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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reports, "New Drone Strikes Underscore, Again, How Much Power We Give Trump."

Uri Avnery has, "A Terrible Thought."

Glen Ford finds, "Even Russian Dissidents Say Americans Have Gone Crazy Over Putin."

William Rivers Pitt reminds us that, "The Internet Is Freedom, And It Is Under Attack."

Jim Hightower demands we, "Avoid Amazon's "Cyber Monday," And Buy Local."

John Nichols warns, "If Trump's FCC Repeals Net Neutrality, Elites Will Rule The Internet-And The Future."

James Donahue wonders are we, "Doomed to Forget Writing?"

Pepe Escobar concludes, "Syria War, Sochi Peace."

Heather Digby Parton says, "Oh Look. Women Are Pissed And They Are Organizing. Imagine That."

David Suzuki concludes, "Corporate Influence Inflames Political Cynicism."

Charles P. Pierce explains, "This Is What Dictators Do."

David Swanson examines, "New York Times And Reaction To It Help Us See Where Nazis Come From."

Amy Goodman returns with, "Respect Existence Or Expect Resistance."

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich asks, "Is Steve Mnuchin A Fool Or A Knave?"

Chris Hedges explores, "Enabling Genocide."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst says, "I'm Thankful For ... Donald Trump - Morning, Noon, Night And Early Morning" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "All Hail The Crimson King!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Adam Zyglis, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Jacquelyn Martin, Nicholas Kamm, Mohammed Huwais, Bundesverband, Mikhail Klimentyev, Atlantic Records, Sputnik, United Nations, Reuters, Shutterstock, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, HBO, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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All Hail The Crimson King!
By Ernest Stewart

On soft gray mornings widows cry
The wise men share a joke
I run to grasp divining signs
To satisfy the hoax
The yellow jester does not play
But gently pulls the strings
And smiles as the puppets dance
In the court of the Crimson King
The Court Of The Crimson King ~~~ King Crimson

"The aim of this expedition is to explore how climate change will affect the marine biodiversity in Antarctica." ~~~ Patrick Degerman ~ Finnish scientist

"Taking away #NetNeutrality is the Authoritarian dream. Consolidating information into the hands of a few controlled by a few. Dangerous territory." ~~~ Mark Ruffalo

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." ~~~ Woody Allen

I have a feeling that Donald Trump will be remembered; if there is anyone left to remember him, for the countless lies that he's told. Sometimes it seems that every word out of his mouth is a lie. Which of course begs the question, is he mad? By his actions and his words he certainly seems to qualify for that epithet on many levels. You may recall my many columns proving his many forms of madness? Question is, is there method to his madness, or is he just merely mad? Methinks that both maybe right!

I'm not sure that he has any political thoughts of his own? If so, that would explain a lot of his actions. If he hears something on Fox Spews; magnificent liar's in their own right, it suddenly becomes Trump's new policy. He's surrounded himself with a core of well know liars and political policy hacks that do their best to control his actions. The more they fawn for him the boulder his actions. Makes you wonder who are the real puppets masters pulling Trumps strings? For example, with Dubya it was old dead-eye Dick Cheney that kept our favorite prairie monkey in line and focused on the PNAC vision of conquering the world. A quest we're still on, I might add! Could it be that the Koch brothers, Putin and their like are Trumps puppetmasters? Well duh!

So far he's only dabbled at war. A few dead in Syria, a few more in Afghanistan, a few more dead in Yemen and in Africa. So far, his puppet masters have kept his tiny hands away from THE button, but for how much longer? Mighty Zeus protect us, if someone were to point out to Trump that Barrack Obama has killed many more foreigners than he. You know what that could lead to. For those of you who said nuking Korea or Iran, you may stay after class and clean the blackboards and erasers! Afterward we'll have juice and cookies!

At what point does The Koch brothers, Putin and the rest lose control. Sure the 1% is for a never ending limited war. That's a money maker, while WWIII is not! If Trump decides to launch on old "short and fat" who can stop him? Actually, no one, without committing treason. Imagine what would happen if one of our ICBM's targeting North Korea's nuclear instillations drifts a little to the north and a couple of h-bombs land in China. It really won't matter of 8 of the 10 warheads hit their targets in North Korea if the other 2 hit China, will it? Are you ready for, "All Hail The Crimson King?" Well, are you? Ya'll remember what they used to say about facing a nuclear attack? You quickly have to, get under a table, put your head between your legs, and then kiss you ass goodbye!

In Other News

I see where a team of scientists who found an array of sea life not found before in an area they explored beneath an Antarctic ice shelf believe the dramatic change may be caused by global warming.

Research divers who inspected the seafloor below the Ross Ice Shelf for the first time in eight years ago said in the past marine creatures here were sparse because it was usually in darkness.

But they think the thinning of the ice shelf explains why this time they found organisms such as deep-sea sponges, sea stars, brittle stars and sea cucumbers present, where they weren't before. They suspect the change is due to "sunlight now being able to filter through the frozen mass due to climate change - allowing plankton to form and sustain a wider variety of underwater life."

Two of the researchers noted how the marine life had changed since the group's first trip below the frozen mass on a previous venture, one of the group reported.

"Two days ago, [two of the researchers] did the first dive of the year under the ice in crystal clear water, and much to everyone's surprise, the animal community on the seafloor had changed dramatically since the last visit in 2009," Finnish scientist Patrick Degerman wrote in a dispatch. "Surprisingly big changes in the coastal seafloor communities have occurred in only a few years."

"The first diver observations show that the changes can be unexpectedly rapid, even in Antarctica, where everything is expected to happen very slowly due to the low temperature," he added on the expedition's Facebook page, "Science Under the Ice."

"What used to be a very stable, sparse and food-deprived animal community on the seafloor under the thick ice in New Harbour is now much richer, with more species and higher densities of animals," Mr Degerman wrote. "Some species rarely observed at this site now appear to be relatively common."

As I've said before with global warming there are winners and losers. As Antarctica melts the sealife below gain new footholds but as the ice continues to melt the oceans will keep rising and before too long costal communities will join Atlantis under the waves! Ergo sea cucumbers one, humanity zero!

And Finally

Big Brother is coming for your internet access and Ajit Pai is leading the charge to send us back to the middle ages and hand the internet over to the 1% for their pleasure. Since quite a few of our readers read us at libraries they'll be the first ones to go.

There is way to much information on the internet and that makes our masters fear what someday will happen to their vast estates and their necks when it finally hits the fan. You may have notice that Americans are so dumb that they put Trump in the White House even though he lost the election, you can thank Madison for that too. In my life time I've seen education deteriorate from teaching kids how to think, to teaching them to follow all ze orders.

Our masters have finally gained the control back that they lost under FDR and they aren't going to let that happen again. Slaves won't rebel if they don't think they're slaves but the internet can certainly point that out in a New York minute. Ergo, it has to go. Especially all those internet sites like this one, where you can still find the real truth of matters.

The only thing that can stop this is if a company decided to not join the rush to screw us but leave their portal open as it is now. I can promise they'll make a fortune by the millions of Americans that will flock to their ISP and the companys that are pushing this treason like Verizon and Comcast are doing will pay the price.

Keepin' On

We don't sell our readers new cars, fancy homes or designer clothes. We don't advocate consumerism nor do we offer facile solutions to serious problems. We do, however, bring together every week writers and activists who are not afraid to speak the truth about our country and our world. The articles we print are not for the faint of heart.

As access to accurate information becomes more difficult and free speech and the exchange of ideas becomes more restricted and controlled, small publications and alternative presses disappear. Issues and Alibis may soon join that list.

We aren't asking for much-not thousands of dollars a month, not tens of thousands a year. What we need is simply enough money to cover expenses for the magazine. A few thousand dollars a year. A few hundred dollars a month. We cannot continue to go into debt to publish Issues and Alibis but at the same time we cannot, in good conscience, go quietly about our daily lives, remaining silent in face of the injustices perpetrated by our leaders and our government. So we need your help. We need your spare change. A dollar, five dollars, whatever you can contribute. Every penny makes a difference. Please send us whatever you can whenever you can and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours!


11-17-1928 ~ 11-25-2017
Thanks for the film!


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

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

Yemeni men walk past a mural depicting a U.S. drone and reading "Why did you kill my family," in Sanaa, 2013.

New Drone Strikes Underscore, Again, How Much Power We Give Trump
Americans rolled over for decades while we gave the executive branch unreviewable authority to kill - now that power is in the hands of an idio
By Matt Taibbi

While all of us were preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, the United States was busy preparing an attack on the Yemeni province of Badhya.

The attacks were described as a success in most Western newspapers. The Daily Mail in London highlighted the fact that "10 Al-Qaeda Suspects" were killed in the attacks, as confirmed by government officials.

One minority-ish report by Gulf News Yemen, one of the few on-the-ground sources that covers such attacks, had details of the killings. Quoting an on-the-ground activist, it added:

"The recent US drone strikes have also killed five civilians, displaced residents and caused panic in the two areas."
Drone strikes have intensified since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.

This fact should surprise no one. The ability to kill by remote control without judicial review was one of the many gifts we bequeathed to Trump prior to his inauguration.

Most of the media obsessed over the particulars of the botched and luridly insensitive phone call Trump made to the family of slain U.S. soldier Sgt. La David Johnson at the end of October.

The La David Johnson story received a lot of attention by members of the media on both sides of the aisle. But very little of it was directed at the question, "What the hell are we doing in Niger?"

Rachel Maddow's analysis, for instance, was that Trump cooked up the fracas with the Johnson family to distract from other military failures.

A few reporters did ask parenthetically what we were doing there - usually by asking Pentagon officials - but even in those cases, there has been virtually zero questioning of the righteousness of the missions.

A few senators asked questions. Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as well as Democrat Chuck Schumer, expressed surprise at the size of U.S. forces in Africa.

Graham on the campaign trail repeatedly expressed support for a new "Middle East Marshall Plan" that would have invested troops and treasure in a massive effort to unite the region.

But he sounded positively hippie-ish when asked about the surprising (to him) news that we have some 6,000 troops in Africa already, many of them at drone bases.

"I didn't know there was 1,000 troops in Niger," Graham said on Meet the Press. "This is an endless war without boundaries and no limitation on time and geography. ... You've got to tell us more."

