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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi asks, "Does The Media Have It Out For Elizabeth Warren?"

Norman Solomon warns, "Beto, We Hardly Knew Ye."

Glen Ford with a must read, "Bolton Threatens To Force Africa To Choose Between The US And China ."

Jim Hightower observes, "Trump's Post Office."

David Swanson explores, "The Self-Psychoanalysis Of The American Liberal."

John Nichols reports, "Scott Walker Ends On A Miserably Pathetic Note."

James Donahue examines, "The Fight To Re-Legalize Marijuana In The US."

William Rivers Pitt reports, "Trump And GOP Attack Vietnam War Veterans And Refugees."

Heather Digby Parton is, "Doing Some Talking As Well As Writing."

David Suzuki finds, "Major Health Study Shows Benefits Of Combatting Climate Change."

Charles P. Pierce says, "Brian Kemp's Credibility Is Shredded Before He Even Takes Office."

Thom Hartmann returns, "In Praise Of A Military Budget That Ensures Our Destruction."

Jane Stillwater warns, "You Better Watch Out."

Sen. Mike Enzi R/Wyo, wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "Why Trump's Private Transactions Are Terrifying."

Chris Hedges finds, "Trump, The Quintessential American."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst retunrs with the, "Top 10 Comedic News Stories of 2018" but first Uncle Ernie sez, Much Ado.

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Tim Dolighan, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, J Scott Applewhite, Steven Senne, Ken Stark, Kevin Siers, Tom Fox, Jes, Jim Watson, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments-

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

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

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Much Ado
By Ernest Stewart

"I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I'll have Mexico pay for that wall." ~~~ Donald J. Trump

"This is the time for political compromises to be reached. This means sacrifices, but it will benefit us all collectively. I challenge you to work together for that purpose. I challenge you to accelerate and finish the job. And to raise ambition on all fronts. To waste this opportunity in Katowice would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal. This may sound like a dramatic appeal, but it is exactly this: a dramatic appeal." ~~~ Antonio Guterres ~ Secretary-General of the United Nations.

"We understand the areas of concern that the NAACP and other civil rights groups have raised with us and we are grateful for their feedback. We're listening and we agree that we have areas that we can improve." ~~~ Sheryl Sandberg ~ Facebook chief operating officer

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~~~ Pablo Picasso

Somewhere in Arkansas there's a trailer park missing their Meth dealer, but have no fear ya'll, she's put down her test tubes and beakers and picked up a microphone and has become the White House's spokes-weasel.

Since tRump's bright idea of blackmailing the Senate and House by shutting down the government if they don't kick out $5 billion has hit the fan, and sent Rethuglicans running for cover, Sarah has changed her tune like a good little puppet should!

Sarah said, "...there are other ways to secure the $5 billion. At the end of the day, we don't want to shut down the government. We want to shut down the border from illegal immigration."

When asked about using military funds, Sanders said, "There's certainly a number of different funding sources that we've identified that we can use that we can couple with the money that would be given through Congressional appropriations that would help us get to that $5 billion that the president needs in order to protect our borders."

You may recall that tRump swore he'd make Mexico pay for his wall, they refused, but said they would be willing to pay for a psychiatric exam of tRump! Speaking of which, that $5 billion is just a drop in the bucket of what the wall will cost. It will take at least another $25 billion to complete and then you'll need another $100 billion to man it and guard it for eternity. Oh, and did I mention, that the vast majority of illegals in this country came here via airliners and the wall certainly won't stop them. People who came here legally and over stayed their visas. Funny tRump doesn't mention them! What it does stop is people going back home.

With most anything connected with tRump's rants and raves it's often; as Shakespeare put it, "Much Ado About Nothing!" So, as far as I can see, the government will go stumbling along come Friday as it has for the last two years and there will be no shutdown.

In Other News

The 24th Conference of the Parties or COP24 is the decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC. It was held at Katowice, Slaskie, Poland between December 3 and last Friday.

Nearly 200 nations at COP24 agreed upon universal, transparent rules that will govern efforts to cut emissions and curb global warming and enable countries to put into action the commitments they made in the 2015 Paris climate accord. As you can imagine not a lot was accomplished!

"The majority of the rulebook for the Paris agreement has been created, which is something to be thankful for," said Mohamed Adow, a climate policy expert at Christian Aid. "But the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line shows that some nations have not woken up" to the dire consequences of global warming as outlined in a report by the UN Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

The special report on the impacts of 1.5C global warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October, became a major source of tension at the talks as it says the target of 1.5 degrees C won't do squat to stop global warming.

Can you guess who led the 4 parties in opposition to the conclusions of the UN report? I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with rump! Yes, he pulled us out of the Paris agreement but we're are still in the UN. Those nations are The US, our puppet masters in Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia who wants more studies before it can agree. Yes a true rouges gallery!

Of course, the island nations who have done very little to cause global warming and are getting the worse of global warming's effects as their lands slide under the sea were not amused by this at all!

When I heard where this was going to be held, I knew the fix was in, as Katowice is deep in the heart of Polish coal country. Any one surprised by that?

So after all the brouhaha they agreed upon the Paris accords, and nothing much else!

And Finally

I see where the NAACP launched a weeklong boycott of Facebook in response to two congressionally commissioned reports that illustrate how Russian trolls on the platform not only targeted people of color, but made stoking racial tensions one of their top priorities. Meanwhile, some of my leftist friends on Facebook have been blocked for a day, a week or a month for daring to tell the truth. Even I have run afoul of the Facebook art gestapo. If that confuses you let me assure you that the Russians aren't left wing so they can do as they please on the platform, as long as the money's right!

Russian trolls "built a highly interlinked ecosystem-a mirage of black media." The NAACP and other racial justice groups have been frustrated over Facebook's failure to address racism on its platform and improve its internal staff diversity for years. In the wake of the reports' Monday release, they say the company should be held responsible for allowing the spread of racially divisive and racist content. Facebook said they were going to do something about this after they and the Russians gave us tRump last time around. So far all I have seen is Facebook attacking the left.

"Facebook's engagement with partisan firms, its targeting of political opponents, the spread of misinformation and the utilization of Facebook for propaganda promoting disingenuous portrayals of the African American community is reprehensible," NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement. The organization also announced Monday it had returned a recent donation from the company. It's good to see that the NAACP can't be bought off by Facebook.

Other groups, including the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, issued statements voicing frustrations with Facebook. Muslim Advocates sent Facebook a letter signed by 31 civil rights organizations slamming its practices. I have two words for Facebook to remember: My Space!

Keepin' On

Nothing's changed folks, the time has come and gone, and so some of our arthors and artists won't be available to us. We turned up $1160 short of paying our bills for this year. That's the first time in the magazines history since our beginning in 2000 that we failed to raise the "rent."

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

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


08-28-1937 ~ 12-14-2018
Thanks for the music!

12-18-1928 ~ 12-17-2018
Thanks for the music!

10-15-1943 ~ 12-17-2018
Thanks for the film!

06-01-1934 ~ 12-18-2018
Thanks for the entertainment!


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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) 2018 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., center, faces reporters during a campaign stop, in Lynn, Mass., Nov. 5, 2018.

Does The Media Have It Out For Elizabeth Warren?
Sit back and watch how 2020 narratives "shift" after questions are "raised" by the very people writing stories about "raising questions"
By Matt Taibbi

The headline in the New York Times reads: "Sanders and Warren Meet and Agree: They Both Are Probably Running." At first, the story about Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont reads like standard election news. Dig deeper, though, and you find signs of negative media campaigns already beginning in earnest. Over the past few weeks, multiple outlets have published negative pieces about Warren in particular, deploying coverage gimmicks used to disparage candidates early in presidential campaigns before.

The gist of the new Times piece is that the Warren and Sanders, if they do run, "will not enjoy an easy path to the nomination." Both are described as having political vulnerabilities that will force them to face questions or "concerns." (This is code for, "they'll get beat up by the media.")

It's way too early for this nonsense.

We're 23 months away from Election Day. A baby conceived today will be celebrating its first birthday right around the time of the first general-election debate. From a betting standpoint, let alone an ethical or journalistic one, it's beyond premature to be fretting about electability questions. In December 2014, news that Jeb Bush would "actively explore" a run for president put "the onus on all the other GOP candidates to get their ducks in a row - in a hurry," according to the Washington Post. Bush ended up with three delegates, beaten soundly by one of the last candidates to declare.

When Donald Trump appeared on the board for British odds makers in early 2016, he was a 339-1 bet. George Clooney, meanwhile was a 53-1 bet heading into 2015.

Media critics like Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) have pointed out that early campaign coverage is often an absurd tautology. We get stories about how so-and-so is the "presumptive frontrunner," but early poll results are heavily influenced by name recognition. This, in turn, is a function of how much coverage a candidate gets.

Essentially, we write the most about the candidate we write the most about.

We do this with polls, but also narratives. Is Howard Dean "too liberal" to win? He is if you write 10,000 articles about it.

You'll often see this "we think this because we think this" trick couched in delicate verbiage.

Common phrases used to camouflage invented narratives include "whispers abound," "questions linger" and today's golden oldie from the Times, "concerns" (as in, the prospect of Warren and Sanders running has "stirred concerns").

Warren recently also has been hit with bad-coverage synonyms like a "lingering cloud" (the Times), a "darkening cloud" (the Globe) and "controversy" that "reverberates" (the Washington Post).

The papers are all citing each other's negative stories as evidence for Warren's problems. It's comic, once you lay it all out.

The Boston Globe earlier this week wrote: "It's been a rough few weeks for Warren's White House hopes. Does it matter?"

The Globe cited an earlier negative article in the Times with the headline "Elizabeth Warren Stands By Her DNA Test. But Around Her, Worries Abound." ("Worries abound" is another tired campaign-ism.)

The Globe cited the Washington Post article as part of Warren's darkening "cloud." Meanwhile, the Post article mentioned, as part of Warren's reverberating "controversy," an earlier editorial in the Globe. The Globe then mentioned its own earlier op-ed, the same one the Post referenced ("mix that together with an unflattering editorial from her hometown paper," the Globe wrote, about itself).

The paper went on to conclude:

The media had ingredients for countless other stories painting a picture of a wounded Warren campaign - before it's even gotten off the ground.

The article went on to describe a "candidate with a Hillary Clinton-like problem that just won't go away."

Why won't it go away? Because we keep writing about it. The Globe euphemistically calls this a "media moment." The actual term is probably "circle jerk," but it's a family paper.

The case of Warren is similar to the "Wimp factor" that dogged George H.W. Bush or Al Gore's "Bore factor." We create a media narrative, then challenge candidates to fight their way out of it.

The infamous "wimp factor" story in Newsweek led off with a tale about Bush's college career as a light-hitting first baseman. It then declared Bush now "must show that he can hit political hardballs."

