And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Trump Furious That Another Baby Is Getting All The Attention," but first Uncle Ernie sings, "So It's One, Two, Three What Are We Fighting For?"
This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Fitzsimmons, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Spencer Platt, Bill Clark, Evan Vucci, Brendan Smialowski, Chip Somedevilla, Norsk Elbilforening, Samir Hussein, AFP, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.
So It's One, Two, Three What Are We Fighting For? Don't ask me I don't give a damn, the next stop is in Iran.
By Ernest Stewart
"It's like deja vu, all over again." ~~~ Yogi Berra
"Things are getting worse. Temperatures are rising faster than expected. We see the Arctic melting. We see glaciers disappearing. We see corals bleaching. We see biodiversity being dramatically threatened. So things are getting worse and worse. But the political will has been slow. We need to reverse this trend. We need to make people understand that this is not sustainable. And the reason why I'm optimistic is that I feel that more and more people are convinced of that. And as more and more people are convinced of that, I believe governments will feel the need to increase their political will which at this present moment is still lagging behind." ~~~ Antonio Guterres ~ United Nations secretary-general
Oh, Oh, Alabama
The devil fools
With the best laid plan
Swing low, Alabama Alabama ~ Neil Young
"Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more." ~~~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.
It seems to me that John Bolton, President Trump's national security advisor, is leading the United States in a dangerous direction, i.e., World War III! You may recall like tRump who came down with a bad case of bone spurs when John got a low number for the draft, being like Lying Donald, a coward, he joined the Maryland Army National Guard as they weren't sending NG units to Viet Nam, however John certainly doesn't mind sending other to their deaths, or worse, in American wars ever since!
So Lying Donald is being led my the nose by John which is why he left our nuclear treaty with Iran, and then began to make statements like these...
At a news conference, tRump declined to say what prompted him to deploy the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the region.
"We have information that you don't want to know about," said tRump. Say what? "They were very threatening and we have to have great security for this country and many other places." You're off to start WWIII and you think we don't want to know why? Guess again Donnie!
When asked whether there was a risk of military confrontation with the American military presence in the area.
"I guess you could say that always, right? I don't want to say no, but hopefully that won't happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that is loaded up and we don't want to do anything," Really? Then why did you send it?
"What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, a fair deal, we just don't want them to have nuclear weapons - not too much to ask. And we would help put them back to great shape. They should call. If they do, we're open to talk to them."
Lying Donald denied reports Tuesday that his administration is exploring the possibility of sending 120,000 troops to the Middle East to take on Iran as tensions rise, but warned that he is prepared to send "a hell of a lot more troops if necessary."
He said that, after the New York Times reported that, "At a meeting of President Trump's top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said."
So, like Yogi, I'm having a deja vu all over again as I'm remembering Viet Nam, are you, America?
In Other News
I see where the United Nations secretary-general said the world must dramatically change the way it fuels factories, vehicles and homes to limit future warming to a level scientists call nearly impossible.
That's because the alternative "would mean a catastrophic situation for the whole world," Antonio Guterres said. I'm glad the United Nations is finally wising up!
Guterres added that he's about "to tour Pacific islands to see how climate change is devastating them as part of his renewed push to fight it." He is summoning world leaders to the U.N. in September to tell them "they need to do much more in order for us to be able to reverse the present trends and to defeat the climate change."
That means, he said, that "the world has to change, not in small incremental ways but in big transformative ways, into a green economy with electric vehicles and 'clean cities.'"
Guterres said he will ask leaders to "stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Burning coal, oil and gas triggers warming by releasing heat-trapping gases."
He said he wants countries "to build no new coal power plants after 2020." He wants them to put a price on the use of carbon. And ultimately he wants to make sure that by 2050 the world is no longer putting more greenhouse gases into the air than nature can absorb.
Global temperatures have already risen about 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) since the industrial age began. The issue is how much more the thermometers will rise.
In 2015, the world's nations set a goal to limit global warming to no more than 0.9 degrees (0.5 degrees Celsius) from now. Most scientists say it is highly unlikely, if not outright undoable, to keep man-made climate change that low, especially since emissions of heat trapping gases are rising, renewable energy growth is plateauing, and some countries' leaders and voters are balking. A panel of scientists the U.N. asked to look at the issue ran computer models for more than 500 future scenarios, and less than 2% achieved those warming limits.
Guterres said the wholesale economic changes needed to keep the temperature from rising another degree or more may be painful, but there will be more pain if the world fails.
"If you don't hang on to that goal, what you'll achieve is a total disaster," the secretary-general said in his 38th floor conference room.
