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In This Edition

Chris Walker reports, "Missouri Organizers Begin Signature Drive For Ballot Measure To Legalize Pot."

Ralph Nader sees, "Critical Exposes Everywhere As The Corporate State Worsens."

Margaret Kimberley reports, "China Is Not Colonizing Africa."

Jim Hightower is, "Making Work Work For Workers."

William Rivers Pitt says, "With Omicron In US, GOP Hard-Liners Are Still Trying To Thwart Vaccine Mandates."

John Nichols concludes, "Today's GOP Would Excommunicate Bob Dole."

James Donahue recalls, "The Golden Age When Women Ruled."

David Swanson explains, "Why We Should Oppose The Democracy Summit."

David Suzuki advises, "Big, Small Or In Between, Wild Animals Should Not Be Pets."

Charles P. Pierce asks, "New Hampshire Is Trying To Protect Itself From 'Subversive Doctrines.' Can You Guess Which Ones?"

Juan Cole finds, "We're All Palestinians Now: Israel-Backed NSO Spyware Used Against US State Department."

Robert Reich concludes, "There Is No Doubt Any More: The US Supreme Court Is Run By Partisan Hacks."

Amy Goodman returns with, "From AIDS To Omicron, Pharmaceutical Apartheid Hurts Us All."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "'Handled Variety Of Tasks,' Writes Kamala Harris, Struggling To Fill Out Performance Review Self-Assessment," but first, Uncle Ernie exclaims, "Climate Disasters Build One Upon The Other!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Theo Moudakis, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Brian McFadden, Cavan Images, Rodger Bosch, Drew Angerer, Ron Sachs, Brian Cahn, ZUMA Press, Jim Hightower, Pexels, AFP, Unsplash, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments -

The Quotable Quote -
The 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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Climate Disasters Build One Upon The Other!
Global warming strikes again!
By Ernest Stewart

"The good news is that we can do this, but we've got to act with much greater urgency. All the aphorisms apply here: Hope is not a strategy. Failure is not an option." ~~~ James Eklund

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

As you may know back around the turn of the century I turned on to this climate nightmare we now find ourselves trapped in. Back then all the climate effects that are today happening were projected to not begin to happen until the turn of the next century so most folks including the corpo-rats weren't worried by global warming. By then we were sure to come up with something that would stop it from happening. So much for that theory!

Since them I've tried to point out how global warming effect this that and the other by one causing another and another. For decades, scientists warned of heavy precipitation, drought, and sea-level rise. The world hesitated to act, and now we do indeed live in an era of wildfires, extreme flooding and frequent hurricanes. What the scientists were less good at spelling out - perhaps because it wasn't their job - was how those changes would ripple through the economy and areas that seem protected from the direct effects of warming and even ruin your Thanksgiving turkey.

That's because climate disasters build upon the other.

"It is not just the event that is going on but the event that preceded it," said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane scientist who now is an author for Yale Climate Connections.

It's been easy enough to think, "Well, I don't live by the coast, so sea-level rise is not my problem." Or, "I don't live in a desert so extreme heat, so water shortages won't plague me." But humans and the systems they create are intricately interconnected and we are beginning to acutely feel downstream effects of climate change.

Not every person in British Columbia was flooded out in November's record rains. Relatively few lost their homes in the brutal forest fires in the same area the previous summer. But tens of thousands will have Christmas hassles as a result.

That's because the forest fires killed trees, which loosened soil, which became mudslides in the torrential downpours. That mud collected on tracks and shut down critical rail lines from the Port of Vancouver, a major shipping center from Asian markets. That is where the vast majority of your Christmas loot is manufactured.

Flooding and fire is also hampering Christmas-tree exports. Canada is the world's largest exporter - and many of the nearly 2 million trees they export come to its large neighbor to the south, the U.S.

Let us not forget the scorpions. It seemed almost biblical when a rare storm caused sudden floods in Egypt in mid-November and forced the tiny stinging insects en masse from their burrows. The result was hundreds of stings in the city of Aswan.

"It is a perfect story for getting the public's attention, because it is so visceral. These are horror-movie creatures," said Jeff Opperman, global lead fresh water scientist for the U.S. arm of the World Wildlife Fund, which focuses on animal conservation. But, he says, such home invasions by creatures as a result of extreme temperatures are common. During droughts, spiders and snakes also enter homes searching for water.

Fear of forest fires caused Southern California Edison to turn off power to more than 16,000 customers across Los Angeles and Ventura counties on Thanksgiving Day, which caused a major Twitter freakout about lost turkeys. Many even asked whether the utility would reimburse them for spoiled food costs. The answer was that they are free to apply for damages. I wouldn't hold my breath while I wait, and neither should you!


07-10-1954 ~ 12-04-2021
Thanks for the film!

11-06-1932 ~ 12-04-2021
Thanks for the music!

02-06-1947 ~ 12-05-2021
Thanks for the music!

07-22-1923 ~ 12-05-2021
Burn Baby Burn!

10-15-1957 ~ 12-07-2021
Thanks for the music!

12-30-1942 ~ 12-10-2021
Thanks for the music!


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


Until the next time, Peace!

(c) 2021 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, philosopher, 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.

A hand touches marijauna leaves

Missouri Organizers Begin Signature Drive For Ballot Measure To Legalize Pot
By Chris Walker

Last week, organizers began a ballot initiative aiming to make Missouri the 19th state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Legal Missouri 2022, the organization leading the measure, hopes to garner enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot in time for next year's midterm elections. If passed, any adult over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase cannabis products at designated and licensed dispensaries within the state.

According to reporting from St. Louis Public Radio, organizers will have to gather around 170,000 signatures in total. The rules on initiatives also require that a certain number of signatures be collected in at least six of the state's eight congressional districts before a deadline in May.

If the proposal is included on the ballot for voters to decide on, it's likely that the measure could pass and become law. Missouri is a deeply conservative state; voters backed former President Donald Trump by more than 15 points over Joe Biden in the 2020 election. But a similar ballot initiative, legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis, passed with the support of 66 percent of voters in 2018.

If passed, the initiative's impact would go beyond simply making the consumption of marijuana legal. It would also limit the current existing restrictions on people with felony convictions, in some circumstances allowing them to own and manage dispensaries. The initiative would additionally create a program to automatically expunge nonviolent marijuana-related convictions.

The initiative adds roughly 144 commercial cannabis licenses to the state program. Only one-third of those new licenses would be granted to retail businesses selling the drug. Businesses with existing medical marijuana licenses would have the option of converting to serve recreational consumers.

The initiative would also expand rights that are currently in place for medicinal purposes. If passed, individuals would be able to receive recommendations for medical marajuana from nurse practitioners instead of just physicians. As a result of that change, patients may be able to save $100 or more in costs associated with getting medicinal permission to use cannabis.

Keeping the medicinal law in place is still necessary, activists have noted, as it allows patients to obtain a higher dosage if needed for their treatment.

Though the ballot initiative faces positive odds of becoming law, some lawmakers want legalization efforts to go through the legislature instead. Gov. Mike Parson (R) has noted that if the legalization initiative is included on the ballot, it is "probably going to pass." But he's expressed a preference for the law being passed in a typical manner, to avoid regulatory problems that came about after the 2018 medical marijuana initiative was successful.