Translation: we're going to keep throwing this pitch, until you hit it out of the public conversation.

I don't have any particular feelings about Warren, though I suggested her as a presidential candidate years ago. There is evidence she may not be the best campaigner. The DNA test probably was a political blunder, and the underlying issue is not trivial.

But Warren is the rare prospective presidential candidate with actual knowledge of how Wall Street works who is not a billionaire, a private equity chief or a bank lawyer.

She has something to say, which is what primary seasons are for. All informed policy ideas should be welcome. Moreover, campaigns ultimately are about how people respond to candidates, not how candidates deal with negative press.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joined at left by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., holds a news conference
after the Senate passed a resolution he introduced that would pull assistance from the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

As for Sanders, the Times, which has a history of less-than-friendly history with this candidate, is also engaging in the invented-narrative game already with this in today's piece:

Since running an unexpectedly competitive race against Mrs. Clinton... [Sanders] has struggled to expand his appeal beyond his base of primarily white supporters.

Gallup polls show Sanders actually has a higher favorability rating with nonwhite voters (64 percent) than he does with white ones (49 percent). The "white base" cliche may be a common trolling theme, but it would be nice if papers worked a little harder to check things like this against reality.

The frustrating thing about all of this is that the national press just spent two years praying for any president with the brains to stay off Twitter after midnight, avoid talking about "fine people" at a racist marches and eschew flirting with reporters during diplomatic calls. Yet they're already inventing frivolous reasons to toss people with good ideas out of the race.

A recurring theme in coverage of the presidency in the Trump era is a newfound discovery that the job is a profound and awesome responsibility. It turns out that in a presidential candidate (here's a tautology for you), the only qualities that matter should be qualities that matter.

We shouldn't be making up fake obstacles for people who can do the job, especially not this early.

(c) 2018 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.

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) during a debate with Sen. Ted Cruz during this year's campaign.

Beto, We Hardly Knew Ye
The Texas Democrat's actual political record deserves scrutiny, and it's not what progressives might expect from the overheated adulation that has sent his presidential balloon aloft
By Norman Solomon

News media tell us that Beto O'Rourke has reached the top tier of potential contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. CNN polls now rank him in third place-behind only Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders- among likely Iowa caucusgoers as well as among Democrats nationwide.

Progressives are apt to be enthusiastic about O'Rourke-if they don't know much about his record.

Inclinations to hop on the Beto bandwagon are understandable. O'Rourke was inspiring this year as he fought to unseat the despicable U.S. Senator Ted Cruz with a campaign that built a broad coalition of Texans, while gaining huge small-dollar support from across the country. In late summer, many were thrilled by a video of Beto's response to a question about NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem; his ringing defense of dissent in the context of civil rights history was excellent.

Cruz had to sweat it out on election night and won by only 2.6 percent, a slim margin in such a conservative state. Since then, publicity about Beto O'Rourke potentially running for president has mushroomed, with corporate news outlets portraying him as a progressive.

Released a week ago, the much-publicized results of a poll that MoveOn conducted of people on its email list found O'Rourke in first place, neck-and-neck with Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Media spin intensified, portraying Beto as a challenge to Bernie.

NBC News broke the news of the MoveOn poll while calling it "a potentially troubling indication for Sanders." A couple of days later, the New York Times speculated that "Mr. Sanders's hold on the party's progressive base may be slipping as a new generation of Democrats like Representative Beto O'Rourke demonstrate early strength in polls and straw polls, such as the one conducted this week by the liberal group MoveOn."

Meanwhile, Democracy for America was concluding a poll of its own active supporters online. As the second week of December began, the organization's website was showing Bernie Sanders far ahead in the top spot at 38 percent, followed by Biden at 15 percent, O'Rourke at 12, Elizabeth Warren at 8, and Kamala Harris at 7. (DFA later removed the running totals from its site until release of final numbers.)

Given their at-times extreme antipathy toward Bernie during his first presidential run, mainstream news media are likely to have an appetite for a 2019 storyline that Sanders' support is eroding. O'Rourke is apt to be quite useful for such a narrative. The Democratic Party establishment that went all-out to get Hillary Clinton the 2016 nomination is palpably eager to block Bernie. And some in that establishment are already indicating that they believe O'Rourke might do the trick.

A revealing sign came early this month from a leading sentinel of the Democratic Party's corporate wing-the relentless Clinton loyalist Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. What set her off was a matter-of-fact tweet from investigative reporter David Sirota, who told people "Something I didn't know: Beto O'Rourke is the #2 recipient of oil/gas industry campaign cash in the entire Congress." Sirota provided a link to campaign finance data.

Tanden quickly went into onslaught overdrive with a tweet lashing out at the sharing of such information about the three-term congressman: "Oh look. A supporter of Bernie Sanders attacking a Democrat. This is seriously dangerous. We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump's bidding. I hope Senator Sanders repudiates these attacks in 2019."

A money-in-politics reporter, Alex Kotch, responded that he was "pretty shocked" to see Tanden attack Sirota for simply sending out a factual tweet: "Tanden, a close Clinton ally and Bernie Sanders foe, has had a contentious relationship with the left, with which Sirota is often associated. But her claim that a reporter's tweet of campaign finance statistics about a potential 2020 candidate was a dangerous attack that Trump would have ordered? Who was really being attacked here?"

For some context, Kotch added: "It's worth noting that the Center for American Progress has in the past accepted donations from multiple fossil fuel companies and, as of 2017, was still receiving money from Pacific Gas and Electric Company. During the 2016 Democratic Platform Committee's drafting process, Tanden voted against a fracking ban, a carbon tax, and a measure to keep fossil fuels in the ground."

Kotch followed up on Dec. 12 by reporting: "I have confirmed that according to the latest campaign finance report, which covers the period from Oct. 17 through Nov. 26, the O'Rourke campaign had not returned 29 'large donations' of over $200 from oil and gas executives, violating the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge O'Rourke signed."

Beto O'Rourke's actual political record deserves scrutiny, and it's not what progressives might expect from the overheated adulation that has sent his presidential balloon aloft. Some pointed reporting and critiques this month may have begun a process of bringing Beto fantasies down to earth. For instance:

**Under the headline "Why This Progressive Texan Can't Get Excited About Beto O'Rourke," columnist Elizabeth Bruenig looked ahead to the upcoming presidential race: "I think the times both call for and allow for a left-populist candidate with uncompromising progressive principles. I don't see that in O'Rourke." She noted that "O'Rourke's statements on energy have been surprisingly thin"-and that "he has called the decision between oil and gas and renewable energy sources 'a false choice.'" Bruenig concluded: "We still have time to pick a politician with a bold, clear, distinctly progressive agenda, and an articulated vision beyond something-better-than-this, the literal translation of hope-change campaigning. Beto is a lot like Obama, true; it's perhaps time for left-leaning Democrats to realize that may not be a good thing."

** A similar insight came from another progressive Texan, Dan Derozier, who chairs the elections committee of Houston Democratic Socialists of America. He wrote: "O'Rourke's message covers rhetorical territory familiar from the Obama era: It's positive and innocuous, but noncommittal. It relies on lofty but meaningless phraseology like Shared Values, Finding Common Ground and Bringing People Together. The message describes itself with words like 'ambitious' and 'bold,' but doesn't promote any specific policy that could actually be described as such."

Derozier summed up: "Before choosing O'Rourke as their next presidential nominee, Democrats would do well to reflect on the perils of preferring style over substance, consider the benefits of expanding their political imagination, and, most importantly, remember that political moments like O'Rourke's are rare. Democrats shouldn't waste the next one."
** An in-depth article by political journalist Zaid Jilani-headlined "What Does Beto O'Rourke Actually Stand For?"-indicates that O'Rourke doesn't stand for much that progressives should embrace. During his six years in the House of Representatives, O'Rourke has been politically close to inert. "While the Democratic base is coalescing around single-payer health care and free college, O'Rourke sponsored neither House bill. During his time in Congress, he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He has been, however, a member of the New Democratic Caucus, the group organized to carry on the ideas of Clintonite policies. During the 2016 presidential primary, he stayed on the sidelines."
Nor can O'Rourke's caution be chalked up to conservative constituents in Texas. His 16th congressional district, centered in El Paso, "is among the more liberal in the country," Jilani pointed out.

"While O'Rourke steadily avoided left-wing legislation, he went above and beyond to ally himself to the corporate wing of the Democratic Party," Jilani reported. "In 2015, Congress narrowly gave President Obama so-called 'Fast Track' authority as it related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership... which many labor, consumer, human rights, and environmental advocates worried would vastly expand the power of investors and corporations and undermine U.S. sovereignty.... O'Rourke was one of the Democrats who voted to grant the authority to Obama.... What populists like [Elizabeth] Warren and Sanders feared most about the TPP was its vast expansion of patent and copyright protections-which could lock in arduous high drug prices, among other things. Regardless, O'Rourke continues to be a defender of these sorts of agreements. During his Senate run, the local press noted that he and Cruz essentially agreed on the merits of the North American Free Trade Agreement." Such positions in favor of so-called free trade can hardly play well in Rust Belt states that put Trump in the White House.

Jilani's assessment concluded: "The next president should be someone with a record of sticking their neck out against concentrated power, someone who has made tough decisions even when it may anger donors and political elites, and someone who has accomplished a great deal of actual tangible real change in the world. There are number of people who fit that description, but it's difficult to say O'Rourke is one of them."

** In Jacobin magazine, writer Branko Marcetic describes the political record a bit more favorably. On the one hand, he gives O'Rourke credit for "advocating for drug legalization and health benefits for same-sex and unmarried partners in El Paso" as well as "staunchly defending immigrants' rights, the right to abortion, and speaking out against border militarization in Congress." Also, O'Rourke "bucked Obama on several important issues, pressuring him to close Guantanamo, supporting legislation to curtail NSA spying, opposing war in Syria and arming the country's rebels, and demanding Obama get congressional authorization for his continued war on ISIS."
On the other hand, Marcetic explains, O'Rourke actively tried to "chip away at the Dodd-Frank financial reform law" and has cast many awful votes siding with big banks and against workers. His years in the House "have given him one of the better U.S. Chamber of Commerce voting scores among Democrats." And O'Rourke's congressional votes on criminal justice has often been on the side of repressive measures.

"O'Rourke is a decent, progressive candidate in slowly purpling Texas," Marcetic wrote, "but when you put him on the national stage and drill down on his record, he becomes just another flawed Democrat.... Politicians like Beto O'Rourke represent a step forward for states like Texas. Making them national standard-bearers is a step backward."

As candidates and in office, the last two Democratic presidents have been young, dynamic and often progressive-sounding, while largely serving the interests of Wall Street, big banks, military contractors and the like. Do we need to make it three in a row?