Guterres is optimistic, I'm not! For as long as the corpo-rats rule, the human race and most of the other animals on the planet are doomed. It maybe too late now to stop what's coming, and what's coming is already here. Ask the folks treading water down south if they believe in global warming or in a Lying Donald conspiracy. Go ahead, ask them, I dare you!
Terri Collins is the Alabama lawmaker who sponsored a bill which may become the strictest anti-abortion law in the country if it stands. The Alabama Senate voted 25-6 for the bill, which would ban abortion at any stage of pregnancy. The bill would make it a felony to perform an abortion, with doctors being penalized by up to 99 years in prison. The bill does not have an exception for rape or incest. It includes an exception for cases when the mother's health is seriously at risk.
Terri Said She Would Kill the Bill" if it included an exception for rape and incest. So if cousin Billy Bob rapes you in Alabama, you're screwed again by the state!
Collins has said that she wants her bill to go all the way to the Supreme Court. She said she didn't want the bill to include any exception for rape or incest, because she wanted to make the case that, in her words, "the baby in the womb is a person. She said she wanted the bill to directly confront Roe v Wade which, she said, "decided that the baby in the womb was not a person."
"The biggest thing to attack it with is to say, 'What, you're not going to include rape and incest?'" she explained. "Well, how do we say, 'The baby inside is a person unless they're conceived in rape or incest?' If that amendment was to get on the bill, then I'll kill the bill because it won't go to the Supreme Court. It will contradict itself. And so that's why we're trying to keep it clean, and we're fighting with the Senate, which is what the House does. So, we'll see what happens on Tuesday. Stay tuned."
The bill passed but won't take effect until it clears the Extreme Court which will take years and years! Oh and did I mention that Terri was a Bankster, as a Vice President at First American Bank! That should explain it all as to why she is a self hating woman! Ergo Terri wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!!!
It looks like our June 21st edition will be our last full magazine. With half a magazine we will continue on until the 2020 election, providing Lying Donald hasn't killed all of us by then. Not only haven't we been able to pay the last of last years bill, but a new bill comes due on June 24th.
You will notice some of your favorite authors will be missing as we have to pay their publishing rights in order to publish them. You'll have to look them up yourselves and may have to pay to read them on their sites. The same goes for some cartoonists.
We'll still keep fighting the good fight like we always have as we're in it to the end. If you think that what we do is important and would like to see us keep on, keeping on, please send us whatever you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep telling you the truth!
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So how do you like Trump so far?
And more importantly, what are you planning on doing about it?
Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2019 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.
Arundhati Roy at Harlem's Apollo Theater, Sunday, May 12, 2019
U.S. Attack on Iran Would Be 'Biggest Mistake It Has Ever Made' Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the U.S. government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state
By Arundhati Roy
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman with Nermeen Shaikh. Our guest for the hour, Arundhati Roy, the winner of the Booker Prize for her first novel The God of Small Things. Her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness was long-listed for that same prize in 2017. Now, a collection of her nonfiction writing is coming out called My Seditious Heart. It is over a thousand pages and will be out in June. Last night, you gave an impassioned address at Harlem's historic Apollo Theater. The address that you gave was called the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, and you titled it "A Place for Literature." Can you share a little of it with us?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Sure. As the ice caps melt, as oceans heat up and water tables plunge, as we rip through the delicate web of interdependence that sustains life on earth, as our formidable intelligence leads us to breach the boundaries between humans and machines and our even more formidable hubris undermines our ability to connect the survival of our planet to our survival as a species, as we replace art with algorithms and stare into a future in which most human beings may not be needed to participate in or be remunerated for economic activity, at just such a time we have the steady hands of white supremacists in the White House, new imperialists in China and neo-Nazis once again massing on the streets of Europe, Hindu nationalists in India, and a host of butcher princes and lesser dictators in other countries to guide us into the unknown.
While many of us dreamt that another world is possible, these folks were dreaming, too. And it is their dream, our nightmare, that is perilously close to being realized. Capitalism's gratuitous wars and sanctioned greed have jeopardized the planet and filled it with refugees. Much of the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government of the United States. Seventeen years after invading Afghanistan, after bombing it into the Stone Age with the sole aim of toppling the Taliban, the U.S. government is back in talks with the very same Taliban. In the interim, it has destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to war and sanctions. A whole region has descended into chaos, ancient cities pounded into dust.