Activists pushing for the initiative, like John Payne, the campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, have noted that it's "wishful thinking" to believe the GOP-run legislature would pass any kind of meaningful bill legalizing recreational use of cannabis.

"I know there are certainly legislators who will support that and work towards it" in the legislature, Payne said to St. Louis Public Radio. "But from what I've seen with the leadership of the House and the Senate currently, that is unlikely to happen."

There's also a risk that anti-legalization lawmakers would try to block the law from being implemented, similar to what took place in the state after a ballot initiative seeking to expand Medicaid eligibility successfully passed in 2020. After that measure was passed, Republican lawmakers tried to block its implementation by stripping provisions in the Missouri state budget that would have funded the expansion.

The Missouri Supreme Court later ruled that the law was constitutional and had to be enforced. Medicaid expansion officially began in Missouri in October, expanding services to around 275,000 residents in the state.

(c) 2021 Chris Walker is based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Focusing on both national and local topics since the early 2000s, he has produced thousands of articles analysing the issues of the day and their impact on the American people.

Critical Exposes Everywhere As The Corporate State Worsens
By Ralph Nader

Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his 1938 message to Congress warned that when private power becomes stronger than the democratic state itself, we have Fascism. There are many ways to witness the intensifying domination toward a corporate state. One way is to compare exposé books in the 1960s and the present.

Within a span of five years, there were three books in the sixties that put forces in motion leading to significant reordering of our society's priorities. They were Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962), my Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), and The Other America by Michael Harrington (1962).

The message of these bestselling books was expanded by authors going on national TV and radio shows. They spoke around the country, before large audiences at colleges/universities and even high schools. An aroused citizenry prompted congressional hearings, legislation, and the establishment of federal agencies to deal with the problems of toxic chemicals, unsafe motor vehicles, and deep poverty in the U.S.

By stark contrast, now the volume of muckraking indictments of corporate crime, fraud, and tyranny is at least ten-fold that of the nineteen sixties. Books and blogs, documentaries and podcasts are pouring out daily with far less impact and in many cases no effect, for change.

Take a look at 65 recent searing books about corporate violence and malfeasance, crushing influence over our electoral and political systems, and expanding immunities from law enforcement and public accountability.

Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement by John Coffee
Mass Tort Deals: Backroom Bargaining in Multidistrict Litigation by Elizabeth Burch
Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance ... by Rena Steinzor
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
Closing Death's Door: Legal Innovations to End the Epidemic of Healthcare Harm by Michael J. Saks and Stephan Landsman
Who Poisoned Your Bacon Sandwich?... by Guillaume Coudray
The Monsanto Papers: Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption... by Carey Gillam
The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business by David Courtwright Frankie: How One Woman Prevented a Pharmaceutical Disaster by James Essinger and Sandra Koutzenko
Killer Airbags by Jerry Cox
Making the World Safe for Coke by Susan Greenhalgh
Big Dirty Money by Jennifer Taub
Business and Human Rights by Ellen Hertz
Industrial-Strength Denial by Barbara Freese
Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act by Nicholson Baker
Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations by Brandon L. Garrett
Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age by Samuel W. Buell
Profiteering, Corruption and Fraud in U.S. Health Care by John Geyman
Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power by David Dayen
Global Banks on Trial by Pierre-Hugues Verdier
Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception by David Michaels
Murder, Inc.: How Unregulated Industry Kills or Injures Thousands of Americans Every Year...And What You Can Do About It by Gerald Goldhaber
Paradise Lost at Sea: Rethinking Cruise Vacations by Ross A. Klein
Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy by Matt Stoller
Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in An Age of Fraud by Tom Mueller
Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom by Katherine Eban
GMOs Decoded: A Skeptic's View of Genetically Modified Foods by Sheldon Krimsky and Marion Nestle
GM: Paint it Red: Inside General Motors' Culture of Failure by Nicholas Kachman
The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger
Watchdog: How Protecting Consumers Can Save Our Families, Our Economy, and Our Democracy by Richard Cordray
First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat by Christopher Shaw
Un-American: A Soldier's Reckoning of Our Longest War by Erik Edstrom
Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War by Samuel Moyn
Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal Press
Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? by Alexander Keyssar
Public Citizens by Paul Sabin
The United States of War by David Vine
The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions by Chuck Collins
Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America by Alec MacGillis
The Case Against George W. Bush by Steven C. Markoff
Tax the Rich: How Lies, Loopholes, and Lobbyists Make the Rich Even Richer by Erica Payne and Morris Pearl
Salt Wars: The Battle Over the Biggest Killer in the American Diet by Dr. Michael Jacobson
Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy by Daniel G. Newman
Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits by James D. Zirin
Stealing Our Democracy by Don Siegelman
Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor by Steven Greenhouse
All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator by Monique El-Faizy and Barry Levine
Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic by Christopher Shaw
Troubled Water: What's Wrong with What We Drink by Seth M. Siegel Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy by Mike German United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America... by Mickey Huff and Nolan Higdon
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age by Tim Wu
The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail
Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator by Dr. Gregory Jaczko
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
America, Democracy & You: Where Have All the Citizens Gone? by Ronald R. Fraser
Unsettled (on Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family) by Ryan Hampton
Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh
Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World by Nomi Prins
Attention All Passengers: The Airlines' Dangerous Descent and What You Can Do To Reclaim Our Skies by William McGee
Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam
The CEO Pay Machine: How it Trashes America and How to Stop It by Steven Clifford
World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer
The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, .... and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite by Duff McDonald

Despite the many books on corporate crooks, there have been no corporate crime law reforms, no additional prosecutions of these CEOs, not even comprehensive congressional or state legislative hearings. The corporate crooks at the top of giant companies still get away with profiting from their corporate crime wave. None of the top Wells Fargo executives or Opioid's promoters or the sellers of dangerous products and chemicals are facing prosecution. You have to steal a loaf of bread or get caught with a miniscule amount of heroin or cocaine to be incarcerated.

The massive fatality toll annually (about 400,000) from preventable problems in hospitals and clinics gets exposed yet nobody stirs in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state departments of health, or the state legislatures. That's almost 8000 Americans losing their lives a week!

Profiteering, corruption, and fraud in the health industry are documented by many specialists, including Dr. John Geyman's many books, but the exposés do not result in any calls for law and order by the politicians or even hearings in Congress.

Access to justice by victims faces increasingly closed courtroom doors and limits on tort laws for wrongful injury.

Meanwhile, the institutions we are expected to rely on to make a difference, with too few exceptions, are asleep at the wheel. These include the legal, medical, and accounting professions, the law enforcement agencies (there is no corporate crime index in the U.S. Justice Department), the toady legislatures, the corporate-owned media, the timid, often compromised labor unions, college campuses, and the silent corporatized organized religious institutions.

Our democracy is in serious decay. The information is readily available about what to do about it, while citizens argue among themselves, having been divided and ruled by corporate propaganda and politicians indentured to corporate supremacists.

Most active people seem unable to coalesce over their common interests at the community level. Remember, less than one percent of citizens stepping forward can turn the tide! (See

For some reflections on our Auto Safety work over the past 55 years later visit

(c) 2021 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super -Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).

Narratives are Amplified with Badly Photoshopped Falsehoods

China Is Not Colonizing Africa
By Margaret Kimberley

International media cannot be trusted to give accurate information. Skepticism is especially warranted when China is the topic and allegations of colonizing Africa make headlines.

