. Sherrod Brown, a serious senator who focuses on policies for the 21st century rather than empty sloganeering, saw the danger coming. Donald Trump did not.

(c) 2018 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.

So What Was That Strange Thing?
By James Donahue

It was on October 19, 2017 that Hawaiian astronomer Robert Weryk first detected the mystery traveler, a shiny small cigar shaped object tumbling and traveling at high speed through our solar system. Unfortunately, when it was spotted, it had already reached its nearest point to Earth about 40 days earlier and was zipping some 21 million miles away from us and tumbling back to its origins somewhere in deep space.

One would think such things fly through our solar system all the time but apparently they don't. And because it was so uniquely different from the routine flying rocks and comets that orbit this inner sphere of planets, moons and sun, it has excited the world of astronomers. Apparently visitors from deep space rarely happen . . . if ever. This is the first time it has ever been recorded.

It has been named "Oumuamua," a Hawaiian word when means "scout," or "first distant messenger." The name was chosen by the team at the Pan-STARRS telescope with the help of Larry Kimura, professor of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii, Hilo.

Because it was too small for our satellite cameras to capture an accurate picture we are left with an artist's concept of what it looked like. The data collected found the object to have an elongated, cigar-shape that was apparently clear of dust and dirt so there was no flare of a tail like a comet makes. One report said it had a reddish hue that reflected light. And it was tumbling as it zipped through our solar system as if it was slingshot from other worlds.

So where did it come from and was it orbiting some sun in a nearby solar system? A paper published this year by Harvard University astronomers suggests that it may have been a probe sent by an alien race to look over our unique solar system. "Oumuamua may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization," wrote Professor Abraham Loeb and Shmuel Bialy, a postdoctoral scholar at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The Harvard researchers said they reached this conclusion because of the unexpected acceleration trajectory that occurred after it swung past the sun. This suggested that Oumuamua was propelled by sunlight. The other factor was the fact that the object had no cometary tail and its route through our system deviated from a trajectory solely dictated by the gravity of the sun, Loeb said in an interview with Salon.

Another thought by Loeb is that Oumuamua may have been driven by light-sail. This is a yet untested concept proposed by NASA that suggests space craft may someday be driven by light from the sun. In order for this to be in any way effective, Loeb said in his Salon interview, the craft "needs to be less than a millimeter in thickness, like a sail." But the evidence found to date does not support this.

The Harvard theory has not been accepted by the astrophysics community, which should not be surprising. Paul Sutter, an astrophysicist at Ohio State University, tossed in his two-cents when he said: "My main critique is that as soon as you introduce aliens as a hypothesis you stop doing science, because aliens are capable of doing anything they want."

And at the SETI Institute, senior astronomer Seth Shostak was quoted as saying: "It's certainly ingenious to show that an object the size of Oumuamua might be sent by aliens to another star system with nothing but a solar sail for power. But one should not blindly accept this clever hypothesis when there is also a mundane (and a more likely) explanation for Oumuamua - namely that it's a comet or asteroid from afar."

All of this commentary about the study of a mysterious cigar-shaped object that is zipping through our solar system from other worlds is interesting. It seems that our space research is zeroing in on potential life outside of our own world. As more and more evidence points to a potential extinction of life on our own planet because of careless overpopulation, pollution and seizure of natural resources, and our unwillingness to change our ways, this appears to be a last ditch effort to find somewhere new for humanity to run.

How sad it would be if Oumuamua reflects yet another last ditch effort by an alien race to flee from its own proclivities.

(c) 2018 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.

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi leaves after a weekly news conference November 15, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Without New Leadership, The New House Majority Will Fail (Again)
By William Rivers Pitt

As the nascent House Democratic majority of the 116th United States Congress prepares for its role as Last Bulwark Against Trumpian Annihilation, the question of who should be the next speaker of the House has been looming large. Nancy Pelosi, who has served in Congress for 31 years and held the post from 2006 until the 63-seat wipeout in 2010, has been the clear front-runner since the election.

Pelosi throws more weight than any other House Democrat. She is a fundraising powerhouse who has been in the building longer than the water fountain in the Rotunda. Her political skills are legendary; thanks to her leadership, not one single House Democrat voted in favor of the Trump tax cuts or the Affordable Care Act replacement bills. In a nation where large swaths of the electorate have been gulled into believing "tax cuts" are magic words and "Obamacare" is an epithet, wrangling all those "no" votes was the best trick anyone has seen since "Lazarus, come forth."

Pelosi's run for the speakership is supported by new progressive superstars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose leadership on the matter has staved off a left-bent insurrection from new members seeking to shake things up. The only real resistance to Pelosi's nomination from congressional Democrats has come from conservative members of the party, 16 of whom signed a seemingly doomed letter of opposition.

There was a great deal of excitement in the air after the Democrats seized control of the House. "The Democrats coming to Washington are younger, more diverse, more female, and more liberal than before," wrote Joshua Green for Bloomberg News the day after the elections. "They'll control the US House of Representatives and the subpoena power it grants them - and they'll be mindful that voters sent them to Congress to act as a check on Trump."

Several veteran House Democrats, however, have not yet gotten the message. Part of the problem is the fact that it takes time to accrue enough influence in the House to actually get things done, and that time is brutally elongated when members like Pelosi stay in office for decades. "The House Democratic leadership has horribly mishandled the situation vis-a-vis new leadership over the years," Democratic strategist Jim Manley told The Boston Globe. "This has been festering for years and should have been addressed at least a couple of election cycles ago."

The leadership issue has also affected the Congressional Black Caucus, which has two members - veteran Rep. Barbara Lee of California and newly elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York - vying for the position of Democratic Party Caucus chair. "The competition is a sign of the CBC's growing power and the challenges it faces as it expands," reports Politico. At the same time, however, it stands as another example of a long-serving House veteran facing a challenge from a new arrival anxious to make his mark.

It comes down in the end, as ever, to priorities. Case in point: Climate change is here, and new members like Ocasio-Cortez have proposed a "Green New Deal" to help address the situation before it's too late (if it isn't already). They want to expand the scope of a select committee on climate change to help get this done, but are being opposed by veteran lawmakers like Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, who seems more interested in guarding his turf (the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) than in saving all life as we know it.

This slow-walking attitude is being parroted by many Democrats who are slated to run a number of powerful committees after January. Rep. Adam Schiff, soon to lead the House Intelligence Committee, has spent the last 18 months breathing fire about Donald Trump's ties to Russia and the Republican coverup of same. Now, however, he is leading a faction of Democrats seeking to delay a reopening of that committee's investigation. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, soon to head the Judiciary Committee, is actively discouraging anyone from even discussing impeachment, a bruising flashback to the "off the table" stance then-Speaker Pelosi took in 2006 toward the prospect of George W. Bush's impeachment.