Amidst the desolation and the rubble, a monstrosity called Daesh, ISIS, has been spawned. It has spread across the world, indiscriminately murdering ordinary people who had absolutely nothing to do with America's wars. Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the U.S. government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state. And now resorting to the same old scare tactics, the same tired falsehoods and the same old fake news about nuclear weapons, it is gearing up to bomb Iran. That will be the biggest mistake it has ever made.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Arundhati, I would like to now turn to another issue, which you also raised in your lecture last night, and that is climate change. Another award-winning Indian writer, Amitav Ghosh, has written about climate change in his most recent book titled The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Ghosh discusses two key publications on climate change that were written in 2015-the Encyclical on Environment and Climate Change by Pope Francis and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Ghosh points out several differences in the two texts, writing that the Encyclical doesn't hesitate to "criticize the prevalent paradigms of our era. Most of all it is fiercely critical of the idea of infinite or unlimited growth." He goes on to say, quote, "In the text of the Paris Agreement, by contrast, there is not the slightest acknowledgment that something has gone wrong with our dominant paradigms. The current paradigm of perpetual growth is enshrined at the core of the text of the Paris Agreement," Ghosh writes.
Now during your lecture last night, you said that those most responsible for creating the problem, the problem of climate change "will see to it that they profit from the solution that they propose." So could you elaborate on that?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the thing is for me, for so many years, people-let's say in India-have been fighting this very idea of progress, of infinite growth, of this form of development which has resulted now in what we call jobless growth, what everybody knows to be the case. You have nine individuals who own the same amount of wealth as the bottom 500 million. This is what infinite growth has led to-infinite growth for some people.
So I remember years ago, I wrote an essay which ended by saying, "Can we leave the bauxite in the mountain?" Because I think that's ultimately the question. Can you look at the mountain and not just calculate its mineral worth? Can you understand that a mountain has much more than just the value of the minerals in it? And there is-it's a civilizational issue, right? That for people who have lived there, have known that mountain, they know it sustains not just the people. It's not just a question of who is getting displaced. But how does, for example, that bauxite mountain-which stores water and waters the plains all around it, which grows the food, which sustains a whole population-but it's meant for a corporation that is given the mining contract. It's just, how much does that bauxite cost? Can we store it and trade it on the futures market?
So this idea that you will never question your idea of progress, you will never question the comfort of the Global North. And by Global North-now and the elite South, and the downtrodden North, you know? It is like what I said, that the elite of the world have all seceded into outer space, and they have a country up there, and they look down and say, "What is our water doing in their rivers, and what's our timber doing in their forests?"
So there is a psychotic refusal to understand that the survival of the species is connected to the survival of the planet, you know? Because this sort of progress is a kind of church now. It is not amenable to reason. So it is very difficult to know how any real conversation can happen, which is why I said yesterday that the only real conversation that is happening is a conversation in which the language around climate change is being militarized. Because the U.N., underneath every conflict which appears to be a conflict between a tribe and a tribe, or a country and a country, is increasingly climate change, is increasingly the shrinking of resources and people collecting together to claim them and therefore, the growth of this kind of nationalistic or identity or tribal politics.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you make a connection between the issue of climate change and the issue of the growing inequality in the world? Certainly, it is massive in the United States. And in India, the growing inequality has increased enormously. You have this Oxfam report that just came out revealing billionaire fortunes in India increased by 35% last year as the poorest remain in debt. But that connection, that link of capitalism, between the two?
ARUNDHATI ROY: The connection is just capitalism, isn't it? I mean, it's pretty clear now. That any sort of attempt-I will give you a very good example. Like a month or two ago, the Supreme Court of India, based on a case that a wildlife NGO had filed, said that two million indigenous people should be evicted from their forest homes with immediate effect. Why? Because that forest needs to be preserved as a sanctuary. But when, for the last 25 years, people were fighting against projects which were decimating millions of hectares and acres of forest, nobody cared. And it was the same people that were being displaced. Then it was for progress; now it is for conservation. But it is always the same people who have to pay the price.
And when you are talking about evicting two million of the poorest people, stripping them of everything they ever had, there is little outrage. When the Congress party announced that it is going to have a scheme in which 20% of the poorest people will get a living wage, everyone just exploded. Like, how can you think of doing this? Because it strikes at the core of unregulated capitalism. Any sense of talk of equality or justice seems to just have the same effect that blasphemy has in religious societies. That is what capitalism has become-a form of religion that will brook no questioning.
People wait in line to purchase the new iPhone XS and XS Max at the Apple store in Midtown Manhattan on September 21, 2018 in New York City.
When Will The Contented Classes Rise Up In Rebellion? When will the people who recognize just how bad things have become for the most vulnerable-and the nation at large-unfurl the flag of rebellion against the plutocrats and the autocrats?
By Ralph Nader
For all the rhetoric and all the charities regarding America's children, the U.S. stands at the very bottom of western nations and some other countries as well, in terms of youth well-being. The U.S.'s exceptionalism is clearest in its cruelty to children. The U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate of comparable OECD countries. Not only that, but 2.5 million American children are homeless and 16.2 million children"lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis."