International media are reporting that the Ugandan government has turned over Entebbe airport to a Chinese bank in order to make payment on a loan. "Museveni to surrender Uganda's only international airport over Chinese loan," claimed The Guardian. Similar headlines have appeared widely and all repeat as fact an allegation that Uganda will lose its airport to Exim bank.

Uganda has not defaulted on the $200 million loan yet the false bad news continues to be reported. Despite denials from China and Uganda the story continues to circulate and is now accepted as being true.

The bad journalism resonates despite inaccuracies in these accounts because they repeat a now familiar trope, that China offers "debt traps" to African nations and has become the 21st century colonizer of the continent. In reality, Africa is colonized by the same nations which began their exploitation by carving up the continental at the 1884 Berlin Conference.

It is a French billionaire, Vincent Bollore, who controls 16 West African ports through bribery and influence peddling. France also controls the CFA currency of its former colonies. Canadian companies control gold mining in Burkina Faso, Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo. Decades after the struggle for independence, British soldiers are still stationed in Kenya. The U.S. and its allies have little to offer except exploitation in the form of extraction and military control through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). It is China that pursues development projects with new railroads in Nigeria and Angola, and a highway in Kenya. The only narrative that makes the colonizers look good is a smear against China. The U.S./EU/NATO formation still has a hold on African nations and corporate media continue to act as governmental spokespeople and endlessly repeat whatever they are told.

The terms on Chinese loans are better than those of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). China doesn't demand austerity in return for project funding, interference is not the goal. The difference is well known and clear and explains why news about China and Africa is so negative and why falsehoods are so readily accepted.

This particular fake news broke just days before the Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) was scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Senegal just weeks earlier and repeated the usual anti-Chinese screeds. The most basic journalistic standards are not followed with these stories which appear at opportune moments. Allegations of Chinese debt traps should be viewed with great skepticism.

Black/African people are very much interested in the condition of their brothers and sisters all over the world. This dynamic is generally a positive one but it also creates a susceptibility to believe in lies when they are spun well enough. The Chinese as colonizer trope has been repeated too often and information about Africa is too scant for most people to analyze these news stories correctly. We are left with nothing but "China is bad" tales that are accepted because of well meaning but misdirected concerns for Africans.

The story of Uganda is particularly complex. The Ugandan government is a U.S. puppet, a full fledged participant in the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), and a terrorist nation which invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo and killed millions of people. While it is important to dispel myths about China it is also important to do so without covering up for Uganda and nations like it.

That is why the Black radical tradition must be nurtured and revived. Without it the world is viewed through the eyes of imperialism's lackeys and media manipulators. All the truth about African nations and their relations with the rest of the world must be known and clearly understood. Africa is a key part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI certainly benefits China and its involvement in African countries is obviously a benefit to them. What is needed are impartial journalistic standards free of state run falsehoods and political discernment that reveals useful information.

While the airport story was told and retold, China announced a plan to provide African nations with 1 billion doses of Covid vaccines. The project involves donations and joint ventures which will waive the intellectual property rights that have hampered vaccinations in Africa. Neither the United States or its allies have attempted to do anything similar on behalf of the countries we are told live under Chinese subjugation.

The media do indeed have the power to make the innocent look guilty and the guilty appear innocent. The intricacies of international financing cannot be left to scribes for powerful countries. Events taking place at this juncture in history require far more.

(c) 2021 Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e -mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.Com.

Making Work Work For Workers

By Jim Hightower

As a writer, I get stuck every so often straining for the right words to tell my story. Over the years, though, I've learned when to quit tying myself into mental knots over sentence construction, instead stepping back and rethinking where my story is going.

This process is essentially what millions of American working families are going through this year as record numbers of them are shocking bosses, politicians, and economists by stepping back and declaring: "We quit!" Most of the quits are tied to very real abuses that have become ingrained in our workplaces over the past couple of decades - poverty paychecks, no health care, unpredictable schedules, no child care, understaffing, forced overtime, unsafe jobs, sexist and racist managers, tolerance of aggressively-rude customers, and so awful much more.

Specific grievances abound, but at the core of each is a deep, inherently-destructive executive-suite malignancy: Disrespect. The corporate system has cheapened employees from valuable human assets worthy of being nurtured and advanced to a bookkeeping expense that must be steadily eliminated. It's not just about paychecks, it's about feeling valued, feeling that the hierarchy gives a damn about the people doing the work.

Yet, corporate America is going out of its way to show that it doesn't care - and, of course, workers notice. So, unionization is booming, millions who were laid off by the pandemic are refusing to rush back to the same old grind, and now millions who have jobs are quitting. This is much more than an unusual unemployment stat - it's a sea change in people's attitude about work itself... and life.

People are rethinking where their story is going and how they can take it in a better direction. Yes, nearly everyone will eventually return to work, but workers themselves have begun redefining the job and rebalancing it with life.

(c) 2021 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

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill, September 14, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

With Omicron In US, GOP Hard-Liners Are Still Trying To Thwart Vaccine Mandates
By William Rivers Pitt

Stop me if you've heard this one before: The current federal spending agreement that funds many operations of government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. Absent a new deal, or at least a vote to kick the can down the road a bit, much of the federal government will shut down, again. M*A*S*H didn't get this many reruns.

The last one ran 35 days, from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, and happened because then-President Donald Trump wanted to staple funding for his draconian border wall to the government funding appropriations bill. Democrats balked, and Trump ultimately backed down. Immediately after the shutdown ended, Trump declared a "state of emergency" during a spectacularly ludicrous Rose Garden aria, and proceeded to plunder Army funds to continue wall construction. Those were the days, right?

Nearly three years later, and the circus is back in town. This time, it's a clot of 15 Senate Republicans that includes Roger Marshall, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee and Ted "Green Eggs And" Cruz driving the bus to wherever the hell they think this is all going to wind up. The beef this time? President Biden's vaccine mandates, which have already been stalled by a Trump-appointed judge in Louisiana, and so technically don't really exist.

This fight has been growling low within congressional GOP circles since early November, and has burst open as the deadline looms. The House Freedom Caucus, a.k.a. Donald Trump's sweat towel, is all for taking the shutdown deadline hostage, but lacks the numbers to pull it off in that chamber. The Senate, however, is another matter. With the 50-50 split, any GOP senator can locate their Inner Manchin and bollix the deal.

"We're opposed to the mandate," Johnson told reporters yesterday. "We don't want the federal government to be able to fund them in any way shape or form." Cruz offered a concurrent opinion: "I think we should use the leverage we have to fight against what are illegal, unconstitutional and abusive mandates from a president and an administration that knows they are violating the law."

A deal was reached on Thursday morning between House and Senate leadership on a stopgap spending measure that will punt a shutdown to February 18. The House appears prepared to pass this stopgap by the close of business today, but the anti-mandate faction in the Senate seems ready to play this out to the end. This, to say the least, has many Senate Republicans in a state of distress.

Burgess Everett, Politico's co-congressional bureau chief, was covering a GOP Senate lunch on Wednesday where the mandate/shutdown strategy was discussed. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was present, but offered no support for the plan. "Mitch did not say a word," reported Burgess. "He ate his chicken. He ate 2 pieces."

"I just don't quite understand the strategy or the play of leverage for a mandate that's been stayed by 10 courts," Sen. Kevin Cramer told Politico. "I don't think shutdowns benefit people, like some folks think they do," opined Sen. John Cornyn. "I'm pleased that we have finally reached an agreement on the continuing resolution," added Sen. Richard Shelby.