This is not to say the current veteran Democratic leadership is bereft of good ideas. In a Sunday op-ed published by The Washington Post, Pelosi and Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes outlined their vision for the Democrats' legislative agenda in the coming session. They argue the party's main priorities should be getting dark money out of politics, "closing the revolving door between government and private industries," strengthening ethics and conflict-of-interest laws and restoring the Voting Rights Act.

Excellent ideas, all... except the words "climate change" appear nowhere in the article. Immigration reform gets a half-sentence nod even as some 14,000 children remain separated from their parents and asylum-seekers are gassed at the border. Pointedly, the name "Donald Trump" is not mentioned once, despite the fact that the voters specifically elected a Democratic House majority in order to impede this rogue president with all the powers at its disposal.

To do otherwise now is beyond unacceptable. The last time Pelosi held the gavel and had an opportunity to bring a dangerously criminal administration to heel, she spit the bit and let murderers and torturers walk away scot-free. Some of them are now in this administration pursuing similarly deadly policies under yet another cumulous cloud of lies and lawbreaking.

Plainly put, that cannot be allowed to happen again. If the Democratic Party and its leadership continue to be inert and another "change" election comes to nothing, we will all suffer. "The party is being taken over by younger people," warns Howard Dean, "and my generation can do this the easy way or the hard way. Old institutional leadership always resists change, but it's important we have that change."

Truer words were never spoken. Even if Pelosi becomes speaker, she could contribute to the forward momentum of the House by staying in the role for only as much time as it takes the new members to learn the ropes. I think six months is a proper span, and after that, pass the torch. The old strategies are proven repetitive failures, and playing nice with Trump and the GOP is only slightly smarter than jumping into a shark tank with a pork chop tied around your neck.

The current leadership of the Democratic Party still seems to think "reaching out" to Republicans and being "bipartisan" will miraculously part the waters and heal what ails us. Even after all these years, they fail to recognize the stark fact that the modern Republican Party itself is what ails us. A great many Republican voters have been well trained to believe Democratic ideas are not merely wrong but actually evil, and their elected representatives behave accordingly. That isn't going to change during this Congress, or any time soon.

The new progressive House members are not decorative accents. They have come to get very important things done. If they are not given the opportunity, they just may take it. It's time for Nancy and Steny and the rest to stand down in due course. We need change that, for once, isn't in quotation marks.

(c) 2018 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.

Gassing Kids At The Border
By Heather Digby Parton

The Trump administration closed the border at Tijuana today,the world's busiest crossing, in both directions, stranding vast numbers of people on either side of the border on the busiest day of the holiday week-end.


Some Central American migrants, mostly men, tried to breach the border crossing between Tijuana, Mexico and California on Sunday, after pushing past a blockade of Mexican police standing guard near the international border crossing in a bid to pressure the U.S to hear their asylum claims.

In response, U.S. border guards suspended crossings at the the San Ysidro port of entry in California and shot tear gas into Mexico, according to an AP reporter on the scene.

Mexico's Milenio TV showed images of at least a few of the hundreds of migrants at the border tried to jump over the fence separating the two countries.

The migrants carried hand-painted American and Honduran flags and chanted: "We are not criminals! We are international workers!" The group mostly consisted of men, although some women pushed small children ahead in strollers.

U.S. Border Patrol helicopters flew overhead, while U.S. agents held vigil on foot beyond the wire fence in California. The Border Patrol office in San Diego said via Twitter that pedestrian crossings have been suspended at the San Ysidro port of entry at both the East and West facilities.

Migrants were enveloped with tear gas after U.S. agents shot the gas, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. Children were screaming and coughing in the mayhem.

Honduran migrant Ana Zuniga, 23, said she saw migrants open a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.

"We ran, but when you run the gas asphyxiates you more," she told the AP while cradling her 3-year-old daughter Valery in her arms.

And now we are using tear gas on children --- in a foreign country.

These people want to turn themselves in to the authorities and claim asylum. That's all. They have been held in unsanitary pens in Tijuana, virtually designed to make them sick. They left the detention enter today out of desperation.

It's a horror.

By the way, caravans have come to Tijuana before. The border patrol processed people without all this drama. This is all Trump.

And, by the way, MSNBC and CNN need to think twice before they cover this by showing the same footage of running Latinos on a loop. Maybe they could show the lines of stranded Americans on both sides of the border fuming at Trump's stupidity.

(c) 2018 Heather 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.

Errors in a recent ocean warming study illustrate global warming's complexity.
Criticism of the study led to greater understanding and strengthening of the methodology and analysis.

Ocean Study Criticism Shows Benefits Of Scientific Method
By David Suzuki

Errors in a recent ocean warming study illustrate global warming's complexity. They also show the depths to which climate science deniers will stoop to dismiss or downplay evidence for human-caused climate change.

The study by researchers from the U.S., China, France and Germany concluded, "ocean warming is at the high end of previous estimates" and global warming might be advancing faster than scientists thought. British researcher Nic Lewis, who has a math and physics background, found discrepancies, which he noted on a skeptic's blog. The scientists acknowledged the errors and offered a correction to the study, published in Nature.

The controversy illustrates how the scientific method works. Studies are often amended or overturned as new information becomes available or as inconsistencies or errors are pointed out.

Study co-author Ralph Keeling, a geosciences professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, noted, "The overall conclusion that oceans are trapping more and more heat mirrors other studies and is not inaccurate, but the margin of error in the study is larger than originally thought."

Some climate science deniers have seized on the error to imply it discredits the mountains of evidence for human-caused climate change amassed by scientists from around the world for close to 200 years - evidence accepted by every legitimate scientific academy and institution and every government except the current U.S. administration.

Those who understand science haven't taken such a hard line. Even Lewis, who's skeptical about climate models and warming rate predictions, said the study's methodology is "novel, and certainly worthy of publication" and that the errors were "serious (but surely inadvertent)." He criticized Nature for not scrutinizing the study better, and mainstream media for extensive, "unquestioning" coverage.

News media don't always get it right on science-related issues. Journalists aren't always well versed in science, and often lack time to examine issues with the depth they merit. Communicating complex ideas and distilling entire studies into eye-catching headlines and brief stories can lead to misinformation and limited understanding.

Lack of science literacy is a problem in journalism and society in general. Science is a useful tool, but it's not perfect. With the ocean study, the method worked as it should. Scientists raised questions, developed hypotheses, conducted research and presented findings. Then another expert found discrepancies. This led to corrections and a stronger understanding of the methodology and its applications, and of ocean warming.

Many people aren't familiar with the precise definitions of scientific terms, and this can lead to misunderstanding. We see comments that human-caused climate change is just a "theory," so we should question or dismiss it. But in science, a theory is based on one or more tested hypotheses. When research and experiments confirm that the hypotheses accurately describe and predict real-world occurrences, a theory is developed. We have the theory of gravity and the theory of evolution. As science, understanding and technologies evolve, theories are sometimes revised and occasionally disproven or discarded.