Donald Trump is unpopular, and members of both parties will use incidents like this to highlight his genuine lack of leadership, his tasteless interactions with soldiers and his lack of a clue as it pertains to how to stabilize the Middle East.

But the basic premise of his military's presence in this part of the world has consistently gone unchallenged in the U.S. media since January, as it was mostly unchallenged under both Obama and Bush.

The core idea of our presence in places like Niger is to partner with local countries, often ones with monstrous human rights records themselves, to make remote war easier.

These countries often accept massive amounts of military aid and other geopolitical goodies, and repay us in on-the-ground intel about whom to drone-bomb in our ongoing, undeclared, ever-bloodier War on Terror.

Since 9/11, we have gone out of our way to make questioning executive authority difficult or impossible, especially when it comes to matters of national security.

The loosely and apparently interminably defined War on Terror is just one example. Presidents have assumed for themselves powers to make war that were once the province of the legislature.

Similar initiatives to expand surveillance and create and define the parameters of new interrogation tactics were also settled without asking the permission of Congress or, often, the courts.

The same goes with the expanded classification of documents and many other unilateral assumptions of authority.

In the case of drone attacks like the ones that occurred over the weekend, there will be no way to determine what, if any, liability the United States and Trump may hold for the reported deaths of the five civilians, if five is the right number.

We have very recent court precedents that have affirmed the nearly unlimited power of the president.

In 2015, for instance, the families of imam Salem bin Ali Jaber and his police officer nephew, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber, filed a wrongful death suit in Washington against the U.S. and a spate of individuals after the two were unjustly killed in a drone raid in the village of Khashamir, Yemen, on August 29th, 2012.

Salem bin Ali Jaber had preached against terrorism as recently as the week before. As imam, he pushed a line of thinking that argued the Quran did not endorse violence. By all accounts, he was exactly the kind of person we should have been trying to encourage on the ground.

Yemeni engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber, whose brother-in-law Salem bin Ali Jaber and nephew Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber,
were killed in a drone strike in August 2012 2012, speaks at a 2013 press conference in Washington, D.C.

But he and his nephew had the misfortune to be visited by three unidentified young men who must have been on America's "kill list," which in the Obama years we renamed to sound less monstrous.

The kill list became known by the Orwellian tag "disposition matrix." Trump critic John Brennan is frequently credited with coming up with the less murderous name.

In any case, five men died that day in a drone attack as soon as the two Ali Jabers took a seat outside next to the condemned men.

When the family of the Ali Jabers filed suit in America, they were told in no uncertain terms by a D.C. circuit court that judges cannot second-guess the judgment of the executive branch.

Instead, the lower court ruled, such calls are up to "the Executive, and not a panel of the D.C. Circuit, who commands our armed forces and determines our nation's foreign policy."

The family appealed. A higher court affirmed the decision. Still, since-retired Judge Janice Rogers Brown, an African-American woman, laid out in a blistering dissent the problem of courts like hers passing the buck in these decisions.

"Our democracy is broken," she wrote.

She noted that in the growing covert war, "the rules of the game are tacitly assumed to be unknown."

In other words, secret operations against secret suspects are conducted according to rules that by simple logic must also be secret.

This reduces the legal foundation for much of post-9/11 military action to, "You have to trust us."

Judges have consistently refused to take on the responsibility of reviewing these matters. They say they lack the expertise and information to decide if an attack is originally militarily justified, even if courts could demonstrate persons or companies were later victimized unfairly.

In the case of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, which was wiped out by the U.S. government for allegedly aiding al-Qaeda but seemed instead to be making medicines, a U.S. court ruled it didn't have the chops to decide if the attack had been a mistake.

A court said the case was "nonjusticiable" (say that three times fast) essentially because it lacked the ability to question executive branch wisdom in launching the strike.

This has been the law of the land. Still, in the Ali Jaber case, Brown wrote, "This begs the question: if judges will not check this outsized power, then who will?"

She added, "Congressional oversight is a joke-and a bad one at that."

Brown said mankind had to make a choice, as Thomas More argued to young William Roper in A Man For All Seasons: "What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"

Brown's suggestion was that "flattening" the law even for an ostensibly good cause would blow back on anyone who tried it.

That exact situation is playing out now. We spent the better part of two decades making presidents unaccountable warlords in order to more easily pursue "terrorists."

But then we elected a man with the brains of an anchovy to the presidency. Now we have to trust he will use that near-absolute power wisely, and early returns suggest he will not.

Hopefully we all had a good Thanksgiving anyway. Most of us probably did. We've mostly decided to close our eyes to these campaigns. But that may blow back on us too, someday. Even Thomas More knew, karma has a long memory.
(c) 2017 Matt Taibbi is Rolling Stone's chief political reporter, Matt Taibbi's predecessors include the likes of journalistic giants Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke. Taibbi's 2004 campaign journal Spanking the Donkey cemented his status as an incisive, irreverent, zero-bullshit reporter. His books include Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History, The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire.

A Terrible Thought
By Uri Avnery

SUDDENLY, A terrible thought struck me. What if Avi Gabbay really believes what he is saying?

Impossible. He cannot really believe all those things. No, no.

But if he does? Where does that leave us?

AVI GABBAY is the new leader of the Israeli Labor Party. Until recently, he was a founding member of a moderate right-wing party, Kulanu ("We all"). Without ever being elected to the Knesset, he served as a junior minister. He resigned when Avigdor Lieberman, considered by many as a semi-fascist (and the "semi" is far from certain), was allowed to join the government as Minister of Defense, the second most important post.

In a bold move, Gabbay left Kulanu and joined the Labor Party (also known as "the Zionist Camp") and was soon elected its chairman. However, he did not become the official "Leader of the Opposition", because he was not a member of the Knesset. (The formal title remained with his predecessor, the very nice but rather insignificant Yitzhak Herzog.)

One of Gabbay's outstanding qualities is the fact that he is "Oriental", an Eastern Jew. He is the seventh of eight children in a family that immigrated from Morocco in 1964, just three years before his birth.

This is very important. The Labor Party is decried as "Western" (or Ashkenazi), the party of the social elites, estranged from the mass of the Orientals. It must overcome this characterization if it ever wants to attain power again.

In the Likud Party, the situation is the exact opposite. The mass of Likud voters are Orientals, but Binyamin Netanyahu is as Ashkenazi as you can get. The Orientals adore him, as they have never adored any Oriental leader.

BUT GABBAY'S origin is not his only attribute. From his humble beginnings he climbed the heights of economic success. He became the CEO of one of Israel's most important corporations, amassing a personal fortune on the way.

He is not a charismatic leader, not a person to arouse the masses. Indeed, his face is easily forgotten. But he took with him from the business world a sound, logical way of thinking. In politics, logic is a rare commodity. It can be obstructive.

The question now is: where does logic take him?

DURING HIS few months as leader of the Labor Party, Gabbay has deeply shocked many party members. Shocked them to the core.

About once a week, usually on Shabbat, Gabbay lets loose a statement that seemingly contradicts everything the party has stood for during its more than one hundred years of existence.

He once declared that peace does not mean that any of the many dozens of settlements in the occupied territories must be removed. Until then, the party line was that only the "settlement blocs" - located hard on the Green line - could remain, within the framework of an agreed exchange of territories, and that all the others must be removed. Gabbay's announcement caused quite a stir, since it probably makes the "Two-State solution" impossible.

On another occasion, Gabbay announced that he would never set up a coalition with the "United List", the only Arab list in the Knesset. This list consists of three separate - and very different - Arab parties, which were compelled to unite when Lieberman (the same) raised the minimum electoral threshold in order to eliminate them.

It is very difficult (if not impossible) to put together a leftist majority in the Knesset without the Arab list. The Oslo agreement would never have come into being if the Arab members had not given their unwavering support to Yitzhak Rabin (but without joining his government).

To make matters worse, Gabbay announced that the only Arab member of the Labor Party in Parliament - a popular sports commentator - would not be in the next Knesset. His crime: he criticized the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which promised the Jews a national home in Palestine, which at the time was an Arab land.

THE CLIMAX (so far) came last week, To top it all, Gabbay did something that many Labor members found abhorrent.

There are in Israel tens of thousands of non-Jewish African refugees, especially from Sudan and Eritrea. They have been held for several months in an open semi-detention facility, which is vastly superior to conditions at home. Others vegetate in the poor quarters of Tel Aviv, doing occasional jobs and competing with poor inhabitants, making them very angry.

Israel claims to be a "Jewish State". Jews have been persecuted refugees for centuries. But now the government has decided not only to stem the flow, but to pay to dispose of the refugees who are already here: paying the government of Rwanda 5000 dollars for every refugee they accept from us. The refugees themselves will also get 3500 dollars each if they go voluntarily. If they refuse, they will be put in a real prison indefinitely.

Deported? Imprisoned? In a "Jewish" state? Incredible. And here comes Gabbay and calls upon his party to vote for this atrocity!

AS IF all this was not enough, Gabbay said something else incredible. He denounced his party's stand on Judaism.

Years ago, Netanyahu was caught on camera whispering into the ear of a very old rabbi that "the Labor Party has forgotten what it means to be Jewish." Incredibly, Gabbay repeated this accusation, announcing that the Labor Party had indeed "forgotten what it means to be Jewish."

Nothing could be more shocking than that. The party was founded a century ago by convinced atheists, like David Ben-Gurion, who refused to put a kippah on his head even at funerals. (Sometimes even I do so out of courtesy to religious mourners.)

The entire Zionist enterprise started as a rebellion against religion. Almost all the important rabbis of his day condemned Theodor Herzl, the founding father, as a heretic and cursed him in no uncertain terms. God Himself evicted the Jews from their country because of their sins, and only God could send His Messiah to bring them back there, if and when He pleases.

The Zionist Labor Movement has always been profoundly atheistic, except for minuscule religious elements. What Gabbay was saying now amounted to an ideological revolution. (By the way, gabbay is the Hebrew word for the administrator of a synagogue.)

Nobody is quite sure what "to be Jewish" means nowadays. Does Judaism represent a religion, a nation, or both? Does it only mean that one identifies with Jewish history and tradition, or that one believes in a God who has "chosen us from among the peoples?" And who the hell cares?

SO DOES Gabbay really believe all this stuff, or is it just political propaganda?

It may well be the latter.

Gabbay is a seasoned businessman. His logic is that of a businessman. It adds numbers.

