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In This Edition

Medea Benjamin shares, "10 Good Things About A TERRIBLE Year."

Uri Avnery says, "Cry, Beloved Country."

Cornel West concludes, "Ta-Nehisi Coates Is The Neoliberal Face Of The Black Freedom Struggle."

Phil Rockstroh considers, "When The Unthinkable Becomes Quotidian ."

Jim Hightower explores, "The Essence And True Value Of Real Food."

John Nichols says, "A Scrooge Walks Among Us."

James Donahue reports, "California Goes To Court Against Fossil Fuel Giants."

Tom Engelhardt returns with, "Meet The Most Dangerous Man On Earth."

Heather Digby Parton warns, "They're All Going Trump."

Jennifer Deol gives, "Lessons From Fiji At COP 23: We're All In The Same Canoe."

Charles P. Pierce wonders, "Will The US-British Alliance Suffer Over...A Wedding?"

David Swanson examines, "How It Could Finally Be Possible To Prosecute War As A Crime."

William Rivers Pitt gives, "Peace: A Christmas Present To Yourself."

Con-gressman Paul Ryan wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich spends, "A Year With Trump."

Chris Hedges explains, "What Christmas Means."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Paul Ryan Confident American People Will Warm Up To Tax Plan Once They Realize Life A Cruel And Meaningless Farce" but first Uncle Ernie asks, "Is This The End Of The Beginning?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Signe Wilkinson, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Mr. Fish, Yuri Gripas, NextNewMedia, Creativeye99, 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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Is This The End Of The Beginning?
Or the beginning of the end?
By Ernest Stewart

Is this the end of the beginning?
Or the beginning of the end?
Losing control or are you winning?
Is your life real or just pretend?
End of the Beginning ~~~ Black Sabbath

"Part of the reason this Snowzilla storm is expected to dump so much snow is because it is pulling abundant moisture. As the planet warms because of excess heat trapped by human-emitted greenhouse gases, the atmosphere can hold more moisture." ~~~ Andrea Thompson

"Rights come from God, not from government." ~~~ Roy Moore

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To give the poor dog a bone;
When she came there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.
Old Mother Hubbard ~~~ Sarah Catherine Martin

One year gone of Trumpland and America reels from the damage. A thousand signing statements and one gift to our masters. Trump has, of course, done everything in his power to get rid of everything that Barry did to help this country, but so far hasn't gotten rid of Barry's ability to kill whomever, wherever, including America men, women and children with death from above, without charges, a jury of their peers, defence council, or judicial oversight. As bad as that is, it's nothing compared to the damage done by his cabinet member picks.

Trump filled every position with someone totally antithetical to the department with the intent of destroying it. As Newsweek said of his cabinet "the most conservative cabinet in United States history" and that's putting it mildly! With Steve Bannon still pulling the strings the intent is still to destroy America and shift all the money from the middle class, working class, poor, elderly and sick and give it to the one percent.

With Ryan leading the charge in the House and Turtle Boy doing the same in the Senate and all of the "sane" Republicans going along for the ride now Trump has a free ride for the next year to destroy "middle class, working class, poor, elderly and sick" and there is nothing that can be done to stop the mayhem and destruction until next November's election.

Trump is fond of saying he is just fulfilling his campaign promises, do you think he won't allow any cuts to Social Security and Medicare? You may recall he promised not to, we'll see. Meanwhile Ryan and Turtle boy are both licking their lips in anticipation of doing just that, even though neither would be where they are today without prolonged government help! They're what Tweety Bird called hypo-twits! You can count on millions of innocent American deaths before their planned polgram is through. So if you think 2017 was the worst year ever, since the Revolution, just wait to you see what 2018 has in store!

In Other News

Out in California the National Weather Service issued Red Flag Warnings & Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments of the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and dry conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity.

"A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior that will occur within 24 hours. A Fire Weather Watch is issued when weather conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these times extreme caution is urged by all residents, because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire. A Fire Weather Watch is one level below a warning, but fire danger is still high."

While the Thomas fire is mostly contained it is now the largest fire in California history and continues to burn and will continue through the first week of January. Along with it there are still 5 other major fires going on in Southern California. Since the drought began 5 years ago it has killed 127 million trees, mostly firs and pines that will burn like blow torches when ignited.

Meanwhile, back east, the Rethuglicans are having a field day saying the snow proves that Global Warming is false, except of course tha massive snow falls are a direct result of Global Warming. Global Warming puts massive amounts of water in the air, especially around the Great Lakes which sends, with the help of a westward wind, massive amount of snow to the east side of the lakes. What the right can't seem to grasp is the temperature has only gone up about 2 degrees Fahrenheit so, yes, there will be winter and if you build cities out in the desert you won't get much rain, that's how it became a desert and with Global Warming it's going to get worse. Oh, and you drowning folks away down yonder will only drown some more. Either get used to it, America, or do something to stop it. Perhaps if we got rid of Trump and his Global Warming deniers and rejoined the rest of the world we still might have a chance?

And Finally

And finally some good news for a change! It's official, Democrat Doug Jones' historic victory over Republican Roy Moore was declared official Thursday as Alabama election officials certified him the winner of the special Senate election earlier this month, despite claims of voter irregularities from noted child molester Roy Moore.

Jones defeated Moore on Dec. 12 by about 22,000 votes in a stunning victory in a deeply red state. It was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama. Moore was dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls that occurred decades ago.

The state's former chief justice refused to concede and even filed a last-ditch lawsuit hours before the certification, but a judge rejected his claims. Alabama election officials also found no evidence of voting irregularities.

A spokesman for Jones earlier called Moore's lawsuit a "desperate attempt ... to subvert the will of the people."

"The election is over. It's time to move on,"
Sam Coleman wrote in an email.

Jones will be sworn in on Jan. 3, narrowing the Rethuglican's advantage in the U.S. Senate to 51-49. He takes over the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The term expires in January 2021.

Keepin' On

Got dem old Mother Hubbard Blues again; and time is all but gone! Still $250 short for the year, and nothing but Christmas cards in the po box. Trouble is, I can only legally keep publishing through the next edition. I will continue to write a piece as there is no cost involved with that; and I do have contractual obligations to perform.

I've been walking a fine line since my old SDS daze; and have no doubt like Nixon's I'm on Donald's watch list, too. So, while on the Internet, I must somewhat watch my P's & Q's or end up on the top bunk down in Gitmo for my defense of the Constitution and my demand for equal rights for all, period.

If you like to keep the magazine intact and above board, please send us whatever you can as often as you can; and we'll in return keep you informed about the shenanigans and acts of treason committed by your elected officials. After all, someone should be keeping score, and telling you the truth, shouldn't they? Who ya gonna call?


06-08-1937 ~ 12-21-2017
Thanks for the adventure!

12-03-1949 ~ 12-24-2017
Thanks for the film!


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So please help us if you can...?

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


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

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

10 Good Things About A TERRIBLE Year
With so many good people feeling depressed, let's point to the positive things that happened, even in this really, really bad year.
By Medea Benjamin

Every year I do a list of ten good things about the year. This year, I was about to skip it. Let's face it: It has been a particularly horrible year for anyone with a progressive agenda. When I recently asked a prominent activist how she was doing, she took my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, "Everything I've been working on for 50 years has gone down the toilet."

With so many good people feeling depressed, let's point to the positive things that happened, even in this really, really bad year.

1. #MeToo movement has empowered victims of sexual harassment and assault, and encouraged accountability. Those two small words defined a social media-based movement in which women, and some men, have come forward to publicly share their stories of sexual assault and harassment, and expose their abusers. The movement-and fallout-spread globally, with the hashtag trending in at least 85 countries. The bravery and solidarity of these victims of sexual abuse will help build a future in which impunity for sexual predators is no longer the norm.

2. The year has seen an explosion of grassroots organizing, protest, and activism. An active and uncompromising spirit of revolt has blossomed in the face of a frightening political climate during Donald Trump's presidency. On January 21, two million people took to the streets in Women's Marches across the world as a show of solidarity against Trump's vile and misogynistic rhetoric. On January 29, thousands gathered in airports around the country to protest Trump's xenophobic and unconstitutional Muslim ban. In April, 200,000 people joined the People's Climate March to stand up to the administration's reckless stance on climate. In July, disability rights activists staged countless actions on Capitol Hill in response to the GOP's cruel and life-threatening healthcare bill. In November and December, "Dreamers" protected by Obama's provision called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) stormed the Hill to demand a replacement for that program, which Trump ended in September. New groups like Indivisible have helped millions of Americans confront their members of Congress, roughly 24,000 people joined the Democratic Socialists of America, and organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have seen massive surges in donations.

3. We're already seeing rebukes of Trump at the ballot box. A wave of Democratic electoral victories swept some unlikely regions of the country, showing popular rejection of Donald Trump and his party. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who ran a shameless race-baiting campaign, lost by a wide margin to Democrat Ralph Northam in Virginia. In New Jersey, Phil Murphy handily defeated Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, making that state the seventh in the nation with Democratic control over legislative and executive branches. In Alabama's special election to fill Jeff Sessions' vacant Senate seat, Democrat Doug Jones took the lead over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore-an astonishing win in a deep red state, propelled largely by Black voters. Danica Roem in Virginia, who ran against a virulently anti-LGBTQ opponent, became the first openly transgender person elected as a US legislator. Her win ended 26 years of Republican rule in that district. And in Virginia's 50th district, self-described democratic socialist Lee Carter defeated powerful Republican delegate Jackson Miller.