Global warming theories are based on a wide range of research and knowledge, from the physics of the greenhouse effect to science regarding ocean currents, the carbon cycle, wind patterns and feedback loops. There may be some uncertainty about warming rates and consequences, but there's no doubt the world is heating because of human activity - mostly through burning fossil fuels and damaging or destroying carbon sinks like forests and wetlands - and that the consequences are already severe and will worsen if we fail to act decisively.

We also know our activities have already locked in a certain amount of unpreventable warming, so we don't have time to delay if we want a healthy future - or a future at all - for our young people and those yet to be born.

Healthy skepticism is good. Criticism of the ocean study led to greater understanding and strengthening of the methodology and analysis. But denying the massive amounts of evidence and even the legitimacy of science leaves us with what? Personal beliefs? Ignoring what's in front of us to maintain the status quo? Practicing "business as usual"?

Those would all put us on a path to disaster.

We must work together to support the science we have to help us learn to live within planetary boundaries.

(c) 2018 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co_founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

We Bear Responsibility For The Conditions In Honduras Causing Its People To Flee
The question is how much of the turmoil we own-and how we're going to make good on our moral debts.
By Charles P. Pierce

God help us, we have handed government over to soulless lunatics. From the Washington Post:

A little girl from Honduras stares into the camera, her young features contorted in anguish. She's barefoot, dusty, and clad only in a diaper and T-shirt. And she's just had to run from clouds of choking tear gas fired across the border by U.S. agents. A second photograph, which also circulated widely and rapidly on social media, shows an equally anguished woman frantically trying to drag the same child and a second toddler away from the gas as it spreads.

The three were part of a much larger group, perhaps 70 or 80 men, women and children, pictured in a wider-angle photo fleeing the tear gas. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon shot the images, which provoked outrage and seemed at odds with President Trump's portrayal of the caravan migrants as "criminals" and "gang members." Trump officials said that authorities had to respond with force after hundreds of migrants rushed the border near Tijuana on Sunday, some of them throwing "projectiles" at Customs and Border Protection personnel.

Bull. See also, Shit.

Before we get into this latest atrocity committed in our name, let's go back to October 23, 1998. On that date, the CIA declassified the report by its inspector general regarding what the CIA was doing in Honduras as part of the general (and bloody) Reagan Administration meddling in Central America in the previous decade. Thanks to the irreplaceable National Security Archive, we learned that the Honduran military was freed up to make war on its own people so that the United States could keep using the country as a staging area for its adventurism elsewhere in the region.
The report indicates that the CIA knew contemporaneously about the abuses which were occurring, and did not report on them as it should have even though Honduras was the linchpin of U.S. Central America policy during the Reagan administration. Despite CIA knowledge of Honduran military abuses, more than $1 billion in U.S. taxpayers money flowed to the Honduran military throughout the 1980s.

"The CIA knew there was blood on the hands of the Honduran military but covered it up, providing impunity for rights abusers and misleading the U.S. Congress and public," noted National Security Archive Research Fellow Susan Peacock. She called the release of the IG report "a step toward the disclosure which President Clinton promised vis-a-vis human rights abuses in Latin America." Despite the Clinton Administration's commitment to Congress to release the report to the fullest extent possible, major portions -- including critical sections on CIA involvement in "torture or hostile interrogations" and "possible accountability issues" -- are blacked out.

(An aside: No matter how critical, say, John Brennan is of the president*, the CIA is still a nightmare that has to be addressed seriously by the Congress.)

Using small nations for your own military purposes rarely works out well for the former, and such has been the case with Honduras. The military ran things for several decades, propped up by American aid and Cold War fantasies of Nicaraguan pick-up trucks invading Brownsville. (People really believed this stuff.)

As the years went by, the United States couldn't quit Honduras. And it was very much a bipartisan bit of business. In 2009, when a military coup deposed President Manuel Zelaya at the insistence of the country's Supreme Court, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton supported the government that was installed by the coup. While Clinton was running for president, she argued, especially to Democracy Now's Juan Gonzalez, that the coup was at least nominally constitutional, and that supporting the deposing of Zelaya was the least-bad option. That remains debatable, but what does not remain debatable is that Honduras subsequently descended into the present chaos.

For the past several decades, the country's civilian government has been riven with corruption and the country itself has ripped its own entrails out in gang violence. It has become both a de facto and a de jure human rights nightmare, according to Human Rights Watch:

Lawyers and human rights defenders suffer threats, attacks, and killings. In 2016, CONADEH registered 16 violent attacks against lawyers, including 13 killings. The IACHR described Honduras in August 2016 as one of the "most hostile and dangerous countries for human rights defenders" in the Americas.

To date, eight men have been charged with the murder in March 2016 of environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres, including an army major and the former environment manager of Desarrollo Energetico S.A. (DESA), the company behind the Agua Zarca dam project that Cáceres was campaigning against at the time of her death. The Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists, Human Rights Defenders and Operators of Justice, created in 2015, suffered from a lack of adequate resources and staffing, according to local activists.

Meanwhile, the current administration*, because it is headed by a bigot who knows nothing about anything, has strangled aid to Central America as part of its Get The Brown People Out agenda. From Reuters:
Under a scheme to strengthen Central America launched in 2014 known as the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, the United States pledged to put forward a dollar for every four invested by Honduras, Hernandez said. But that commitment has not materialized, he added. "That will obviously have repercussions," he told Reuters. "Because the whole idea of the Alliance for Prosperity ... was to attack the migration problem at the root." Between 2016 and 2018, combined U.S. foreign aid for Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador declined by more than one third to $195 million, according to official U.S. data.
The people at the border literally are running for their lives. The idea that the United States is now actively hostile to asylum seekers is a nasty throwback to the 1930s.

Irish historian Liam Hogan, writing on the electric Twitter machine, unearthed a quote from Congressman James W. Taylor from that time when the United States was turning away Jewish refugees from Europe and sending them back into the maw of what would become the Holocaust. In 1939, shortly before his own death, Taylor said:

"The American people are not going to be deceived by this refugee bunk. This is just another scheme to bring additional thousands here who are not wanted in Europe."
And there we are. The problem was that not enough people in America cared enough to understand why those Jews were fleeing, and from what they were fleeing in the first place. That is still the problem today. Radical Trumpists already are calling the weekend's violence a successful repelling of a horde of "invaders," as though gassing shoeless toddlers was the equivalent of Charles Martel's turning back the forces of the caliphate at Tours. That point of view will be taken immediately as the legitimate Other Side of the argument regarding using chemical weapons on impoverished children.

These are people being told through violence that they have to return to the violence that drove them out of their countries in the first place. The ones with longer memories will recall the days when the United States used Honduras to initiate violence in Guatemala and El Salvador for the purpose of initiating it in Nicaragua. The younger ones will simply hate us. The Imperial Prerogative comes with some very heavy dues.