There are two ways to view the Israeli political landscape. One is the simple one: adding election results. According to this system, the Right now enjoys a clear majority. Apart from the Likud, it consists of two extreme rightist parties, the "Jewish Home" and "Israel is Our Home", Kulanu and two Orthodox parties. The Left (or "Center-Left" as they like to call themselves these days) consists of Labor, Meretz, Ya'ir Lapid's "There is a Future" and the Arab list.

To change the balance, Labor must win over a considerable number of voters from the moderate Right.

Another way of looking at the picture sees a rightist minority facing a leftist minority, with the great mass of the people in between. The result is the same: the Center-Left must win over enough voters to change the balance.

How? Gabbay's answer seems logical: steal the clothes that the Right hung out to dry, as Churchill once put it. Meaning in practice: adopt the slogans of the right, look religious, act chauvinistic, make it possible for Rightist voters to vote for you.

That seems to be Gabbay's tactic. Can it succeed? In political life, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If he can attract enough right-wing voters, he may change the balance. If his party loses voters on the left, no problem. They will vote for Meretz, which makes no difference. And if the Arabs are very angry, that makes no difference either: they have no choice but to support a leftist government "from the outside."

Bur what if this approach leads to disaster? Political logic is quite different from business logic. It is not based on a 2 + 2 = 4 equation. In politics the answer may well be 3 or 5.

And then it hit me. What if this is not a political tactic at all? What if Gabbay really believes in all this?

God save us!
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Even Russian Dissidents Say Americans Have Gone Crazy Over Putin
By Glen Ford

The New York Times last week opened its pages to critics of the U.S. corporate media's obsession with Vladimir Putin's endlessly alleged, but never proven, campaign to subvert "American democracy." After a year of unrelenting anti-Kremlin propaganda, the Times briefly lifted its curtain of censorship to allow a counter-narrative on "Russiagate" -but only for one discreet group: Russian "dissidents." (See "Why Putin's Foes Deplore U.S. Fixation on Election Meddling," November 23.)

These "pro-Western liberals who look to the United States as an exemplar of democratic values and journalistic excellence," as the Times describes them, are dismayed, insulted and angry at the non-stop lunacy churned out by U.S. media. If the Times, the Washington Post, CNN and most of the Democratic Party are to be believed, President Putin is a superman, "an almighty force from a James Bond saga," said Leonid M. Volkov, chief of staff for anti-Putin politician Aleksei A. Navalny. How could the Russian opposition ever hope to overcome such a titan -- a man who can wreck the political order in the world's reigning superpower with the expenditure of only $100,000 on Facebook? "This image is very bad for us," Volkov told the Times. "Putin is not a master geopolitical genius."

Putin has been made to look "invincible," said Michael Idov, a Russian-American screenwriter (the closest the Times got to giving a fellow American the opportunity to challenge the corporate Russiagate obsession).

The New York Times has cultivated a cabal of pro-western Russian politicians ever since Bill Clinton's presidency, when U.S. bankers helped to create the Russian oligarchy with assets stolen from the wreckage of the Soviet state. Vladimir Putin is credited with taming the oligarchs, who nevertheless remain embedded in the nation's infrastructure. The politicians the Times calls "dissidents" hate Putin, but they are also proud to be Russian, and cannot abide U.S. scape-goating of their nation. The Americans sound crazy. "What is happening with 'the investigation into Russian interference,' is not just a disgrace but a collective eclipse of the mind," said Volko.

It is obvious to every politically aware Russian that Donald Trump and his team of incompetents met with hardly any Russians of consequence on his trips to that country -- mostly wannabes and hustlers. But, U.S. audiences can't distinguish one Russian from the other, and know only one Russian face: Putin's.

Journalist Oleg V. Kashin, a Kremlin critic, said: "The image of Putin's Russia constructed by Western and, above all, American media outlets over the past 18 months shocks even the most anti-Putin reader in Russia." Times correspondent Higgins reports that Kashin "complained that the American media has consistently misconstrued the way Russia works, presenting marginal opportunists and self-interested businessmen with no real link to the Kremlin as state-controlled agents working on orders from Mr. Putin."

The New York Times and the Washington Post know their way around Moscow -- and if they don't, the CIA will give them directions. Indeed, their friends, the Russian "dissidents," would have been glad to advise the U.S. media on Russiagate, but that would have made a boring story about small time sleaze in a cold climate. What the U.S. War Party needed was a new cold war to accompany Washington's global military offensive.

U.S. "liberals" and "progressives" hate Trump more than they value peace, and are not nearly as smart as they think they are. Professor of history Ivan I. Kurilla, who specializes in American studies at the European University in St. Petersburg, said anti-Trump Americans want to foist him on Russia -- politically exiling the Orange Menace to somebody else's country. "American liberals are so upset about Trump that they cannot believe he is a real product of American life," said Kurilla. "They try to portray him as something created by Russia. This whole thing is about America, not Russia."

The Times' Russian dissident friends despise RT, the state-supported Russia news agency, but are worried about Washington's demand that RT register as a foreign agent. Until only a few years ago, U.S. NGOs were hyper-active in Russia, spending millions to create and subsidize opposition to Putin's United Russia party, hoping to foment a "color" revolution. Western-oriented political actors in Russia fear that Russiagate will provoke a Kremlin crackdown on activists that are too closely identified with the U.S. The truth is, the "dissidents" interviewed by the New York Times are dependent on western corporate media for legitimacy and visibility. The real opposition in Russia is the Communist Party, which is the second largest party in the country but gets almost no coverage in the U.S. press, while the western-allied opposition hardly shows up in the polls.

Thus, even the nature of "dissent" in Russia is grossly distorted by the U.S media, which commits a similar crime against truth on its home turf. The New York Times went all the way to Moscow and St. Petersburg to solicit critiques of Russiagate coverage ("propaganda" is a better term), but rigidly censors American skeptics.

In so doing, they create a bubble of fear and ignorance that envelops the country -- while everything inside, shrinks.
(c) 2017 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Ajit smirks for the camera

The Internet Is Freedom, And It Is Under Attack
By William Rivers Pitt

This is the story of the long progress of humanity from the early days of opposable thumbs to the first farmer, the first builder, the first cured disease, the first literature in its second edition, the first time secondhand information was shared as a means of expanding knowledge, the first time anything was read for the first time by a second person who then passed it on, because they could.

This is about the internet as it exists today.

It began when Bi Sheng invented the first moveable type using materials made of porcelain during the Northern Song dynasty in China around 1040 AD. Some 300 years later, metal print books were created during the Goryeo dynasty in Korea. Less than 100 years later, Johannes Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press in Europe using materials that remained standard in the process for more than half a millennium. The Bible he printed, and the machine he used to do it, are widely viewed as the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, the Renaissance and an explosion of learning that transformed the world.

It was no longer just the priests and wealthy elite who had access to information. The world had the words on a page now, and slowly but surely everything changed, and changed again, and then again. The only requirement for joining this ever-expanding new club was learning how to read. This was, and remains, no insignificant hurdle. Literacy has been power throughout the ages, right up to the modern era: Consider the relatively recent use of literacy tests to bar Black people from voting in the Jim Crow South. Poor people have historically and globally had less access to reading and education, yet another means of control.

Despite this, the flourishing of readily available words has become one of the most transformative forces in history. Want to learn how to build a house, grow crops, make a shirt, preserve food, knock down a fever, study a poem, find out about your ancestors or see what your local leaders have been up to lately? Go read about it. All of it.

Today, 1,000 years since Bi Sheng first made words with porcelain tools, the internet stands at the apex of the technology used to share and store information. It is a truly awe-inspiring machine made from billions of parts spread across the entire world and into the near reaches of space. Within its wires, motherboards and towering servers is the best and worst of us, a raw and undistilled vat of almost everything we are, the near sum of human knowledge that can be accessed by devices no larger than the palm of your hand. Oh, and cats. The internet also has cats.

It is daunting to encompass: The sum of human knowledge, access to more information than could be digested in a million lifetimes, right there in your pocket (if you have money for a phone) or on your desk (if you have money for a computer). It is tempting to call the sudden wide availability of information a step in human evolution, but that gets sticky with the science. Let there be no mistake in this, however: It was a revolution when it began a thousand years ago, it was massive, and it continues.

That revolution is happening today and happening tomorrow, you and I are right there in the thick of it, and it all began with the availability of the words. Every time you crack open some dog-eared paperback or look up a recipe on Pinterest, you are participating in that revolution in a very small but actual way, because you are utilizing an incredibly powerful tool only recently available in the human experience: easily accessed information.

As far as the powerful are concerned, easily accessed information is the single most dangerous thing in the world. Indeed, the lessons abound:

* The distribution of Martin Luther's 95 Theses shattered the Roman Catholic Church's iron hold on Europe;

* Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was a formative pillar of the environmental movement;

* Upton Sinclair changed the very nature of labor and manufacturing in the US with one widely read book;

* The US Constitution and Bill of Rights are themselves the product of a mass-distributed pamphleteering war between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists;

* Anne Frank's reprinted diary forced an unwilling world to confront the true nature of evil.

The Pope, the King, mechanized fascism and Big Business: All exposed by the spread of easily accessed information, and that is a mightily foreshortened list.

These lessons are not lost on the powerful. The very first act of any despotic government is the harsh restriction of access to information across the board, be it public or educational. The Nazis burned books, and the Khmer Rouge butchered teachers. It is all of a piece. When you control the information, you control the people.

Today, a small group of wealthy individuals would appear to have come to the conclusion that we're all getting too smart for our own good around here, and they have friends on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Thanks to the FCC, ownership of television -- the internet's older half-brother who talks too much -- is currently being further condensed into the hands of a corporate few who have powerfully authoritarian views on the matters of freedom, democracy and information.

While television is a notoriously muscular -- not to mention devious -- purveyor of information, it is not the massive library/school/newspaper/sounding board/shopping mall the internet has become. Television is a one-way conversation; the internet is people. This is why the FCC's push to fundamentally rewire the internet is so profoundly dangerous. The fact that the FCC has named this brazen power grab "Restoring Internet Freedom" makes it all the more insidious.

Why? Because the internet is wide open to any and all who can gain access to it, and access is as close as the local library. If the FCC overturns net neutrality, huge multinational corporations like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast will essentially be able to decide who gets to see what online, and for an unregulated fee. Worse, Title II of the Telecommunications Act gives the FCC what is called universal service authority, which grants it the power to make sure everyone in the US has access to the network. Remove Title II, which is central to the plan, and that availability will wither with no legal oversight.