4. The first group of J20 protesters, people arrested in Washington DC on the day of Trump's inauguration, were found not guilty. It was a scary year for the 194 protesters, journalists and medics facing multiple felony charges, including rioting and property destruction, that could have resulted in prison terms of up to 60 years. The state's attempt to collectively punish almost 200 people for property destruction committed by a handful is an outrageous example of judicial overreach in an era in which First Amendment rights are under siege. On December 21, however, the jury returned 42 separate not-guilty verdicts for the first six defendants to stand trial. Their acquittal on all charges hopefully portendss more non-guilty verdicts for the remaining 188 defendants and gives a boost to our basic rights of free speech and assembly.

5. Chelsea Manning was released from prison after 7 years. Army Pvt. Manning was first detained in 2010 and ultimately convicted of violating the Espionage Act after she leaked troves of documents exposing abuses by the US military, including a video of American helicopters firing on unarmed civilians in Baghdad, Iraq. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison. She developed post-traumatic stress disorder in prison and was repeatedly denied medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. The Army finally granted her the treatment after she went on a hunger strike. On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted Manning's sentence, and she was released in May. We owe Chelsea Manning a debt of gratitude for her tenacious commitment to exposing the crimes of U.S. empire.

6. Cities and states have committed to positive climate initiatives, despite federal regression. Twenty states and 110 cities signed "America's Pledge," a commitment to stick to Obama-era climate goals even after Trump's disastrous decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. In December, a group of 36 cities signed the "Chicago Charter," an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions and monitor each others progress. These pacts demonstrate popular sentiment and political will, at the local, city and state level, to fight the corporate oligarchs who perpetuate climate chaos.

7. Trump's presidency has deepened the critical national conversation about racism and white supremacy. The Black Lives Matter movement, which started under Obama's administration, exposed this nation's systemic racism. The victory of Donald Trump emboldened white supremacists, as evidenced in the violent Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally in August. But the year has also seen a wave of opposition to racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism that includes the toppling of confederate flags and statues, confronting hate speech, demanding the removal of white supremacists Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House (two of the three are gone), and building strong interfaith alliances locally and nationally.

8. This was the year the world said no to nuclear weapons. While Donald Trump taunted North Korea's Kim Jung Un ("Little Rocket Man") and threatened to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, on July 7, 122 of the world's nations showed their rejection of nuclear weapons by adopting an historic Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty. The treaty, opposed by all nine nuclear states, is now open for signatures and the ban will come into effect 90 days after being ratified by 50 states. The organization that promoted this ban is The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an alliance of 450 nongovernmental organizations in about 100 countries. It was thrilling to learn that ICAN was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The treaty and the Peace Prize are indications that despite the intransigence of the nuclear-armed states, the global community is determined to ban nuclear weapons.

9. ISIS no longer has a caliphate. For peace activists, it's hard to put forth military actions as victories, especially when these actions incur a large civilian toll. This is indeed the case with ISIS, where at least 9,000 civilians were killed in the battle to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. But we do have to acknowledge that taking away ISIS' territorial base has put a stop to some of the group's horrific human rights abuses. It will also hopefully make it easier to find a settlement to the dreadful wars that have been raging in Syria and Iraq, and give our government one less excuse for dumping so much of our resources into the military.

10. The global community stood up to Trump's stance on Jerusalem. In a stinging rebuke of President Donald Trump's controversial decision todeclare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, 128 countries, including some of the US's most trusted and reliable allies, voted in favor of a United Nations resolution calling for a reversal of his position. Despite the threat from US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley that the US would be"taking names" of those who voted against it, only nine countries voted with the US and 25 abstained. The resolution isn't binding, but it's a stark illustration of just how isolated the United States is in its stance toward Israel.

As we head into the new year, let's keep ourselves inspired by the hard work of folks at home and abroad who gave us something to cheer about for 2017. May we have a much longer list in 2018.
(c) 2017 Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the new book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. Her previous books include: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control; Don't Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart, and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide). Follow her on Twitter: @medeabenjamin

Cry, Beloved Country
By Uri Avnery

ANYONE PROPOSING the death penalty is either a complete fool, an incorrigible cynic or mentally disturbed -or all of these.

There is no effective therapy for any of these defects. I wouldn't even try.

A fool would not understand the overwhelming evidence for the conclusion. For a cynic, advocacy of the death penalty is a proven votecatcher. A mentally disturbed person derives pleasure from the very thought of an execution. I am not addressing any of these, but ordinary citizens of Israel.

LET ME start by repeating the story of my own personal experience.

In 1936, the Arab population of Palestine launched a violent uprising. The Nazi persecution in Germany drove many Jews to Palestine (including my own family), and the local Arabs saw their country slipping away from under their feet. They started to react violently. They called it the Great Rebellion, the British talked of "disturbances" and we called it "the events." Groups of young Arabs attacked Jewish and British vehicles on the roads. When caught, some of them were sent by the British courts to the gallows. When the Arab attacks did not stop, some right-wing Zionists started a campaign of "retaliation" and shot at Arab vehicles.

One of these was caught by the British. His name was Shlomo Ben-Yosef, a 25 year old illegal immigrant from Poland, a member of the right-wing youth organization Betar. He threw a grenade at an Arab bus, which failed to explode, and fired some shots that hit nobody. But the British saw an opportunity to prove their impartiality. Ben-Yosef was sentenced to death. The Jewish population was shocked. Even those who were totally opposed to "retaliation" pleaded for clemency, rabbis prayed. Slowly the day of the execution drew near. Many expected a reprieve at the last moment. It did not come.

The hanging of Ben-Yosef on June 29, 1938 sent a powerful shockwave through the Jewish public. It caused a profound change in my own life. I decided to fill his place. I joined the Irgun, the most extreme armed underground organization. I was just 15 years old.

I repeat this story because the lesson is so important. An oppressive regime, especially a foreign one, always thinks that executing "terrorists" will frighten others away from joining the rebels.

This idea stems from the arrogance of the rulers, who think of their subjects as inferior human beings. The real result is always the opposite: the executed rebel becomes a national hero, for every rebel executed, dozens of others join the fight. The execution breeds hatred, the hatred leads to more violence. If the family is also punished, the flames of hatred rise even higher.

Simple logic. But logic is beyond the reach of the rulers.

Just a thought: some 2000 years ago, a simple carpenter was executed in Palestine by crucifixion. Look at the results.

IN EVERY army, there are a number of sadists posing as patriots.

In my army days, I once wrote that in every squad there is at least one sadist and one moral soldier. The others are neither. They are influenced by either of them, depends on which of the two has the stronger character.

Last week something horrible happened. Since the announcement of the American Clown-In-Chief about Jerusalem, there have been daily demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip approach the separation fence and throw stones at the soldiers on the Israeli side. The soldiers are instructed to shoot. Every day Palestinians are wounded, every few days Palestinians are killed.

One of the demonstrators was Ibrahim Abu-Thuraya, a 29 year old legless Arab fisherman. Both of his legs were amputated nine years ago, after he was injured in an Israeli air-strike on Gaza.

He was pushed in his wheelchair over the rough terrain towards the fence when an army sharpshooter took aim and killed him. He was unarmed, just "inciting."

The killer was not an ordinary soldier, who may have shot without aiming in the melee. He was a professional, a sharpshooter, used to identify his victim, take careful aim and hit the exact spot.

I try to think about what went on in the shooter's brain before shooting. The victim was close. There was absolutely no way not to see the wheelchair. Ibrahim posed absolutely no threat to the shooter or to anyone else.

(A cruel Israeli joke was born immediately: the sharpshooters were ordered to hit the lower parts of the bodies of the demonstrators. Since Ibrahim had no lower parts, the soldier had no choice but shoot him in the head.)

This was a criminal act, pure and simple. An abhorrent war crime. So, did the army -yes, my army! -arrest him? Not at all. Every day, a new excuse was found, each more ridiculous than the other. The shooter's name was kept secret.

My God, what is happening to this country? What is the occupation doing to us?

Ibrahim, of course, became overnight a Palestinian national hero. His death will spur other Palestinians to join the fight.

ARE THERE no rays of light? Yes there are. Though not many.

A few days after the murder of Ibrahim Abu-Thuraya, an almost comic scene was immortalized.

In the Palestinian village Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank, two fully armed Israeli soldiers are standing. One is an officer, the other a sergeant. A group of three or four Arab girls, about 15 or 16 years old, approach them. They shout at the soldiers and make abusive gestures. The soldiers pretend not to notice them.

One girl, Ahd Tamimi, approaches a soldier and hits him. The soldier, much taller than her, does not react.

The girl comes even closer and hits the face of the soldier. He defends his face with his arms. Another girl records the scene with her smartphone.

And then the incredible happens: both soldiers walk backwards and leave the scene. (Later it appears that the cousin of one of the girls was shot in the head a few days earlier.)

The army was shocked by the fact that the two soldiers did not shoot the girl. It promised an investigation. The girl and her mother were detained that night. The soldiers are in for a rebuke.

For me, the two soldiers are real heroes. Sadly, they are the exceptions.

Every human being has the right to be proud of his or her country. To my mind, it's a basic human right as well as a basic human need.

But how can one be proud of a country that is trading in human bodies?

In Islam, it is very important to bury the dead as soon as possible. Knowing this, the Israeli government is withholding the bodies of dozens of "terrorists", to be used as trading chips for the return of Jewish bodies held by the other side.

Logical? Sure. Abhorrent? Yes.

This is not the Israel I helped to found and fought for. My Israel would return the bodies to the fathers and mothers. Even if it means giving up some trading chips. Isn't losing a son punishment enough?