(c) 2018 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-

"Bill Clinton was a pretty good president for a Republican."
~~~ Michael Moore

San Ramon Valley Fire Department firefighter Casey Good works to stop the Woolsey Fire
from reaching homes on Dequincy Court in West Hills, California, on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

California Wildfire Likely Spread Nuclear Contamination From Toxic Site
By Dahr Jamail

The incredibly destructive Woolsey Fire in southern California has burned nearly 100,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, killed three people, destroyed more than 400 structures, and at the time of this writing, was finally nearly completely contained.

The fire may also have released large amounts of radiation and toxins into the air after burning through a former rocket engine testing site where a partial nuclear meltdown took place nearly six decades ago.

"The Woolsey Fire has most likely released and spread both radiological and chemical contamination that was in the Santa Susana Field Laboratory's soil and vegetation via smoke and ash," Dr. Bob Dodge, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA), told Truthout.

The fire has been widely reported to have started "near" the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site (SSFL), but according to PSR-LA, it appears to have started at the site itself.

The contaminated site - a 2,849-acre former rocket engine test site and nuclear research facility - is located just 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

A press release issued by PSR-LA on November 12 stated:

Cal Fire identifies the fire location as E Street and Alfa Road, a location that is in fact on SSFL. It was recently reported that the "Chatsworth electric substation" experienced a disturbance 2 minutes before the fire was reported, but that substation is in fact on SSFL, near that location. A photograph posted on Twitter from KCAL9's Stu Mundel shows the fire starting Thursday afternoon near the same location [on November 8], which is only about 1,000 yards away from the site of the 1959 partial nuclear meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) reactor.
Cal Fire maps show that much of the SSFL is within the boundaries of the Woolsey Fire.

In the aforementioned press release on the crisis, Denise Duffield, the organization's associate director, stated that, "Though we must wait for fire authorities to conclude their investigation, it is ironic that an electrical substation built for a reactor that melted down six decades ago now may now be associated with a catastrophic fire that began on the SSFL site that is still badly contaminated from that accident and numerous other spills and releases."

It is possible that the millions of people who live within a 100-mile radius of the site have been exposed to its radioactive waste and toxic chemicals that are now airborne. There has been great concern about extensive and extremely toxic and radioactive waste at the SSFL for years.

According to Daniel Hirsch, who recently retired as director of the Program on Environmental and Nuclear Policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, SSFL is "one of the most contaminated sites in the country."

Hirsch is also president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nonprofit organization that provides independent technical assistance to communities near nuclear sites. Students working with him back in 1979, when he was teaching at University of California Los Angeles, uncovered the partial nuclear meltdown that had occurred in 1959 at the SSFL, but that had been kept secret. He has worked ever since to have SSFL cleaned up.

Hirsch explained to Truthout that the 1959 partial meltdown had been covered up for years by the Atomic Energy Commission. Meanwhile, at least three other reactors there suffered accidents.

"There were radioactive fires with high-level radioactive waste, releases from a plutonium fuel fabrication facility, and decades of illegal burning of toxic and radioactive wastes in open pits," he said. "Other parts of the facility hosted tens of thousands of tests of missile and rocket engines, often with exotic and very toxic rocket fuels."

While explaining how incredibly toxic the SSFL site is, Hirsch added, "Collectively, the sloppy environmental practices and lax regulatory oversight resulted in widespread radioactive and toxic chemical contamination of soil, surface water and groundwater."

And now, given that most, if not all, of the SSFL site has burned, it is possible that the millions of people who live within a 100-mile radius of the site have been exposed to its radioactive waste and toxic chemicals that are now airborne.

Official Denial

On November 8, Forbes published a story titled, "California's Woolsey Fire Now Burning Malibu Went Through the Site of a Nuclear Meltdown First." Other local media, including the aforementioned KCAL tweet with a photo of the fire starting within the SSFL site, also reported on the fire burning through the area.

In contrast with those reports, however, a November 9 statement from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the state regulatory agency responsible for overseeing the cleanup of the site, stated, "Our scientists and toxicologists have reviewed information about the fire's location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke."

Much of the corporate press has obediently parroted California's DTSC's claim of there being "no elevated radiation levels near the ex-nuclear test site," as did CBS News.

But Hirsch takes strong issue with the DTSC's claims of the situation being safe. According to him, in 2010, DTSC entered into agreements for a full cleanup of SSFL, to be completed by 2017. "We are in 2018, and the cleanup not only hasn't been completed, it hasn't even begun," he said. "This is due to the too-cozy relationship between DTSC and the parties responsible for the pollution."

The entities responsible for the contamination are National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Boeing, and the Department of Energy (DOE).

"And now DTSC and the polluters are pushing to leave 98 percent of the contamination not cleaned up," Hirsch told Truthout, adding that incoming California Gov. Gavin Newsom "needs to fix DTSC, and commit to complete and prompt fulfillment of the cleanup agreements, which require cleaning up all detectible contamination."

Dodge was equally critical of how DTSC has handled the situation. "They have continually been trying to undermine the cleanup, as well as proposing leaving over 90 percent of the contamination on site, thus are continuing to put the surrounding communities at risk," he said, adding that the DTSC is even considering "vastly weaker cleanup plans."

Rain has already fallen across much of the Woosley Fire area, including SSFL, to which Dodge expressed concerns of ash and soil from the site washing down to the communities below.

Duffield, who has been working for the full cleanup of nuclear and chemical contamination at the SSFL for more than 30 years, explained that there is widespread contamination at SSFL's soil and vegetation that, when burned, can travel for miles via smoke and ash - especially with high winds speeds as California had during the fire.

"SSFL should have been cleaned up a long time ago - the state signed Administrative Orders on Consent (AOC) agreements with DOE and NASA committing them to clean up all detectable contamination by 2017," Duffield told Truthout. "Boeing refused to sign the agreement, but DTSC said its normal procedures would require them to clean up to a comparable level."

This criticism of the DTSC cannot be taken lightly, given that Physicians for Social Responsibility received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, and its international organization, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, launched the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

"If DTSC had kept its word, we wouldn't worry about SSFL contamination being spread further due to the fire," Duffield said. "Area residents and elected officials should be very concerned and demand the full cleanup to take place now, without delay."

Truthout has made several requests for comment from the DTSC; on November 15, a representative from the agency said it would reply, but at the time of this writing, Truthout has not received a response.

Major Human Health Impacts

There are multiple human health impacts that have been known to stem from the site well before the Woolsey Fire began.

A study prepared by Professor Hal Morgenstern for the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry studied the community surrounding SSFL and found a greater than 60 percent increase in incidence of key cancers associated with proximity to the site.

Melissa Bumstead is a mother who started a petition after her daughter was diagnosed in 2014 with an incredibly rare and aggressive form of leukemia. "Through her treatment we kept meeting other families, and we were shocked to see we lived so close to each other when childhood cancer is exceptionally rare," she told Truthout. "After we realized we all lived within miles of the Santa Susana Field Lab we started the grassroots group Parents vs. SSFL."

For years Bumstead and others in her group, along with groups such as PSR-LA, have been worried that a fire at the SSFL would be the easiest way for the carcinogenic chemicals and radioactive waste to reach local communities. She and other health advocates also worry that the ash and smoke from the fire at such a contaminated site could travel far and easily reach children, the most vulnerable part of our population.

"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that children in the United States consume, on average, 200-800 milligrams of dirt per day putting them at the highest risk of ingesting contamination," Bumstead said.

She referred to a statement about abrupt spikes in childhood cancer rates made by Dr. Catherine Metayer, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, who told WebMD that, "When you see an increase [in pediatric cancer rates] like that - that fast - in a short period of time, most likely it is going to be driven by some exposure to environmental factors."