For the internet service providers (ISPs), the core of the argument is control. Title II derives its authority from Congress, which first deployed the rule in 1934 to regulate the telephone monopoly enjoyed by AT&T. Title II, in short, labels the internet as a necessary utility (just as it did with the telephone) and makes it subject to the same regulations as other utilities like water and heat. The ISPs hate that the internet has been designated as such, and this push by the FCC to eliminate that designation is taking place at their behest.

Make no mistake: The internet is a utility, one that was built with your taxpayer dollars by your government in one of the most significant public works projects ever undertaken. With this utility, you do not get water when you turn on the spigot; you get words. Information. Freedom. When they own the words, they own you.

As with everything else these days, those who seek these restrictions do so for financial reasons. What is now an open field where every website is treated the same would become, under "Restoring Internet Freedom," a pay-to-play enterprise highly profitable to the ISPs. Indeed, the only "freedom" involved here is their freedom to jack up the fees for what would become a demonstrably inferior product.

There is, however, far more involved here than simple greed. I believe the powerful few who seek this monumental and dangerous change are doing so because a child viewing a photo of a solitary man defying a tank in Tiananmen Square might learn what courage in the face of wanton authority is. They are doing so, in part, because they fear the words, because words provide liberty in dark places. The internet is all the words in one place, for the first time in human history. Such a mighty tool is a threat to those who have so much but want more, and they know it full well.

The net neutrality argument is not only about small business or licensing fees. It is about Sheng and Gutenberg, and all the moments of radical change that came about using the tools they first perfected a millennium ago. It is about what the internet is, and can be, so long as it remains open and free. The sum of human knowledge is our natural birthright; we made it, and should have access to it as we please. Those who believe otherwise are trying to steal our past and our future. They must not be allowed to succeed.

The FCC vote on eliminating net neutrality will take place on December 14. Use the time wisely and well. In the beginning were the words. They belong to you.
(c) 2017 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

Avoid Amazon's "Cyber Monday," And Buy Local
By Jim Hightower

It's "Cyber Monday" - get out there and buy stuff!

But you don't actually have to go anywhere, for this gimmicky shop-shop-shop day lures us to consume without leaving home, or even getting out of bed. Concocted by Amazon, the online marketing monopolist, Cyber Monday is a knock-off of Black Friday - just another ploy by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to siphon sales from real stores.

Seems innocent enough, but behind Amazon's online convenience and discounted prices is a predatory business model based on exploitation of workers, bullying of suppliers, dodging of taxes, and use of crude anti-competitive force against America's Main Street businesses. A clue into Amazon's ethics came when Bezos instructed his staff to get ever-cheaper prices from small-business suppliers by stalking them "the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle."

John Crandall, who owns Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs, is one who's under attack. He offers fair prices, provides good jobs, pays rent and taxes, lives in and supports the community. But he has noticed that more and more shoppers come in to try out bikes and get advice, yet not buy anything. Instead, their smartphones scan the barcode of the bike they want, then they go online to purchase it from Amazon - cheaper than Crandall's wholesale price. You see, the Cheetah is a multibillion-dollar a year beast that can sell that bike at a loss, then make up the loss on sales of the thousands of other products it peddles.

This amounts to corporate murder of small business - and, yes, it's illegal, but Amazon is doing it every day in practically every community. So, on this Cyber Monday, let's pledge to buy from local businesses that support our communities. For information, go to American Independent Business Alliance:
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

If Trump's FCC Repeals Net Neutrality, Elites Will Rule The Internet-And The Future
"This naked corporatism is Washington at its worst," says former FCC commissioner Michael Copps.
By John Nichols

Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the Internet. It guarantees that speech is equal on the network of networks-whether the words come from Walmart, the corporate behemoth that identifies as the largest retailer in the world, or Walmart Watch, the movement that "seeks to hold Walmart fully accountable for its impact on communities, America's workforce, the retail sector, the environment and the economy."

Net-neutrality protections assure that the essential democratic discourse on the World Wide Web cannot be bartered off to the highest bidders of a billionaire class that dominates the political debate on so many other media platforms.

Citizens love net neutrality. "The overwhelming majority of people who wrote unique comments to the Federal Communications Commission want the FCC to keep its current net neutrality rules and classification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act," Ars Technica reported in August. How overwhelming? "98.5% of unique net neutrality comments oppose Ajit Pai's anti-Title II plan," read the headline.

The media monopolists of the telecommunications industry hate net neutrality. They have worked for years to overturn guarantees of an open Internet because those guarantees get in their way of their profiteering. If net neutrality is eliminated, they will restructure how the Internet works, creating information superhighways for corporate and political elites and digital dirt roads for those who cannot afford the corporate tolls.

No one will be surprised to learn which side Donald Trump's FCC has chosen.

FCC chair Ajit Pai, who does the bidding of the telecommunications conglomerates with the rigid determination and focus of the former Verizon lawyer that he is, has been racing to eliminate net neutrality. Pai plans to have the FCC vote on December 14 to overturn the safeguards that were put in place during the Obama administration. If Pai and the Trump-aligned majority on the five-member commission succeed in gutting the existing Open Internet Order, they will alter the future of communications in America.

That alteration would "rig the internet," according to Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who say, "If [Pai] is successful, Chairman Pai will hand the keys to our open internet to major corporations to charge more for a tiered system where wealthy and powerful websites can pay to have their content delivered faster to consumers. This leaves smaller, independent websites with slower load times and consumers with obstructed access to the internet-a particularly harmful decision for communities of color, students, and online activists. This is an assault on the freedom of speech and therefore our democracy."

According to former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, ending net neutrality will end the Internet as we know it.

"There can be no truly open internet without net neutrality," says Copps. "To believe otherwise is to be captive to special interest power brokers or to an old and discredited ideology that thinks monopoly and not government oversight best serves the nation. In this case, I think it's both. The FCC under Pai is handing over the internet to a few humongous gatekeepers who see the rest of us as products to be delivered to advertisers, not as citizens needing communications that serve democracy's needs. By empowering ISPs to create fast lanes for the few and squelch alternative points of view, the Trump FCC fecklessly casts aside years of popular consensus that the public needs net neutrality. The tens of thousands of Americans I have talked with, both Republicans and Democrats, fully understand this need."

Copps says: "This naked corporatism is Washington at its worst."

It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the worst of the Trump agenda is on display in the attack on net neutrality. The stakes are that high.

More than just the future of the Internet is at stake. Because the Internet is such a defining force in our communications, our business arrangements and our politics, what Pai proposes-from the relative anonymity of the regulatory state-is a bartering off of the future that must be resisted in the present.

The nation's media reform network, Free Press, says: "We have three weeks to save the Internet."

Media and democracy groups saw this one coming. They've been organizing online campaigns for months. And they're now organizing street protests in Boston, Denver, San Francisco, New York Phoenix, and other cities nationwide. They'll target the offices of corporations that have opposed net neutrality, such as Verizon. They'll target the offices of members of Congress. They'll march on the FCC. And they will prepare legal and legislative strategies to defend the Internet-and the future.

"This is the free speech fight of our generation and internet users are pissed off and paying attention," says Evan Greer, campaign director for the group Fight for the Future, "Ajit Pai may be owned by Verizon, but he has to answer to Congress, and lawmakers have to answer to us, their constituents. The corrupt bureaucrats trying to kill Net Neutrality are hoping to avoid public backlash by burying the news over the [Thanksgiving] Holiday weekend. We're taking our protest from the internet to the streets to make sure that doesn't happen."
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Doomed to Forget Writing?
By James Donahue

I would never have dreamed that the skills I was learning with pencil and lined paper in the first grade might someday be lost to a generation within my lifetime. Yet the new computer/mobile communication devices in the hands of so many youth appear to be leading us blindly down what I consider to be a dangerous path predicated on a forever continuation of electric power.

Schools are no longer teaching cursive writing. I am wondering if keyboard classes will be the next to fall; as will high school grammar classes. Even the skill of spelling seems to be under threat.

When I read the text messages left by the youth on various social websites and wince at the many spelling and grammatical errors I wonder just how illiterate this new generation has become. They use letters that sound like words to abbreviate the full spelling, so that the word "you" becomes simply "U," and phrases like "be right back" turn into BRB.

At first I thought it was a clever technique to get around the absence of full-sized keyboards on the new tiny mobile texting devices carried around by nearly everyone under age 30. After all, most texting is now accomplished by just the thumb tapping on a miniature keyboard. Abbreviation certainly saves time in getting messages out when thumb typing is the best they can do.

But new technical reports are warning that because of this amazing technology, which includes not only the way we write to each other, but the way we bank and order products on line, the very art of writing and even using a writing utensil, is dying. Even scribbling a signature on an electronic keyboard is disappearing because of the growing use of chip-and-pin credit cards.

When I was in grade school we first learned to print letters, sound them out verbally, and utilize this knowledge while pouring through the old Dick and Jane reading books. Along with this came the teaching of cursive and eventually the joining up of the letters which turned into handwriting. These were compulsory skills for us. But schools now are skipping that cursive step.

In schools around the world, the teaching of cursive writing is giving way to the teaching of typing skills. But what good are typing skills if the students are texting in abbreviated words with thumbs on tiny keyboards?

All of this may be well and good if we can expect the world to remain as it exists to us today. But we all know that a simple disaster such as super storms, volcanic eruption, or atomic warfare can blast large numbers of the surviving public back into the dark ages . . . perhaps for years or longer. It is known that a single hydrogen bomb explosion in the upper atmosphere might knock out electric power for much of the nation.

Can we exist without writing skills if such a disaster occurs? Are we not setting ourselves up for total annulation, just because of our own foolishness?

As a professional writer and a lover of good literature, I have to wonder who might be left to create the great literature of the future or teach writing skills once the lights go out. And if great literature is produced at such a time, will anyone be left capable of reading and enjoying it?
(c) 2017 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani together with his counterparts, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's
Recep Erdogan, attend a joint news conference following their meeting in Sochi, Russia on November 22, 2017.