What has become of our common human decency?
(c) 2017 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Ta-Nehisi Coates Is The Neoliberal Face Of The Black Freedom Struggle
By Cornel West

Ta-Nehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years in Power, a book about Barack Obama's presidency and the tenacity of white supremacy, has captured the attention of many of us. One crucial question is why now in this moment has his apolitical pessimism gained such wide acceptance?

Coates and I come from a great tradition of the black freedom struggle. He represents the neoliberal wing that sounds militant about white supremacy but renders black fightback invisible. This wing reaps the benefits of the neoliberal establishment that rewards silences on issues such as Wall Street greed or Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and people.

The disagreement between Coates and me is clear: any analysis or vision of our world that omits the centrality of Wall Street power, US military policies, and the complex dynamics of class, gender, and sexuality in black America is too narrow and dangerously misleading. So it is with Ta-Nehisi Coates' worldview.

Coates rightly highlights the vicious legacy of white supremacy -- past and present. He sees it everywhere and ever reminds us of its plundering effects. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps track of our fightback, and never connects this ugly legacy to the predatory capitalist practices, imperial policies (of war, occupation, detention, assassination) or the black elite's refusal to confront poverty, patriarchy or transphobia.

In short, Coates fetishizes white supremacy. He makes it almighty, magical and unremovable. What concerns me is his narrative of "defiance." For Coates, defiance is narrowly aesthetic -a personal commitment to writing with no connection to collective action. It generates crocodile tears of neoliberals who have no intention of sharing power or giving up privilege.

When he honestly asks: "How do you defy a power that insists on claiming you,?" the answer should be clear: they claim you because you are silent on what is a threat to their order (especially Wall Street and war). You defy them when you threaten that order.

Coates tries to justify his "defiance" by an appeal to "black atheism, to a disbelief in dreams and moral appeal." He not only has "no expectations of white people at all," but for him, if freedom means anything at all it is "this defiance."

Note that his perception of white people is tribal and his conception of freedom is neoliberal. Racial groups are homogeneous and freedom is individualistic in his world. Classes don't exist and empires are nonexistent.

This presidency, he writes, "opened a market" for a new wave of black pundits, intellectuals, writers and journalists -- one that Coates himself has benefited from. And his own literary "dreams" of success were facilitated by a black neoliberal president who ruled for eight years -- an example of "Black respectability, good Negro government."

Coates reveals his preoccupation with white acceptance when he writes with genuine euphoria: "As I watched Barack Obama's star shoot across the political sky ... I had never seen so many white people cheer on a black man who was neither an athlete nor an entertainer. And it seemed that they loved him for this, and I thought in those days ... that they might love me too."

There is no doubt that the marketing of Coates -- like the marketing of anyone -- warrants suspicion. Does the profiteering of fatalism about white supremacy and pessimism of black freedom fit well in an age of Trump -- an age of neo-fascism, US style?

Coates wisely invokes the bleak worldview of the late great Derrick Bell. But Bell reveled in black fightback, rejoiced in black resistance and risked his life and career based on his love for black people and justice. Needless to say, the greatest truth-teller about white supremacy in the 20th century -- Malcolm X -- was also deeply pessimistic about America. Yet his pessimism was neither cheap nor abstract -- it was earned, soaked in blood and tears of love for black people and justice.

Unfortunately, Coates' allegiance to Obama has produced an impoverished understanding of black history. He reveals this when he writes: "Ossie Davis famously eulogized Malcolm X as 'our living, Black manhood' and 'our own Black shining prince.' Only one man today could bear those twin honorifics: Barack Obama."

This gross misunderstanding of who Malcolm X was -- the greatest prophetic voice against the American Empire -- and who Barack Obama is -- the first black head of the American Empire -- speaks volumes about Coates' neoliberal view of the world.

Coates praises Obama as a "deeply moral human being" while remaining silent on the 563 drone strikes, the assassination of US citizens with no trial, the 26,171 bombs dropped on five Muslim-majority countries in 2016 and the 550 Palestinian children killed with US supported planes in 51 days, etc. He calls Obama "one of the greatest presidents in American history," who for "eight years ... walked on ice and never fell."

It is clear that his narrow racial tribalism and myopic political neoliberalism has no place for keeping track of Wall Street greed, US imperial crimes or black elite indifference to poverty. For example, there is no serious attention to the plight of the most vulnerable in our community, the LGBT people who are disproportionately affected by violence, poverty, neglect and disrespect.

The disagreements between Coates and I are substantive and serious. It would be wrong to construe my quest for truth and justice as motivated by pettiness. Must every serious critique be reduced to a vicious takedown or an ugly act of hatred? Can we not acknowledge that there are deep disagreements among us with our very lives and destinies at stake? Is it even possible to downplay career moves and personal insecurities in order to highlight our clashing and conflicting ways of viewing the cold and cruel world we inhabit?

I stand with those like Robin DG Kelley, Gerald Horne, Imani Perry and Barbara Ransby who represent the radical wing of the black freedom struggle. We refuse to disconnect white supremacy from the realities of class, empire, and other forms of domination -- be it ecological, sexual, or others.

The same cannot be said for Ta-Nehisi Coates.
(c) 2017 Cornel West is an American philosopher, political activist, social critic, author, public intellectual, and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

A socio-cultural-political structure, is in place wherein the individual is bombarded,
to the point of psychical saturation, with self-serving, elitist manufactured media content.

When The Unthinkable Becomes Quotidian
Thermic Runaway and Strangelovian Palaver
By Phil Rockstroh

I understand the desperate need for hope. To crave the quality is inherently human. Yet: All and all, an obsessive focus on Trump, the Orange Scylla, buffets one into the maw of the Washington Establishment's Charybdis.

The effects of humankind created Climate Chaos are proving to be more devastating than even the most grim predictions. Wealth inequity is worse than in the Gilded Age. The US empire wages perpetual war, hot and cold, overt and covert, including military brinksmanship with the nuclear power, The Russian Federation.

Speaking of the latter, the US media retails a storyline that would be considered risible if it was not so dangerously inflammatory i.e., L'affaire du Russia-gate, wherein, according to the lurid tale, the sinister Vladimir Putin, applying techniques from the Russian handbook for international intrigue, Rasputin Mind Control For Dummies, has wrested control of the US Executive Branch of government and bends its policies to his diabolical will.

Ridiculous, huh? Yet the mainstream press promulgates and a large section of the general public believes what is clearly a reality-bereft tale, as all the while, ignoring circumstances crucial for their own economic well being; their safety, insofar as a catastrophic nuclear exchange; and the steps required to maintain the ecological criteria crucial for allowing the continued viability of human beings on planet earth.

A socio-cultural-political structure is in place wherein the individual is bombarded, to the point of psychical saturation, with self-serving, elitist manufactured media content. Decades back, news and entertainment merged thus freedom of choice amounts to psychical wanderings in a wilderness of empty, consumer cravings and unquenchable longings. Moreover, personas are forged upon the simulacrum smithy of pop/consumer culture, in which, image is reality, salesmanship trumps (yes, Trumps) substance. Among the repercussions: A reality television con man gains the cultural capital to mount a successful bid for the US presidency.

Trump's ascendency should not come as a shock. Nor should desperate Democrat's embrace of Russia-gate/The Russians Are Coming (fool's) mythos. In essence, US citizens/consumers are the most successfully psychologically colonised people on planet earth. In the realm of the political, Democratic and Republican partisans alike, on cue, are prone to parrot the self-serving lies of their party's cynical elite, who, it is evident, by the utter disregard they hold towards the prerogatives of their constituency, view the influence-bereft hoi polloi with abiding disdain...that is, in the rare event they regard them at all.

The crucial question is: Whose and what agenda does the Russia-gate yarn serve? The answer is hidden in plain sight: the profiteers of US economic and militarist hegemony. The demonisation and diminution of Russian power and influence is essential in order to maintain and expand US dominance and the attendant maintenance and expansion of the already obscene wealth of capitalism's ruling elite.

While It might seem we are mired in an (un-drainable) swamp of complexity, in reality, the political landscape is a bone dry wasteland, wrought by a single factor - the addictive nature of greed.

Moreover, the reality of Beginning Stage Human Extinction crouches just beyond the line of the horizon. All signs auger, we lost souls of the Anthropocene must alter our course. Yet, we, stranded in the mind-parching wasteland of late stage capitalism, collectively, continue to stagger, mesmerised, towards mass media mirages leading us further and further into the hostile-to-life terrain.

Yet the wasteland's Establishment media outlets are doing a dead-on, although straight faced, impression, right out of Stanley Kubrick's satirical film of Cold War era madness, Dr. Strangelove, of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper's roiling with paranoia ranting about a Russian "conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids [of the US body politic]." Hyperbolic? Take at perusal at the cover story of the Washington Establishment mouthpiece Newsweek, headlined: PUTIN IS PREPARING FOR WORLD WAR III-IS TRUMP?"

A sphincter-clinching tale of woe and warning promulgated by the same governmental entities and their corporate media stenographers who waxed apocalyptic about Iraq possessing weapon's of mass destruction; that an immediate NATO bombing campaign must be launched against the government of Muammar Gaddafi or a else mass slaughter of the innocent will be immanent; and regime change in Syria must proceed because Assad is gassing his own people.

Just what sort of an embittered cynic would call into question the credibility of and mistrust the motives of such paragons of probity? Yet, somehow, in regard to Russia-gate, liberals display scant to zip scepticism towards the stories peddled by this unelected, unaccountable clutch of hyper-authoritarian prevaricators. In fact, they are, in a cringe worthy spectacle, allowing themselves to be played like Dollar Store kazoos.