Further, Bumstead pointed out that many of the residents she knows living in the vicinity of the SSFL complain of thyroid issues and autoimmune diseases, in addition to cancer.

Duffield explained that SSFL is contaminated with dangerous radionuclides such as cesium-137, strontium-90, plutonium-239 and tritium, and highly toxic chemicals such as perchlorate, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, heavy metals, and volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds.

"An estimated 500,000 of gallons of the very hazardous trichloroethylene (TCE) were used to flush out rocket test engines and then allowed to seep into the soil and groundwater," she told Truthout. "Exposure to these contaminants can cause cancers and leukemias, developmental disorders, genetic disorders, neurological disorders, immune system disorders, and more."

Duffield explained that SSFL is also located on a hill, and because of this, its contamination migrates off site, even when there is not a fire. In addition to contamination in soil, vegetation and structures, SSFL's groundwater and surface water is contaminated.

"Over 100 exceedances of pollution standards in runoff from SSFL was reported to the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board, resulting in Boeing having to pay more than $1 million in fines," she said. "Federally funded, independently conducted studies show the incidence of key cancers were 60 percent higher in the offsite population near SSFL compared to further away, and that contamination migrates off site over EPA levels of concern. We are currently also very concerned about a cluster of rare pediatric cancers near the site."

Now, due to the wildfire, Hirsch warned of many other major health impacts the contaminated site poses to those breathing in smoke from the fires. "The ... chemicals are by definition toxic to human health, capable of causing cancer and/or other health impacts such as miscarriages, birth defects in one's offspring, neurological or immunological illness,"he said.

Speaking both to the obvious negative health effects from breathing wildfire smoke as well as the toxins from the SSFL site, Dodge added, "All wildfire smoke can be hazardous to health, but if SSFL had been cleaned up long ago as DTSC promised, we'd at least not have to worry about exposure to dangerous radionuclides and chemicals as well."

Fox Guards the Hen House

According to its own website, the DTSC is "the lead regulatory agency overseeing the investigation and cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater at the SSFL." But there is wide and growing concern that the agency is not only failing to do its job, but is actively working in the other direction.

"DTSC is a classically captured regulatory agency, captured by the polluters it is supposed to regulate," Hirsch said. "The incoming governor needs to undertake a top-to-bottom reform of that dysfunctional agency and to place a high priority [on] getting the cleanup of SSFL back on track."

Hirsch feels strongly about the situation, which, he argued was ultimately caused by the DTSC. "If DTSC, the Department of Energy, NASA and Boeing had lived up to their cleanup obligations, the site would have been cleaned up by last year, and the fire that just happened would have not carried with it any risk of releasing radioactive or toxic chemical contamination," he said.

Dodge feels similarly. He said PSR-LA is demanding independent testing and air monitoring for radiation and chemicals from SSFL. "Why would we believe DTSC's statement that the fire caused no additional risk, when they know they're the ones responsible for SSFL still being contaminated in the first place?" he asked.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) released a press release on November 13 that claimed there was "no discernable level of radiation" at SSFL as a result of the fire.

Duffield said DPH's statement strains credulity. "Every place on the planet has some level of background radiation related to natural elements, the cosmos or atmospheric nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War. There is no excuse for such a misleading statement." She added that their statement "does not inspire confidence in the agency."

PSR-LA has ongoing concerns about what it sees is the DTSC's failure to properly deal with the cleanup at SSFL. "DTSC needs to stop misleading the public about the impact of SSFL's contamination and enforce the 2010 cleanup agreements, and keep its word that Boeing must clean up according to local governments' land use plans and zoning decisions, which for SSFL allow agricultural and rural residential uses, which would be sufficiently protective to the offsite population," Duffield said.

She argued that the DTSC must now "stand up" to Boeing, which she said has been pushing a "massive greenwashing campaign" that claims Boeing should only have to clean the site up to recreational standards, which "amount to almost no cleanup at all."

However, instead of doing the right thing and forcing the polluters to clean up their mess, Duffield said DTSC is in "major damage control."

"It knows that its own foot-dragging on the cleanup has resulted in heightened risk to exposure to SSFL contamination from the fire, so it is doing all that it can to deny the fire could have caused additional harm," she told Truthout.

Duffield added that the agency's statements that the site remains safe "defy logic" and "have not yet been backed up by any data."

"They don't even have samples back from the lab yet, and it is unconscionable for them to release statements denying risk without also revealing the data and methodology that would justify such statements," she said. "Nearly every time we are able to see the data and methodology, we find problems, always in the interest of minimizing health impacts."

Duffield is skeptical that the DTSC will do any of this without direct intervention from Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom, because he is the only one with the power to make it right. "Newsom must order that the SSFL cleanup agreements are enforced, and a top-to-bottom reform of the entire agency," Duffield said. "As DTSC has also failed to protect numerous communities in California. DTSC must be fully overhauled so that it will protect people, not polluters."

Bumstead shared similar sentiments.

"Our petition asking Gavin Newsom for the complete cleanup once he becomes governor is nearly at 500,000 signatures," she said. "We know that our community has already suffered so much in the last two weeks, between the shooting and the fires, and we're outraged that during this tragedy we have the fears of nuclear waste on top of rebuilding our lives."

Bumstead called California's DTSC a "disgrace to democracy," and added, "Once the full extent of their negligence is revealed, from the last 15 years and the Woolsey fire, we will soon see resignations of top DTSC officials, as well as resignations at Boeing, NASA and Department of Energy."

(c) 2018 Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

Eyewitness Juarez
There's no "You break it, you buy it" policy here
By Jane Stillwater

Eyewitness Juarez: There's no "You break it, you buy it" policy here "Oops, here comes the Americans! Hide all the breakables! Quick!" Sorry. Too late.

Like a bull in a china shop, rampaging American industrialists have systematically shattered the infrastructure, culture and well-being of almost every single country on the planet in the past 100 years -- including even America itself. From Afghanistan to Zaire, whenever American industrialists come knocking at the door, a cry of warning immediately goes out. "Hide the good silver! Bury the Wedgwood! Sell the Spode! The Americans are here!"

Unlike what happens at Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, however, when American industrialists get done smashing everything in sight, there is no "You break it, you buy it" policy for Wall Street and War Street. They just walk out the door scot-free -- leaving incredible chaos in their wake.

But I digress here. A little bit.

And yet even after our bulls-on-steroids American industrialists have systematically, deliberately and viciously broken all the Royal Doulton china in Honduras for decades on end, US citizens actually seem surprised, outraged and amazed that Hondurans are coming up here in search of what is left of their broken treasures.

Even in the face of this hard truth, Americans have actually started whining when they are being asked to pick up all the shards that they themselves broke. "We didn't do it!" Americans cry. "Somebody else did it! Not me." Yeah right.

And here in Juarez, I can clearly see the tragic results of all these many decades of bully-ish American behavior in Honduras. Over a hundred asylum seekers have lined up here at the US-Mexico border, patiently waiting to get access to what had been originally their good china before America broke it.

It brought tears to my eyes as I walked by the asylum seekers each day, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, day after day, on my way back to El Paso. "How long have you been waiting," I asked one man at the head of the line. "Over a week."

"But where do you go to the bathroom," I wondered.

"There is a restroom back there...." And then a Mexican priest walked by pushing a small cart, offering the asylum seekers water and bologna sandwiches. Women and children waited patiently for their turn. I tried not to cry.

"Is anyone at all being let through?" I asked next.

"13 people were allowed into the United States last night." And yet, once they get inside our allegorical "mighty woman with a torch," asylum seekers are then jailed, their children are kidnapped and they are treated like dirt -- like they, not the Americans, had rampaged the Honduran china shop. And yet, perhaps even this brutal concentration-camp life in the US might be better than the infernal Hell that American industrialists have gleefully created in Honduras. Wall Street and War Street -- hope they never come to my home town too.

One American Border Patrol guy actually told me, "These people have no skills and we don't even know what kind of people they are. They could be gangsters and crooks for all we know."