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

Bolton Threatens To Force Africa To Choose Between The US And China
By Glen Ford

The Americans wager that they can exercise veto power over African political alignments by force of arms, through AFRICOM's massive military infiltration of the region.

Donald Trump last week trotted out his war dog, National Security Advisor John Bolton, to growl and snarl over China's attempts to "gain a competitive advantage" in Africa through "predatory" practices that supposed include "bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive" to Beijing's global schemes.

Bolton gave his speech at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, a place that specializes in crafting social policies that appeal to white supremacist majorities within the U.S. domestic order. He could be confident that the Heritage audience knows little about the actual state of the world, holds facts in low regard, and gives less than a damn about Africa. There was no need for Bolton, the man with the comic mustache, to make sense with this crowd, so he didn't even try.

The net effect of China's investments in Africa, said the nonsensical Bolton, has been to "stunt" Africa's economic growth. Only blocks away from the Heritage Foundation, in Washington, the staff and officers of the International Monetary Fund -- the guys that actually do hold much of Africa and the developing world "captive" with loan structures and political conditions that stunt the ability of governments to serve their people -- had quite a different assessment of China's impact on the African continent, whose dramatic growth coincides with Beijing's rise to number one investor.

"Access to new markets for its raw materials has spurred Africa's exports, which quintupled in real value over the past twenty years," the staffers wrote in their inhouse IMFBlog. "But maybe even more importantly, sub-Saharan Africa's trade engagement with China and other new trading partners has reduced the volatility in its exports. This helped cushion the impact of the global economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, when advanced economies experienced a deep economic deceleration, and thus curbed their demand for imports. At the same time, China actually increased its contribution to the growth of sub-Saharan African exports, which helped cushion the impact on sub-Saharan Africa growth during the Great Recession. On the import side, access to cheap Chinese consumer goods, from clothing to mopeds, has boosted African living standards and contributed to low and stable inflation."

China and its "command economy" fared far better than the rest of the world in coping with the "American disease" - the near melt-down of capitalist financial markets in 2008-09 - and thus was able to provide Africa and its other trading partners some respite from the chaos and near collapse that enveloped the West. Most importantly, the Chinese offered what even the Americans concede is a "no-strings" arrangement, attaching no political conditions to their loans and projects.

To be sure, China's voracious appetite for raw materials to fuel its own miraculous growth is central to its global trade strategy. But the folks at Bloomberg, the American oligarch-owned financial network, testify to the broad and deep character of China's African trade and investment policy. "Although securing access to natural resources is surely one of China's goals, its investments in Africa go beyond extractive industries," wrote Bloomberg opinion columnist Noah Smith , in September of this year. "The sectors receiving the most Chinese money have been business services, wholesale and retail, import and export, construction, transportation, storage and postal services, with mineral products coming in fifth. In Ethiopia, China is pouring money into garment manufacturing - the traditional first step on the road to industrialization."

There is no question that China's deep penetration of African markets has caused lots of dislocation of existing African enterprises, or that China's policy of importing its own workforces to staff major projects is cause for resentment among Africans in need of work. It is also true that Chinese entrepreneurs have flooded the nooks and crannies of many African economies, sometimes crowding out real or potential local small businesspeople. But it is generally agreed that China's trade policies in Africa are not coercive or marked by "bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive," as Bolton alleges. Rather, as Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) lead organizer Ajamu Baraka writes in this week's issue of BAR, "China provides African states a modicum of space to exercise more effective national sovereignty than had ever been afforded them by the European colonial powers that craved up and unmercifully exploited African labor and land."

As if Africa and the world need to be reminded, it was European colonialism that robbed Africa of people and resources for hundreds of years. Colonial powers claim the right to exclusively exploit the material and human resources of colonized peoples, to treat whole regions of the world as national property. The U.S., as the world's premier white settler state, assumed the mantle of protector of the international white supremacist order after World War Two, from which it emerged as the top industrial power. In the 21stcentury, however, the U.S. imperialist overlord has been crippled by the accumulated contradictions of late stage capitalism and its own hyper-corruption and racism-induced cognitive incapacities (of which Bolton and Trump are prime, almost farcical examples).

The simple, yet earth-shaking truth is: the United States and western Europe lack the capacity to mount investments in Africa that are conducive to the continent's economic and social development. The same applies to Latin America, where China is the number one trade and investment partner. The "West's" political economies are spent forces, incapable of either keeping up with China's phenomenal domestic growth -- which should be seen as Beijing's re-assumption of its historical status as the center of the world economy -- or of competing with China in what used to be called the Third World. The system is collapsing at its imperial center, the United States, which is incapable of investing in its own crumbling infrastructure.

The United States does not have an Africa problem, it has a capitalism problem that is made more acute -- at home and abroad -- by its deep history of white supremacism and insular ignorance. U.S. elites wish they could muster the "soft power" to effectively penetrate and dominate the economies of Africa, Latin America and central, south and southeast Asia, but U.S. power is instead diminishing, daily. Except for the dollar's artificial status as world reserve currency, the U.S. is no longer an economic superpower; it can only intervene decisively in global affairs by force of arms and military intimidation. China is truly a global economic superpower, capable of credibly launching a multi-continental Belt and Road (and maritime) new order in industrial production and trade - not a socialist order, but one that is far more equitable and voluntary than the western, neocolonial model -- which it is offering to Africa.

The United States offers only "more guns, more bases and more subversion," in Ajamu Baraka's words. Since the inception of AFRICOM, the U.S. Military Command in Africa, in 2008, Washington has placed its strategic bets on dominating Africa by converting the continent's military class into servants of U.S. empire. The Americans wager that they can exercise veto power over African political alignments by force of arms, through AFRICOM's massive military infiltration of the region. U.S. strategic thinkers are wagering that, should African nations become too enamored of the Chinese economic model, Washington can call on its dependent African war dogs to create regime change, or to sow chaos and genocidal warfare, as Uganda and Rwanda have been doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a generation.

John Bolton, a truly freakish example of the American that is always eager to annihilate non-white people, is threatening to exercise that U.S. military veto in Africa, with his warning to the natives not to get too close to the Chinese (or Russians -- he threw them in the pot for good measure). That's the meaning of his warning that the U.S. the U.S. will now choose its African partners more carefully; it implicitly threatens to put some regimes and social movements on an enemies list. Bolton's threats to curtail U.S. "foreign aid" have far more military than economic weight, since most U.S. "aid" is military, or contingent on military cooperation with AFRICOM.

U.S. "economic" assistance is hopelessly entangled with mandates that Africans contract with American corporations whose services are so vastly overpriced as to be worse than useless for national development. But such is also the case on the American domestic scene, where late stage capitalism cannot build even one mile of high-speed rail, while China has constructed 15,500 miles of ultra-modern railway, and is extending these veins of trade and communication throughout Eurasia.

African civil society will have to choose between a U.S. alignment that over-arms the continent's militaries for the benefit of Euro-American multinational corporations, or takes advantage of China's offer of structural development with no strings attached and a multiplicity of markets and investors -- the freedom to shop around for partners in progress. John Bolton and his boss, being professional racists, are boorishly forcing the issue on Africa, but the Democrats offer the same dead-end deal, only in more diplomatic language.

This is not a peculiarly African dilemma, or even strictly a problem of developing nations. U.S. elites have no program for their own citizens other than endless austerity and war. The corporate oligarchy is incapable of remaking the U.S. national infrastructure, despite the fact that tools for national regeneration are available and have already been deployed, during the Great Depression. Their only vision is of capitalist "creative destruction" devoid of security for the masses of people, and to prevail against foreign threats to their global dominion by force of arms. They have now weaponized the dollar through sanctions against everyonethat disobeys U.S. foreign policy dictates, including putative U.S. allies.

If, in the end, bullies and abusers have no friends, then we are close to the end of U.S. imperialism.

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

Trump's Post Office
By Jim Hightower

Donald Trump is really quite good at one special skill: Branding.

He has slapped his name on a ridiculous range of consumer merch - from teddy bears to a urine test. His policies and behavior, however, have turned the brand so toxic that only two merchandisers have kept his name on their products. Still, some two dozen luxury condos and other glossy real estate projects blare his name, plus 17 global golf resorts are branded with his logo. Then, of course, there's his very own post office.

Yes, the "Old Post Office Pavilion," an iconic 1899 federal structure that once housed our country's postal service and was home to various other national government agencies. Located just five blocks from the White House, he and daughter Ivanka had it converted into a hotel for the rich: "The Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC." They even transformed what once was the office of America's postmaster general into a 5,000-square-foot swank suite, which can be yours for about $25,000 a night. There's an even larger presidential suite, which The Donald immodestly named for himself, charging up to $29,000 for a one-night-stay (plus $4,000 in taxes). Branding the once-public facility with the Trump name was "really important," Ivanka declared at the hotel's launch. "You've got to be careful," she explained - "you can't allow people to walk by thinking it's a post office."

Daddy agrees. Now that he's in the White House, he even wants to bring the family's sensibility for branding to your local PO. The Trumpsters say, it's time to turn our historic public mail service over to the magic of the free market profit motive and give it the efficiency that only corporations can provide. You know, like airlines and cable companies do.

To help keep our public post office public go to:

(c) 2018 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates,"is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

The Self-Psychoanalysis Of The American Liberal
By David Swanson

Bryant Welch's new edition of his book, State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind, purports to diagnose the mental illness that produces support for and tolerance of Donald Trump in particular, and the Republican Party in general. To some extent it does so, although it's mostly very familiar stuff, partly excusable because the first edition came out a decade ago. Welch, by the way, deserves credit for opposing participation in torture by the American Psychological Association.

What I find most illuminating in the book is the first-person account of an apparent sufferer of PHSD (Post Hillary Stress Disorder). I imagine that someone unfamiliar with the notion that Fox News lies and that political campaigns exploit bigotry and fears, or someone eager to hear reassuring accounts of how all evil originates among Republicans, would have a very different reaction to the book. My reaction is sympathy for the apparent trauma inflicted on apparently well-off educated people by Hillary Clinton's defeat, combined with outrage at the hypocrisies and in particular the militarism of Democratic partisanship.

"Awareness, deeper psychological awareness itself," Welch writes in his new prefatory note, "must become America's new Manhattan Project." Seriously? The creation of a new nuclear bomb? Is that the absolute best metaphor for the efforts of a book that diagnoses half the United States as remarkably evil and the other half as essentially good - even while the bipartisan effort to build "more usable" nuclear bombs speeds ahead back here in reality? Well, yeah, perhaps it is. What else was the Cold War on the international level?