The shamelessness continues as the youngsters increase in age. The Trump regime is cutting the SNAP food program for poor kids. In 2018, fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP than in 2017. To see just how bad Trump's war on poor American children is getting, go to the web sites of the Children's Defense Fund and the Children's Advocacy Center.
Trump brags about a robust economy-still, however, rooted in exploitation of the poor and reckless Wall Street speculation with people's savings.
Trump's pompous promises during his presidential campaign have proved to be a cowardly distraction. He claimed he would take on the drug companies and their price gouging. The hyper-profiteering pharmaceutical goliaths are quietly laughing at him. Worse, Trump continues their tax credits and allows them to use new drugs developed with taxpayer money through the National Institute of Health free of charge-no royalties. Even though he talks tough, Trump lets these companies sell imported medicines manufactured in China and India with inadequate FDA inspections of foreign plants.
Torrents of Trump tweets somehow overlooked H.P. Acthar Gel, a drug produced by Mallinckrodt to treat a rare infant seizure disorder, which increased in price from $40 per vial to $39,000 per vial! Other drug prices are booming cruelly upward, while Trump blusters, but fails to deliver on his campaign promises.
For years our country's political and corporate rulers have saddled college students with breathtaking debt and interest rates. Student debt is now at $1.5 trillion. Both corporations and the federal government are profiting off of America's young. In no other western country is this allowed, with most nations offering tuition-free higher education.
When you read the stories of impoverished students, squeezed in all directions, you'd think they came out of third-world favelas. At the City University of New York (CUNY), forty eight percent of students had been food insecure in the past 30 days.
Kassandra Montes, a senior at Lehman College, lives in a Harlem homeless shelter. Montes "works two part-time jobs and budgets only $15 per week for food... [She] usually skips breakfast in order to make sure that her 4-year-old son is eating regularly." Montes said: "I feel like I'm slowly sinking as I'm trying to grow."
When you don't have a living wage, have to pay high tuition, are mired in debt, and live in rent-gouging cities, where do you go? Increasingly, you go to the community college or college food pantry. In a nation whose president and Congress in one year give tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon more than the generals asked for, it is unconscionable that students must rely on leftover food from dining halls and catered events, SNAP benefits, and whatever food pantries can assemble.
The CUNY pantries are such a fixture in these desperate times that they are now a stop on freshman orientation tours.
As long as we're speaking of shame, what about those millions of middle and upper middle class informed, concerned bystanders. They're all over America trading "tsk tsks" over coffee or other social encounters. They express dismay, disgust, and denunciations at each outrage from giant corporations' abuses, to the White House and the Congress' failings. They are particularly numerous in University towns. They know but they do not do. They are unorganized, know it, keep grumbling, and still fail to start the mobilization in Congressional Districts of likeminded citizens to hold their Senators and Representatives accountable.
For Congress, the smallest yet most powerful branch of government, whose members names we know, can turn poverty and other injustices around and help provide a better life for so many Americans. These informed, concerned people easily number over 1 percent of the population. They can galvanize a supporting majority of voters on key, long-overdue redirections for justice. Redirections that were mostly established in Western Europe decades ago (For more details, see my paperback, Breaking Through Power: It's Easier than We Think).
These informed, concerned people-who don't have to worry about a living wage, not having health insurance, being gouged by payday loans, and having no savings-were called "the contented classes" in The Culture of Contentment, a book by the late progressive Harvard economist John Kenneth Gailbraith. His main point-until the contented classes wake up and organize for change, history has shown, our country will continue to slide in the wrong direction. He said all this before climate disruption, massive money-corrupting politics, and the corporate crime wave had reached anywhere near their present destructive levels.
The question to be asked: Who among the contented classes will unfurl the flag of rebellion against the plutocrats and the autocrats? It can be launched almost anywhere they please. A revolution can start the moment they decide to prioritize the most marginalized people in this country over their comfort.
Only a social and economic transformation can lift Black America to a First World state of well-being. Black health requires Black Power.
Of all mothers in the U.S., Black women are the most likely to die in childbirth, according to data released this week by the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The death rate for Black mothers is 42.8 for every 100,000 live births. For Native American mothers, the second most at risk, mortality is 32.5 per 100,000. Non-Hispanic white mothers' death rates are only 13 per 100,000. But, even U.S. white mothers' mortality is far higher than women in all the other rich countries of the planet. On a world scale the United States ranks 46th among nations in maternal mortality, way behind every nation of western Europe, Japan and South Korea, and even trailing the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
Like infant mortality, the death rate for mothers is linked to a broad range of health factors. "No single intervention is sufficient" to bring the death toll down, said the CDC report. "Reducing pregnancy-related deaths requires reviewing and learning from each death, improving women's health, and reducing social inequities across the life span, as well as ensuring quality care for pregnant and postpartum women."