I of course couldn't manage to keep my mouth shut and replied, "These are highly skilled people. They know how to build homes, fix cars and take care of our children. Plus Trump is always bragging about all the new jobs he has created and how we need lots of new employees to do these jobs -- so jobs are not a problem according to the prez himself. But even more important, how can these people possibly be bigger crooks than we now have in Washington DC!" And then I scooted past him just as fast as I could because I didn't want to end up in a concentration camp too. Whew.

The fourth time I crossed over into Juarez, however, I planned to visit the big mercado at the cathedral plaza and buy dozens of oranges to give to the refugees. But they were all gone! Oh no! "Where did they go!"

"The Federales came and got them," said my new shopkeeper friend after I had bought a couple of his T-shirts. Oh dear. "They came for them with buses and took them to a nearby auditorium." That's bad. "No, that's good. The Federales fed them and cared for them and helped them and worried about them -- because tonight it is supposed to be very very cold." Now why can't good "Christian" Americans do that too?

Isn't it ironic that Mexico, feral Mexico, is currently gaining a Good Samaritan reputation for helping people out (as strongly recommended by Jesus) -- whereas "Christian" America's reputation as the world's "Great Satan" just keeps growing and growing and growing.

PS: I attended a recent book talk by journalist Peter Phillips. His new book, Giants, lists the names and info of the 389 people who run this world. Nothing happens on this planet without their consent. And they are all greedy and heartless capitalists -- running a Ponzi scheme on the rest of us.

"Almost the only way they can earn interest on their money these days is to continuously instigate small wars," said Phillips. Not big ones. Big "wars" would murder too many consumers. So only small "wars" will do (hopefully). Does this mean that all those women and children slaughtered in Syria and Iraq and Yemen and Afghanistan and Libya -- and Honduras -- are just smoke-and-mirror tricks to keep stock markets afloat? And have no value to American industrialists as consumers?

These 387 men (and two women) who now own us -- lock, stock, crate and barrel? They are morally rotten. And the rest of us appear to be morally rotten too --or else morally screwed. Is this truly how we want the human race to be remembered?

(c) 2018 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!

The Dead Letter Office-

George wants Christian Sharia law

Heil Trump,

Dear Unter Fuhrer Faught

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 statement you're voting against abortion in cases of rape or incest because it's gods will, 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 "Rethuglican 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 01-05-2019. We salute you frau Faught, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Trump's Assault On The Rule Of Law
By Robert Reich

The "rule of law" distinguishes democracies from dictatorships. It's based on three fundamental principles. Trump is violating every one of them.

The first is that no person is above the law, not even a president. Which means a president cannot stop an investigation into his alleged illegal acts.

Yet in recent weeks Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who at least had possessed enough integrity to recuse himself from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. Trump replaced Sessions with an inexperienced loyalist hack, Matthew G. Whitaker, whose only distinction to date has been loud and public condemnation of that investigation. As a conservative legal commentator on CNN, Whitaker even suggested that a clever attorney general could secretly starve the investigation of funds.

There's no question why Trump appointed Whitaker. When asked by the Daily Caller, Trump made it clear: "As far as I'm concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.... It's an illegal investigation."

The second principle of the rule of law is that a president cannot prosecute political opponents or critics. Decisions about whom to prosecute for alleged criminal wrongdoing must be made by prosecutors who are independent of politics.

Yet Trump has repeatedly pushed the Justice Department to bring charges against Hillary Clinton, his 2016 rival, for using a private email server when she was Secretary of State, in alleged violation of the Presidential Records Act.

During his campaign, Trump led crowds in chanting "lock her up," called Clinton "crooked Hillary," and threatened to prosecute her if he was elected president.

After taking office, according to the New York Times, Trump told White House counsel Donald McGahn he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton. McGahn responded that Trump didn't have the authority to do so, and such action might even lead to impeachment.

Yet Trump has continued to press Justice Department officials - including Whitaker, when he served as Sessions's chief of staff - about the status of Clinton-related investigations.

Never mind that Trump's senior adviser and daughter, Ivanka Trump sent hundreds messages on her private email server to government employees and aides that detailed government business, policies, and proposals. Or that other Trump officials have used their private email to conduct official business as well.

Breaking the rule of law doesn't require consistency. It requires only a thirst for power at whatever cost.

The third principle of the rule of law is that a president must be respectful of the independence of the judiciary.

Yet Trump has done the opposite, openly ridiculing judges who disagree with him in order to fuel public distrust of them - as he did when he called the judge who issued the first federal ruling against his travel ban a "so-called" judge.

Last week Trump referred derisively to the judge who put a hold on Trump's plan for refusing to consider asylum applications an "Obama judge," and railed against the entire ninth circuit. "You go the 9th Circuit and it's a disgrace," he said. He also issued a subtle threat: "It's not going to happen like this anymore."

In an unprecedented public rebuke of a sitting president, John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, condemned Trump's attack. "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," Roberts said. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."

Trump immediately shot back: "Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have 'Obama judges,' and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country." This was followed by another Trump threat: "Much talk over dividing up the 9th Circuit into 2 or 3 Circuits. Too big!"

Almost a half-century ago, another president violated these three basic principles of the rule of law, although not as blatantly as Trump. Richard Nixon tried to obstruct the Watergate investigation, pushed the Justice Department to prosecute his political enemies, and took on the judiciary.

But America wouldn't allow it. The nation rose up in outrage. Nixon resigned before Congress impeached him.

The question is whether this generation of Americans will have the strength and wisdom to do the same.

(c) 2018 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 web site is

Neoliberalism's Dark Path To Fascism
By Chris Hedges

Neoliberalism as economic theory was always an absurdity. It had as much validity as past ruling ideologies such as the divine right of kings and fascism's belief in the Ubermensch. None of its vaunted promises were even remotely possible. Concentrating wealth in the hands of a global oligarchic elite-eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world's population-while demolishing government controls and regulations always creates massive income inequality and monopoly power, fuels political extremism and destroys democracy. You do not need to slog through the 577 pages of Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" to figure this out. But economic rationality was never the point. The point was the restoration of class power.

As a ruling ideology, neoliberalism was a brilliant success. Starting in the 1970s, its Keynesian mainstream critics were pushed out of academia, state institutions and financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and shut out of the media. Compliant courtiers and intellectual poseurs such as Milton Friedman were groomed in places such as the University of Chicago and given prominent platforms and lavish corporate funding. They disseminated the official mantra of fringe, discredited economic theories popularized by Friedrich Hayek and the third-rate writer Ayn Rand. Once we knelt before the dictates of the marketplace and lifted government regulations, slashed taxes for the rich, permitted the flow of money across borders, destroyed unions and signed trade deals that sent jobs to sweatshops in China, the world would be a happier, freer and wealthier place. It was a con. But it worked.

"It's important to recognize the class origins of this project, which occurred in the 1970s when the capitalist class was in a great deal of difficulty, workers were well organized and were beginning to push back," said David Harvey, the author of "A Brief History of Neoliberalism," when we spoke in New York. "Like any ruling class, they needed ruling ideas. So, the ruling ideas were that freedom of the market, privatization, entrepreneurialism of the self, individual liberty and all the rest of it should be the ruling ideas of a new social order, and that was the order that got implemented in the 1980s and 1990s."

"As a political project, it was very savvy," he said. "It got a great deal of popular consent because it was talking about individual liberty and freedom, freedom of choice. When they talked about freedom, it was freedom of the market. The neoliberal project said to the '68 generation, 'OK, you want liberty and freedom? That's what the student movement was about. We're going to give it to you, but it's going to be freedom of the market. The other thing you're after is social justice-forget it. So, we'll give you individual liberty, but you forget the social justice. Don't organize.' The attempt was to dismantle those institutions, which were those collective institutions of the working class, particularly the unions and bit by bit those political parties that stood for some sort of concern for the well-being of the masses."