The fact that most everything Welch denounces in Republicans is accurate, while Democrats share many of the same faults and pile on others of their own is apparently disturbing in its perplexity. It's not difficult to comprehend. There has to be resistance to comprehending it. "The mind," Welch writes, "becomes so dependent on and pays such irrational obeisance to anyone who can protect it from perplexity that it steadfastly overlooks incompetence or severe character flaws in the admired charismatic leader." Welch's book proceeds to overlook all of the following in Hillary Clinton's performance as an outstanding neoconservative:

She said President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.

She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.

She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009. (Where do those refugees come from, again?)

She long backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.

She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.

She did not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.

She consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel.

She was not ashamed to laugh at the killing of Qadaffi.

She did not hesitate to warn that she could obliterate Iran.

She was not afraid to antagonize Russia.

She helped facilitate a military coup in Ukraine.

She had the financial support of the arms makers and many of their foreign customers.

She waived restrictions at the State Department on selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar, all states wise enough to donate to the Clinton Foundation.

She supported President Bill Clinton's wars and the power of the president to make war without Congress.

She advocated for arming fighters in Syria.

She supported an escalation in Iraq even before President Bush did.

Here are comments from a few of her supporters:

"For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be." -Robert Kagan

"I have a sense that she's one of the more competent members of the current administration and it would be interesting to speculate about how she might perform were she to be president." -Dick Cheney

"I've known her for many years now, and I respect her intellect. And she ran the State Department in the most effective way that I've ever seen." -Henry Kissinger

Welch objects to criticism of Hillary Clinton's financial corruption, and associates such criticism with trying to connect Barack Obama to Paris Hilton or questioning John Kerry's war-heroism, suggesting I guess that Hillary Clinton's financial corruption is either nonexistent or heroically militaristic.

The 2017 escalation of the war on Iraq, for Welch, was the work of President George W. Bush and not in any way of the Democratic Congress that had just been elected to end that war. Meanwhile, the 2009 escalation of the war on Afghanistan doesn't exist or isn't worth mentioning. In fact, the whole presidency of Barack Obama almost doesn't exist in various sections of this book which repeatedly leaps from accounts of Bush's outrages right into Trump's as if there was no gap between them during which the same or very similar outrages continued.

This partisanship is paralleled in its division of people into good and bad groups by Welch's patriotism. Welch explicitly claims that nations, not just actual individual people, can go through mental processes. He writes that the crimes of 9-11 traumatized a nation and its people, including Welch himself, because for the first time - and apparently the last time - violent deaths occurred in world history. And those deaths were all of "Americans," Welch writes, and therefore worth acknowledging, he implies, ignoring the 12% or so of the 9-11 victims who were not from the United States. This sort of attitude, in which mass slaughters by the U.S. military before and after 9-11 are not "traumatizing" but 9-11 is, results from an extreme and extremely accepted sort of bigotry, but it also causes it by suggesting the same view to readers.

The war on Iraq of 2003 was, according to Welch, the "first openly acknowledged preemptive war in American history," and waging it had negative effects "for our country" and apparently for nobody else worth mentioning. I wonder if any Iraqis were hurt? According to Welch, "America," and not just its government, is responsible for the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and the creation of ISIS. But Welch acknowledges that Bush was eager for war on Iraq prior to 9-11, and that his excuses for it were just that. However, Welch walks right up to the edge of claiming that believing war lies is acceptable because people are pathetic babies. He then denounces the war lies. He then proclaims his belief in them.

"With remarkable ease," Welch writes, "America's cause went from eliminating weapons of mass destruction to evicting an evil dictator to spreading democracy, because the idea that our leaders might have been wrong, incompetent, or worse was simply too disconcerting a proposition for many Americans to consider." Welch cannot even write the obvious and well-documented fact that "our leaders" were lying. He never mentions that Hillary Clinton promoted the weapons-of-mass-destruction lies. Welch goes on to make clear that he actually believes the evicting an evil dictator lie and describes the war as "America's attempt to liberate Iraq from a ruthless dictator who had killed tens of thousands of Kurds." He also believes the spreading-democracy lie but blames the Bush Administration for failing to realize that there was "no historical basis" for democracy among the primitives being bombed in Iraq. Welch even believes in the whole mission and denounces the outing of Valerie Plame as putting at risk "our efforts in the war on terror." Whose what?

This is typical Democratic partisanship. You denounce an unpopular war while supporting it. You claim the loyalty of anti-Republicans, then hopelessly try to win the votes of Republicans, while alienating independent, thinking people. Welch even admits that Al Gore's top advisor and speech writer on his presidential campaign was eager for war on Iraq and believed Gore was too, but praises Gore as radically different from Bush because he deleted a line threatening war on Iraq from a speech.

John Kerry throughout the book is repeatedly "a decorated war hero" much like Gore who becomes "a foreign-policy expert" and "one of the most respected experts on defense matters in the history of the United States Senate" who "served [defensively??!] in Vietnam."

For Welch, war is not illegal or immoral, but a nation should analyze its emotions prior to launching a war, and should make proper emotional use of its enemies: "[O]ur enemies actually help us maintain a cohesive sense of reality." Is he referring to foreign enemies or Republicans? This book suggests both. Welch refers without any attempt at evidence to "Russia's involvement in the 2016 election" and claims "We actually appointed a Russian operative to be our National Security Advisor." He laments energy invested in opposing documented outrages by Trump which he thinks should go into "the possibility that Russia is gaining control of our executive branch of government." The line between the Russian enemy and the Republican enemy is blurred, and the blame for Post Hillary Stress Disorder is dispersed.

Welch diagnoses in "the American mind" paranoia, sexual perplexity, and envy. The first he believes has been created by exploitation of 911, the big real fact, while the other two have been created out of whole cloth. And the combination serves, he thinks, to explain hatred of Hillary Clinton. But all three, as far as I can tell, are generated by a wide variety of lies, while there is no such thing as "whole cloth."

Welch's understanding of envy seems to especially lack understanding: "What could Americans be envious of? Despite our national pockets of poverty, most Americans participate heavily in a vast consumer economy their parents never imagined." Let's set this comment against reality for a moment. For many in the United States life is harder than it was for their parents. It's also harder than for many around them. Poverty and economic insecurity are extremely widespread. The United States has the highest inequality and the highest poverty of any wealthy country. This almost certainly contributes to envy of wealthier U.S. citizens and, to a far lesser extent, envy of people in other nations - while contributing to a passionate patriotism that is stronger among the poor than the wealthy, perhaps in part because it covers up envy of more equal and prosperous places. Welch goes on to rightly criticize advertising for promoting envy, but the notion that it promotes it out of nowhere is a notion shared by the right wing of U.S. politics.

In Welch's view, Trump exploited women's envy of Hillary to get them to vote against Hillary, while men hated her out of pity for themselves and their need to look down on all women. This is certainly a plausible part of an explanation for the attitudes of some people, mostly people who were probably planning to vote for whoever was the most racist, patriotic, and plutocratic regardless of any specifics. And Welch himself promotes the attitudes he criticizes through the usual hypocrisies, such as mocking George W. Bush for having been a cheerleader. But the paranoid-sexually-insecure-envious-hateful-people-did-it does little better than the Putin-did-it explanation of Hillary Defeat Trauma. I would recommend, instead, the following healing steps:

Stop identifying with a corrupt government or any portion of it. Work to improve it, but don't consider that work self-improvement.

Stop imagining that social change comes primarily through elections.

Stop identifying with a political party and with a population that makes up 4% of the species you should identify with.

Recognize that an extremely broken and corrupt election system allowed Trump to "win" despite his having lost. Fix these problems before worrying about nefarious Russian masterminds or bitter insecure racists: the Electoral College, voter ID laws, the lack of verifiable hand-counted paper ballots, the Presidential Debates Commission, the corporate media, the rigged Democratic Party primaries that deprived that party of its strongest candidate according to numerous polls, the racist stripping of names from voter rolls in various states, the open criminal intimidation and incitement of violence by Trump, the disenfranchisement of people convicted of crimes, the ridiculous lack of automatic voter registration and of an election holiday and of sufficient polling places.

Recognize that Hillary Clinton was one of the few candidates awful enough to have come anywhere close to shocking Donald Trump by losing to him. She was the epitome of financial corruption and the lack of any consistent belief or integrity. She lost a couple of swing states, studies suggest, to the understandable belief among military families that she was the most likely to get their loved ones killed. She turned off all kinds of constituencies by appearing to give a damn exclusively about herself.

Face head on the apparently somehow frightening perplexity that is somehow supposed to arise in your poor little brain from the fact that lots of people also disliked Hillary Clinton because they were sexists or racists or other despicable things, and from the fact that this fact doesn't somehow erase all the facts listed above.

(c) 2018 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.

Scott Walker Ends On A Miserably Pathetic Note
By John Nichols

Scott Walker has chosen to finish his term as it began, by placing his petty ambitions ahead of a state that he never understood and never chose to lead as anything more than a partisan placeholder.

The defeated Republican governor of Wisconsin capped his tenure on a pathetic note: by signing a sweeping package of legislation designed by his legislative henchmen to grab power away from Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul - the Democrats who were elected on Nov. 6. The measures do damage to democracy, but they do far more severe damage to Walker's place in the long history of Wisconsin.

"Today, Governor Walker chose to ignore and override the will of the people of Wisconsin," said Evers. "This will no doubt be his legacy."

Evers is correct. By signing the lame-duck bills, Walker sealed his fate. The outgoing governor will be remembered only for the harm he has done. And that is the most tragic legacy imaginable for a failed politician.

Walker's determination to do the bidding of out-of-state campaign donors (such as the Koch brothers) and to implement the agendas of corporate policy mills (such as the American Legislative Exchange Council) had already identified his eight-year tenure as an assault on working Wisconsinites - and on the state's good name.

But the governor might at least have ended on a grace note. Vetoing the power-grab legislation would have suggested that he nurtured some small measure of regard for the voters of Wisconsin and for the state's tradition of political cooperation.

But on Friday Walker rejected the voters and the tradition with the stroke of a pen.

In time, that damage will be undone. Evers is an able and well-intended public servant who will begin the process of cleaning up the messes Walker leaves behind. The power grab will be dialed back, the roadblocks will be overcome. The real work of renewing Wisconsin will advance. Evers will get much of the job done. And if it takes a little longer, then the next progressive governor - perhaps Mandela Barnes - will complete the work.

Ultimately, Walker will be remembered as a deviant, an outlier who broke faith with Wisconsin in hopes of advancing his own political ambitions. Now, just as his 2016 presidential bid became a footnote to the broader history of that campaign, so Walker's record as governor will be a footnote to the broader history of Wisconsin.

That does not mean that Walker will be forgotten entirely. Wisconsinites will remain wary of his assaults on worker rights, public services, public education and the Wisconsin Idea; along with his scheming to protect Republican power with over-the-top gerrymandering strategies and crude voter-suppression schemes. Savvy observers will, as well, recall Walker's ineptitude, particularly when it came to job creation, economic development, the WEDC scandals and the Foxconn fiasco.