Although, I get it. The tangerine-tinged Terror Of Tweettown represents a hideous affront to common sense and common decency. But the same applies to his antagonists in the anti-democratic institutions of the US National Security State and Intelligence Community. While the mission statements of the bureaucracies in question declare they exists to protect the nation from all manner of threats to the safety of the citizenry, a study of their history and present day operations reveals, their modus operandi serves to ensure obscene amounts of wealth continue sluicing into the already bloated coffers of the profiteers of global-wide operations of capitalist plunder.

I understand the desperate need for hope. To crave the quality is inherently human. Even to the point of being whipped into a tizzy by the Russia-gate imbroglio. Yet: All and all, an obsessive focus on Trump, the Orange Scylla, buffets one into the maw of the Washington Establishment's Charybdis. Again, I understand the sense of desperation: Trump's smug, bloated face, the grandiose squawk of his voice, and his crass, mean spirited, petty minded pronouncements and middle school bully taunts deserve to be resoundingly rebuked. His hubristic posturing simply begs for comeuppance. One is prone to grow plangent with magical thinking. One longs to witness the bully smirk smacked from his face as he is dispatched in disgrace, Richard Nixon-style, to his parvenu palace at Mar a Lago.

But the effect of banishing Nixon was cosmetic. The accepted Watergate storyline, of probing, political inquest and Constitutional redemption, served as a palliative administered to the US public in the rare case the slumbering masses might have desired to delve deeper into the heart of darkness of US empire thus might begin to question the mythos of American Exceptionalism and doubt the uplifting denouement cobbled onto the scandal by the political and media elite e.g., the system of checks and balances functioned as the nation's Founders intended. Granted, the system did work as designed, only not in the cliched manner portrayed by its apologists; it worked in the manner it was rigged, to wit, to preserve the secrets of state. The long national nightmare was far from over. In fact, it has been normalised.

When the unthinkable becomes quotidian, by means of the normalisation and systemic codification of crimes against the greater good of humanity, there is a good chance the dynamics of empire building are in play. Empires are not only inherently entropic but they are anathema to the democratic processes crucial to maintaining a republic.

The vast amounts of wealth acquired by means of plunder render a nation's elite not only craven with cupidity but prone to become so dismally shortsighted, even, judging by the evidence of their reckless actions and crackbrain casuistry, bughouse mad. The present US nuclear sabre rattling at North Korea and the economic aggression and militarist posturing deployed against the Russian Federation are proof of the declaration. A military empire's unchecked, monomaniacal, more often than not self-destructive, impulse for domination are monstrous traits. The death and carnage strewn in the wake of the imperial monster's presence in Libya and Syria illustrate a grim testament to the fact.

History reveals, overreach and the passage of time render the aspirations of imperium a nimbus of dust; its grandiose pronouncements a cacophony of strutting clowns; its belief in its inviolable nature and its trumpeted tales of vaunted exceptionalism the stuff of asylum dweller gibbering. On the contrary, a sense of perspective imparts the knowledge, late empire is a fool's inferno played out on a landscape ridden with exponentially increasing decay.

The storylines of the beneficiaries and operatives of vast systems of runaway power concoct are, more often than not, self-justifying fictions. Cover stories and flat out prevarications, rolled out for the purpose of hiding the prevailing order's actions and motives, come to dominate the socio-cultural-political sphere. Views running counter to reigning narratives are apt to be marginalised and/or met with scorn, rage and revulsion. A dangerous one-sidedness prevails.

Analogous to the laws governing thermodynamic equilibrium, when a governor (or speed limiter or controller) switch has been rendered inoperative, a state of thermic runaway comes into play. We are talking the stuff of runaway trains, flaming out super novas, nervous breakdowns, and overreaching empires. By suppressing countervailing views, empires create chaos and carnage and will, in the end, meet their demise by self-annihilation. The rage for total dominance and attendant overreach of capitalist/US militarist hegemony has wrought the phenomenon on a global wide basis.

The governor switch within the greed and power crazed minds of the corporate, military, and governing elite, by all indications, is inoperable. Impervious to the consequences of their recklessness, ranting about Russians, they careen through the Anthropocene. At present, the whole of humankind is held in the thrall of a trajectory of doom. Yet their power is hinged on the ability to dominate the storyline. Withal, complicity translates to destiny usurped. Conversely, the first measure towards a restoration of equilibrium is to call out a lie.
(c) 2017 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in Munich, Germany. Visit Phil at FaceBook.

The Essence And True Value Of Real Food
By Jim Hightower

For most of us, food is not just fodder to get us through the day - it touches us emotionally, culturally... personally.

We see this special connection when we gather family and friends for holiday meals. But it's often in the worst of times that our deep relationship to food reveals itself most powerfully. In August, for example, after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, the sure signs of people's resilience came not only from the sound of power tools, but also from the aromas of barbeque wafting across a neighborhood, or a big pot of shrimp gumbo simmering on a butane burner set up on a street corner and dished out free to anyone who needed or wanted some.

As New York Times reporter Kim Severson wrote about flooded-out Houstonians: "No matter what, cooks are going to cook." After the hurricane, 134,000 homes in the 10-county area around the Bayou City were destroyed or swamped with muck and polluted water. "The emotional and cultural impact," Severson wrote, "is most keenly felt at mealtimes. The kitchen is the heartbeat of a home, and by extension, of a community."

So, despite the obstacles, Houstonians cooked - improvising with ice chests, hot plates, and crockpots - to create "kitchens" in second-floor bedrooms, outdoor decks, or any dry spots they could find. She wrote about 70-year-old Al Marcus. Four feet of bayou water destroyed his kitchen, yet only days later, he had fired up his backyard smoker and cooked 140 pounds of brisket to provide sustenance and a serving of normalcy to the families and volunteers who were stripping waterlogged sheetrock from storm-damaged homes.

"What else am I going to do?" Al asked.

That's the true nature of food. Not just another consumer commodity, food is us - socially as well as biologically.
(c) 2017 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition. Jim writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at

House Speaker Paul Ryan looks on at the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on West Front Lawn of the Capitol on December 6, 2017.

A Scrooge Walks Among Us
Charles Dickens would surely recognize the cruelty he disdained in modern Republicans like Paul Ryan.
By John Nichols

Charles Dickens, if he were writing today, would have no trouble crafting a contemporary character every bit as ominous and unsettling as Ebenezer Scrooge.

An astute social commentator who in 1843 wrote with an eye toward exposing the cruel disregard for humanity that infected that powerful men of his times, Dickens could simply update his protagonist: make the miser younger and more conniving, put him in a crisp suit, give him better hair, perhaps make him the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

This year, Speaker Paul Ryan and his compatriots abandoned any impulse to address the human condition with charity and compassion as they rushed to enact a tax "reform" that robs from working Americans, and from the future, in order redistribute wealth upward. The greed of contemporary conservatism have proven to be so cruel in its character, so rigid in its application, that its practitioners have willingly set the stage for the impoverishment of future generations with massive debt that even they admit will tear at the safety net of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Ryan's cabal simply does not care what damage is done, so long as their own comforts-and those of their wealthy patrons-are maintained.

Charles Dickens anticipated the morally bankrupt calculations of today's Republicans more than a century and a half ago, with his imagining of a visit by two gentlemen, "liberals" we will call them, to a certain conservative businessman:

They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge's office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

"Scrooge and Marley's, I believe," said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. "Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?"

"Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years," Scrooge replied. "He died seven years ago, this very night."

"We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner," said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was; for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word "liberality," Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned-they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides-excuse me-I don't know that."

"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

So Dickens began his Christmas Carol, a book that captured the tenor of a time when the world was coming to recognize the truth that poverty and desolation need not be accepted by civil society-or civilized people. The words that Dickens had Scrooge mouthing represented a form of reporting, rather than imagining. The author imbued Scrooge with the language of the corrupt men of commerce and politic who opposed the revolutionary movements that were sweeping Europe as the author composed his ghost tale.

Dickens imagined that spirited prodding from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future would change Scrooge-just as there are those today who imagine that a bit more enlightenment might cause even a Paul Ryan to reconsider his disregard for the unemployed, the underemployed, and the never employed.

In Scrooge's case, a little otherworldly pressure did the trick.

After his unsettling Christmas Eve, the formerly conservative businessman hastened into the streets of London and came upon one of the two liberals who had visited his business on the previous afternoon:

"Mr. Scrooge?"

"Yes," said Scrooge. "That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness"-here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

"Lord bless me!" cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. "My dear Mr. Scrooge, are you serious?"

"If you please," said Scrooge. "Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favor?"

Scrooge was frightened into such humanity that he now thanked the gentleman who asked him to open his wallet in order to "make idle people merry."

The poor were suddenly the miser's business.

"He became," Dickens wrote, "as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world."

So it is in this season, as it was in the winter of 1843. The debate goes on, in much the same language Dickens heard more than a century and a half ago. The poor are still with us, as are the Scrooges. We had best bless them all-with helping hand for the dispossessed and stern counsel for the powerful-in hopes that one day we will, all of us, keep Christmas well.
(c) 2017 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

36th Ave Beach, looking North.

California Goes To Court Against Fossil Fuel Giants
By James Donahue

Hats off this month to both the City and County of Santa Cruz, California, where I make my home. Our elected leadership has just joined other coastal California communities in separate lawsuits against 29 oil, gas and coal companies seeking climate change related damages.

A story by reporter Nicholas Ibarra in the Santa Cruz Sentinel noted that the complaints filed December 20 in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, charge negligence by the fuel companies and seek damages that may run hundreds of millions of dollars. If successful, the litigation may help force a desired shift from fossil fuels to alternative natural energy sources.