In other words, the United States is an unhealthy place to live because its deplorable health care structure leaves people at the mercy of a cutthroat capitalist economy while racism condemns its Black and Native citizens to shorter and sicker life spans than prevail in much of what used to be called the Third World. The Black maternal death rate in the U.S. roughly matches that of Cape Verde and Turkmenistan.
The best measure of a society's overall health is infant mortality - the rate at which babies die before they reach their first birthday. By that decisive measurement, the United Nations Population Division rates the U.S. at 38th in the world, sandwiched between Brunei and Belarus. Cuba is number 31 - an amazing feat, given that more than half its population is descended from slaves that were not freed until 1886, a generation after U.S. emancipation. Then Cuba fell under U.S. occupation, combining Dixie-style Jim Crow with white Latin American racism. Yet, despite 50 years of U.S. economic (and medical) blockade, Cuban infant mortality dropped from 81 deaths per 1,000 births in 1955, to 5.5 in 2010, slightly lower than the U.S. overall rate (5.97). In contrast, Black American infants die more than twice as often, at a rate of 11.4 per 1,000 births, about the same as babies in Thailand and Argentina.
Black America is a very different country from white America - no country for babies or pregnant women, or for young Black men between the ages of 15 and 34, for whom murder is the leading cause of death. Virtually every health indicator places Black Americans in Third World status, giving bloody statistical credence to those that describe Black America as an internal colony of U.S. empire. It is a captive nation that is grossly medically underserved. Although Blacks make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise only 6.8 percent of doctors, a huge proportion of whom were trained in a few historically Black medical schools. Although a single payer system would be of most benefit to Blacks, the U.S. group with the worst life prospects, Black people will continue to die at far higher rates than whites, as the CDC report states, until "social inequities" are reduced "across the life span." Only a social and economic transformation can lift Black America to a First World state of well-being. Black health requires Black Power. Anti-Black racism is baked into every U.S. institution, including medicine and all the social sciences -- the legacy of the U.S. as a White Man's Country. And capitalism is the greatest organizer of killing fields - deaths fast and slow -- in human history.
The Cuban system of neighborhood medicine, with double the proportion of primary care physicians as the U.S. -- at less than one-tenth the cost ($813 per person per year, compared to $9,403 in the U.S.) - is inseparable from the Cuban revolutionary process. Capitalists cannot copy it. In an article titled "When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born," by Don Fitz, Cuban historian Hedelberto Lopez admits that "the revolution in medicine would have been impossible if doctors had not fled the country. They would have disrupted everything" These doctors were wedded to a system that excluded the Black and poor. Most of them were white, and like other professionals, most of them fled Cuba after the revolution, forcing the state to recreate the medical profession from scratch. Cuban doctors now look like the Cuban people, and live among them. A crisis, once met, became a blessing. As Fitz writes:
"Many lessons of the first decade of Cuban medicine had been assumed or suspected before the revolution confirmed them. It became clear that medical care could only be improved if a country simultaneously addressed necessities such as food, housing and education; medical campaigns must be based on mass participation; it may be possible to cope with an obstructive institution such as mutualism by creating a better method of delivering care before abolishing the old one; an institution could be improved by undertaking two contradictory processes simultaneously (such as centralizing and decentralizing medicine); despite the short term damage of 3000 doctors leaving, the long term ability to renovate medicine was blessed by their absence."
In the U.S., single payer health care is only the first, baby-step. The Black health crisis is a social and political crisis - a crisis of power -- that demands a tsunami of new Black doctors, to serve in new community health institutions that are answerable to the people -- just as schools and police must be made accountable to the community.
The logical places to begin producing this flood of Black doctors are historically Black Howard, Meharry and Morehouse Colleges of Medicine, whose facilities and mission would be vastly expanded - for a Black New Deal in health. Similarly, Black colleges should be central to a whole range of transformative public projects that build Black community economic and social capacity and power.
How's that for a 2020 plank for Sanders, Warren or the Green Party?
Why Are These Facts So Stubbornly Forbidden?
By David Swanson
Like you, I've had countless experiences of pointing out a new fact to someone, and seeing them acknowledge it and incorporate it into their thinking and their talking from that point forward. I've even had this experience with public petitions pushed on powerful people. But, I've also had a different experience. There are some facts that some people just will not accept, and for some of them I have a very hard time understanding why. Can you help me understand?