"The great thing about freedom of the market is it appears to be egalitarian, but there is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals," Harvey went on. "It promises equality of treatment, but if you're extremely rich, it means you can get richer. If you're very poor, you're more likely to get poorer. What Marx showed brilliantly in volume one of 'Capital' is that freedom of the market produces greater and greater levels of social inequality."

The dissemination of the ideology of neoliberalism was highly organized by a unified capitalist class. The capitalist elites funded organizations such as the Business Roundtable and the Chamber of Commerce and think tanks such as The Heritage Foundation to sell the ideology to the public. They lavished universities with donations, as long as the universities paid fealty to the ruling ideology. They used their influence and wealth, as well as their ownership of media platforms, to transform the press into their mouthpiece. And they silenced any heretics or made it hard for them to find employment. Soaring stock values rather than production became the new measure of the economy. Everything and everyone were financialized and commodified.

"Value is fixed by whatever price is realized in the market," Harvey said. "So, Hillary Clinton is very valuable because she gave a lecture to Goldman Sachs for $250,000. If I give a lecture to a small group downtown and I get $50 for it, then obviously she is worth much more than me. The valuation of a person, of their content, is valued by how much they can get in the market."

"That is the philosophy that lies behind neoliberalism," he continued. "We have to put a price on things. Even though they're not really things that should be treated as commodities. For instance, health care becomes a commodity. Housing for everybody becomes a commodity. Education becomes a commodity. So, students have to borrow in order to get the education which will get them a job in the future. That's the scam of the thing. It basically says if you're an entrepreneur, if you go out there and train yourself, etc., you will get your just rewards. If you don't get your just rewards, it's because you didn't train yourself right. You took the wrong kind of courses. You took courses in philosophy or classics instead of taking it in management skills of how to exploit labor."

The con of neoliberalism is now widely understood across the political spectrum. It is harder and harder to hide its predatory nature, including its demands for huge public subsidies (Amazon, for example, recently sought and received multibillion-dollar tax breaks from New York and Virginia to set up distribution centers in those states). This has forced the ruling elites to make alliances with right-wing demagogues who use the crude tactics of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, bigotry and misogyny to channel the public's growing rage and frustration away from the elites and toward the vulnerable. These demagogues accelerate the pillage by the global elites while at the same time promising to protect working men and women. Donald Trump's administration, for example, has abolished numerous regulations, from greenhouse gas emissions to net neutrality, and slashed taxes for the wealthiest individuals and corporations, wiping out an estimated $1.5 trillion in government revenue over the next decade, while embracing authoritarian language and forms of control.

Neoliberalism generates little wealth. Rather, it redistributes it upward into the hands of the ruling elites. Harvey calls this "accumulation by dispossession."

"The main argument of accumulation by dispossession rests on the idea that when people run out of the capacity to make things or provide services, they set up a system that extracts wealth from other people," Harvey said. "That extraction then becomes the center of their activities. One of the ways in which that extraction can occur is by creating new commodity markets where there were none before. For instance, when I was younger, higher education in Europe was essentially a public good. Increasingly [this and other services] have become a private activity. Health service. Many of these areas which you would consider not to be commodities in the ordinary sense become commodities. Housing for the lower-income population was often seen as a social obligation. Now everything has to go through the market. You impose a market logic on areas that shouldn't be open to market."

"When I was a kid, water in Britain was provided as a public good," Harvey said. "Then, of course, it gets privatized. You start to pay water charges. They've privatized transportation [in Britain]. The bus system is chaotic. There's all these private companies running here, there, everywhere. There's no system which you really need. The same thing happens on the railways. One of the things right now, in Britain, is interesting-the Labour Party says, 'We're going to take all of that back into public ownership because privatization is totally insane and it has insane consequences and it's not working well at all.' The majority of the population now agrees with that."

Under neoliberalism, the process of "accumulation by dispossession" is accompanied by financialization.

"Deregulation allowed the financial system to become one of the main centers of redistributive activity through speculation, predation, fraud, and thievery," Harvey writes in his book, perhaps the best and most concise account of the history of neoliberalism. "Stock promotions, ponzi schemes, structured asset destruction through inflation, asset stripping through mergers and acquisitions, the promotion of levels of debt incumbency that reduce whole populations even in the advanced capitalist countries to debt peonage. To say nothing of corporate fraud, dispossession of assets, the raiding of pension funds, their decimation by stock, and corporate collapses by credit and stock manipulations, all of these became central features of the capitalist financial system."

Neoliberalism, wielding tremendous financial power, is able to manufacture economic crises to depress the value of assets and then seize them.

"One of the ways in which you can engineer a crisis is to cut off the flow of credit," he said. "This was done in Eastern, Southeast Asia in 1997 and 1998. Suddenly, liquidity dried up. Major institutions would not lend money. There had been a big flow of foreign capital into Indonesia. They turned off the tap. Foreign capital flowed out. They turned it off in part because once all the firms went bankrupt, they could be bought up and put back to work again. We saw the same thing during the housing crisis here [in the United States]. The foreclosures of the housing left lots of housing out there, which could be picked up very cheaply. Blackstone comes in, buys up all of the housing, and is now the biggest landlord in all of the United States. It has 200,000 properties or something like that. It's waiting for the market to turn. When the market turns, which it did do briefly, then you can sell off or rent out and make a killing out of it. Blackstone has made a killing off of the foreclosure crisis where everyone lost. It was a massive transfer of wealth."

Harvey warns that individual freedom and social justice are not necessarily compatible. Social justice, he writes, requires social solidarity and "a willingness to submerge individual wants, needs, and desires in the cause of some more general struggle for, say, social equality and environmental justice." Neoliberal rhetoric, with its emphasis on individual freedoms, can effectively "split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power."

The economist Karl Polanyi understood that there are two kinds of freedoms. There are the bad freedoms to exploit those around us and extract huge profits without regard to the common good, including what is done to the ecosystem and democratic institutions. These bad freedoms see corporations monopolize technologies and scientific advances to make huge profits, even when, as with the pharmaceutical industry, a monopoly means lives of those who cannot pay exorbitant prices are put in jeopardy. The good freedoms-freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one's job-are eventually snuffed out by the primacy of the bad freedoms.

"Planning and control are being attacked as a denial for freedom," Polanyi wrote. "Free enterprise and private ownership are declared to be essentials to freedom. No society built on other foundations is said to deserve to be called free. The freedom that regulation creates is denounced as unfreedom; the justice, liberty and welfare it offers are decried as a camouflage of slavery."

"The idea of freedom 'thus degenerates into a mere advocacy of free enterprise,' which means 'the fullness of freedom for those whose income, leisure and security need no enhancing, and a mere pittance of liberty for people, who may in vain attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the power of the owners of property,' " Harvey writes, quoting Polanyi. "But if, as is always the case, 'no society is possible in which power and compulsion are absent, nor a world in which force has no function,' then the only way this liberal utopian vision could be sustained is by force, violence, and authoritarianism. Liberal or neoliberal utopianism is doomed, in Polanyi's view, to be frustrated by authoritarianism, or even outright fascism. The good freedoms are lost, the bad ones take over."

Neoliberalism transforms freedom for the many into freedom for the few. Its logical result is neofascism. Neofascism abolishes civil liberties in the name of national security and brands whole groups as traitors and enemies of the people. It is the militarized instrument used by the ruling elites to maintain control, divide and tear apart the society and further accelerate pillage and social inequality. The ruling ideology, no longer credible, is replaced with the jackboot.

(c) 2018 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
~~~ Monte Wolverton ~~~