But time will heal the wounds created by Walker's intransigence and his incompetence. And all that will be remembered of his eight years in office will be his miserable disregard for the state he was supposed to serve - and his final rejection of the will of its people.

(c) 2018 John Nichols John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. 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 Fight To Re-Legalize Marijuana In The US
By James Donahue

It took two attempts, first in 2010 and again in 2016, before California voters approved the recreational use of marijuana. That year similar propositions won voter approval in Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. At the time of this writing recreational marijuana use also is declared legal by voters in nine other states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are Alaska, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, plus the District of Columbia.

Because of intense research in laboratories outside of the United States, a substance in Marijuana, cannabinol (CBD), was shown to have medical benefits, the medical use of cannabis is now legal in 33 states, the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. Of course the Chinese knew this several thousand years ago. Emperor Shen Nung in 2737 noted in writings that cannabis was a medication for rheumatism, gout, malaria and absent-mindedness. The Muslims introduced hashish, made from cannabis resin. The plant was brought to the Americas by the English and the Spanish.

The English introduced cannabis in Jamestown in 1611. There it became a major commercial crop with tobacco. But it was grown as hemp, a source of fiber. It was always known, however, for its properties for medical and recreational use. Unfortunately marijuana was caught up in the nation's anti-drug campaign and was declared an illegal substance in 1937. This established a big undercover cannabis production operation designed to supply street demands. As it was during prohibition, the production and sale of marijuana became a major criminal enterprise.

In spite of this overall legal acceptance of cannabis by the U.S. public, it still remains a prohibited substance in federal law books. This is because of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under this act cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 substance, determined to deliver a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

Because of the federal law, and the refusal by some states to legalize CBD even for medical use, there has existed mass confusion among users. We have heard tales of police drug arrests of drivers passing through these areas because they had small amounts of marijuana on their person, purchased in a home state where the sale was legal. Also in those areas we must assume the illegal growth, production and sale of "weed" is thriving. Those states also are missing out on the cash rewards of the sales taxes now collected in the legal marijuana states.

The irony in all this is that without a federal acceptance, it has been up to each state to write and adopt local laws and establish punishments for law violations involving cannabis. Thus users throughout the nation must abide by the laws established in their own states, and use extreme caution when visiting other parts of the nation.

Even though we suspect that many of our elected representatives in Washington are cannabis users, the halls of Congress have been the home to older men and women, all having been heavily indoctrinated by the drug propaganda of their time. A search of the web even today proves that the propaganda still exists. We found one "medical" information page that warns of the dangers of "overdosing" on marijuana. Users familiar with the effects of the weed know this is false. Unlike alcohol, which is found legal everywhere, death by marijuana is unheard of.

If anything, there have been proven benefits in the use of marijuana. Certain established varieties of the plant are found to be an excellent pain killer. It is actually being successfully used in helping addicted hydrocodone users escape the addition and turn to daily doses of marijuana to deal with arthritis and other body aches. Where it is now legal various varieties of marijuana can be bought in specialty shops. It can be consumed either by smoking it or consuming foods containing CBD.

Before passage of the Controlled Substance Act American farmers were encouraged to grow hemp, a variety of cannabis used to make rope, clothes and even quality paints. Back when sailing ships ruled the high seas, U.S. farmers were required to grow hemp for naval purposes.

(c) 2018 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

Donald Trump hugs Vietnam veteran Max Morgan as he participates in a veterans meet and greet on the sidelines
of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017.

Trump And GOP Attack Vietnam War Veterans And Refugees
By William Rivers Pitt

"A true war story is never moral." ~~~ Tim O'Brien

My father had been home from his tour in Vietnam for five years when he, along with the rest of the world, watched US service members shove perfectly good helicopters off the flight deck of the USS Okinawa and into the South China Sea. This was Operation Frequent Wind, the final escape plan for US personnel upon the collapse of the war, and when the endgame finally came, it came fast.

The choppers were dumped overboard to make room for more choppers to land, drop their human cargo and be likewise dumped because so many people - soldiers and civilians - were running for their lives from the conflagration on the Vietnamese mainland.

It was the ignominious conclusion to an ignominious war the US had known for years it could not win, but kept fighting anyway for pride and profit. They knew they couldn't win in Vietnam before my father got there, and yet they let him go anyway, he and nearly three million others who either volunteered like my dad or were pressed into service by the draft.

The war in Vietnam killed more than 58,000 US military service members. Millions upon millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and Thais were killed, maimed or displaced. My father kept walking for another 46 years after he came home, but a part of him he could never quite name died there, too.

The war is not over.

A needed extension of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act collapsed in the Senate last Monday at the hands of one man. The Act, according to, "would extend eligibility for disability compensation and health care to 'Blue Water' Navy veterans - service members who were aboard aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and other ships, some of whom have fought for years to prove they were exposed to Agent Orange. The dioxin-laden herbicide has been found to cause respiratory cancers, Parkinson's disease and heart disease, as well as other conditions."

The House of Representatives passed the legislation back in June by a vote of 382-0, making it one of the most bipartisan bills to move through that chamber in decades. The legislation was held up for a time by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the Trump appointee who replaced Trump's last VA secretary, a self-confessed do-nothing named Peter O'Rourke.

Wilkie thought more research was needed on the effects of Agent Orange, despite the fact that the science on the effects of the chemical and its chief agent, dioxin, were established long ago. Over 2 million servicemembers were exposed to the 20 million gallons of Agent Orange sprayed across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos from 1961 to 1971. The deleterious effects of dioxin - cancers, psychological and neurological disorders, birth defects - have impacted the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of affected servicemembers. Like the war itself, Agent Orange has become a generational tale of suffering in both the US and Vietnam.

Secretary Wilkie, however, was not responsible for the Monday night demise of this veteran's benefits bill. That grim honor falls to Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, chairman of the Budget Committee. When Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand asked for unanimous consent to pass the bill, Enzi objected, and his objection killed the bill. "On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA," said Enzi afterward. "They're having a lot of problems, anyway."

Agent Orange has become a generational tale of suffering in both the US and Vietnam. Critics were quick to note that Enzi, along with other Republicans who were crowing about the cost of the bill, had no such fiscal concerns the year before when they passed a trillion-dollar tax cut for rich people. "It's disheartening," said Democratic Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota on Twitter, "to see a bill that passed unanimously by the House blocked by a handful of Senators over supposed fiscal concerns when those same Senators voted to add trillions of dollars to the deficit last year to score a political win on the back of American taxpayers." The US veteran victims of Agent Orange exposure join a long line of people made to suffer at the hands of shabby priorities and simple greed. The long denial of Gulf War Syndrome because acknowledging its existence would cost too much. The sulfurous disgrace that was the treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center, who endured their wounds among the rats and roaches because proper care would cost too much. The ongoing calamity of veteran care at the hands of "budget hawks" and political hacks. Let them carve this on my tombstone, so many times have I said it: A nation that does not care for its war veterans has no business making new ones.

It wasn't just the veterans of Vietnam who took it in the teeth last week. Somehow, the Trump administration (read: known fascist Stephen Miller, probably) has determined that refugees from the Vietnam War who have been here for 40 years somehow represent an existential threat to the nation and must be expelled.

"The Trump administration is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades," reported The Atlantic on Wednesday, "many of them having fled the country during the Vietnam War. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law-meaning they are all eligible for deportation."

"These are the boat people," writes Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce, "the people who fled here because of the ill-begotten war that this country made on theirs, and who fled because the enmity of their countrymen made their staying in Vietnam impossible. They have made peace with those circumstances. They have made homes and lives here. That it reopens deep wounds that everyone thought were healed is irrelevant to a White House devoid of empathy or any sense of either honor or history. The cruelty is the point."

Words like "shame," "disgrace" and "horror" are too small to encompass the enormity of the malice inherent in such an act. It has no purchase in logic or morality, but serves only as yet another bowlful of blood spooned to Trump's execrable base. Winnie Wong, progressive organizer and founder of People for Bernie, provided a simple description of the move to Common Dreams: "Trump wants to deport Vietnamese grannies who have been living here for more than 40 years."

Why? Because f-k you, that's why.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are collectively called the "Forever Wars" by the soldiers who fight them. The conflict in Vietnam remains a Forever War as well. It seemed to have no real beginning, is still without end, and all the big players act the same even across the span of years. The politicians who pushed and defended the Vietnam War were disgraceful then, and the politicians who continue to this day to use the war for political gain are disgraceful now.

I sit, run my thumb over the orderly bumps on my father's old dog tags, and wonder if we will ever learn anything.

(c) 2018 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

Holiday soother: baby elephant walking the walk

Doing Some Talking As Well As Writing
By Heather Digby Parton

First, let me thank those of you who have donated to the annual holiday fundraiser so far. As always, I'm overwhelmed by your support and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I'm not all that good at self-promotion and I'm sure I often let my friends and colleagues down by failing to promote them adequately as well. But it occurs to me that I haven't been doing my part to promote a weekly podcast/radio show that I do with my friend Sam Seder. And I've been doing it for almost two years! I also appear somewhat regularly on his other podcast Majority Report, usually on casual Fridays.

If you care to put it on your list of podcasts, you can do that by joining Ring of Fire.

Here's this week's Majority Report:

It's a labor of love for me because I adore Sam and love to talk politics with someone so smart and well-informed but it's also provided me (and his audience, I hope) an hour or so each week with a good overview of the week's major developments. We often hit on topics that I don't necessarily write about and because it's Sam, who is brilliantly funny, it's often very entertaining.

All of this is to say that aside from writing here every day and contributing to Salon, I do other things like these podcasts and activism work for Blue America PAC, all of which are an honor. But this blog is what keeps me going and your support is vital.

We are, as you know, at the beginning of a presidential campaign (oh my dear god ...) and it is the most consequential presidential campaign of our lifetimes. They're all important, of course. But this one will tell the world whether the most powerful nation on earth has the wherewithal to right itself from the worst electoral mistake it's ever made or if we've taken a very dark turn that is leading the world to catastrophe. This man in the White House and the party that is enabling him are both malevolent and ignorant. It is a lethal combination and it's only a matter of time before we reach the point of no return.

So, I hope that we all pull together and do whatever it takes to ensure that the next generations are able to look back at this and say "what the hell were they thinking?" from the perspective of a safer, more decent world.

I'll keep plugging away here and wherever else I can. And I hope that you'll keep stopping by and reading and listening. Your support means the world to me and if you are able to throw a few bucks in the Hullabaloo Christmas stocking, I'd be most grateful.

As always I am immensely grateful for your continued loyalty and interest in my scribbles.

And I wish all of you Very Happy Hollandaise!