For example, today I received an appeal from the March for Our Lives people upset and outraged that teachers were going to be allowed to bring guns into their school in Florida. They do not want any guns in their school, they said. But - and this they did not say - their school already has ROTC and gun training. Their school already has lots of guns in it. Their classmate who killed many of their other classmates was trained to shoot guns in their school by the U.S. Army. So, do they want guns in their school or not? They are 100% dedicated to pretending that the ROTC does not exist, but also outraged by the idea of guns being brought into the school that they are pretending is gun-free. Why can they not incorporate into their consciousness the existence of the program whose t-shirt the murderer was wearing? What prevents it? I really want to know. Do you have an answer that's not just a guess?
Also today I received an email from Senator Tim Kaine who remains outraged that a president might start an "unnecessary" and "unconstitutional" war. A president cannot legally attack Iran without Congressional approval, Kaine announces for the billionth time. But a president also cannot legally attack Iran WITH Congressional approval. Violating various laws, including the United Nations Charter, is a crime completely and utterly regardless of whether Congress is in on it. There's no waiver for the U.S. Congress or any branch of any other government. I questioned Tim Kaine about this a long time ago and posted it on my Youtube page. He readily admitted that I was right, but in the next breath went right back to talking the way he has continued talking to this day - just like every single one of his colleagues and every single media outlet he ever encounters. Why is Kaine incapable of grabbing hold of a fact that he readily comprehended? I'd seriously like an answer.
Most of U.S. political discourse seems to me perverted by the stubborn universal refusal to incorporate basic acknowledged facts into general understanding. Also today I saw a report claiming that the U.S. government has been spending more on fossil fuel subsidies than on "defense." Of course, the U.S. government spends little or nothing on anything designed to be defensive, so we have to translate that to "military." But over half of the military budget is not counted in this or any other situation because it's spread across numerous departments and agencies. At $1.25 trillion a year, it dwarfs fossil fuel subsidies, but the fact that those subsidies outpace the fraction of military spending that goes to the Pentagon is still staggering. Or it would be, if most people would incorporate into their worldview the fact that militarism costs anything at all. For most people, only non-military expenses cost anything, and their size determines the size of the government, even though militarism is now about two-thirds of federal discretionary spending.
What costs money and what does not really seems to be up to personal preference. For example, does the collapse of the climate - all the storms and droughts and floods to come - cost anything? On the one hand, you would think so. Young people are already suing governments for imposing enormous costs on young and future generations. There have been studies done of the cost of converting the world to sustainable green energy, and the cost is in the negative tens of trillions of dollars. In other words, it would save money, yet it is understood to be outrageously too expensive to even dream about.
In my city, we're asking our local government to divest public dollars from weapons and fossil fuels, and city officials are concerned about their responsibility to benefit investors. But if the earth and our city with it remain habitable doesn't that benefit even city employees? Wouldn't the city leap at a guaranteed financial savings over a year or a month that was susceptible to temporary losses over hours or days? Why, when the same situation involves a decade rather than a year does it become incomprehensible? I really want to know.
Healthcare, too, is something we cannot afford, even though countries that have it pay less for it than we pay to not have it. This doesn't seem to make any sense as long as we refuse to mention the parasitical insurance companies that are actually what we cannot afford, have no use for, and (in thousands of cases every year) die at the hands of.
What about all the health savings from green energy that would cost a fraction of either military spending or fossil fuel subsidies, and lower the cost of healthcare to a fraction of what we pay to not get healthcare? How can people be made to understand such incomprehensible realities as long as key facts are forbidden? I think we absolutely have to find out.
(c) 2019 David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
President Trump speaks during a "Make America Great Again" rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on May 8, 2019.
The Impeachment Process Itself Can Thwart Trump's Obstruction
By William Rivers Pitt
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), has dropped a subpoena on Donald Trump, Jr., firstborn son of the current president, so he may "answer questions about his previous testimony before Senate investigators in relation to the Russia investigation,"according to Axios. News of the subpoena came scant breaths after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) did his version of George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" number by announcing that all matters pertaining to the Mueller report are over and done with, never to be spoken of again.
Here was Mitch doing his tobacco-state best to circle the wagons before a steadily encroaching enemy. The White House has slammed the gate shut on any and all congressional oversight, including lawfully issued subpoenas from House Democrats on issues ranging from Mueller's work to the upcoming census, and this proclamation was McConnell doing his part. The White House has also revoked the press passes of almost every journalist who covers the White House. If a constitutional crisis takes place and the press can't report on it, did it happen?
This is why the timing of Senator Burr's subpoena to Don Jr. - the first such issued to a family member of the president, making it dynamite wrapped in plastic explosive stuffed down the gullet of a dead skunk - is strangely amusing if you have a thing for gallows humor. Trump and his people have made it abundantly clear that any congressperson brandishing a subpoena can take a flying copulation in a gravel driveway, yet this Republican Senate committee chairman wants to slide one under the door so the eldest son of the Republican president can answer some "collusion" questions Trump would have us believe have already been settled.