Santa Cruz Mayor David Terrazas called for other cities and government agencies all over the nation to join the California movement and tell big fuel that "enough is enough. Making the taxpaying residents of coastal communities like ours bear the costs of rising sea levels is simply not acceptable."

Santa Cruz County has long been known for its fine sandy beaches that have been a big tourist attraction. As sea waters rise, however the beaches are disappearing and beach front properties are threatened with serious erosion.

Santa Cruz has officially jumped into the fray with San Francisco, Oakland and San Mateo County in what appears to be the beginning of a massive class action lawsuit designed to force big fuel companies to pay for damages caused by climate change, rising sea levels, fierce storms and forest fires, all linked to the warming planet and blamed on corporate cover-ups of rising carbon dioxide and methane gas levels in the atmosphere.

While an international movement is going on by the industrial nations that participated in the 2015 Paris Agreement to curtail the burning of fossil fuels, President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States involvement. He also has refused to include climate change as a major political issue to be faced by his administration.

Allegations have been made that a large federal tax overhaul passed only last week by both House and Senate, were a pay-back to big corporate donations that swept Trump and his right-wing Republican legislators into power in 2016.

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Leopold and Mayor Terrazas have both stepped out in a growing California battle to fight the Trump-imposed campaign to keep gas guzzling vehicles and gas and coal fired heating systems operating in the United States. The state is also fighting the use of fracking by drilling companies.

In an open letter published in June, 2017, six prominent scientists and diplomats, including Christiana Figueres, former United Nations climate chief, and Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University, Germany, warned that they believe the world had about three years before the problem of global warming becomes irreversible. By then, the co-signers wrote, we will be experiencing the worst effects of climate change and life in general will be getting unbearable.

The six authors of the letter are calling for cities and private business interests to fight emissions and work to meet the Paris accord goals despite the refusal of the Trump Administration to pitch in. California leaders have heard the call and are taking steps to join the fight.

Among the defendants in the Santa Cruz case are the extraction-industry giants Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, BP PLC and the Shell Oil Company. The complaints claim that these companies all knew about the impact of fossil fuel on climate and sea levels for at least the last 50 years but concealed this information and fought efforts at regulation.

The Ibarra story quoted rebuttal statements issued by Chevron and Linda Kelly, general counsel for the National Association of Manufacturers. Chevron's statement said the suits are "factually and legally meritless." Kelly said they are the latest in "coordinated attacks against manufacturers" attempting to "rake in millions of dollars through the courts by politicizing natural disasters."
(c) 2017 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles.

Meet The Most Dangerous Man On Earth
We are all immersed in an evolving Trumpocalypse.
By Tom Engelhardt

Let's start with the universe and work our way in. Who cares? Not them because as far as we know they aren't there. As far as we know, no one exists in our galaxy or perhaps anywhere else but us (and the other creatures on this all-too-modest planet of ours). So don't count on any aliens out there caring what happens to humanity. They won't.

As for it -- Earth -- the planet itself can't, of course, care, no matter what we do to it. And I'm sure it won't be news to you that, when it comes to him -- and I mean, of course, President Donald J. Trump, who reputedly has a void where the normal quotient of human empathy might be -- don't give it a second's thought. Beyond himself, his businesses, and possibly (just possibly) his family, he clearly couldn't give less of a damn about us or, for that matter, what happens to anyone after he departs this planet.

As for us, the rest of us here in the United States at least, we already know something about the nature of our caring. A Yale study released last March indicated that 70% of us -- a surprising but still less than overwhelming number (given the by-now-well-established apocalyptic dangers involved) -- believe that global warming is actually occurring. Less than half of us, however, expect to be personally harmed by it. So, to quote the eminently quotable Alfred E. Newman, "What, me worry?"

Tell that, by the way, to the inhabitants of Ojai and other southern California hotspots -- infernos, actually -- being reduced to cinders this December, a month that not so long ago wasn't significant when it came to fires in that state. But such blazes should have been no surprise, thanks to the way fire seasons are lengthening on this warming planet. A burning December is simply part of what the governor of California, on surveying the fire damage recently, dubbed "the new normal" -- just as ever more powerful Atlantic hurricanes, growing increasingly fierce as they pass over the warming waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico on their way to batter the United States, are likely to be another new normal of our American world.

In the wake of the hottest year on record, we all now live on a new-normal planet, which means a significantly more extreme one. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that the political version of that new normal involves a wildly overheated, overbearing, over-hyped, over-tweeted president (even if only 60-odd percent of us believe that he could truly harm us). He's a man who, as the New York Times reported recently, begins to boil with doubt and disturbance if he doesn't find himself in the headlines, the focus of cable everything, for even a day or two. He's a man who seems to thrive only when the pot is boiling and when he's the center of the universe. And what a world we've prepared for such an incendiary figure! (More on that later.)

We're all now immersed in an evolving Trumpocalypse. In a sense, we were there even before The Donald entered the Oval Office. Just consider what it meant to elect a visibly disturbed human being to the highest office of the most powerful, potentially destructive nation on Earth. What does that tell you? One possibility: given the near majority of American voters who sent him to the White House, by campaign 2016 we were already living in a deeply disturbed country. And considering the coming of 1% elections, the growth of plutocracy, the blooming of a new Gilded Age whose wealth disparities must already be competitive with its nineteenth-century predecessor, the rise of the national security state, our endless wars (now turning "generational"), the increasing militarization of this country, and the demobilization of its people, to mention only a few twenty-first-century American developments, that should hardly be surprising.

Could Donald Trump Be the End of Evolutionary History?

Recently, as I was mulling over the extremity of this Trumpian moment, a depiction of evolution from my youth popped into my head. Sometimes back then, such illustrations, as I remember them, began with a fish-like creature flippering its way out of the water to be transformed into a reptile, but this one, known as the "March of Progress," started with a hunched over ape-like creature. What followed were a series of figures that, left to right, grew ever more Homo-sapiens-like and ever more upright to the last guy, a muscular-looking fellow walking oh-so-erectly.

He, of course, was a proud specimen of us and we -- it went without saying at the time -- were the proud end of the line on this planet. We were it, progress personified! Even in my youth, however, we were also in the process of updating that evolutionary end point. At the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the fear of another kind of end, one that might truly be the end of everything, had become a nightmarish commonplace in our lives.

One night almost 60 years ago, for instance, I can still vividly remember myself on my hands and knees crawling through the rubble of an atomically devastated city. It was just a nightmare, of course, but of a sort that was anything but uncommon for those of us growing up then. And there were times -- especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 -- when those nuclear nightmares left the world of dreams and pop culture for everyday life. And even before that, if you were a child, you regularly experienced the fear of obliteration, as the air raid sirens wailed outside your classroom window, the radio on your teacher's desk broadcast warnings from Conelrad, and you "ducked and covered" under your flimsy desk.

With the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, such fears receded, though they shouldn't have, since by then, in a world of spreading nuclear states, we already knew about "nuclear winter." What that meant should have been terrifying. A perfectly imaginable nuclear war, not between superpowers but regional powers like India and Pakistan, could put so much smoke, so many particulates, into the atmosphere as to absorb sunlight for years, radically cooling the planet and possibly starving out most of humanity.

Only in our moment, however, have such nuclear fears returned in a significant way. Under the circumstances, more than half a century after that March of Progress imagery became popular, if we were to provisionally update it, we might have to add a singularly recognizable figure to the far right side of that diorama (appropriately enough): a large but slightly stooped man with a jut-chin, a flaming face, and a distinctive orange comb-over.

Which brings us to a straightforward enough question: Could Donald Trump prove to be the end of evolutionary history? The answer, however provisionally, is that he could. At a minimum, right now he qualifies as the most dangerous man on the planet. He might indeed be the final stopping spot (or at least the person who pointed the way toward it) for human history, for everything that led to this moment, to us.

What Rough Beast, Its Hour Come Round at Last...?

Whatever you do, however, don't just blame Donald Trump for this. He was simply the particularly unsettling version of Homo sapiens ushered into the White House on a backlash vote of dissatisfaction in 2016. When he got there, he unexpectedly found powers beyond compare awaiting him like so many loaded guns. As was true with the two presidents who preceded him, he automatically became not just the commander-in-chief of this country but its assassin-in-chief; that is, he found himself in personal control of an armada of drone aircraft that could be sent just about anywhere on Earth at his command to kill just about anyone of his choosing. At his beck and call, he also had the equivalent of what historian Chalmers Johnson once called the president's own private army (now, armies): both the CIA irregulars Johnson was familiar with and the U.S. military's vast, secretive Special Operations forces. Above all, however, he found himself in charge of the planet's largest nuclear arsenal, weaponry that he and he alone could order into use.

In short, like this country's other presidents since August 1945, he was fully weaponized and capable of singlehandedly turning this planet, or significant parts of it, into an instant inferno, a wasteland of -- in his incendiary phrase in relation to North Korea -- "fire and fury." On January 20, 2017, in other words, he became the personification of a duck-and-cover planet (even though, as had been true since the 1950s, there was really nowhere to hide). It made no difference that he himself was woefully ignorant about the nature and power of such weaponry.

And speaking of planetary infernos, he also found himself weaponized when it came to a second set of instruments of ultimate destruction about which he was no less ignorant and to which he was even more in thrall. He brought to the Oval Office -- Make America Great Again! -- a nostalgia for his fossil-fuelized childhood world of the 1950s. Weaponized by Big Energy, he arrived prepared to ensure that the wealthiest and most powerful country on the planet would clear the way for yet more pipelines, fracking, offshore drilling, and just about every other imaginable form of exploitation of oil, natural gas, and coal (but not alternative energy). All of this was intended to create, as he proclaimed, a new "golden age," not just of American energy independence but of "energy dominance" on a planetary scale. And here's what that really means: through his executive orders and the decisions of the stunning range of climate deniers and Big Oil enthusiasts he appointed to key posts in his administration, he can indeed ensure that ever more greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will enter the atmosphere in the years to come, creating the basis for another kind of apocalypse.