Syria War, Sochi Peace
In a well choreographed Sochi summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin defines a peaceful future for Syria after the liberation of the country from militants
By Pepe Escobar

The main take away of the trilateral, two hour-long Russia-Iran-Turkey summit in Sochi on the future of Syria was expressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin:

"The presidents of Iran and Turkey supported the initiative to convene an All-Syrian Congress for national dialogue in Syria. We agreed to hold this important event at the proper level and ensure the participation of representatives of different sectors of Syrian society."
In practice, that means Russian, Iranian and Turkish foreign ministries and defense departments are tasked to "gather delegates from various political parties, internal and external opposition, ethnic and confessional groups at the negotiating table."

Putin stressed that "in our common opinion, the success on the battlefield that brings closer the liberation of the whole of Syrian territory from the militants paves the way for a qualitatively new stage in the settlement of the crisis. I'm talking about the real prospects of achieving a long-term, comprehensive normalization in Syria, political adjustment in the post-conflict period."

So many red lines

Diplomatic sources confirmed to Asia Times much of the discussions in Sochi involved Putin laying out to Iran President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey President Recep Erdogan how a new configuration may play out in a constantly evolving chessboard.

Behind diplomatic niceties, tensions fester. And that's how the current Astana peace negotiations between Russia-Iran-Turkey interconnect with the recent APEC summit in Danang.

In Danang, Putin and Trump may not have held a crucial bilateral. But Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson did issue a joint statement on Syria - without, crucially, mentioning Astana; instead, the emphasis was on the slow-moving UN Geneva process (a new round of talks is scheduled for next week).

An extremely divisive issue - not exactly admitted by both parties - is the presence of foreign forces in Syria. From Washington's perspective, Russian, Iranian and Turkish forces must all leave.

But then there's the Pentagon, which is in Syria without a UN resolution (Russia and Iran were invited by Damascus).

There's no evidence the Pentagon plans to relinquish military bases set up in territory recaptured by the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), contiguous to Syrian oil and gas fields. Defense Secretary James Mattis insists US forces will remain in Syria to "prevent the appearance of ISIS 2.0." For Damascus, that's a red line.

Then there are Ankara's red lines. For Erdogan, it's all about the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People's Protection Units (YPG), who lead the SDF. Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin takes no prisoners; "The question of the PYD-YPG remains a red line for Turkey."

Unlike Ankara, Moscow does not consider the PYD/YPG as "terrorist organizations." The PYD will certainly be invited to Sochi. And there's not much Ankara - which is under tremendous economic pressure - can do about it.

On the Iranian front, what Tehran wants in Syria is not exactly what Moscow-Washington may be bargaining about.

Lavrov has strenuously denied there has been a US-Russia deal to expel Iranian-supported forces from southwestern Syria - stressing they were legally invited by Damascus. Since July the official position of the Iranian Foreign Ministry is that the current cease-fires should be extended to the whole nation, but "taking the realities on the ground into account." No word on Iranian forces leaving Syria.

A well-timed affair

The Sochi summit was choreographed to the millimeter. Previously, Putin held detailed phone calls with both Trump and Saudi King Salman (not MBS); the emir of Qatar; Egypt's Sisi; and Israel's Netanyahu. Parallel to a meeting of Syria-Russia military top brass, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dropped in; a non-surprise surprise Sochi visit to tell Putin in person that without Russia's military campaign Syria would not have survived as a sovereign state.

The facts on the ground are stark; the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) - fully expanded, retrained, re-equipped and re-motivated - recaptured Aleppo, Palmyra, Deir Ezzor and almost the whole southeast; borders with both Iraq and Lebanon are open and secured; cease-fires are in effect in over 2,500 towns; Turkey desisted from years of weaponizing and supporting "moderate rebels" and is now part of the solution; ISIS/Daesh is on the run, now no more than a minor rural/desert insurgency.

Daesh is almost dead - although there could always be a Return of the Walking Dead, with some obscure neo-al-Baghdadi posing as Caliph-in-exile. Iranian President Rouhani has declared the end of Daesh. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was more realistic, saying Daesh has been defeated militarily but he will only declare final victory after jihadi goons are conclusively routed in the desert.

The final showdown will be the Battle of Idlib - where thousands of Jabhat al-Nusra remnants/cohorts are holed up. Turkey has troops in idlib. Putin and Erdogan have certainly negotiated Ankara's stance. So it's up to the Turkish Ministry of Defense to convince opposition outfits not allied with the Nusra nebulae to be sitting on the table in Sochi.

On an operational level, as I ascertained in Baghdad earlier this month, this is what's happening; IRGC advisers; the Iraqi Army; Hashd al-Shaabi, known as the People Mobilization Units (PMUs); the SAA; and Hezbollah have been working in synch, as part of the "4+1" mechanism (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah). Their counter-terrorism HQ is located in Baghdad.

Pipelineistan all over again

Putin told Rouhani and Erdogan in Sochi about the "commitment of the Syrian leadership to the principles of peaceful settlement of the political crisis, its readiness to carry out constitutional reform and stage a free, UN-supervised election."

This tall order will be open to vast scrutiny. And that brings us to the key opposing party; the House of Saud, and more specifically MBS's stance.

The so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) - which is essentially the Syrian opposition factions regimented by the House of Saud - is in disarray. Its leader, Royad Hijab, was recently fired in murky circumstances. These factions met again in Riyadh, parallel to Sochi, with the Saudis basically reduced to screaming "Assad must go."

MBS's war on Yemen is a disaster - not to mention creating a horrendous humanitarian crisis. The blockade of Qatar degenerated into farce. The blatant interference in Lebanon via the Hariri-as- hostage saga also degenerated into farce. Saudi Arabia lost in both Iraq and Syria. MBS's next foreign policy moves are wildly unpredictable.

Capping it all up, a key dossier apparently was not discussed in Sochi; who's going to finance the rebuilding of Syria's economy/infrastructure.

Turkey and Iran can't afford it. Russia might help only marginally. China has made it clear it wants Syria as a Levantine hub in the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - but that's not a priority compared to Pakistan or Iran. The EU is focused on its massive internal psychodrama. And the Gulf - essentially Saudi Arabia and the UAE - are fiercely anti-4+1.

With Sochi in mind, a further joker in the pack is how a Trump-Putin possible entente will be regarded by the Pentagon, the CIA and Capitol Hill - which will always refuse the notion of a Putin-led peace process and no "Assad must go" to boot.

Most of what lies ahead hinges on who will control Syria's oil and gas fields. It's Pipelineistan all over again; all wars are energy wars. Damascus simply won't accept an energy bonanza for the US-supported SDF, actually led by the YPG.

And neither would Russia. Apart from Moscow holding on to a strategic eastern Mediterranean base, eventually Gazprom wants to be an investment partner/operator in a newly feasible Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, whose main customer will be the EU. Beyond Sochi, the real - Pipelineistan - war has only just begun.
(c) 2017 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan."

Oh Look. Women Are Pissed And They Are Organizing. Imagine That.
By Heather Digby Parton

The Republicans are worried about liberal women:

In this bastion of Virginia-brand conservatism, dozens of Democratic women roared on a recent night as their organization's leader crowed over their party's historic electoral triumph.

For the first time since 1961, Chesterfield County backed a Democrat for governor - and the driving forces in this Richmond suburb included women who defiantly trumpeted a political label their party has ducked for decades.

"Are we done?" Kim Drew Wright asked members of the organization that she and her allies christened the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County after President Trump's election last year.

"Noooooo!" the women shouted back.

Until Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) won Chesterfield County three weeks ago, the stretch of suburban and rural communities southwest of Richmond had been considered reliably Republican.

Yet voters infuriated by Trump, many of them women and Hispanics who have migrated to the county in recent years, are redefining Chesterfield and alarming Virginia Republicans who have depended on the area to make up for the support the party lacks in urban areas.


The Liberal Women of Chesterfield County is an example of a new breed of Democratic activism in the Richmond suburbs. The group, which says it has admitted nearly 3,000 followers to its private Facebook page, has established 13 neighborhood chapters and canvassed more than 50,000 homes in a get-out-the-vote effort. On Election Day, the group worked with the local Democratic committee to staff all 75 of the county's polling places, something that the local party on its own had previously been unable to accomplish.

Besides championing Northam and the statewide ticket, they pushed local residents running for the first time, including the first openly gay woman elected to the House of Delegates ; a mental health administrator who came within 128 votes of defeating a Republican House of Delegates incumbent; and a British-born accountant who ran her first race and is Chesterfield's newly elected commissioner of revenue.

"I wouldn't have done this every day for the past year if I hadn't gotten so angry about Trump," said Wright, 46, a mother of three who observed politics from the sidelines before last year's presidential election. "Once you wake up and see how important local elections are, it's hard to go back to the shadows and stick your head in the sand. Now we have our eye on everybody, from dogcatcher on up."

Wright and her allies insisted on including "liberal" in the group's name, reviving a political brand that Republicans and even some Democrats have lampooned or avoided. "It was defiance," she said. "My mission is to change that connotation of 'liberal.'"

The group's next target is Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), whose district includes Chesterfield and who earlier this year complained that "the women are in my grill no matter where I go" - a reference to the activists who protested against efforts by Brat and other House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Three women and a man who are LWCC members are among the six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Brat in 2018, a group that includes a former CIA operative, an Army veteran, and a former Marine. "Everybody loves to hate Brat," Wright said. "There's something about his smug little face."

He says they'll all come home when the Republicans nationalize the race around tax cuts. or something.

I would love to see them defeat Brat and his smug little face. He's insufferable.
(c) 2017 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.

A view of participants during the closing of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on December 12, 2015.

Corporate Influence Inflames Political Cynicism
By David Suzuki

In 1952, my Grade 10 civics teacher asked us what we hoped to become as adults. One of the most popular boys answered, "I hope to go into politics." We were delighted because we knew he wanted to make the world and Canada better, and we admired him for it. Things have changed in half a century. In 1992, my daughter Severn, then 12, created a minor sensation with a speech at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, upbraiding delegates for not protecting the future for children. "You grown-ups say you love us, but please, make your actions reflect your words," she said.

Back in Canada, CBC Radio host Vicki Gabereau interviewed her. "So Severn, when are you running for politics?" she asked. My daughter's answer stunned me: "Oh, is that an insult?" To her generation, running for office was not admired or inspiring. Her response made me realize I was constantly decrying politicians who made grand statements but failed to follow through. To a child, my complaints indicated that politicians are hypocrites.