Cramer, Cornyn and Shelby are not what you'd call wobbly pseudo-conservatives, and when you include Mitch and his mouthful of mute chicken, what we have here is the table-setting for a good old-fashioned GOP intra-party rhubarb just as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has entered the chat.

"If there is a shutdown, it will be a Republican, anti-vaccine shutdown," Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said from the floor of the chamber. Thumper of a line there, Chuck; your speechwriter should get a free bowl of soup for conjuring such stirring rhetoric in this time of crisis. Others, fortunately, were more eloquent in their disdain. Jake Johnson of Common Dreams reports:

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who represents more federal employees than any other member of the House, said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon that "Republicans' plan to shut down the government on purpose to sabotage our pandemic response is extraordinarily cynical and dangerous."

"Vaccines are keeping Americans alive, and they represent the best possible tool we have to fight this pandemic," said Beyer. "Countering vaccination efforts at what may prove one of the most critical moments of the pandemic, with the discovery of a concerning new variant, could have disastrous consequences for the American people and the recovering U.S. economy."

The Virginia Democrat went on to warn that a shutdown would "inflict unnecessary hardship and fear on the families of millions of federal workers and contractors" and "demonstrate to our allies and our adversaries that our government can be stopped from functioning by a handful of ideologues who only care about appeasing the most radical elements in their political base."

"Anti-science Republicans are demanding a choice between a return to the unchecked spread of Covid we had under the previous administration and the bungled, self-destructive governance that led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history," Beyer continued. "Neither of these alternatives is acceptable - Republicans must do their jobs and allow a vote on legislation to avert a shutdown."

That, Mr. Schumer, is how you do that.

A government shutdown over COVID protections as a new and potentially destructive variant rises strikes me as an incredibly weird way to derail what can only be described as white-hot Republican political momentum, yet here we are with less than 36 hours to go. The lights go out at midnight on Friday. I hope Mitch brought some leftovers home from that Wednesday lunch. The Capitol mess may be closed for a while.

(c) 2021 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.

US Senate minority leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) addresses the White House Conference on March 3, 1988.

Today's GOP Would Excommunicate Bob Dole
Dole felt his party had a duty to support voting rights. But his colleagues in Congress today would rather punish those in the GOP who choose to defend democracy.
By John Nichols

When Bob Dole bid for the presidency in 1996, the very conservative Republican from Kansas ran a campaign that proudly announced he "supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965" and "played an instrumental role in extending the Voting Rights Act in 1982."

Dole won the party's nomination with relative ease that year, chose the party's leading advocate for outreach to Black voters-former New York representative and housing secretary Jack Kemp-as his running mate, and mounted a campaign in which he regularly touted his support for voting rights and the fact that, as Senate floor manager, he shepherded to enactment the bill to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

That didn't make Dole, who died Sunday at age 98, a Lincoln Republican, or even an Eisenhower Republican. He was still wrong on a long list of issues, from labor rights to environmental policy to affirmative action, and he lost that 1996 race for some very good reasons.

But Dole, whom I interviewed a number of times over the years, was an old-school conservative who felt that the Republican Party had a duty to support voting rights. He was proud to have fought for democracy, not just as a member of the House and the Senate but also as a courageous, decorated soldier in the battle against European fascism. Severely wounded in World War II, he became a lifetime advocate of disability rights and worked closely with Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, to enact the landmark protections contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Such was Dole's record that Dr. Deborah Turner, president of the League of Women Voters, which worked with the former senator on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization of 1982 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, declared, "Senator Dole will be remembered as an exemplar of statesmanship and public service. May we honor his memory by upholding the voting rights and disability rights that he championed."

Wade Henderson, interim president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, "Bob Dole's lifetime of public service exemplified the notion that civil and human rights are not a partisan issue. Some of his strongest friendships were across the political aisle. Our current elected officials would do well to honor his memory and work for the common good."

Unfortunately, today's Republicans are disinclined to honor Dole's memory by advocating for voting rights. In fact, they are prepared to punish members of their party who choose to defend democracy.

Dole's passing comes at a moment when conservative justices on the US Supreme Court have done severe damage to Voting Rights Act protections, when Republicans in the Senate are blocking action on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and when Republicans in the states are actively supporting extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression initiatives, and schemes to challenge election results that fail to favor them.

With the recent news that Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney has been excommunicated by her own state's Republican Party's central committee for daring to suggest that Donald Trump and his associates should be held to account for their support of the January 6 insurrection and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, does anyone doubt that Dole would be similarly abused by Republicans who countenance no deviance from their current assault on democracy?

Indeed, Dole was a conservative and a party loyalist who, like Liz Cheney, invariably endorsed GOP nominees, including Donald Trump in 2016. Yet he lost patience with Trump's Big Lie politics, acknowledging after the 2020 election that Trump lost, and adding, "He had Rudy Giuliani running all over the country, claiming fraud. He never had one bit of fraud in all those lawsuits he filed and statements he made."

Dole came from the era when Republicans still embraced basic premises of democracy, and believed they could win battles of ideas. He also believed in working with Democrats, including liberals such as Kennedy, to achieve progress for civil rights and voting rights.

In 1982, when Ronald Reagan was president and Republicans were in control of the Senate (with South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond chairing the Judiciary Committee), Dole took it upon himself to develop a plan for extending the Voting Rights Act. As The New York Times reported, Dole "drafted a compromise that civil rights lobbyists and liberal Democratic Senators said they could support. The lobbyists and the Democrats, including Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, commended Mr. Dole and said negotiations were continuing."

The negotiations forged a strong bill that extended essential protections for 25 years. Dole then lobbied his Republican colleagues, especially those on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to back the bill. His support was critical to breaking a deadlock, defeating amendments that sought to weaken the measure, and winning for it the Senate's approval-with an overwhelming 85-8 vote. In a Republican-dominated moment, Kennedy said, "This victory is a heartening sign that Congress will not endlessly turn its back on the needy in our society and the minority who are not white."

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation would later recall:

On June 29, 1982 President Ronald Reagan signed a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Though the Act had been renewed twice before by Presidents Nixon and Ford, the 1982 reauthorization made Section 2 of the VRA permanent. This section of the bill prohibited the violation of voting rights by any practices that discriminated based on race, regardless of if the practices had been adopted with the intent to discriminate or not. This amendment of Section 2 had a significant impact on minority representation in Congress.
Why did Dole work so hard on this issue? At a point in the spring of 1982, when the Times reported that "leading Republicans…expressed concern about the alienation of blacks from the party," an aide to Dole told the paper "the Senator's objective in seeking a compromise was 'to save the Republican Party.'"

Dole did this as a highly influential Republican and a veteran member of the US House and the Senate who had been the party's 1976 vice presidential nominee, who had bid once for the presidency, and who would do so two more times. He was an ambitious political figure, but there were principles that he refused to sacrifice on the altar of that ambition.

The cruel truth of our times is that the record that now earns Bob Dole praise for his "distinguished service" would make him an unwelcome figure as an active participant in the political battles of a Republican Party that has, under pressure from Donald Trump and his minions, made an opposition to voting rights protections-and a belligerent attitude toward even the most conservative defenders of American democracy-central to GOP politics.