On the promotion of global warming in his first year in office, it's reasonable to say, with a certain Trumpian pride, that the president has once again made the United States the planet's truly "exceptional" nation. In November, only five months after President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw as soon as possible from the Paris climate agreement to fight global warming, Syria (of all countries) finally signed onto it, the last nation on Earth to do so. That meant this country was truly... well, you can't say left out in the "cold," not on this planet anymore, but quite literally exceptional in its single-minded efforts to ensure the destruction of the very environment that had for so long ensured humanity's well-being and made the creation of those illustrations of evolutionary progress possible.

Still, you can't just blame President Trump for this either. He's not responsible for the ingenuity, that gift of evolution, that led us, wittingly in the case of nuclear weapons and (initially) unwittingly in the case of climate change, to take powers once relegated to the gods and place them in our own hands -- as of January 20, 2017, in fact, in the hands of Donald J. Trump. Don't blame him alone for the fact that the most apocalyptic moment in our history might come not via an asteroid from outer space, but from Trump Tower.

So here we are, living with a man whose ultimate urge seems to be to bring the world to a boil around himself. It's possible that he might indeed be the first president since Harry Truman in 1945 to order the use of nuclear weapons. As Nobel Prize winner Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, recently commented, the world might be only "a tiny tantrum" away from nuclear war in Asia. At the very least, he may already be helping to launch a new global nuclear arms race in which countries from South Korea and Japan to Iran and Saudi Arabia could find themselves with world-ending arsenals, leaving nuclear winter in the hands of... well, don't even think about it. Now, imagine that amended evolutionary chart again or perhaps -- in honor of The Donald's recent announcement that the U.S. was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital -- call to mind poet William Butler Yeats's words about a world in which "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity," while some "rough beast, its hour come round at last" is slouching "towards Bethlehem to be born." Think then of what a genuine horror it is that so much world-ending power is in the hands of any single human being, no less such a disturbed and disturbing one.

Of course, while Donald Trump might represent the end of the line that began in some African valley so many millennia ago, nothing on this planet is graven in stone, not when it comes to us. We still have the potential freedom to choose otherwise, to do otherwise. We have the capacity for wonders as well as horrors. We have the ability to create as well as to destroy.

In the phrase of Jonathan Schell, the fate of the Earth remains not just in his hands, but in ours. If they, those nonexistent aliens, don't care and the planet can't care and the alien in the White House doesn't give a damn, then it's up to us to care. It's up to us to protest, resist, and change, to communicate and convince, to fight for life rather than its destruction. If you're of a certain age, all you have to do is look at your children or grandchildren (or those of your friends and neighbors) and you know that no one, Donald Trump included, should have the right to consign them to the flames. What did they ever do to end up in a hell on Earth?

2018 is on the horizon. Let's make it a better time, not the end of time.
(c) 2017 Thomas M. "Tom" Engelhardt is an American writer and editor. He is the creator of The Nation Institute's, an online blog. He is also the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of the 1998 book, The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation

They're All Going Trump
By Heather Digby Parton

Orrin Hatch is the most perfect example of the new congressional Trump Man. His ostentatious genuflecting to the f-ing moron over the last few months has become legendary and his willingness to sell out his own constituents to please his Dear Leader is a model for toadies everywhere.

And now, he's taken to living in Trump's bizarroworld as well: In what may very well be a case of "too long, didn't read," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) thanked the Salt Lake Tribune for naming him "Utahn of the Year," seemingly unaware the same paper explained the choice wasn't made because they thought we he was doing a good job.

In fact, the paper's editorial board called on him to leave office.

On Christmas Day, the Tribune posted two articles on Hatch: one naming him the Utah man of the year and an editorial explaining the selection while trashing the longtime Utah lawmaker for his "lack of integrity."

"It has everything to do with recognizing: Hatch's part in the dramatic dismantling of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. His role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in passing a major overhaul of the nation's tax code. His utter lack of integrity that rises from his unquenchable thirst for power," the Tribune editorial board wrote.

Within hours of the paper publishing their articles online, Hatch responded on Twitter writing: "Grateful for this great Christmas honor from the Salt Lake Tribune. For the record, I voted for @SpencerJCox and @rudygobert27. #utpol"

Notably, Hatch didn't post a link to the stories- only including a screen-shot of the headline supposedly "lauding" him.

While Hatch seemed unaware of why he received the dubious honor, Twitter users proved to be the type of people who go beyond the headlines and mocked the GOP lawmaker for giving positive attention to a story that leads to a call for him to retire.

He's aware. He's just following the Trump method of creating his own reality.

There is a move afoot among Republicans like Hatch, Lindsey Graham and others to go full Trump. Keep your eye on this. Normalizing Trump as Dear Leader is a very concerning development.

Happy New Year, everybody. Together we can get through this.
(c) 2017 Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Unbearable, a bronze sculpture by the Danish artist Jens Galschiot, was on display at COP 23.
The sculpture features a graph showing the global fossil fuel carbon emissions, and an impaled polar bear.

Lessons From Fiji At COP 23: We're All In The Same Canoe
By Jennifer Deol

Communities around the world are facing extreme climate change - from flooding caused by heavy rainfall to intense forest fires caused by heat waves to devastating hurricane after hurricane. No one is immune.

Consequences are gravest in the global south. There, the lives and livelihoods of people least to blame for the climate crisis are being hit the hardest, including in Fiji. It's the first Pacific Island nation state to preside over the UN international climate change negotiations.

The recent COP 23 meeting in Bonn, Germany was pivotal for vulnerable countries on the front lines of climate change. That's why the Fijian conference president put the issues of loss and damage at the top of the agenda, emphasizing "talanoa" (participatory, transparent dialogue) as the way to lay the groundwork needed to operationalize the Paris Agreement.

Talanoa is informal storytelling. It emphasizes inclusive dialogue, empathy, building friendships and solidarity for collective action. It also encourages all parties who committed to the Paris promise to have the honest, serious conversations needed to address the climate crisis.

"We are affected first and worst." ~~~ Hilda Heine, Marshall Islands president.

A Fijian traditional canoe, or drua, exemplifies the resilience of the Pacific in the
face of adverse impacts of climate change. It was donated to COP 23 to serve a
stark reminder we are all in the same canoe when it comes to climate change impacts.

Fiji, like many Pacific Island nations, is moving precariously through a heating world and counting on us all to ramp up global ambition. COP 23, dubbed "the Pacific COP," took place after a series of climate catastrophes that affected the Small Island States and the South Pacific. The conference location moved to Bonn because Fiji, ravaged by climate change, was unable to accommodate the thousands attending.

We are living in a new reality. We need a new set of tools and resources to respond. Small, vulnerable states such as Fiji cannot avoid losses and damages from climate change. They're the first to experience devastation caused by major carbon-emitting countries, and need international support to meet their climate commitments. Wealthy nations, including Canada, must provide resources, including finance, technology and capacity-building, that poorer countries need to face climate change's worst effects.

As a major carbon emitter, Canada needs to end its dependence on coal, oil and gas extraction immediately, and lead the global transition to renewable energy. Canada also has to ensure it does its fair share to limit warming to 1.5 C.

Developed countries can no longer drag their feet on inadequate, unjust climate commitments that continue to be realized on the backs of vulnerable communities. We need to transform our society and focus on caring for the planet and each other.

The whole world is in the same canoe when it comes to weathering climate change impacts. We have the finances, capacity and technology to turn the canoe around. We must paddle together to defend our collective safety.
(c) 2017 Jennifer Deol was a Canadian youth delegate to COP 23 and COP 22, from the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. She is a founding member of the David Suzuki Foundation's Sustainable Diversity Network and Board director of The Starfish Canada.

Will The US-British Alliance Suffer Over...A Wedding?
Long live the reality TV administration*.
By Charles P. Pierce

This is supposed to be an easy week, as if there is such a thing these days, so, here at the shebeen we look for any light and any laughter. Any story over which we can laugh at both the president* and the British Royal Family is as welcome as leftover cheesecake pie. From Politico:

Prince Harry is close to the Obamas following their collaboration during the Invictus Games, a sporting event for war veterans, in September. The British government is concerned with the potential diplomatic fallout if the former American president meets the royal family before the current president does. "Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it's causing a lot of nervousness," the tabloid quotes a "senior government source" saying. "Trump could react very badly if the Obamas get to a royal wedding before he has had a chance to meet the queen." The report indicated that May could have the final word over inviting the Obamas. "If the PM [Theresa May] lays down the law, Harry will just have to suck it up," said the government official.

OK, it's a British tab, so take it with a boxcar full of salt. But it's also like nothing else we've experienced before the country lost its mind and elected this guy. By all rights, there should be no protocol problem if a prince wants to invite both a former president and the current president to his wedding. But the current president has to be handled like a delicate flower with nuclear weapons, so a thousand years of royal prerogative go down the Chunnel. This president* is doing worse things to our relationship with Great Britain than any president since Thomas Jefferson. I expect that will be tweeted any day now.
(c) 2017 Charles P. Pierce has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently 'Idiot America.' He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

The Quotable Quote...