There are moments when you must simply close your eyes, lean back, and let it all waft over you like smoke from a latrine fire. It just can't be this weird, right? Oh, hang on, Trump has invoked executive privilege to thwart the release of the full Mueller report to Congress, even though that report, by his own shouted words, exonerates him completely. Ditto the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn. We are not through the looking glass, people. The looking glass is through us, like an errant javelin hurled at a drunken track and field meet.
Hovering over it all is the freighted "I-word," impeachment, the necessity of which grows conspicuously with each passing hour. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and her "centrist" congressional allies tremble at the very idea because they believe they have to make everyone like them all the time if Democrats are going to defeat Trump in 2020 (the correct answer is "50 percent plus one," but I digress). Even now, however, that ground is falling out from under their tepid feet.
Once a consensus that impeaching this rogue president is a constitutional obligation has been reached, which I do believe is inevitable given the china-shop bullshit this administration has been running since Democrats took the House, the question turns to how it can be done. It is difficult to gather testimony and evidence when the guard at the White House gate sets fire to every subpoena that comes along.
The challenges to these subpoenas will all wind up in court eventually, and that's where impeachment itself can lend a very helping hand. The Trump administration's court argument will likely boil down to "No legislative purpose," i.e. all these Democratic House chairs are asking for Trump's taxes, the unredacted Mueller report, testimony from officials, and other matters for political purposes only.
This is fragile ice to skate on, as oversight is an essential aspect of the legislative branch's constitutional obligations. The administration's lawyers will spin that platter regardless of the nonsense baked into the argument, and if they come across a friendly judge (Justice Kavanaugh & Co., your table is ready) willing to legitimize it, the whole concept of congressional oversight could be rubbished. In any event, the court fight over "legislative purpose vs. just politics" could drag on for months, if not years.
Unless, that is, the "legislative purpose" of the subpoenas is established so vividly as to be utterly beyond dispute. Officially opening an impeachment inquiry would accomplish this immediately. In the context of an officially declared impeachment process, House Democrats would have every legislative purpose for reviewing the tax returns, the unredacted Mueller report, as well as any other area where Trump's behavior appears to rise to the level of an impeachable offense. There is even an argument that says Democrats need only claim they are contemplating impeachment for the "purpose" threshold to be reached.
The moral and constitutional arguments for impeachment are self-evident; Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) kindly provided a recent refresher course for those in need of a reminder. The politics of impeachment are frightening to Speaker Pelosi and her allies, and the idea of a protracted court slog is daunting. Yet this president cannot be allowed to slap down lawfully issued subpoenas, and Congress must defend itself from the irrelevance his administration would foist upon it.
Impeaching Trump to thwart his obstructionism, therefore, is a simple and clever solution, and a delicious one to boot: Stop his obstruction with impeachment, and then impeach him for obstruction. It seldom gets more perfect than that.
Rashida Tlaib announces that advocacy groups will deliver over ten million pro-impeachment petition signatures to Congress on May 9, 2019.
Rashida Tlaib Recognizes Trump Must Be Held To Account By Beginning The Impeachment Process
The Michigan congresswoman just accepted petitions signed by ten million Americans who say it is time to act.
By John Nichols
"Can we please start the impeachment process now?" Rashida Tlaib asked a month before she was sworn in as the representative from Michigan's 13the congressional district.
It was the right question at the right time-a moment in December when President Trump was casually announcing: "I will shut down the government." And Tlaib was the right person to ask it: a lawyer with a firm grasp of the Constitution and deep regard for the oath she was about to swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same."
Yet, Tlaib got only a little notice when she spoke up in December. She got more attention in January when, after being sworn in, she employed some salty language in an enthusiastic declaration. of her determination to hold the president to account. Trump labeled her"disgraceful" and "highly disrespectful to the United States of America." But Tlaib was undeterred. She consulted with experts on the system of checks and balances and advanced a proposal rooted in a savvy recognition of the fact that impeachment is a process.
Now, as political and media figures who once eschewed discussions of the "I" word are suddenly talking about nothing else, it is time recognize the wisdom of Tlaib's proposal.
Trump is rejecting the system of checks and balances. He is abusing his executive authority in an effort to thwart congressional review of the full Mueller report, and his attorney general has refused to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee.
The Democratic majority on the committee has taken necessary and appropriate action, voting last Wednesday to recommend that the full House hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to share the unredacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller III with the committee. Yet, Barr is still refusing to cooperate. And what of Trump? Committee chair Jerry Nadler, D-New York, says, "the President is disobeying the law, is refusing all information to Congress."