(c) 2021 John Nichols writes about politics for The Capitol Times. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Golden Age When Women Ruled
By James Donahue

By James Donahue The written human history that exists has been proven through archaeology and mere deduction to be so distorted and religiously and politically twisted that we lack a true understanding of our past. This is true about even relatively recent history. And the farther back into the past we search, the more perverted the information becomes.

Fortunately there is a memory, deeply implanted in our DNA, that makes it possible for us to all have a way of separating the lies from fact; truth from fiction. Also our distant ancestors passed down stories . . . now declared to be mythology . . . that give us insight as to the way things once were on this planet.

There is strong evidence, for example, that there was an earlier eon that existed even before the great Mesopotamian Empire when women ruled the earth. It was a long period of peace and tranquility, remembered genetically as Eden in the Christian and Hebrew Old Testament, and the Golden Age among other world cultures.

William Bond, in an article Did Women Once Rule The World, writes about the ancient ruins of Catal Huyuk, a 9,000-year-old city that once existed in Anatolia, Turkey. The ruins were excavated by James Mellaart between 1961 and 1965. What Mellaart discovered proved to conflict with contemporary beliefs about the ancient past and his work was literally swept under the rug in archaeological circles.

The researchers at Catal Huyuk could not find evidence that the people of that city were warriors. The city was not fortified. There were no weapons of war discovered. And examination of bones in the graves turned up no evidence that anybody died in battle. The artwork was so filled with feminine images that Mellaart concluded that the people worshipped the Ancient Great Mother.

Bond wrote that the findings at Catal Huyuk were so unsettling "the site was closed down for 30 years and the academic world ignored the implications."

The late Lithuanian archaeologist Marija Gimbutas, in her book The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, drawing from personal findings in digs in Achilleion, Thessaly, Greece, and other archaeological finds in Northern Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia, the Ukraine, Crete, Cyprus, Thera, Sardinia, Sicliy and Malta, declared that a European society existed between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago that lived in peace and harmony.

Gimbutas wrote that "women ran the temples and in doing so held predominant positions, while men performed such physical chores as hunting, building and navigating. The deities these people worshipped were overwhelmingly female, and their values, emphasizing nonviolence and reverence for nature, came from the female realm. It was marauding Indo-Europeans, the forerunners of Western civilization, who destroyed these societies."

As early as 1861, Swiss writer J. J. Bachofen wrote the controversial Das Mutterrecht which means "Mother-Right." Based on his study of mythology Bachofen hypothesized that a peaceful, female-led agrarian culture once prevailed throughout Europe and the Near East until the rise of militarism resulted in a male takeover.

Author Richard Rudgley, in his book Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age, laments that human civilization has existed on this planet for a much longer time than the Christian Bible teaches. He believes that 95 percent of human existence occurred in "pre-historic times." That is, except for ancient art and ruins of ancient cities, there has been no surviving written record of what happened during that early period of human existence. But Rudgley supports Gimbutas in noting that all carved and painted images of human beings found in those ancient ruins are "overwhelmingly images of women."

Bond wrote that: "What Gimbutas shows is that most of these images celebrate the whole process of birth from the sex act to breast feeding. It seems in prehistoric times menstruation, the vagina, the sexual act, giving birth and breast feeding was seen as something divine, holy and sacred. This is in contrast to historic times when menstruation became taboo and unclean in many societies. The sex act also became sinful and dirty.""

The Christian teachings are that children are born into sin. The implication here is that this is because they are born of women. In today's society in many parts of the "civilized world" the act of breast feeding is something shameful, especially if done in public.

Since that Golden Era came to a violent end, with conquering tribes taking over these peaceful communities, the world shifted to a male dominated culture. And the results have been war, violence, the rule of kings and a general enslavement of the people. This has continued even to the present day.

Bond wrote that "the new rulers behaved like Mafia bosses in imposing a reign of terror on the people to control them, and started a protection racket that was in effect the first taxation, making the rulers extremely wealthy and forcing poverty onto the people.

"Now the population had to not only work to feed and shelter themselves, but they had to work to feed the new rulers and their armies, as well as build them palaces and fortifications and make arms and luxury goods. This is a clear case where men like Adam had to work by the sweat of their brow while the new rulers encouraged men to disrespect women and turn them into slaves."

It should be interesting to note that the male dominated culture seems to exist only in the so-called "civilized" societies. Aboriginal tribes throughout the world still maintain the high regard for the women and even worship feminine gods. The Hopi and Navajo tribes in Arizona, for example, perceive Spider Woman as an important deity.

Also interesting to sociologists is that a shift from the male dominated social order has been slowly occurring. It began with the Women's Suffrage movement and the world wars in the Twentieth Century, that called women into the work places while the men went off to battle. Since the end of World War II, women have remained in competition with men for every kind of skilled job, and they are yet battling for equality in pay.

Women living under extreme Islamic suppression in the Middle Eastern countries are fighting for the right to simply drive cars, appear in public without having their entire bodies covered in cloth and justice in the courts against abuse by men.

The world is in chaos today as crowds of angry protesters take to the streets in rebellion against the men who control the wealth and power. Governments are beginning to topple. There is so much unrest that the leaders are building armies and digging into bunkers to go into hiding. The imbalance is growing. It is obvious to nearly everyone that something significant is about to happen.

There is a theory among the occultists that humanity is moving into a new era. There is a belief that the women ruled the world in peace and harmony during the first known era that lasted about 7,000 years. Then the male era began about 4,000 or 5,000 years before Christ and has continued unchecked until the current day. This means the second era under male dominance has lasted at least 7,000 years. Is it now coming to an end as well?

The question then would be: what is the new era about to bring? Will it be a time of equality and shared leadership? Will the women rise to power once again? Or will it be something totally unexpected?

The English occultist Aleister Crowley, who founded the theology of Thelema based on The Book of the Law, a text he claimed was dictated to him by an angelic or alien entity identified as Aiwass in 1904, wrote of a division of three "aeons" of the human experience.

Crowley called the first the Aeon of Isis. This was a time during pre-history when mankind worshipped a Great Goddess symbolized by the Egyptian deity Isis. The second and current period was called the Aeon of Osiris, when humanity worships a singular male god symbolized by the Egyptian god Osiris.

The third period described by Crowley is the Aeon of Horus, the hawk headed son of Osiris and Isis. Crowley believed that this child god would bring humanity into a time of self-realization and self-actualization. He described this as a time when there will be a growing interest in all things spiritual, when humans will seek their true will and practice unconditional love for one another.

All we can say is that change is clearly in the wind. The people of this war ravaged world would truly welcome a new period of peace and tranquility. We could all use a lot more love and compassion for one another.

(c) 2021 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.

Israeli boot on neck

Why We Should Oppose The Democracy Summit
By David Swanson

The exclusion of certain countries from the U.S. "democracy summit" is not a side issue. It is the very purpose of the summit. And excluded countries have not been excluded for failing to meet the standards of behavior of those that were invited or the one doing the inviting. Invitees didn't even have to be countries, as even a U.S. backed failed coup leader from Venezuela has been invited. So have representatives of Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Malaysia, Kenya, and - critically - pawns in the game: Taiwan and Ukraine.

What game? The weapons sales game. Which is the whole point. Look at the U.S. State Department website on the Democracy Summit. Right at the top: "'Democracy doesn't happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.' -President Joseph R. Biden, Jr."