Democracy is far from perfect but it's better than the alternatives. We must strive to improve. Women were once thought to be incapable of making decisions and were denied the vote. Asian-Canadians and African-Canadians, even those like my parents who were born and raised here, couldn't vote until 1948.

The original peoples of this land didn't gain the franchise until 1960! Homosexuality was a crime in Canada until 1969. Change can happen in our political and judicial systems, but we have to work for it.

When far fewer than half of us fail to vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections, democracy flies out the window. It should be our civic duty to participate in the democratic process, as it is in Australia where people are required to vote.

We elect people to act in our interests and reward them with perks: gratitude and respect, good incomes and trappings like an office, support staff, cars, drivers and planes. Our tax dollars make politicians possible. I don't begrudge that. They're there to serve us and we want them to do the best job. I often wonder what's gone wrong, although I understand why people become jaded about politics and politicians. I've met and encouraged many energetic and enthusiastic political neophytes, only to see their sense of idealism, responsibility and duty transform to a sense of self-importance that leads to entitlement. Not always, thank goodness, but frequent enough, especially when a person is promoted to cabinet.

Often it seems politicians prioritize corporate interests over those of the citizens who elected them. As prime minister, Stephen Harper avoided discussing climate change, even though Canada is more vulnerable than most industrialized nations. He pulled us out of the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would "destroy the economy." This flew in the face of evidence from countries like Sweden and Denmark that reduced emissions while their economies grew. Elevating the economy above the atmosphere that keeps us alive and gives us weather and climate is a stunning case of wilful blindness that will reverberate through the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Many of us thought things would turn around after Justin Trudeau was elected. He put climate change back on Parliament's agenda, and we rejoiced at Canada's strong position in Paris shortly after. Two years later, we have to ask "What happened?" To meet the Paris target, science shows we have to leave most known fossil fuel deposits in the ground. That means no more exploration for new sources, a halt to fossil fuel industry subsidies, no new pipelines, and winding down fracking and deep-sea extraction.

We must also subsidize renewable energy expansion and seek methods to store energy, reforest large tracts of land and outlaw disposable products.

Each of us has a responsibility to change the way we live to minimize our carbon footprint, but we need the folks we elect to step up and restore our confidence. The window of opportunity to avoid climate chaos is narrow. We have to use our civic responsibility and tell elected representatives that Canada must honor its commitments. The Paris Agreement is one of the most important we've ever made.
(c) 2017 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

This Is What Dictators Do
President Trump is stuffing the government full of reliable cronies.
By Charles P. Pierce

Not far from the White House, the building that is supposed to be the permanent home of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau is nearly complete. This is assuming that, under the rule of the president*, and congressional majorities steeped in the politics and policies that made him inevitable, and a Supreme Court sliding toward a solid majority derived from that very same brand of modern conservatism, anything in our politics can be said to be permanent.

The CFPB is now in the middle of a signifying political bloodbath, the ramifications of which go far beyond the survival of that newly hatched institution, although its survival is important enough, especially to the citizens who got back some of the $12 billion the CFPB clawed away from the voracious tentacles of the swindlers in the financial services sector, where the business plan usually includes fraud. CNN surveys the terrain as the whole thing moves to court.

Lawyers for Leandra English, whom Cordray named the effective acting director when he resigned on Friday, filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to halt the appointment of Mulvaney, who serves as head of the Office of Management and Budget and is also named in the lawsuit. Both Mulvaney and English were present at the CFBP Monday morning. Mulvaney was given full access to the CFPB director's office with "full cooperation" from its staff, a senior White House official told CNN, adding that the OMB director brought doughnuts for his new staff. English, according to a source familiar with the matter, also was present at the bureau Monday morning, but it was not immediately clear if she and Mulvaney interacted. English's move marks a stunning turn of events at the agency, which was created after the financial crisis to protect consumers and keep an eye on Wall Street. While serving in Congress, Mulvaney voted in favor of killing the bureau, arguing it has too much power and issues unduly harsh regulations, and he has worked alongside Trump to roll back some of the agency's rules.
According to the legislation that set up the CFPB, English has the proper claim to the office. This is because the CFPB deliberately was set up to be as independent as possible from presidential political influence-in short, to keep people like this president* from installing a crony like Mick Mulvaney in the job of shredding the agency he's supposed to be running. This argument insists that English should run the CFPB until the president* nominates, and the Senate confirms, a proper successor to Cordray. Mulvaney's case is based on something called the Vacancy Reform Act of 1998, which obviously predates the law establishing the CFPB.

Mick Mulvaney

In this matter, the current president* again is behaving in a manner quite typical of recent Republican presidents. This is how the last Republican administration played scandalous shenanigans with the Department of Justice. This is why the Reagan administration stuck people like James Watt in at Interior, and Silent Sam Pierce in at HUD. The only difference is that one of the people behind this president*, Steve Bannon, the last heir to House Harkonnen, hung a high-falutin' think-tank name on this traditional conservative vandalism: "deconstructing the administrative state."

The way you know that the president* is acting in this matter very much in keeping with current conservative ideology is that our current conservatives have lined up staunchly behind him. For example, Senator Tom Cotton, the bobblethroated slapdick from Arkansas, is pretending to be smart at the top of his lungs again.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a member of the Banking Committee and longtime critic of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, called English's lawsuit "just the latest lawless action" by the agency, which he labeled "rogue" and "unconstitutional" in a statement Sunday night. "The President should fire her immediately and anyone who disobeys Director Mulvaney's orders should also be fired summarily," Cotton said. "The Constitution and the law must prevail against the supposed resistance."
"The supposed resistance?" I think ol' Tom believes that the CFPB is staffed with people in black balaclavas. I'm sure Cotton's hysteria has nothing at all to do with the $1.5 million that the good folks at report that his campaign fund has received from the "securities and investment" industries. Come to think of it, before he signed on as the president*'s budget director, Mick Mulvaney was gifted with over 400-large from those same banking interests.

Tom Cotton

(And, before I forget, if Richard Cordray really does run for governor of Ohio next year, Ohio Democratic primary voters would be well within their rights to ask him why he threw his vulnerable agency to the wolves on behalf of his own political ambitions.)

But there is more to it than simply who runs an agency that the Republicans and their donor classes hate. Even Ronald Reagan wasn't bold enough to pick a member of his White House staff as Secretary of the Interior. Mulvaney is still the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as important a sub-Cabinet job as there is. Even for this job, he's painfully unqualified, being basically a garden-variety Tea Party hack with no grounding in economics beyond whatever he last read in a mass email from Heritage.

Now, he's supposed to run two vital financial agencies at once, including one that he's already called a "sick, sad joke," and we're supposed to buy this as normal? This is what dictators do. They stuff the government full of reliable cronies whose interests are detached utterly from the people they're supposed to serve. That's how billions of dollars in mineral rights from impoverished little countries end up in banks in Switzerland and the Caymans. They're always good at deconstructing things, the dictators are. It's one of their only real talents.
(c) 2017 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote...