Cheers ~~~ Digby

(c) 2018 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Major Health Study Shows Benefits Of Combatting Climate Change
By David Suzuki

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

"Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity,"

according to the medical journal The Lancet. The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, by 150 experts from 27 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, is blunt: "A rapidly changing climate has dire implications for every aspect of human life, exposing vulnerable populations to extremes of weather, altering patterns of infectious disease, and compromising food security, safe drinking water and clean air."

The report examines the association between health and climate change, including resilience and adaptation, financial and economic implications, the health and economic benefits of addressing the crisis, and the need for political and societal engagement, with a greater role for health professionals.

Sadly, the researchers conclude that a lack of concerted effort from governments is compromising human health and health infrastructure and services. They note some progress has been made, including a global decline in coal use, rapid growth in renewable energy installation and increasing fossil fuel divestment. But it's far short of what's needed to keep global average temperature from rising more than 2 C, let alone the more ambitious target of 1.5 C.

People in more than 90 per cent of cities breathe air that is toxic to cardiovascular and respiratory health, and it appears to be getting worse, "particularly in low-income and middle-income countries." Pollutants from burning coal and other fossil fuels are causing millions of premature deaths every year.

A World Health Organization report, released at this year's COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland, echoes the Lancet findings, noting that at least seven million people a year die prematurely because of pollution, and millions more become ill. It concludes that health gains from meeting Paris Agreement commitments would more than make up for the financial costs of global efforts to achieve those goals, "and would exceed that in countries such as China and India by several times."

The Lancet report shows the costs of inaction are rising: "About 712 climate-related extreme events were responsible for US$326 billion of losses in 2017, almost triple the losses of 2016," with 99 per cent of losses in low-income countries uninsured. Deadly heatwaves, prolonged drought, increased flooding, agricultural losses, spreading transmission of infectious diseases from insects and contaminated water, mental health issues and water shortages are among the costly health impacts of climate change.

The Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Public Health Association offered several recommendations for policy-makers based on the Lancet report, emphasizing the role of doctors and other health professionals in addressing climate change and raising public awareness. "Ensuring a widespread understanding of climate change as a central public health issue will be vital in delivering an accelerated response, with the health profession beginning to rise to this challenge," they write. Beyond informing the public, recommendations include preparing people for worsening impacts; integrating climate change and health into medical and health sciences faculties curricula; supporting an equitable transition for people who work in the fossil fuel industry; phasing out coal power by 2030 and replacing it with non-emitting sources; applying carbon-pricing instruments quickly and scaling them up; and funding research into the mental health impacts of climate change. The groups also caution against promoting natural gas as a solution because "increasing numbers of studies show risks to public health, water and air from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas."

When people get sick from contaminated lettuce or are injured because of defective products, governments and corporations promptly remove or recall the dangerous items. Granted, global warming is a much bigger challenge, but given the benefits of acting quickly and decisively to bring it under control, there's no excuse for stalling.

As the Lancet report states, "At a time when national health budgets and health services face a growing epidemic of lifestyle diseases, continued delay in unlocking the potential health co-benefits of climate change mitigation is short-sighted and damaging for human health."

Here's to climate action for all our health.

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

Brian Kemp's Credibility Is Shredded Before He Even Takes Office
More evidence the Republican Party has completely detached itself from democracy.
By Charles P. Pierce

I was in Georgia on Other Business over the weekend, and I was lucky because the Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke a brilliant story that pretty much shreds what was left of the credibility of both the recent gubernatorial election and the new governor it produced, Brian Kemp. The Republican candidate, you may recall, also was serving as Georgia's Secretary of State and, therefore, was tasked with overseeing a close election in which he was one of the candidates. The AJC added yet another big window into the veritable Plato's Retreat of ratfcking that was that election.

> It was Nov. 3, a Saturday, 72 hours to Election Day. Virtually tied in the polls with Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp was in danger of becoming the first Georgia Republican to lose a statewide election since 2006. And, now, a new threat. The secretary of state's office had left its voter-registration system exposed online, opening Kemp to criticism that he couldn't secure an election that featured him in the dual roles of candidate and overseer. But by the next day, Kemp and his aides had devised one solution for both problems, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

They publicly accused the Democratic Party of Georgia of trying to hack into the voter database in a failed attempt to steal the election. The announcement added last-minute drama to an already contentious campaign. More important, it also pre-empted scrutiny of the secretary of state's own missteps while initiating a highly unusual criminal investigation into his political rivals. But no evidence supported the allegations against the Democrats at the time, and none has emerged in the six weeks since, the Journal-Constitution found. It appears unlikely that any crime occurred.

To recap: Kemp was overseeing his own election, and he was so bad at it that, three days before the polls opened, it was discovered that the registration system was ridiculously hackable. This called for some serious hackery in response. Kemp already had proven to be up to the task.
In 2015, Kemp's office accidentally sent political organizations, media outlets and others a trove of confidential information about every Georgia voter. Kemp blamed a single employee, whom he fired. The following year, Kemp was one of just seven state election directors who rejected the federal government's help to secure their voting systems. Kemp called the offer an "overreach" by the administration of President Barack Obama after hackers stole emails from the Democratic National Committee. "It seems like now it's just the D.C. media and the bureaucrats, because of the DNC getting hacked - they now think our whole system is on the verge of disaster because some Russian's going to tap into the voting system," Kemp said...At that moment, the computer servers that ran Georgia's election system were wide open to potential intruders. Voters' personal data, passwords that poll supervisors used on Election Day, the coding for memory cards with which voters cast ballots - all of it was readily accessible.

Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp debate in an event in Atlanta on October 23.

Meanwhile, a guy named Logan Lamb, a specialist in cybersecurity from Kennesaw State, where Georgia's servers are located, spent several months ringing the alarm bell before anyone in Kemp's office deigned to get involved. Have I mentioned that Kemp was running for governor at the time, and that a story about incompetence centered on the office he already held might have proven to be a drag on that effort?

But it wasn't until seven months later, when Lamb and a colleague found that the data still had not been secured, that officials shut off unauthorized access to the servers. Kemp said at the time that he expected the FBI to catch the "perpetrators." "There were no perpetrators," Lamb, who works for the Atlanta-based online security firm Bastille, said recently. "We are computer security professionals. We were trying to go through the process of responsible disclosure to make sure the system was secure." For months, Lamb said, "anyone could just have downloaded" - or manipulated - all the state's election files.
At this point, it might have become obvious to all but the dimmest voter that Kemp shouldn't be entrusted to manage anything more complicated than a food truck. A new strategy was needed because, after all, those rats won't fck themselves.
On Dec. 8, 2016, Kemp wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, demanding to know why the federal agency "was attempting to breach our firewall." Kemp said a computer traced to Homeland Security had executed a "large unblocked scan" of the secretary of state's website. The intrusion, Kemp suggested, was in retaliation for his refusing the government's help before the 2016 election. Johnson replied four days later. He said a worker at his agency's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, had merely verified the professional licenses of job applicants - "a service, as I understand it, your website provides to the general public," Johnson wrote.

Kemp wasn't satisfied with Johnson's response. "I will be elevating my concerns to the incoming administration," he wrote back, and the same day, he asked Trump, then the president-elect, to investigate the Obama administration's "failed cyberattacks" on Georgia. Republicans in Congress warned Johnson not to destroy evidence of what Rep. Jason Chaffetz, then chairman of the House Oversight Committee, called a possible breach of "state sovereignty" and a violation of state and federal laws. Finally, in June 2017, a report by Homeland Security's inspector general said a digital forensic investigation found no evidence of a cyberattack.

This is pure bubblespeak, aimed at an audience conditioned for decades to believe anything that strokes their ideological G-spots. (That Jason Chaffetz had a cameo in this farce was almost comically predictable.) And it roped in the Department of Homeland Security, which had to hunt all the snipes Kemp had set loose in the minds of his voters. Was it time to turn things up to 11? Of course, it was.
Kemp's aides broke their silence early Sunday. At 4:47 a.m., Candice Broce, the secretary of state's spokeswoman, received a message from the online news site WhoWhatWhy, which says it practices "forensic journalism." Its reporters had heard about Wright's email and were preparing to post a story at 6 a.m. The website said it told Broce its story would describe a security breakdown in the secretary of state's office, not a failed hack by the Democrats.

Exactly one hour later, a statement appeared on the secretary of state's website, on the same page where voters search for sample ballots, find their polling place or check their registration. In all-capital letters, the headline announced: "AFTER FAILED HACKING ATTEMPT, SOS LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY." "While we cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation," Broce was quoted as saying, "I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes."

This is great work by the AJC, especially the survey of how so many news operations, both in Georgia and nationally, ran with the phony accusation. Kemp's people did what they did full in the knowledge that there wasn't enough time before the election for them to get called on it. (That it also was picked up by Sputnik, the Russian misinformation laundromat, is even less surprising than Chaffetz's appearance in the story was.) The Democratic party in Georgia admits in the story that its rapid-response operation wasn't nearly as rapid as it should have been. But, in general, the AJC's story is another one to add to the now towering pile of evidence that the Republican party has become unmoored from any attachment it still had to actual democracy.