Not only do you have to "defend" and "fight," but you have to do so against certain threats, and get a big gang in on the fighting to "tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action." The representatives of democracy at this amazing summit are such experts at democracy that they can "defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad." It's the abroad part that may make you scratch your head if you're thinking of democracy as having anything to do with, you know, democracy. How do you do it for some other country? But keep reading, and the Russiagate themes become clear:

"[A]uthoritarian leaders are reaching across borders to undermine democracies - from targeting journalists and human rights defenders to meddling in elections."

You see, the problem is not that the United States has long been, in reality, an oligarchy. The problem is not the U.S. status as top holdout on basic human rights treaties, top opponent of international law, top abuser of the veto at the United Nations, top incarcerator, top environmental destroyer, top weapons dealer, top funder of dictatorships, top war launcher, and top coup sponsor. The problem is not that, rather than democratizing the United Nations, the U.S. government is attempting to create a new forum in which it is, uniquely and even more than before, more equal than everybody else. The problem is certainly not the rigged primary election that Russiagate was concocted to distract from. And in no way whatsoever is the problem the 85 foreign elections, counting just those we know of and can list, that the U.S. government has interfered in. The problem is Russia. And nothing sells weapons like Russia - though China is catching up.

The oddest thing about the democracy summit is that there will not be a democracy in sight. I mean not even in pretense or formality. The U.S. public votes on nothing, not even on whether to hold democracy summits. Back in the 1930s the Ludlow Amendment almost gave us the right to vote on whether any war could be started, but the State Department shut that effort down decisively, and it's never returned.

The U.S. government is not just a system of elected representation rather than a democracy, and a highly corrupted one that fundamentally fails to represent, but it's also driven by an anti-democratic culture in which politicians routinely brag to the public about ignoring public opinion polls and are applauded for it. When sheriffs or judges misbehave, the main criticism is usually that they were elected. A more popular reform than clean money or fair media is the anti-democratic imposition of term limits. Politics is such a dirty word in the United States that I received an email today from an activist group accusing one of the two U.S. political parties of "politicizing elections." (It turned out that they had in mind various voter-suppression behavior, all too common in the world's beacon of democracy, where the winner of every election is "none of the above" and the most popular party is "neither.")

Not only will there be no national democracy in sight. There will also be nothing democratic happening at the summit. The handpicked gang of officials will not vote or achieve consensus on anything. The participation in governance that you could find even at an Occupy Movement event will be nowhere to be seen. And neither will there be any corporate journalists shrieking at them all "WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND? WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND?" They already have several completely vague and hypocritical goals on the website - produced, of course, without a shred of democracy being employed or a single tyrant being harmed in the process.

Not wishing to impose thousands of pages on you, let me select at random just one of the invitees to the Democracy Summit as identified by the U.S. State Department: the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here's is just a bit of how the State Department describes the DRC in the last year:

"Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in an internal conflict, including killing of civilians, enforced disappearances or abductions, and torture and physical abuses or punishment, unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers by illegal armed groups, and other conflict-related abuses; serious restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests of journalists, censorship, and criminal libel; interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious acts of official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national, racial, and ethnic minority groups, and indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threat of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons; and existence of the worst forms of child labor."
So, maybe it's not the "democracy" or the human rights. What could it be that gets you invited to these things? It's not anything. Of 30 NATO countries, only 28 plus various countries targeted for addition, made the cut (Hungary and Turkey may have offended someone or failed to buy the right weapons). The point is simply to not invite Russia or China. That's it. And both have already taken offense. So success is already achieved.

(c) 2021 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.

Animals deprived of their natural habitat are no longer "wild," though; they're artifacts.

Big, Small Or In Between, Wild Animals Should Not Be Pets
By David Suzuki

Big, Small Or In Between, Wild Animals Should Not Be Pets By David Suzuki with contributions from Boreal Project Manager Rachel Plotkin Most of us believe wild animals such as tigers and wolves shouldn't be kept in basements or backyards as pets - even if we haven't seen Tiger King! Fortunately, most municipalities have bylaws to prevent this.

Those laws don't extend to all wildlife, though. People can still own "exotic" wild animals, including all shapes and sizes of reptiles and amphibians - lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises, frogs, salamanders. Animals deprived of their natural habitat are no longer "wild," though; they're artifacts.

Some Canadian provinces, such as Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan, have exotic animal laws and regulations, but in many, the responsibility for regulation lies primarily with municipalities. More than 200 municipalities in Canada have prohibited-animal lists. Most are mammal-centric and feature relatively few birds, even fewer reptiles and amphibians and, only rarely, any fish or invertebrates. The vast majority of non-mammal species are under- or unregulated.

Life isn't fun for animals confined or alone in small cages in someone's home, imprisoned for human enjoyment. But what most pet owners don't realize is that the exotic pet trade also has significant ecological impacts.

A serious environmental problem is created when exotic pets are released or dumped into natural environments by people who never realized how big they'd grow, how long they'd live or how expensive they'd be to keep. Some take the time to look up adoption facilities, but there are few for exotic animals. Many naively think that releasing their pet into the wild is a humane option.

Ontario conservation biologist Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux said, of 1,000 turtles he's trapped for study - often working with the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority - five to six per cent were non-native red-eared sliders released by pet owners (or were descendants of discarded pets). Red-eared sliders are more frequently found in urban centres (where people are also more often found).

Released non-native species such as red-eared sliders can compete with native turtle species for prime habitat, like basking sites, and have the potential to modify natural environments. Released goldfish and koi have also wreaked ecological havoc in waterways. The pervasiveness of invasive species, including those from the pet trade, is one of the drivers of wildlife decline in Canada.

Collecting animals from the wild for commercial use, including for sale as food or pets, is also a factor in depletion of wildlife populations, most of which are already facing a variety of threats to their numbers and habitats. Legal and illegal collection from the wild for the pet trade is a pressure few species can tolerate. In Ontario, for example, six out of seven native turtle populations are already at risk. Further, many wild creatures die during capture or while being transported for sale as pets.

Exotic wild animals can also be disease vectors. Wildlife in Canada are already stressed by multiple infectious diseases transmitted by invasive species, such as the ranavirus and the fungus-borne chytridiomycosis, which is affecting amphibian populations globally. With increased numbers of exotic pet animals, both wild-caught and captive-bred, come increased chances of their being released into the wild and new diseases being transferred to native wildlife species, as well as to humans (particularly if there is physical contact). The risk of new epidemics or pandemics of animal origin is also increased - a Pandora's box we all surely want to keep the lid on.

Exotic pets have become normalized - as have exotic petting zoos and birthday party appearances - but they don't make sense. Turtles, snakes, lizards, amphibians and other wild animals are amazing creatures worthy of our admiration and wonder, but they should not be taken from their homes for our entertainment, to keep us company or as status symbols.

These creatures have evolved physical and behavioural attributes over thousands or millions of years that allow them to survive in specific habitats and conditions that can't be replicated in a glass or plastic container in someone's home. And they are essential components to the functioning of natural ecosystems. If they are removed, the environment is diminished.

If you have patience and, ideally, a pair of rubber boots, you can fairly easily spot and appreciate many snakes, turtles and frogs even in our cities and towns - in the local meadows, ponds, rivers, fields, forests, lakes and streams, where they belong.