"The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them."
~~~ Gene Roddenberry

New York Times And Reaction To It Help Us See Where Nazis Come From
By David Swanson

"Imagine being so bad at drumming that you become a Nazi," someone tweeted in response to the recent and scandalous New York Times' article about an Ohio Nazi. "Or at painting," I replied.

That part of the explanation of where Nazis come from is not new.

What's newest about the article is the reaction to it: a flood of outrage filling my social media and email, including demands that Nazis not be "humanized" or "normalized," and insistence that they be simply condemned, ignored, cursed at, or violently attacked.

There's a new level here of willful ignorance, of required demonizing, of advocacy for cartoonish views of the world. Across our culture from left to right, people have been taught that those who do horrible things were born and will die horrible monsters. For some, these horrible monsters include Iraqis or North Koreans or Muslims. For others they include child molesters or sexual harassers or racists. For some they include Jews, Blacks, or liberals. With everyone a self-identified public relations expert, many insist, if not on holding such childishly stupid views themselves, on trying to ensure that others hold them.

By default, human beings identified by any other word as being in any way different from oneself are considered to be in need of "humanizing." This process is one that people believe should be performed selectively as desired. Victims of discrimination or maybe even of bombing should be humanized. Hateful fascists should not be. The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League says the New York Times has "humanized the inhumane."

Here's a tweet from @bessbell: "Get ready to read a fucking sentence. It's a sentence about a Nazi. Are you ready? Lay the fuck down. Here goes. Quick reminder: It's about a fucking Nazi. A Nazi. Nazi. It's a sentence about a Nazi. 'In person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone's mother.'"

Let's try that sentence with one word changed: "Get ready to read a fucking sentence. It's a sentence about a Jew. Are you ready? Lay the fuck down. Here goes. Quick reminder: It's about a fucking Jew. A Jew. Jew. It's a sentence about a Jew. 'In person, his Midwestern manners would please anyone's mother.'"

The comparison, I wish it were unnecessary to say, is not between a Nazi and a Jew, between support for genocide and just belonging to some group of people. The comparison is between insisting that someone's pleasing Midwestern manners go unmentioned and insisting that someone's pleasing Midwestern manners go unmentioned. Unmentioned, unthought, and unbelieved in. Thou shalt not believe that a Nazi can have nice manners - or at least thou shalt not believe that other people can learn about the Nazi's nice manners without becoming Nazis.

Bill Maher was not being the bigot he sometimes has been when he was fired for saying that flying an airplane into a building is not cowardly. That was not a comment on the evil of the act, only on the question of cowardice. But the simple fact that suicide or "sacrificing one's life" for a cause is often treated as the opposite of cowardice was inadmissible information. Not to be thought.

Many in high dudgeon over the New York Times reporting that a Nazi has a name and likes particular television shows and so forth insist that of course they already knew that such things could be reported, they just didn't want them to be. But how much have they thought about the fact that these Nazis hold their Nazi beliefs simultaneously with a typical package of U.S. pop-cultural tastes and preferences and a U.S. military childhood, that their taste in racist books runs to the respectable U.S. mainstream, or that they make excuses for and distort the history of Hitler in order to make him a hero exactly as others do for their chosen heroes. How many have considered exactly how close a lot of these Nazis have been to not becoming Nazis, or to ceasing to be Nazis? Isn't that why it matters so much that someone like Donald Trump encourages them, because the result is more Nazis, not just emboldened Nazis? Don't we want to know how they think and what they want, including whether they want to deny genocide or whether they want to commit it?

That many U.S. Nazis offer very similar arguments for their beliefs ought to be of great interest to anyone who wants to reduce and eliminate Nazism. When someone claims to have gone extreme because there's no room to be moderate, they may not be describing the world we see, but they certainly are indicating a belief that nobody has listened to what they have to say. When someone opposes affirmative action and "malice directed toward white people" in popular media, they may lack historical understanding, empathy, and perspicacity, but they certainly are answering the "why do they hate us" question as clearly as they know how. Choosing not to hear, opting to feign bewilderment or to dismiss Nazism as the result of "there being bad people in the world" is a victory for the cause of idiocy shared with the Nazis.

While I'd prefer on balance that the New York Times cease to exist, I'm on the side of publishing any information that could be helpful in the cause of understanding and improving the world.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Respect Existence Or Expect Resistance
By Amy Goodman

Last week in Bonn, Germany, thousands gathered at the heavily secured United Nations climate conference, dubbed "COP 23," a Potemkin village of bureaucrats, politicians, environmentalists, journalists and local support staff. Sixty kilometers away, in the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest, scores of activists, living in treehouses, defended the old growth woodland in an ongoing struggle to save the rare ecosystem from destruction and stop the expansion of Europe's largest open-pit mine, a sprawling hole in the earth where energy company RWE extracts lignite, or brown coal, the dirtiest coal on earth. Hanging over both was the political pall cast by President Donald Trump, who announced June 1 that he was pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, the global climate change accord negotiated by all the countries of the world.

"Whilst the United States might be saying that it's pulling out, it still continues to play a destructive role," Asad Rehman, executive director of London-based War on Want, told us on the Democracy Now! news hour, broadcasting from inside COP 23 ("COP" stands for "Conference of Parties" to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). "Donald Trump has come here, backed by his fossil fuel pals. He's come here to wreck the climate negotiations."

Big promises were made in Paris in 2015: Each signatory to the Paris Agreement made a voluntary pledge to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. If pledges are met, the theory goes, then the global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels will be capped at 1.5, or, at worst, 2 degrees Celsius (2.7-3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), avoiding the worst consequences of climate disruption. Rich countries, largely responsible for the world's polluting carbon emissions to date, pledged hundreds of billions of dollars to poorer nations, to allow them to recover from climate damage already done, and to pursue a renewably powered development path.

In response to Trump, U.S. civil society organized the "We Are Still In" coalition, with over 2,500 elected officials, state and local governments, CEOs, businesses, universities, faith leaders and grassroots organizations committing to meeting the Paris Agreement's goals, since the Trump administration won't. It is a big coalition, and not without dissension. As California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown was speaking in Bonn, protesters began chanting, "California's fracking spreads pollution," and "Keep it in the ground!" Brown responded, addressing an indigenous activist: "I agree with you. In the ground. Let's put you in the ground so we can get on with the show here." The grim imagery of a white governor threatening to put a Native American in the ground was not missed by anyone.

Just one year ago, as families gathered in the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving, the holiday predicated on the wholesale whitewashing of the colonial genocide against Native Americans, the indigenous-led resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline on Standing Rock Sioux tribal territory in North Dakota was being subjected to increasingly intense state violence. Police and National Guardsmen unleashed so-called "less than lethal" armaments, with rubber-coated steel-ball bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, LRAD sound cannons and water cannons fired on crowds in subzero temperatures. The Standing Rock Sioux call the pipeline "the black snake," carrying fracked petroleum from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, for transfer to another pipeline to carry it to the Gulf Coast. The black snake's arrival in Lakota territory has long been prophesied.

Last Thursday, as COP 23 was wrapping up, a massive leak in the Keystone pipeline was discovered in South Dakota. At least 210,000 gallons of oil leaked from the pipeline, just as TransCanada, the pipeline's owner, was seeking final permission from Nebraska's Public Utilities Commission to build its Keystone XL pipeline. Despite the leak, the PUC granted the permit for the controversial KXL to carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada to the hurricane-battered U.S. Gulf Coast for refining. President Barack Obama, after years of resistance, finally killed the pipeline. Trump, as soon as he took office, boastfully greenlighted both KXL and DAPL.

Back in the Hambach Forest, activists are bracing for RWE and German police to raid their treehouse villages, arrest them all and clear-cut the remaining 10 percent of the ancient forest. "It's time to resist against state power," a forest defender named Indigo told us. Commenting on the nearby COP 23, she added, "It's time that we take responsibility for our own lives … that we create a world which gives us the power to act, instead of hoping that other people will solve problems."

The day before the climate summit opened, 4,500 people marched into the open pit and halted mining for the day. Nearby, in the remaining occupied forest, a banner was strung between two ancient oaks. It proclaimed, "Respect existence or expect resistance."
(c) 2017 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co"author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Dead Letter Office...

Ajit gives the corporate salute.

Heil Trump,

Dear Vorsitzende Pai,

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 total destruction of the internet, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 12-31-2017. We salute you Herr Pai, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with his wife, Louise Linton.

Is Steve Mnuchin A Fool Or A Knave?
By Robert Reich

One of the most dangerous consequences of this awful period in American life is the denigration of the truth, and of institutions and people who tell it.

There are two kinds of liars - fools and knaves. Fools lie because they don't know the truth. Knaves lie because they intend to mislead.

Trump is both, because he doesn't even care enough about the truth to find out what it is. He'll say whatever he thinks will get people to believe what he wants them to believe.

What about people like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump's point person on the Republican tax bills now making their way through Congress?

Mnuchin continues to insist that they put a higher tax burden on people earning more than $1 million a year, and reduce taxes on everyone else. "I can tell you that virtually everybody in the middle class will get a tax cut, and will get a significant tax cut," Mnuchin says repeatedly.

But the prestigious Tax Policy Center concludes that by 2025, almost all of the benefits of both bills will have gone to the richest 1 percent, while upper-middle-class payers will pay higher taxes and those at the lower levels will receive only modest benefits.

So is Mnuchin a fool? His career before he became Treasury Secretary doesn't suggest so. He graduated from Yale, and worked for seventeen years for investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Perhaps Mnuchin doesn't find the Tax Policy Center credible. Maybe he agrees with Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro, who describes it as "a left-leaning center that produces analyses that favor Democratic tax-and-spend programs and disfavor Republican programs."

In the age of Trump, even prestigious organizations once considered non-partisan are either "with us" or "against us."

Problem is, virtually all other studies by every other source show the House and Senate tax bills overwhelmingly benefit the rich and, within a few years, harm the middle class.

Even Congress's own Joint Committee on Taxation - the House and Senate's official scorekeeper on tax issues - finds that the Senate's version of the bill would increase taxes on all income groups making under $75,000 per year.

By 2027, it would give its biggest tax breaks to those making $1 million or more. The House bill would be even more generous to millionaires and billionaires.

Mnuchin's response? He has none. He just keeps repeating the same lie.

Mnuchin also maintains that the Senate and House tax plans won't cause the federal deficit to rise. "This isn't about the deficit," he said recently. "We'll create economic growth to pay down the deficit."

But even the Tax Foundation - a major proponent of the corporate tax cuts - estimates the House bill will cause a $1.08 trillion revenue loss over ten years and the Senate bill, a $516 billion loss.

Assuming Mnuchin isn't a fool, he's a knave. He intends to deceive the public.

By doing so he has abandoned his duty to the American people inherent in the oath of office taken by every cabinet official, in favor of advancing the goals of his boss and other Republicans in Washington who are desperate to pass their tax bill.

He has also sacrificed his credibility and integrity.

Why? Because he's Secretary of the Treasury in an administration that has no integrity. Merely by joining Trump, he made a Faustian bargain and lost whatever integrity he might have had.

Recall that after Trump equated white supremacists with protesters in Charlottesville, and several hundred of Mnuchin's Yale classmates urged him to resign in protest, Mnuchin found it "hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president."

After Trump demanded that NFL owners deal harshly with black athletes protesting police brutality, Mnuchin said the athletes should "do free speech on their own time. This is about respect for the military and first responders in the country."

Apparently Mnuchin will say anything to retain his power and influence in the Trump administration.

He knows he'll never have anything close to this power again.

Mnuchin probably figures: So what if he lies about the true consequences of the tax bills? Trump lies about them, too. So does the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

He probably assumes most of the public will never know he lied. Even those who know will soon forget. In this era of Trumpian big lies, there are no consequences for lying.