"The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers... [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper."
~~~ Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785.

How It Could Finally Be Possible To Prosecute War As A Crime
By David Swanson

War is a crime. The International Criminal Court has just announced that it will finally treat it as a crime, sort-of, kind-of. But how can war's status as a crime effectively deter the world's leading war-maker from threatening and launching more wars, large and small? How can laws against war actually be put to use? How can the ICC's announcement be made into something more than a pretense?

The Kellogg-Briand Pact made war a crime in 1928, and various atrocities became criminal charges at Nuremberg and Tokyo because they were constituent parts of that larger crime. The United Nations Charter maintained war as a crime, but limited it to "aggressive" war, and gave immunity to any wars launched with U.N. approval.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) could try the United States for attacking a country if (1) that country brought a case, and (2) the United States agreed to the process, and (3) the United States chose not to block any judgment by using its veto power at the U.N. Security Council. Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all U.N. members to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, and eliminating the veto. But what can be done now?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) can try individuals for various "war crimes," but has thus far tried only Africans, though for some time now it has claimed to be "investigating" U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Although the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, Afghanistan is. Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all nations, including the United States, to join the ICC. But what can be done now?

The ICC has finally announced that it will prosecute individuals (such as the U.S. president and secretary of "defense") for the crime of "aggression," which is to say: war. But such wars must be launched after July 17, 2018. And those who can be prosecuted for war will be only citizens of those nations that have both joined the ICC and ratified the amendment adding jurisdiction over "aggression." Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all nations, including the United States, to ratify the amendment on "aggression." But what can be done now?

The only way around these restrictions, is for the U.N. Security Council to refer a case to the ICC. If that happens, then the ICC can prosecute anyone in the world for the crime of war.

This means that for the force of law to have any chance of deterring the U.S. government from threatening and launching wars, we need to persuade one or more of the fifteen nations on the U.N. Security Council to make clear that they will raise the matter for a vote. Five of those fifteen have veto power, and one of those five is the United States.

So, we also need nations of the world to proclaim that when the Security Council fails to refer the case, they will bring the matter before the U.N. General Assembly though a "Uniting for Peace" procedure in emergency session to override the veto. This is what was just done in December 2017 to overwhelmingly pass a resolution that the U.S. had vetoed, a resolution condemning the U.S. naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Not only do we need to jump through each of these hoops (a commitment to a Security Council vote, and a commitment to override the veto in the General Assembly) but we need to make evident beforehand that we will be certain or likely to do so.

Therefore, World Beyond War is launching a global petition to the national governments of the world asking for their public commitment to refer any war launched by any nation to the ICC with or without the Security Council. Click here to add your name.

After all, it is not only U.S. wars that should be prosecuted as crimes, but all wars. And, in fact, it may prove necessary to prosecute junior partners of the United States in its "coalition" wars prior to prosecuting the ring leader. The problem is not one of lack of evidence, of course, but of political will. The U.K., France, Canada, Australia, or some other co-conspirator may be brought by global and internal pressure (and the ability to circumvent the U.N. Security Council) to submit to the rule of law prior to the United States doing so.

A key detail is this: how much organized murder and violent destruction constitutes a war? Is a drone strike a war? Is base expansion and a few home raids a war? How many bombs make a war? The answer should be any use of military force. But in the end, this question will be answered by public pressure. If we can inform people of it and persuade the nations of the world to refer it to trial, then it will be a war, and therefore a crime.

Here's my New Year's resolution: I vow to support the rule of law, that might may no longer make right.
(c) 2017 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.

Peace: A Christmas Present To Yourself
By William Rivers Pitt

If you're having trouble understanding just how thrilled Republicans in Congress and the White House are about the passage of this profoundly unpopular tax package, look no further than last Thursday, when Mike Pence and Ben Carson actually prayed to Donald Trump.

They didn't pray with him or for him, or even at him.

They prayed to him, lavishing honeyed compliments on him for everything from the bill (which he assisted by staying almost completely out of the way) to his courage in facing down the "fake news." Pence would have thanked him for the bountiful grain harvest and the dearth of wolves in the woods, but they ran short on time.

They prayed to him as the articulated realization of a dream three generations in the making, the supply-side savior, the God of Trickle-Down made flesh, with Reagan the Father smiling beatifically down from his heavenly steed like Death on its white horse.

The GOP donors who demanded this tax bill fiasco have gotten what they wanted, the GOP gets to run on "See, government doesn't work" with their campaign coffers full now that they've broken government again, and so they prayed to Donald Trump and gave voice to their joy, and it was a creepy dispiriting mess.

If you want to understand how monstrously cynical this all is, look no further than the bill itself. Not what's in it -- too late for that now -- but its actual status.

Is it a law yet? Yes, as of Friday morning.

That is only part of the story, however. There was a lot of talk in GOP circles last week about waiting to sign the bill until after the new year. Signing it in 2017 would mean Medicare gets plundered to the tune of $25 billion immediately in 2018, and the Republicans would have to run with that around their necks in the midterms.

If Trump had waited until January to sign it, the plunder of Medicare would be delayed until 2019, saving the GOP some immediate campaign grief, but they'd all have to wait until January to have the big press signing party. Mr. Trump does not like his banner headlines delayed.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine found the solution on Thursday with a continuing resolution that prevents the bill's automatic cuts to Medicare from happening next year. "As a result of Senator Collins' efforts," reads her press release, "the legislation protects Medicare." It does indeed ... until after the midterm elections. Cuts to Medicare in this bill total $250 billion over 10 years.

And they had their signing party. "Tremendous," Trump crowed from behind his desk. "Fantastic." Also, "Corporations are literally going wild," he said. And he smiled, and smiled.

They aren't finished yet. It took a while for these bellycrawling aristocrats to find the legislative car keys, but the engine is running in the red now, and Paul Ryan is just getting started. Fix Medicare? Right, the same way you "fix" a building by swinging a wrecking ball.

Ryan, who collected Social Security benefits during his student years, will have that program and all its siblings rendered to tatters if he can. Doug Jones, the Alabama wild card, and one other hesitant senator may be all that stands in his way. Trump, who swore a mighty oath to protect Social Security and Medicare during his campaign, won't stop him. He likes signing things. He likes his signature so much, in fact, that -- as Charlie Pierce might say -- he's probably playing with it in the yard right now.

I am supposed to be using this space to talk about Christmas, about the tree furnishing my floor with needles, about how I am utterly incompetent in the wrapping department, about food and family, the hell of shopping and maybe some snow on the big day. My daughter, now half-a-year away from 5, and how did that happen, is fully committed to Christmas. She met Santa at the YMCA last week and looked him up and down like a poultry inspector at a Tyson plant. He passed.

I am supposed to be talking about that, but this is a Christmas like no other in living memory. We are, each and every one of us, watching the guy wires supporting this country snap under the weight of a homegrown televised fascism that appears finally ready to become the juggernaut it thinks it is. The vice president and a cabinet secretary prayed to Donald Trump over an outrageously damaging bill that won't immediately eviscerate Medicare only because the GOP wants to survive the midterms. Where do you go from there?

Down, it seems. Always down.

I left something for myself under the tree this year, and I hope you do the same for yourself in whatever way best suits your approach to the season. Not long ago, I offered a plea to all of you for endurance, that you never allow any of this to become normal or routine. The present under my tree goes with that, a matched set if you will.

What's inside?


You can't hold it in your hand. There is no form to it, only a gossamer idea made of warm calm that will find its way into your blood. It never stays for long, of course, but it will be there when you need it, and you will. A small space in time for peace is a blessing beyond measure in this age of troubles. No one else can give it to you, and the times will actively try to steal it from you. Gift this small thing to yourself. You deserve it.

Endurance, hand in hand with peace, will find justice one day. Three kings, following an ancient star. It's an old story, but aren't they all.

Merry Christmas. Peace be unto you.
(c) 2017 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

The Dead Letter Office...

Paul gives the corporate salute.

Heil Trump,

Dear Unterfuhrer Ryan,

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

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump

A Year With Trump
By Robert Reich

Last week, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch stood on the White House lawn, opining that Donald Trump's presidency could be "the greatest presidency that we've seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever."

I beg to differ.

America has had its share of crooks (Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon), bigots (Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan), and incompetents (Andrew Johnson, George W. Bush). But never before Donald Trump have we had a president who combined all these nefarious qualities.

America's great good fortune was to begin with the opposite - a superb moral leader. By June of 1775, when Congress appointed George Washington to command the nation's army, he had already "become a moral rallying post," as his biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, described him, "the embodiment of the purpose, the patience, and the determination necessary for the triumph of the revolutionary cause."

Washington won the war and then led the fledgling nation "by directness, by deference, and by manifest dedication to duty."

Some two hundred forty years later, in the presidential campaign of 2016, candidate Trump was accused of failing to pay his income taxes. His response was "that makes me smart" - thereby signaling to millions of Americans that paying taxes in full is not an obligation of citizenship.

Trump also boasted about giving money to politicians so they would do whatever he wanted. "When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me." In other words, it's perfectly okay for business leaders to pay off politicians, regardless of the effect on our democracy.

Trump sent another message by refusing to reveal his tax returns during the campaign or even after he took office, or to put his businesses into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest, and by his overt willingness to make money off his presidency by having foreign diplomats stay at his Washington hotel, and promoting his various golf clubs.

These were not just ethical lapses. They directly undermined the common good by reducing the public's trust in the office of the president. As the New York Times editorial board put it in June 2017, "for Mr. Trump and his circle, what matters is not what's right but what you can get away with. In his White House, if you're avoiding the appearance of impropriety, you're not pushing the boundaries hard enough."