(c) 2021 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

New Hampshire Is Trying To Protect Itself From 'Subversive Doctrines.' Can You Guess Which Ones?
It's almost scientifically impossible to be so wrong about so many things in such a short amount of time.
By Charles P. Pierce

I thank the Great Whoever that all three of my children are out of school, because a lot of grownups are making big fools of themselves on the subject of education. For example, the state of New Hampshire has before its legislature a bill that will demand what amounts to a loyalty oath from its public-school teachers. Here's the stated purpose of the bill: This bill expands the prohibition on teacher advocacy of subversive doctrines. And what, you may ask, tremulously, are the subversive doctrines New Hampshire is attempting to protect itself from? As if you don't know.

No teacher shall advocate any doctrine or theory promoting a negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America in New Hampshire public schools which does not include the worldwide context of now outdated and discouraged practices. Such prohibition includes but is not limited to teaching that the United States was founded on racism.
You may have surmised that such a disreputable law would have disreputable antecedents, and you would be right. From WMUR:
Lawmakers clashed this year over the issue of how teachers talk about race and racism in the classroom. Next year, they'll debate a bill titled, "An Act Relative to Teachers' Loyalty," an update of an obscure, Cold War-era law that bans educators from advocating for communism in schools.

"Back in 1949, everybody knew that communism was Karl Marx's improvement on socialism," said state Rep. Erica Layon, R-Derry. "Today, we've lost that." Some Republican state representatives are seeking to add to the existing loyalty statute prohibitions against teachers advocating for socialism or Marxism in the classroom, and the new legislation, HB 1255, goes further...

And you can rely on Representative Layon because she learned her history from a careful study of the historians of wingnut radio, and she also got a great deal on auto-glass repair. Here she is, answering a question from WMUR's Adam Sexton, and historyin' as hard as she can.

It is almost scientifically impossible to be so very wrong about so very many things, and in so little a space of time. The idea that the Three-Fifths Compromise was included in the Constitution as a kind of slow-acting anti-slavery poison is very popular among wingnut legislators, but isn't remotely true. The business about Irish indentured servants is an ancient dodge meant to allow white people to feel better about slavery because it was somehow biracial, an insulting canard that historian Liam Hogan has spent a decade debunking. From the Pacific Standard:

The "Irish slaves" myth that we contend with today is a relatively new manifestation (approximately two decades old) and refers to the drawing of a false equivalence with racialized perpetual hereditary chattel slavery and/or the refusal to delineate servitude and slavery. All the exaggerations and fabrications are secondary to the core mythos that "slavery was slavery" in the 17th-century Anglo-Caribbean. But the concept of Irish people being enslaved in the Caribbean by Cromwellian forces is contemporary with the events themselves and is based on historical truth. This is why I have always referred to it in quotes, as a way of separating the present day propaganda from its use by Irish people who described it as slavery in the general sense at the time.
And what Irish indentured servants there were in the United States at the time of the Founding were not included in the calculations used to implement the Three-Fifths clause. In proposing the compromise to the Philadelphia convention, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina explained it as, "one Member for every thousand Inhabitants 3/5 of Blacks included."

What's truly alarming about the New Hampshire bill is its origins in the Red-baiting hysteria of the 1940s and 1950s. The issue up front right now is how to teach the history of this country's entrenched racism and its enduring legacy. But there's nothing in the bill that would preclude its reverting to its original purpose of choking off discussions of politics, economics, and history in favor of McCarthyite propaganda. If you're prepared to believe that universal Pre-K is Communism, you'll believe anything.