(c) 2018 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote-

"This is my country, that is your country; these are the conceptions of narrow souls - to the liberal minded the whole world is a family."
~~~ Virchand Raghavji Gandhi

In Praise Of A Military Budget That Ensures Our Destruction
If we are this committed to destroying life and the planet that sustains it, perhaps the Pentagon does need more money
By Tom Engelhardt

Imagine, for a moment, a country that no longer rebuilds or reinforces its sagging infrastructure but just can't stop pouring money into its military. Oh wait, you don't have to imagine that at all! You just have to look at the United States. This fall, for instance, the president who swore he was going to give us an infrastructure plan that would blow our minds discovered that, after a tax cut for billionaires, a ballooning national debt, and a staggering $716 billion Pentagon budget, there were few dollars left over for much of anything else.

In October, Donald Trump began talking about cutting agency spending by 5% across the board and about a possible $700 billion limit on the 2020 Pentagon budget. As December began, he became even more emphatic on that point, tweeting that he should talk to the Chinese and Russian presidents about halting an arms race and so cut down on military spending that was... well, not to put too fine a point on it, "Crazy!"

Hmm... and just how long did that sentiment survive? Well, that was Monday, December 4th. On Tuesday, the newly nominated head of U.S. Central Command, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and insisted that any future Pentagon budget below $733 billion would "increase risk and that risk would be manifested across the force." That very day, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) trooped to the White House for a lunch meeting. The next thing anyone knew, the 2020 Pentagon budget was to be a modest $750 billion. "The President fully supports the National Defense Strategy and continuing to rebuild the military," an administration official told CNN. "With the help of Sen. Inhofe and Chairman Thornberry, President Trump agreed to $750 billion topline."

Well, honestly, what can you expect of a Pentagon incapable of auditing itself? How could it possibly solve a total stumper of a division and subtraction problem like: What's 5% less than its 2019 budget? (And here's a little footnote to that change in numbers: Senator Inhofe walked out of that lunch and within the week had purchased "tens of thousands of dollars of stock in one of the nation's top defense contractors." Raytheon, to be exact. When that buy made news, he blamed it all on his "financial adviser," claimed to know nothing about it, and cancelled the order.)

And then, of course, there's always the purely secondary question: What is the U.S. military-its budget already bigger than of that those of god-knows-how-many-other countries combined-going to spend all that money on? Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Michael Klare has a thought on the subject. He suggests that, in the years to come, increasing billions of those dollars are going to be invested in creating a future battlespace in which "intelligent" machines fight our wars and, in the end, the only role left for humans may be the dying. In other words, we're heading for a militarized, remarkably automated, artificially intelligent hell on Earth. What about an $850 billion budget, just to ensure that we're the first ones there?

(c) 2018 Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program The Thom Hartmann Show.

You Better Watch Out
Santa's list of injustices is really long this year
By Jane Stillwater

Up at the North Pole, not much is going on right now. Even the elves are on strike. "Looks like nobody's going to get any toys this year," Santa says with a frown. And he's not even baking chocolate-chip cookies either. It's that bad. What's up, Santa? "Everyone has been super-naughty during 2018 -- and not just only the kids. I'm disgusted." Here's Santa's "naughty" list for this year:

1. First off, there's always Palestine -- still a gigantic festering wound of injustice that's landed Israel on the Naughty List for the past 70 miserable years. It's a good thing that Netanyahu doesn't believe in Santa because all he's gonna get in his stocking this year is coal, phish and spam. Santa doesn't care what religion Bibi pretends to represent. After the horrors of Jenin and the horrors of Gaza? Netanyahu has proved time and again that he honors no religion at all -- except possibly for the worship of Mammon. "Don't mess with The Claus!"

2. Next there are all those stolen American elections. You evil vote-stealers are not getting on the "Nice" list this year! O'Rourke shoulda won in Texas. Abrams shoulda won in Georgia. Gillum shoulda won in Florida. Hell, even Gore, Kerry and Bernie Sanders shoulda won the freaking White House. And Israel and the Saudis had their hands in the electoral cookie jar too. But who, exactly, can Santa appeal to? The Supreme Court? Don't make him laugh. Move along, folks, no bowl full of jelly here. There is nothing "Nice" going on at the Supreme Court. In America, the Rule of Law is pretty much screwed.

3. Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya and Bethlehem? No wise men on camels will be involved there. And no one will be dropping down any chimneys in the Middle East either -- because there are hardly any chimneys left over there to drop down in, thanks to Lockheed-Martin, Exxon and BlackRock. So the Pentagon, the CIA, Congress and the White House will get no visit from Rudolph this year.

4. Latin America, Africa and Asia? The injustices committed here are way beyond "Naughty". Santa is extremely unhappy about this -- and so is his Boss. "Jesus Christ!"

5. Up at Standing Rock and Pine Ridge and down in Tijuana, Tomillo and the Amazon -- everyone gets toys. Leonard Peltier will be getting a bright shiny fire truck to warm up his cold prison cell. Big Oil, Big Polluters, Big Pharma and Big Banksters get nothing. It is better to give than to steal.

6. And then there are all the American homeless, all the American children living in cars, all the American slaves of the prison-industrial complex, all the American victims of hurricanes, wildfires and other climate catastrophes -- and all of America's many other society castoffs. Black lives really do matter. "Harrumph," says Santa. "There's no excuse for those corporate bastards to be all this naughty when there is clearly more than enough food, clothing, jobs, shelter and toys to go around in order to protect, nurture and love every single person in America -- and even in this whole world." Not only just that child in the manger.

Santa is truly pissed off this year.

You should be too.

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

The Dead Letter Office-

Mike gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Uberfuhrer Enzi

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 killing of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act which would have extend eligibility for disability compensation and health care for US Navy vets, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker,"formally the "White House,"on 01-05-2019. We salute you herr Enzi, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

Why Trump's Private Transactions Are Terrifying
By Robert Reich

Trump has described the payments his bag man, Michael Cohen, made to two women during the 2016 campaign so they wouldn't discuss their alleged affairs with him, as "a simple private transaction."

Last Saturday, when ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen if Trump knew the payments were wrong and were made to help his election, Cohen replied "Of course ... . He was very concerned about how this would affect the election."

Even if Trump intended that the payments aid his presidential bid, it doesn't necessarily follow that he knew they were wrong.

Trump might have reasoned that a deal is a deal: The women got hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for agreeing not to talk about his affairs with them. So where's the harm?

After two years of Trump we may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: His brain sees only private interests transacting. It doesn't comprehend the public interest.

Private transactions can't be wrong or immoral because, by definition, they require that every party to them be satisfied. Otherwise there wouldn't be a deal.

Viewed this way, everything else falls into place.

For example, absent a public interest, there can't be conflicts of interest.

So when lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for an estimated 500 nights at Trump's Washington, D.C.hotel within a month of his election, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rented so many rooms at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan that its revenues rose in 2018 after years of decline, Trump saw it as half of a private transaction.

The other half: Trump would continually go to bat for Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince, even after the Senate passed a resolution blaming the Crown Prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million," Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally in August 2015. "Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."

Ethics smethics. Without a public interest, no deals can be ethical violations. All are just private transactions.

So someone donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee and subsequently received a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department. What's the problem? Both parties got what they wanted. (Federal prosecutors are now investigating this.)

Trump aide and former Fox News executive Bill Shine continues to rake in millions each year from Fox News, and Fox News continues to give Trump the positive coverage he wants. What's the worry? It's a good deal for both sides.

This private transactional worldview also helps explain Trump's foreign policy.

According to Trump, North Korea's Kim Jong Un writes him such "beautiful letters," that "we fell in love."

So what if Kim continues to develop nuclear missiles? Trump gets bragging rights as the first American president to have a good private relationship with the North Korean president.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin have a "beautiful relationship," presumably opening the way to all sorts of private transactions.

In July 2016, after emails from the Democratic National Committee were leaked to the public, Trump declared "Putin likes me" and thinks "I'm a genius." Trump then publicly called on Russia to find emails Hillary Clinton had deleted from the private account she used when she was secretary of state.

That same day, Russians made their first effort to break into the servers used by her personal office, according to an indictment from the special counsel's office charging twelve Russians with election hacking.

So what? Trump asks.

Even as evidence mounts that Trump aides were in frequent contact with Russian agents during this time, Trump insists he wasn't involved in any collusion with Putin.

Collusion means joining together in violation of the public interest. If Trump's brain comprehends only private interests, even a transaction in which Putin offered explicit help winning the election in return for Trump weakening NATO and giving Russia unfettered license in Ukraine wouldn't be collusive.

When private deals are everything, the law is irrelevant. This also seems to fit with Trump's worldview.

If he genuinely believes the hush money he had Cohen pay was a "simple private transaction," Trump must not think the nation's campaign finance laws apply to him. But if they don't, why would laws and constitutional provisions barring collusion with foreign powers apply to him?

As we enter the third year of his presidency, Trump's utter blindness to the public interest is a terrifying possibility. At least a scoundrel knows when he is doing bad things. A megalomaniac who only sees the art of the deal, doesn't.

(c) 2018 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is

Trump, The Quintessential American
By Chris Hedges

Donald Trump is part of the peculiar breed Herman Melville described in his novel "The Confidence-Man," in which the main character uses protean personas, flattery and lies to gain the confidence of his fellow passengers to fleece them on a Mississippi River steamboat. "Confidence men," as Melville understood, are an inevitable product of the amorality of capitalism and the insatiable lust for wealth, power and empire that infects American society. Trump's narcissism, his celebration of ignorance-which he like all confidence men confuses with innocence-his megalomania and his lack of empathy are pathologies nurtured by the American landscape. They embody the American belief, one that Mark Twain parodied in "Pudd'nhead Wilson," F. Scott Fitzgerald excoriated in "The Great Gatsby" and William Faulkner portrayed in the depraved Snopes clan, that it does not matter in the crass commercialism of American society how you obtain wealth and power. They are their own justifications.

American culture is built on a willful duplicity, a vision we hold of ourselves that bears little resemblance to reality. Malcolm Bradbury wrote "that in America imposture is identity; that values are not beliefs but the product of occasions; and that social identity is virtually an arbitrary matter, depending not on character nor an appearance but on the chance definition of one's nature or colour." We founded the nation on genocide and slavery, ravage the globe with endless wars and the theft of its resources, enrich an oligarchic elite at the expense of the citizenry, empower police to gun down unarmed citizens in the streets, and lock up a quarter of the world's prison population while wallowing in the supposed moral superiority of American white supremacy. The more debased the nation becomes, the more it seeks the reassurance of oily con artists to mask truth with lies.

Trump, like most con artists, is skilled at manufacturing self-serving news and a fictional persona that feed the magical aura of his celebrity. The showman P.T. Barnum is the prototype of this strain of Americanism. In the 1830s, he exhibited Joice Heth, an elderly African-American slave who he claimed was the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington. When Heth lost her novelty, Barnum announced that what he had been displaying was a robot. "The fact is, Joice Heth is not a human being," he wrote to a Boston newspaper, "... simply a curiously constructed automation, made up of whalebone, india-rubber, and numerous springs ingeniously put together and made to move at the slightest touch, according to the will of the operator. The operator is a ventriloquist." The crowds, which at their height had collectively paid $1,500 a week (then a huge sum) to see Heth, returned in droves to see the supposed machine. After Heth died in 1836 at age 79 or 80, Barnum sold tickets to her autopsy, which was viewed by 1,500 paying customers.