To End On A Happy Note-

Have You Seen This-

Parting Shots-

Giving Thanks 2018
By Will Durst

One thing we should all be grateful for this year, is that Thanksgiving is making its annual appearance at the earliest possible point on the 22nd. And it could not come at a better time, conveniently laying down a soft muffling blanket of brightly colored leaves over the scorched ruts of one of the most contentious elections in our nation's history and 712 days before the next most contentious election in our nation's history. One that officially kicked off on Wednesday November 7.

The Fourth Thursday of November is the best of American holidays, a non-denominational feast of friends, family, food and football featuring six-story helium balloons on rope tethers jousting with lampposts. Where's the bad? The first sanctioned appearance of Santa, for crum's sakes.

And we do have much to be thankful for. 712 days until the next election for one thing. Also, we can't forget to mention all the everyday ordinary objects, people and events that fill our lives and normally slide by unnoticed as we go about the important business of earning a living and carving out a future. Like the store-bought pumpkin pie topped by canned whipped cream that is undoubtedly the real culprit for the hour nap striking down the entire family after dinner.

So, unless you're a large fowl that has recently been force-fed a glut of high protein grain then crowded down a path towards a big metal machine making scary swooshing noises, there is much to be thankful for.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg for some of the things that we, the Board of Directors at Durstco Industries are thankful:

* For the fact that the Pilgrims chose to celebrate on a Thursday providing their descendants with a unique 4 day weekend to kick off the Christmas shopping season.
* For spoonsful of peanut butter right out of the jar.
* For the State of Florida. Can't drive. Can't count. All right Florida, we've had it. Time to circumcise America. Just cut it off at the Georgia border and kick it into the Caribbean. 49 states. Works even better on the flag. 7 rows of 7 stars.
* For Donald Trump's unceasing efforts to provide daily comedic fodder on an hourly basis. Minutely.
* For being alive during the Platinum Age of television.
* For Turner Classic Movies' obsession with early Barbara Stanwyck movies.
* For a wife who understands that any decision made before the consumption of a third cup of coffee is not binding by custom or law.
* For perfectly turned, 6-4-3 double plays on bright summer afternoons with a Sheboygan brat in one hand and a cold Anchor Steam in the other.
* For Thomas Jefferson who presciently predicted that America gets the leaders it deserves.
* For Shake Shack now having 194 locations.
* For Robert Mueller's patience, perseverance, persistence and perspicacity.
* For Jim Acosta because you need a blunt instrument to counter other blunt instruments.
* For Aunt Lee's lime Jell-O with carrot shreds and Aunt Hoogolah's Dupamouche.
* For Chris Christie. Love him or hate him, he's not going away and is too big to fail.
* And finally, for the Newly Elected 116th Congress. Now that Democrats control the House, it'll be interesting to see who they have bigger fights with: the GOP or themselves.
(c) 2018 Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed comedian, columnist, and former door- to- door soap salesman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For past columns, commentaries and a calendar of personal appearances, including the Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show XXVI, Dec 26- Jan 6, please please visit:

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 47 (c) 11/30/2018

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