(c) 2021 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 -

"Democracy is not a spectator sport."
~~~ Bernie Sanders

We're All Palestinians Now: Israel-Backed NSO Spyware Used Against US State Department
By Juan Cole

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) - Reuters reports that at least nine US State Department officials had their smartphones hacked by Pegasus spyware, produced by the Israeli-government-backed NSO company.

The officials were informed of the hacking of their iPhones by Apple, which is suing NSO, essentially for tortious interference.

The State Department personnel were all either in Uganda or working on Uganda issues. While forensics cannot identify the source of the attack, the Uganda government of Yoweri Musaveni has taken a strong turn toward authoritarianism and repression and is rated by Freedom House as "not free." NSO maintains that it sells its spyware only to vetted governments for use against terrorists, but that's pretty laughable given that they sold it to Saudi Arabia, which used it to spy on dissident Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, whom they murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Cybersecurity analysts have found NSO spyware on the phones of 37 prominent human rights workers, journalists, and activists.

Former pop star turned politician Bobi Wine ran against Musaveni in last winter's presidential election. He was arrested several times on various pretexts but released each time. After Musaveni won in January, in an election widely viewed as fraudulent, Wine was arrested again on January 15 of this year, and US ambassador in Kampala Natalie E. Brown attempted to visit him while he was under house arrest but was blocked by Musaveni's troops. The Musaveni government accused the United States of intervening in Ugandan politics and of supporting Wine and his National Unity Platform party.

2021 has seen further political repression by Musaveni, including mass arrests of opposition party workers. In November, 50 protesters were shot down.

So it is only, you know, circumstantial evidence, but if we were looking around for someone who might want to know everything US State Department officials were doing and saying, you might just finger Yoweri Musaveni.

This revelation explains why the Biden administration banned NSO software in November, with the Department of Commerce saying of NSO that it "developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers. These tools have also enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent. Such practices threaten the rules-based international order."

Apple maintains that NSO is heavily backed by the Israeli government. We know it has been deployed by that government in an attempt to smear and repress Palestinian human rights organizations.

So the US government's long history of winking at Israeli authoritarian practices against Palestinians has come back to bite the State Department in the behind, since it turns out that with the right spyware, high-powered diplomats can be treated just like stateless Palestinians.


Bonus Video:

Forbes: "State Department Workers' Phones Reportedly Hacked Using NSO Group Software"

(c) 2021 Juan R.I. Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years and continues to travel widely there. He speaks Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.

If there's any doubt about the partisan hackery of the supreme court's six Republican appointees, it will be on full display when they overturn Roe v Wade

There Is No Doubt Any More: The US Supreme Court Is Run By Partisan Hacks
Justice Amy Coney Barrett recently insisted otherwise but that's now hard to claim
By Robert Reich

In mid-September, Clarence Thomas told a crowd of more than 800 students and faculty at the University of Notre Dame that the US supreme court should not be viewed in political terms, and that justices don't base their rulings on "personal preferences."

But if not political or personal preferences, where exactly do they discover the law? Thomas never said. When asked whether the attorneys presenting oral arguments ever compel him to change his mind, Thomas said, "almost never."

In late September, the court's newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, told a crowd in Kentucky that supreme court justices are not a "bunch of partisan hacks."

If there's any doubt about the partisan hackery of the supreme court's six Republican appointees, it will be on full display when they overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from banning the procedure before fetal viability, about 23 weeks.

That ruling is expected next July. The case they've teed up to do the dirty deed is Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization, which centers on a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week. Moving the constitutional prohibition to 15 weeks would disregard decades of precedent.

On Wednesday, during almost two hours of intense oral argument and questioning from the justices, the court's six Republican appointees signaled their comfort with the Mississippi law, even though it would flatly overrule Roe. Several of them appeared ready to dispense with Roe entirely, letting states decide whether and when to ban abortions.

Until the last few years, there was no realistic prospect of overruling Roe. But Donald Trump vowed to name justices who would do so. And courtesy of the machinations of then Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Trump got an opportunity to appoint three justices - who have now created a six-justice conservative supermajority.

During Wednesday's argument, the three justices appointed by Democratic presidents warned that overruling Roe so soon after a change in the court's membership would undermine the court's legitimacy.

"Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the constitution and its reading are just political acts?" Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked. "If people actually believe that it's all political, how will we survive? How will the court survive?"

It's the key question. As the framers of the US constitution well understood, the supreme court is the one branch of government with neither the power to command obedience by force nor to gain it by doling out money. It relies totally on its moral authority. If the public begins to see it as just another political branch, it will lose that authority.

Flashback: I was in law school in 1973 when the supreme court decided Roe. Also in my class at the time was Clarence Thomas, along with Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton.

The professors used the Socratic method - asking hard questions about the cases they were discussing and waiting for students to raise their hands in response, and then criticizing the responses. It was a hair-raising but effective way to learn the law.

One of the principles guiding those discussions is called stare decisis - Latin for "to stand by things decided". It's the doctrine of judicial precedent. If a court has already ruled on an issue (say, on reproductive rights), future courts should decide similar cases the same way. Supreme courts can change their minds and rule differently than they did before, but they need good reasons to do so, and it helps if their opinion is unanimous or nearly so. Otherwise, their rulings appear (and are) arbitrary - even, shall we say? - political.

In those classroom discussions almost 50 years ago, Hillary's hand was always first in the air. When she was called upon, she gave perfect answers - whole paragraphs, precisely phrased. She distinguished one case from another, using precedents and stare decisis to guide her thinking. I was awed.

My hand was in the air about half the time, and when called on, my answers were meh.

Clarence's hand was never in the air. I don't recall him saying anything, ever.

Bill was never in class.

Only one of us now sits on the supreme court. It appears that he and his Republican-appointed colleagues - three appointed by a president who instigated a coup against the United States - are getting ready to violate stare decisis, judicial precedent.

I don't expect them to give a clear and convincing argument for why.

(c) 2021 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is

A patient with Covid-19 breaths in oxygen in the coronavirus ward at Khayelitsha Hospital outside of Cape Town, South Africa.

From AIDS To Omicron, Pharmaceutical Apartheid Hurts Us All
People over profit must be the guiding mantra as we soon enter the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Without immediate action, we could well be dealing with Covid, just as we still battle AIDS, for the next forty years.
By Amy Goodman

December 1st was World AIDS Day, marking forty years since symptoms were first reported. Over 36 million people have died worldwide from AIDS-related illnesses. The death rate is slowing as effective drug treatments gain wider distribution. But the inequity that long fueled the AIDS epidemic still exists, with punishing consequences, particularly for the people of southern Africa. The persistence and the vastly unequal impacts of the ongoing AIDS epidemic serve as a warning as the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus makes its way around the world.

It would be easier to vaccinate the world than to try in vain to block Covid-19 variants from crossing borders.

Little is currently known about this newly-identified SARS-CoV-2 variant, particularly whether it spreads more easily or if it can cause more severe COVID-19. What we do know is thanks largely to its rapid identification by scientists in Botswana and South Africa. Fatima Hassan, founder of Health Justice Initiative praised those scientists on the Democracy Now! news hour, saying, "I think they need to be celebrated for that because there wasn't a cloud of secrecy around this particular variant."

Rather than being celebrated, though, the nations of southern Africa are being isolated. The United States quickly implemented a travel ban, barring anyone from eight southern African nations from entering the country. Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran and the U.K followed suit.

"An uneven travel ban was slapped on many countries in southern Africa," Hassan said. "It is actually quite racist."

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa responded to the bans on Sunday, "The emergence of the Omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue. Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone will continue to be at risk. Instead of prohibiting travel, the rich countries of the world need to support the efforts of developing economies to access and to manufacture enough vaccine doses for their people without delay."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres slammed the travel bans as "travel apartheid," which only serve to exacerbate the growing global divide caused by vaccine apartheid. In a recent opinion piece, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the hoarding of surplus vaccine doses by wealthy nations with populations that are highly vaccinated, including with booster shots, "morally repugnant and epidemiological madness."

It would be easier to vaccinate the world than to try in vain to block Covid-19 variants from crossing borders. Omicron is a case in point; as the New York Times detailed this week, the variant was already present in the Netherlands before its existence was announced in Africa. Travelers on airplanes from South Africa carried the variant to Europe, where the hodgepodge of conflicting national travel restrictions already in place and inadequate quarantine protocols led Dutch officials to force many potentially Omicron-positive travelers to depart for their final destinations, accelerating the new variant's spread.

Pharmaceutical corporations that are profiting off of the pandemic are slowing vaccination in poor and middle-income countries. With patents on the vaccines, companies like Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna are using intellectual property protections to block the sharing of their secret vaccine formulas.

Journalism professor Steven Thrasher sees a parallel between the role of Big Pharma now with Covid-19 and how the Global South, and primarily southern Africa, was and continues to be afflicted by AIDS:

"Today there is no reason why anybody should be dying of AIDS. It is a slow-moving virus and so from the time we know someone is infected, we can give them all the support they need. We have the science for it. We have the medicine for it. It is merely a matter of protecting capitalism and the profits of pharmaceutical companies," Thrasher said on Democracy Now! "We are seeing very similar dynamics again now with COVID-19...we have the vaccines, we have medications that are very effective and they are again being held from the Global South to protect the profits of pharmaceutical corporations."

Over a year ago, South Africa and India proposed that the World Trade Organization temporarily suspend TRIPS, or Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, to speed COVID-19 vaccinations worldwide. President Joe Biden was applauded last May for supporting the waiver. Amnesty International, along with members of the U.S. Congress and many labor, health and other civil society groups delivered a petition signed by over three million people to the White House last week, noting, "six months later, in the absence of U.S. leadership to deliver a waiver deal, the European Union, on behalf of Germany, plus Switzerland and the United Kingdom have blocked progress."

People over profit must be the guiding mantra as we soon enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without immediate action, we could well be dealing with COVID, just as we still battle AIDS, for the next forty years.

(c) 2021 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 Cartoon Corner -

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~Theo Moudakis ~~~

To End On A Happy Note -

Have You Seen This -

Parting Shots -

'Handled Variety Of Tasks,' Writes Kamala Harris, Struggling To Fill Out Performance Review Self-Assessment
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Struggling to describe her work responsibilities in the most favorable manner possible, Vice President Kamala Harris wrote, "Handled variety of tasks," on the self-assessment portion of her annual White House performance review, administration officials confirmed Tuesday.

"Obviously, I want to give myself a report that makes it sound like I perform a crucial role here, but I also don't want to lie," Harris reportedly said to herself as she sat in her West Wing office and stared at the blank form, eventually resorting to a Googled list of phrases commonly used by employees when evaluating themselves. "Let's see. Oh, that's good-I'll put that I 'used my organizational and problem-solving skills to help others facilitate the achievement of key objectives.' That could mean anything.

And I can say, 'Worked in close proximity to the president.' That's technically correct, because the Oval Office is just around the corner and down the hall a ways.

'Reliable' is accurate-I'm on time every morning, and then I'm right here, sitting at this desk, the whole day."

According to reports, Harris went on to complete the self-assessment's future goals section by writing that she plans to "continue asking for more high-profile assignments" and to "be prepared to take on more important duties as soon as they are assigned to me."

(c) 2021 The Onion


Issues & Alibis Vol 21 # 48 (c) 12/10/2021

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