But history may not be kind to Steve Mnuchin.

Over the last century, authoritarian and fascist regimes have intentionally and systematically denigrated the truth.

The knaves who helped them are remembered in ignominy.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

Enabling Genocide
By Chris Hedges

On July 11, 1995, I was in the office of Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic in the besieged city of Sarajevo. As Serb artillery shells exploded in the streets around us, we listened to the last radio communication from the U.N. "safe area" of Srebrenica, being overrun by Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic. There was no doubt among any in the room that widespread killing of Muslims was about to begin.

"This is the result of a twisted policy of containment, Silajdzic said to me bitterly. "The U.N. contained thousands of our tanks and artillery pieces and disarmed our population. And when we asked why the arms embargo against us could not be lifted, we were told because it would endanger those Muslims living in the protected enclaves. This argument, after these Serb attacks, is now gone. But it means that the U.N. has become an accomplice to murder."

Thousands of the 42,000 Muslims in the Srebrenica enclave, ostensibly protected by some 400 Dutch troops acting as U.N. peacekeepers, fled the Serbs advancing on the city and congregated in terror at the Dutch base at Potočari, three miles north of Srebrenica. Desperate pleas by the Muslim leadership in Srebrenica to the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for air support were ignored. The Bosnian Serb army, led by Mladic, who last week was sentenced to life in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes, ordered his soldiers to round up thousands of boys and men for execution or hunted them down as they tried to escape to territory under the control of Bosnian Muslims. When the slaughter was complete, more than 7,000 had been slain, the worst war crime in Europe since World War II.

Independence movements in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a country created at the end of World War II, began to form in the 1990s. The states of Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia, with their mix of Orthodox Christian Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats and Muslim ethnic Albanians, would all eventually sever ties with Belgrade to create separate nations. Slovenia and Croatia declared independence first, in 1991. When Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, the Serbian government in Belgrade intervened militarily on behalf of the Serb minority. Belgrade formed a rival Bosnian government and military, its leadership drawn from the old Yugoslav army, or the JNA. The Bosnian Serb fighters under the command of Mladic had access to the equipment, vehicles, arms and heavy weaponry of the JNA. They mounted a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing to drive Bosniak and Croat civilians out of Bosnia in the hope of forming an ethnically cleansed Serb state.

The war in parts of Croatia and Bosnia was savage. The Serbs carried out numerous mass executions of civilians and razed whole villages, often by dynamiting or burning. The war ended in the fall of 1995 with a NATO bombing campaign that crippled the Serbs militarily and forced them to negotiate a peace agreement. An estimated 100,000 people died and 2 million were displaced in the Bosnian conflict.

Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, along with five other Muslim-held enclaves, was surrounded by Serb forces. Sarajevo was pounded daily with heavy artillery, mortar rounds, Katyusha rockets and 90 mm tank rounds. Serbian snipers, hidden in buildings in the city's Serb-held suburbs on the front lines, routinely gunned down civilians emerging from basements to find food or water. The Serbs set up concentration camps where Muslims were tortured, starved and sometimes shot. They commandeered old tourist hotels where they imprisoned Muslim and Croat girls and women and carried out daily rapes, often executing the girls and women after a few weeks.

By the time I arrived in Sarajevo in 1995, thousands of people had been killed, including 45 foreign journalists. The city was being hit with up to 2,000 shells a day. Four or five people were killed and at least two dozen were wounded daily. Sarajevo was my most dangerous assignment in the two decades I worked as a war correspondent.

There were frequent attempts by the European Union to mediate an end to the war, but aside from a few brief cease-fires the fighting continued. At the same time, an arms embargo enforced against the Muslims by the international community crippled the ability of the Muslims to defend themselves. The U.N. eventually established six U.N. "safe areas," including Srebrenica and Sarajevo. U.N. peacekeepers stationed in these "safe areas" were supposed to protect the besieged Muslims. The peacekeepers, however, were never numerous enough or armed sufficiently to counter Serb attacks. By the end of the war all of the "safe areas" except Sarajevo had fallen to the Serbs.

Mladic, who in three years of war had overseen numerous massacres in the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, had announced before the Srebrenica attack that he would make the Bosniak Muslim population of the region "vanish completely." There was little doubt, given what he had done in the past, about his intentions or his willingness to murder on a large scale.

The stocky general was cynically shown on Bosnian television telling crowds, "No panic, please." He was shown handing a child a candy bar. "Don't be afraid," he said to frightened men, women and children. "No one will harm you."

But Mladic was only one actor in the cast. The genocide was enabled by France, Britain, the United States, the United Nations and Muslim leaders in Sarajevo. The Western alliance and the United Nations-as in Rwanda a year earlier when it failed to halt the slaughter of 1 million Tutsis by the Hutu majority-never intended to fulfill the promise to protect the surrounded Muslims in Srebrenica.

The U.N. admitted it needed at least 6,000 troops in Srebrenica, yet provided only a token force of 400 Dutch peacekeepers. The U.N.'s special envoy to the Balkans, the Japanese diplomat Yasushi Akashi, and the head of U.N. forces in the area, Gen. Bernard Janvier, blocked airstrikes that might have halted the Serb attack, relenting only in the final moments to make a symbolic strike that did little more than damage a Serb tank. The Serbs, enraged by the airstrike, took 32 Dutch peacekeepers hostage. Airstrikes ceased after the hostages were taken, dooming Srebrenica.

The Dutch soldiers, who had no stomach to fight Mladic's soldiers without air support, withdrew to their base. They permitted Serb soldiers to enter the base, where thousands of terrified Muslims had sought shelter, and round up men and boys, most of whom were executed, as well as women and girls who were later raped.

At the same time, the paramilitary leader in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, who terrorized Serb villages around the enclave and was later charged with war crimes, had left the city with other commanders before the attack. The Muslim president of Bosnia, Alija Izetbegovic, had been told by U.S. President Bill Clinton that if Mladic carried out a massacre in Srebrenica the U.S. would intervene to end the war. Izetbegovic either saw the Muslims in Srebrenica as part of the human sacrifice required for NATO intervention, which took place a few weeks later, or he naively believed that the U.N. force would protect the enclave, highly doubtful given the U.N.'s history of refusing to confront the Serbs in three years of warfare. The Clinton administration, we know now, was aware six weeks in advance of the attack that Srebrenica was being targeted by the Serbs but did not intervene out of fear that it would damage ongoing peace negotiations.

Izetbegovic had also carried out secret negotiations with Serb President Slobodan Milosevic to trade the U.N. "safe areas" of Gorazde, Zepa and Srebrenica, small islands of Muslims trapped in Serb-held territory and nominally protected by the United Nations Protection Force, or Unprofor, for three Serb suburbs around Sarajevo. This exchange of territory was later codified by the Dayton Peace Agreement. Izetbegovic was willing, it appears, to give up what he knew he could not defend, despite the loss of life.

The Dutch commander in Srebrenica, Col. Ton Karremans, met Mladic on July 12 and provided 8,000 gallons of gasoline for the Serb trucks and buses that transported boys and men to the killing fields and powered the bulldozers that carved out the mass graves. The scale of the killings was known almost immediately. U.S. intelligence agencies had reconnaissance satellite photographs that showed hundreds of Muslims, blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs, held at gunpoint by their Serb captors near open pits. There were later photographs of them lying dead in rows. A few days later, photographs showed the fields covered with the freshly dug earth of mass graves. Yet, even as the killings were taking place, the international community did nothing.

The European Union's special envoy, Carl Bildt, met Mladic and Milosevic as the massacres were being carried out and inexplicably decided not to raise the killing as an issue. His chief concern was the Dutch soldiers being held hostage. He was promised they would be released.

Mladic, like Radovan Karadzic and Milosevic, is guilty of war crimes. He, as sentenced, should spend the rest of his life in prison. But this act of "justice" is being used to absolve an international community and political leadership, including Muslim leaders, who are complicit. A Dutch court in 2014 found that Dutch peacekeepers were responsible for the deaths of 300 people at Srebrenica, resolving one of several lawsuits related to the genocide. And the Dutch government resigned in 2002 after acknowledging its failure to protect those in Srebrenica. But the Dutch are alone in attempting to accept some responsibility for the killings.

How is it that nearly all the diplomats, politicians, generals and U.N. representatives who are complicit in this genocide have never been held to account? Why were none forced to resign in disgrace? How could the U.N. and the international community promise to protect a population facing genocide and then refuse to defend it? How could they insist on imposing an arms embargo on the Muslims in Bosnia as the Serbs deployed heavy weapons against them? How could the Dutch soldiers hand over civilians, who they had every reason to suspect would be murdered, and then provide the gasoline used in the trucks and buses that transported the men and boys to execution sites? How could the Muslim leadership sacrifice thousands of its own people to achieve the goal of NATO intervention?

The world is not bifurcated into good and evil. The United States too is guilty for the killings at Srebrenica. The refusal to examine and accept our responsibility in this act of genocide means there will be more genocides, as we see with Myanmar's assault on the Rohingya Muslims and the Saudi campaign against Yemen. We should have learned the central lesson of the Holocaust a long time ago: When you have the capacity to stop genocide and you do not, you are culpable.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Adam Zyglis ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

I'm Thankful For ... Donald Trump - Morning, Noon, Night And Early Morning
By Will Durst

And now it's time to give thanks for the best American holiday of them all: Thanksgiving. Which could not conceivably come at a better time.

Eleven months into 2017, a four-day weekend devoted to food, family, friends, football and 40-foot tethered parade balloon floats might be the perfect remedy to the freaked-out fracases currently overwhelming us. We are more divided than a litter of kittens scampering from an air horn.

No matter how grisly the events that consume us, the fourth Thursday of November acts as a salve washing over the land like a stick of room-temperature butter on a pile of steaming mashed potatoes bigger than your head. Might have something to do with the therapeutic effect of pie.

To not give thanks is downright un-American and probably outlawed by the latest House tax reform bill, if anybody could be bothered to read the whole damn thing.

So, let us dig deep to come up with a few of the details that make life worth living to this round-headed, political comic in these troubling times.

We Here at Durstco Are Thankful:

* For President Donald Trump because he truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

* For Donald Trump putting America back to work. One attorney at a time.

* For Donald Trump's Twitter fingers having a mind of their own. The mind of a 12-year-spoiled rich brat.

* For Donald Trump's hair: a marvel of follicle engineering and undoubtedly inspirational to architectural students all over the world.

* For Donald Trump, who has proved to be not so much a loose cannon as a loose aircraft carrier in high seas.

* For Donald Trump for pledging to wait for Obamacare to fail because that's what you want from a president, the willingness to let constituents die to prove a point.

* For Donald Trump, who calls his administration: "a finely tuned machine." Sounds better than "out of control dumpster fire," but might be a tad less accurate.

* For Donald Trump, who keeps issuing executive orders to keep violent extremists from entering the country, but has no problem filling his cabinet with them.

* For Donald Trump, who says he knows stuff nobody else does. Can't imagine what that might be, but pretty sure we can rule out anything algebraically based.

* For Donald Trump, who is either crazy or crazy like a fox, but the adjective remains intact.

* For Donald Trump, who is not a "spoonful of sugar"-kind of guy. More of the "wave a sledgehammer to push in a thumb tack" sort.

* For Donald Trump's ability to unite foreign countries; against the United States perhaps, but allied, nonetheless.

* For Donald Trump's inability to apologize about anything: because once he got started, he wouldn't be able to get anything else done.

* For Donald Trump's policy of waging war on multiple fronts, including attacking his opposition, his enemies, his allies, his staff, his cabinet, his party and his family. Everybody, except Vladimir Putin.

And finally, we should be thankful our ancestors back in 1621 feasted on turkey and not squirrel, weasel, possum or raccoon. A fact you can rest assured, Donald Trump, sooner or later, will take credit.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. And don't worry about any of that silly tryptophan poisoning propaganda because we have discovered the perfect antidote ... more pie.
(c) 2017 Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comedian and former Pizza Hut assistant manager syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Click here for videos and a calendar of personal appearances, including his new one-man show, Elect to Laugh: 2016, appearing every Tuesday at The Marsh in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter: @willdurst and click here to read previous columns.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 48 (c) 12/01/2017

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