A president's most fundamental legal and moral responsibility is to uphold and protect our system of government. Trump has degraded that system.

When as a presidential nominee Trump said that a particular federal judge shouldn't be hearing a case against him because the judge's parents were Mexican, Trump did more than insult a member of the judiciary. He attacked the impartiality of America's legal system.

When Trump threatened to "loosen" federal libel laws so he could sue news organizations that were critical of him and, later, to revoke the licenses of networks critical of him, he wasn't just bullying the media. He was threatening the freedom and integrity of the press.

When, as president, he equated Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members with counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, by blaming "both sides" for the violence, he wasn't being neutral. He was condoning white supremacists, thereby undermining the Constitution's guarantee of equal rights.

When he pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for a criminal contempt conviction, he wasn't just signaling it's okay for the police to engage in violations of civil rights. He was also subverting the rule of law by impairing the judiciary's power to force public officials to abide by court decisions.

When he criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, he wasn't just asking that they demonstrate their patriotism. He was disrespecting their - and, indirectly, everyone's - freedom of speech.

When he berated the intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he wasn't just questioning their competence. He was suggesting they were engaged in a giant conspiracy to remove him from office - potentially inviting his most ardent supporters to engage in a new civil war.

America has had its share of good and bad presidents, but Donald Trump falls far below anything this nation has ever before experienced. In less than a year, he has degraded the core institutions and values of our democracy.

We have never before had a president whose character was so contrary to the ideals of the republic. That Senator Orrin Hatch and other Republicans don't seem to recognize this is itself frightening.
(c) 2017 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His website is

What Christmas Means
By Chris Hedges

In the early 1980s I was in a refugee camp for Guatemalans who had fled the war into Honduras. It was a cold, dreary winter afternoon. The peasant farmers and their families, living in filth and mud, were decorating their tents with strips of colored paper. That night, they said, they would celebrate the flight of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem ordered by Herod. The celebration is known as the Day of the Holy Innocents.

"Why is this such an important day?" I asked.

"It was on this day that Christ became a refugee," a farmer answered.

I knew Matthew's biblical passage about the flight to Egypt by heart. I had heard my father, a Presbyterian minister, read it in services every Christmas in the farm town in upstate New York where I grew up. But it took an illiterate farmer, who had fled in fear with his wife and children from the murderous rampages of the Guatemalan army and the death squads, who no doubt counted friends, even relatives, among the dead, a man who had lost everything he owned, to explain it to me.

The story of Christmas-like the story of the crucifixion, in which Jesus is abandoned by his disciples, attacked by the mob, condemned to death by the state, placed on death row and executed-is not written for the oppressors. It is written for the oppressed. And what is quaint and picturesque to those who live in privilege is visceral and empowering to those the world condemns.

Jesus was not a Roman citizen. He lived under Roman occupation. The Romans were white. Jesus was a person of color. And the Romans, who peddled their own version of white supremacy, nailed people of color to crosses almost as often as we finish them off with lethal injections, gun them down in the streets or lock them up in cages. The Romans killed Jesus as an insurrectionist, a revolutionary. They feared the radicalism of the Christian Gospel. And they were right to fear it. The Roman state saw Jesus the way the American state saw Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Then, like now, prophets were killed.

The radicalism of the Christian Gospel would be muted, distorted and denied by the institutional church once it came to power in the third century. It would be perverted by court theologians, church leaders and, in the 20th century, fascists. It would be mangled by the heretics in the Christian right to sanctify the worst aspects of American imperialism and capitalism. The Bible unequivocally condemns the powerful. It is not a self-help manual to become rich. It does not bless America or any other nation. It was written for the powerless, for those the theologian James Cone calls the crucified of the earth. It was written to give a voice to, and affirm the dignity of, those being crushed by malignant power and empire.

Undocumented parents living in mortal fear of being seized by immigration agents and being separated from their children, African-Americans living in the hellish violence of south Chicago, know the true meaning of Christmas. They feel what Mary and Joseph felt. Fear, even terror, is the foundation of Christmas.

"And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed," the Rev. Jeremiah Wright thundered from his pulpit in Chicago in a 2003 sermon that, when it became publicized in 2008, saw presidential candidate Barack Obama turn his back on his pastor. "She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating her citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains, the government put them in slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest-paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, not God Bless America. God damn America-that's in the Bible-for killing innocent people. God damn America, for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America, as long as she tries to act like she is God, and she is supreme."

Wright paid for his honesty. He spoke a core truth about the Gospel that few preachers dare to utter, lest their jobs and their status are jeopardized by the big donors in their congregations walking out. Preach the Gospel and you don't last long in a cathedral or a well-heeled suburban church. The preachers there are skilled dissemblers. And this is why, in our moment of crisis, they have little to say. All institutions including the church, the theologian Paul Tillich reminded us, are inherently demonic. You can serve God or Mammon. You can't serve both.

Writer James Baldwin said he left the pulpit to preach the Gospel. There is more Gospel in Baldwin than in most Sunday sermons or theological texts. Those who proclaim the Gospel are outcasts, including from the institutional church. They are often branded as heretics. They defy power. They stand with the oppressed. And when you stand with the oppressed you are treated like the oppressed. "Being in jail on Christmas day is not just counter-cultural, but anti-cultural," wrote the Rev. Daniel Berrigan from his cell on Christmas 1993, imprisoned for one of his many acts of civil disobedience. "The culture has no sense of Christ's spirit. People spend billions of dollars in an orgy of consumption, exchanging presents while ignoring the plight of the poor and the demands of discipleship. As George Anderson of St. Al's says, 'We cannot mark Christmas without remembering-and taking up-the cross. Instead of marking this day with the cultural spirit of materialism, we sit here in poverty. The only gifts we have to give each other are a piece of bread and an embrace of peace in Jesus' name. That is more than enough."

Christmas is not about the virgin birth. It is not about angels. It is not even about a historical Jesus. There is no evidence that Jesus existed. To debate these topics is to engage in a theological Trivial Pursuit. The Christmas story is about learning how to be human, about kneeling before a newborn infant who is helpless, vulnerable, despised and poor. It is about inverting the world's values. It is about understanding that the religious life-and this life can be lived with or without a religious creed-calls on us to protect and nurture the least among us, those demonized and rejected.

I have seen the infant Jesus in the United Nations feeding stations during the famine in Sudan, in the squalid and overcrowded refugee camps in Gaza, in the rubble of wartime Sarajevo and in America's inner cities, where children go to bed hungry and live in fear. I have seen too the spirit of Christmas. As a boy I saw it in my father during civil rights demonstrations and in street protests against the Vietnam War, ones he joined as a minister and a World War II veteran. I saw it in his standing up for gays and lesbians at a time when the church chastised clergy who championed gay rights. I saw it when he gave his annual sermon to raise money for orphans, a sermon he never managed to complete. He tried each year to tell the stories of these abandoned boys and girls. His voice always gave way to tears. I listened, along with the hushed congregation, to my father weep for the infant Christ, unable to continue. There was an elderly woman in our church who set up the candles before every service. She struggled with dementia. She was often unsure which end of the candle was supposed to be inserted into the base. My father, without saying a word, would help her place the candle in the holder. He did this every week. These tiny, often unseen acts of kindness, ones that take place in war and peace, are humankind's meaning.

I met with the Rev. Coleman Brown, the university chaplain and my professor, once a week when I was an undergraduate at Colgate University. He gave me books to read by Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, William Stringfellow, Martin Luther King Jr. and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. One winter's afternoon, as sheets of snow fell outside his office window, he read to me T.S. Eliot's poem, "Journey of the Magi." MO< In this poem the wise men make the long and arduous journey to the infant Jesus. This is not only a physical journey. It is a spiritual journey. Eliot writes:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
The magi turn their backs on their old world to embrace one that is alien, obscure and perplexing. They are full of doubt. They feel pain, not joy, "with the voices singing in our ears, saying that this was all folly." There is no sudden epiphany. There is only bewilderment. They become aliens in their own land, "with the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly." Faith, they find-this new faith-is exhausting and even disillusioning. Eliot concludes:
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
America is in terminal decline. It is enveloped by radical evil. Its corporate systems of power and empire exploit and kill with impunity. Its perverted values champion cruelty, mendacity and greed. It bows before the idols of money and power. It is severed from the human. It, like Herod and the Roman Empire, damns the infant Jesus. There is nothing easy about faith. It demands we smash the idols that enslave us. It demands we die to the world. It demands self-sacrifice. It demands resistance. It calls us to see ourselves in the wretched of the earth. It separates us from all that is familiar. It knows that once we feel the suffering of others, we will act.
(c) 2017 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. Keep up with Chris Hedges' latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Signe Wilkinson ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Paul Ryan Confident American People Will Warm Up To Tax Plan Once They Realize Life A Cruel And Meaningless Farce
By The Onion

WASHINGTON-Saying the current disapproval would soon give way to support, House Speaker Paul Ryan was confident Thursday that the American people will warm up to the new tax plan once they realize life is a cruel and meaningless farce.

"Although it may not be very popular now, I'm certain that Americans will come around to this new system when they begin to understand the ruthless absurdity of existence," said Ryan, explaining that once taxpayers see that there is no objective moral framework in the unforgiving chaos of the universe, they will learn to appreciate what this bill actually does.

"I think many voters will find a lot in this tax overhaul that they can embrace when it finally dawns on them that they have no agency and it's futile to resist entropy. We just need to keep hammering home to average folks that our time here on Earth is a joke with no punchline."

At press time, Ryan said that once Americans accepted the brutality and pointlessness of life, they'd be just as amenable to gutting Medicare.
(c) 2017 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 17 # 52 (c) 12/29/2017

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