"[Barnum] began to demonstrate the countless variations he would master in his numerous publicity campaigns: the quick discovery, the barrage of rapid and unusual information, the maximum exploitation-all these he utilized almost immediately," Neil Harris wrote in "Humbug: The Art of P.T. Barnum." "It was during Joice Heth's tour that Barnum first realized that an exhibitor did not have to guarantee truthfulness; all he had to do was possess probability and invite doubt. The public would be more excited by controversy than conclusiveness. The only requirement was to keep the issue alive and in print. Any statement was better than silence."

Barnum, schooled in the wily deceits of Yankee peddlers and salesmen as a child in Connecticut, also built the first temples to celebrities, including, in 1841, the American Museum in New York City, which Twain called "one vast Peanut stand" and said he hoped "some philanthropist" would burn down. Barnum was the high priest of the polytheistic, secular religion of Americans and the creator of kitsch as an aesthetic, characteristics that define Trump. Trump built his own temples to celebrity and to himself, among them the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City and Trump Towers in various cities. Trump, like Barnum, understood that celebrities and their relics function in American culture as totems and magical talismans. He, as did Barnum, caters to the vulgarity of the mob, elevating the salacious and the sleazy and claiming it is culture and art.

Confidence men are adept at peddling fictions designed solely to attract publicity and belittle their opponents. Trump's demand for Barack Obama's birth certificate or Sen. Elizabeth Warren's DNA test was not designed to uncover fact, but to belittle and entertain. The release of Obama's birth certificate and Warren's DNA finding did not puncture the lies. Old lies were replaced by new ones that again catered to the emotional yearnings of the mob. The tawdry rumor that Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former governor of New York, wore black dress socks when he was having sex with prostitutes was given currency by the political operative and Trump confidant Roger Stone, cut from the same lump of clay as Barnum and Trump. "What kind of guy does it with his socks on?" Stone said to the New York Post.

In a documentary film about Spitzer by Alex Gibney titled "Client 9" Gibney interviews a prostitute, whose identity remains secret and whose words are read by an actor, who said she had numerous liaisons with Spitzer and denied he wore socks while having sex. Because of Stone's comments, however, Spitzer felt compelled to deny, in Gibney's film and in public, that he wore socks while having sex with prostitutes. The press had a feeding frenzy. Stone's lie won by being endlessly repeated.

Stone, in the midst of the self-generated furor, wrote an article on Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller website that attacked those who questioned his assertion:

In his largely fictionalized movie, Gibney utilizes an actress to assert that Spitzer never wore droopy black socks in his romps with prostitutes. Supposedly the actress is mouthing the denial of a call girl that Gibney declines to identify by her real name. That's because Gibney has no source willing to put their name on this lie. Gibney is not a journalist or filmmaker; he's a left-wing propagandist with the same disregard for facts as Oliver Stone. Spitzer's black sock fetish was previously confirmed by The New York Post on April 24, 2008, when an FBI source confirmed the New York Democrat's passion for knee-high hosiery, which he declined to remove while engaging in paid-for sex. Gibney ignored this fact in his well-made-but-false movie.
Stone, like Trump, understands how to evoke images and emotional responses to overwhelm reality and replace truth. Such lies and pseudo-events, because they are so entertaining, are largely immune to deflation. Madison Avenue advertisers and publicists use the same tactics to saturate the landscape with skillfully manufactured illusions and false promises. The unmasking of the deceptions only adds to their allure and power.

An autobiography by Barnum, "Struggles and Triumphs," which was published in 1869, shamelessly details the sleights of hand and deceptions that made him very, very wealthy. He understood, as he wrote in the autobiography, that "the public appears disposed to be amused even while they are conscious of being deceived." This understanding underlies the popularity of entertainments such as professional wrestling and reality television shows, along with Fox News, all of which are premised on cons.

Con artists like Barnum, Trump and Stone exploit everyone and everything around them. When Barnum's prize elephant Jumbo was killed by a train, he fabricated a story about Jumbo sacrificing himself to save a baby elephant. He bought another elephant, who he named Alice, and had pictures taken of her standing next to the stuffed body of her martyred "husband." The deception was so outrageous and shameless that the public of that day, like a public that now gorges itself on reports of Spitzer wearing black socks while having sex with prostitutes, longed to believe it.

In our Barnumesque culture, those who create the most convincing fantasies in the cycles of nonstop entertainment are lionized. Those who puncture the fantasies with the prosaic truth are condemned for spoiling the fun. These pseudo-events and fabrications lift people up out of their daily lives into an Oz-like world of fantasy. They destroy a civil discourse rooted in verifiable fact, obliterating any hope of holding back the magical thinking that lies at the core of all totalitarian societies.

Barnum once asked E.D. Gilman, who had recently returned from the gold fields in California, to give a talk on prospecting, the wages prospectors earned, the equipment that was required and the living conditions. "While doing this," Harris wrote, "he was to pass his hand over a twenty-five pound lump of gold, implying it was from California. Gilman replied that this would be humbug, for seven ounces was the largest lump he had ever heard of. 'My dear sir," replied the impresario, 'the bigger the humbug, the better the people will like it.' "

Thomas Low Nichols in a memoir described an incident when Barnum was in desperate need of a blackface entertainer after his white singer quit. All he could find to replace his white singer was a young, talented black boy who danced and sang. It was impossible for Barnum to present the genuine article, given the yearning for illusion and his shameless catering to racial prejudice. Barnum "blacked and wigged" the boy, Harris wrote, so he would pass for a make-believe African-American, "because the New Yorkers, who applauded what they supposed a white boy in a blackened face and wooly wig, would have driven the real negro from the stage and mobbed his exhibitor."

Trump, in a 2005 promotional video for a scam that made him about $40 million, employs the familiar hyperbole of the con artist in declaring: "At Trump University, we teach success. That's what it's all about-success. It's going to happen to you. We're going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific-terrific people, terrific brains, successful. We are going to have the best of the best. These are people that are handpicked by me."

Only there was no university.

"The faux university also did not have professors, not even part-time adjunct professors, and the 'faculty' (as they were called) were certainly not 'the best of the best,'" David Cay Johnston writes in "The Making of Donald Trump." "They were commissioned sales people, many with no experience in real estate. One managed a fast food joint ... two other instructors were in personal bankruptcy while collecting fees from would-be Trump university graduates eager to learn how to get rich."

"Among [an] investigator's findings was that students who attended a 'next level' seminar 'are taught to prey upon homeowners in financial turmoil and to target foreclosure properties,' " Johnston writes. "They were also instructed, on the first morning of the three-day course, 'to call their credit card companies, banks, and mortgage companies and ask for an increase or extension of credit so that they may finance the 'Gold Elite' package purchase. Defendant Trump U will even ask attendees to call their bank during these one-on-one sessions while the [Trump] representative waits. The primary goal of the 3-day seminar appears to be more high-pressure sales tactics in an attempt to induce them into purchasing Defendant Trump U's 'Gold Elite' package for $35,000."

Trump's get-rich-quick schemes and seminars, including his books, were a con. His casinos were a con. His paid speeches on behalf of self-help gurus such as Tony Robbins were a con. Tales of his sexual prowess, spread by himself masquerading over the phone as a Trump spokesperson, were a con. His building projects were a con. Trump even had, Johnston writes, "imaginary employees." Trump and his kleptocrats and grifters are today triumphant, and neither democratic norms or simply human decency will inhibit their pathological lust for more.

Perhaps it was inevitable that this poison would come to dominate our culture and our politics. It is the triumph of artifice. We live in an age when the fake, the fraudulent, the fabricated and the theatrical supplant reality. Trump's manufactured persona was advertised on a reality television show. He sold this manufactured persona, as his ratings declined and he was in danger of being taken off the air, to become president. There are legions of agents, publicists, consultants, scriptwriters, celebrities, television and movie producers, wardrobe consultants, pollsters and television personalities dedicated to creating the myriad illusions that saturate the airwaves with Barnum-like lies. We can no longer tell the difference between illusion and reality; indeed when a version of reality is not verified on our electronic screens and by our reality manipulators it does not exist. The skillful creation of illusion and the manipulation of our emotional response, actions that profit the elites to our financial and political detriment, have seeped into religion, education, journalism, politics and culture. They solidify mob rule and magical thinking. Trump's crass vulgarity, greed, unchecked hedonism and amorality, along with his worship of himself, are intrinsic to America, but his ascendancy, and the ascendancy of the character traits he personifies, represents cultural death.

(c) 2018 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Tim Dolighan ~~~

To End On A Happy Note-

Have You Seen This-

Parting Shots-

Top 10 Comedic News Stories of 2018
By Will Durst

Sit the kids down. Let the dogs out. Prop the grandparents up. The nation's patience has been richly rewarded, because the eagerly awaited list of the Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2018 has been officially released. This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

But first a caution: please do not confuse this list with the top ten legitimate news stories of 2018. No. No. No. They are as different as charcoal sketches of historic steam engines and a bucket of compost. Like golden-stitched, sequined blue jean jackets are to chocolate brownies. Bow ties and dirt bikes.

There are no wildfires or hurricanes or kids kept in cages or bone saws or cave dwelling Thai soccer teams, nor mention of the movie "The Happytime Murders" in this report. No casualties from the #MeToo or TimesUp movements. These are the stories that most lent themselves to (s)mocking and scoffing and taunting. So here they are, the Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2018.

10. PROPOSAL TO GIVE TEACHERS GUNS. Brilliant idea. And the cure for concussions is hammers. It admittedly would add an interesting element to the faculty lounge. Might help parent teacher conferences resolve a little earlier. Of course then all the school employees would want them. And the librarians would demand silencers on theirs.

9. KIM KARDASHIAN MEETS WITH TRUMP. In May, the two broke the old record for largest assemblage of White House ass, set in 1978 when Jimmy Carter welcomed the Upper Michigan Donkey Basketball Champions. Five months later her husband Kanye West set the bar even higher. Or lower.

8. KIM JONG UN & THE SINGAPORE SUMMIT. A win-win. Trump got a great photo op and Kim Jong Un got to leave North Korea and eat real food.

7. BOOKS ON TRUMP. Four major publications and every one calls him nuttier than the hospitality suite at a squirrel convention. Stormy Daniels said his male member looks like a mushroom prompting a protest from the American Mushroom Institute. Apparently, every twenty years America needs to know the shape of the leader of the leader of the free world.

6. VLADIMIR PUTIN & THE HELSINKI SUMMIT. The president made Neville Chamberlain look like a mixed martial arts champ. He sucked up so hard he probably left hickeys.

5. UN LAUGHS AT TRUMP. After he claimed to be the best president EVER, they laughed. And because of translation delays, it was a slow ripple of laughter punctuated by the occasional guffaw.

4. WHITE HOUSE CORRUPTION. His malfeasance is so large it can be seen from space. Rick Gates testified under oath he stole money from Paul Manafort who stole money from Donald Trump who stole money from everybody. These guys are the Russian nesting dolls of crime.

3. THE KAVANAUGH HEARINGS. Women outraged for being disenfranchised and white men outraged for... having their entitlements challenged.

2. THE BLUE WAVE. Against all odds, the Democrats actually exhibited a pulse. The midterms were less of an election and more of an intervention.

1. DONALD JOHN TRUMP. Refuses to release his DNA to prove he's a carbon-based life-form. The president calls his administration a finely tuned machine, which certainly sounds better than out-of-control dumpster fire but might be a little less apt.

(c) 2018 Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed comedian, columnist, and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For past columns, commentaries and a calendar of personal appearances, including the Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show XXVI, Dec 26- Jan 6, please please visit:

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Issues & Alibis Vol 18 # 50 (c) 12/21/2018

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