"The phrase constitutional crisis has been overused..."says Nadler, "but, certainly, it's a constitutional crisis, although I don't like to use that phrase because it's been used for far less dangerous situations."
This is a dangerous situation and its should be addressed with the response that the founders of the American experiment identified. "If we do not engage in the impeachment process, we set a dangerous precedent for all future presidents-that they can defy the law and trample on our constitution, taking us on the road to autocracy,"says Free Speech for People's John Bonifaz, a lawyer who has working with Tlaib on accountability issues.
The key word is "process."
Before formal articles of impeachment are written and voted on by the House, information must be gathered, hearings must be held, efforts must be made to provide the American people with a full sense of why accountability is necessary, and outreach must be made to those constitutionally-inclined Republicans who might recognize the danger of allowing a president-even a president with an "R" after his name-to dismiss checks and balances and disregard the rule of law.
This process of applying the cure for a constitutional crisis, as established by the founders of the American experiment, moves the discussion of accountability toward concrete reality.
Tlaib is proposing to begin the process with legislation resolving that:
(1) the Committee on the Judiciary shall inquire whether the House of Representatives should impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America;
(2) the Committee on the Judiciary or any subcommittee or task force designated by the Committee may, in connection with the inquiry under this resolution, take affidavits and depositions by a member, counsel, or consultant of the Committee, pursuant to notice or subpoena; and
(3) there shall be paid out of the applicable accounts of the House of Representatives such sums as may be necessary to assist the Committee on the Judiciary in conducting the inquiry under this resolution, any of which may be used for the procurement of staff or consultant services.
Tlaib's proposal is on point. Her resolution does not outline specific articles of impeachment. It simply signals that the time has come to begin the necessary process. It is this process that will identify the offenses that might form the basis for articles the Judiciary Committee and the House could consider.
While many in Congress remain cautious, the American people understand the wisdom of Tlaib's proposal. Last week, she and Congressman Al Green, the Texas Democrat who has been a stalwart champion of presidential accountability, accepted a flash drive containing ten million signatures on digital petitions calling for an impeachment inquiry. MoveOn, CREDO Mobile, Need to Impeach, Women's March, By the People, Change.org, Democracy for America and Free Speech for People have supported the call, which will be amplified this week by activists in DC and nationwide.
"Ten million people said that we need to hold this president accountable. I think that speaks volumes," says Rashida Tlaib. "Ten million people want us to uphold the United States Constitution."
The disastrous meltdown of three nuclear power plants at Fukushima, Japan, occurred just eight years ago and the world appears to have forgotten about it. Even the Japanese are attempting to pretend the situation has improved as they prepare to host the world Olympics in 2020. But the thing about deadly radiation . . . it hangs around for a very long time. And the Fukushima site is still generating radioactive water and air, spewing it off into the Pacific Ocean and the air just as if the melt-down occurred yesterday.
Consequently thyroid cancers are occurring heavily among the Japanese and among residents along the western coast of North America. Thyroid cancer has been known to be caused by radioactive iodine. This form of cancer appeared early after the bombing of Japan and after Chernobyl. It was followed by leukemia within five to 10 years of exposure. Dr. Helen Caldicott, in a recent radio interview with Michael Welch for Global Research warned that in about 15 years "solid cancers of every organ" can be expected.
Caldicott, former president of the U.S. Nuclear Policy Research Institute, said she believes there has been a huge cover up of the ongoing crisis at Fukushima by the Japanese government and the nuclear industry. She warned that the Fukushima nuclear meltdown continues unabated and may never be controlled in our lifetime. Three of the six nuclear power plants went into meltdown and she warns that another tsunami from a major earthquake like the one that struck the facility in 2011 could intensify the disaster. They are known to happen about every 25 years.
So what is going on that is making those broken Fukushima Dalichi reactors such a danger to the world?
In her interview Caldicott said: "Well there are ongoing emissions into the air consistently, number one. Number two, a huge amount of water is being stored -over a million gallons in tanks at the site. That water is being siphoned off from the reactor cores, the damaged melted cores. Water is pumped consistently every day, every hour, to keep the cores cool in case they have another melt. And that water, of course, is extremely contaminated."
Because there is a limit to the amount of water that can be stored in the tanks, Caldicott said the workers at the site are considering emptying that water packed with strontium, cesium and a variety of other radioactive elements into the Pacific Ocean. But this is already happening. She noted that water flowing from the nearby mountains flows underneath the reactors and into the sea. By the time this water reaches the sea it is seriously contaminated.
A frozen wall of mud was erected in an attempt to control the mountain water runoff and this has reduced the radioactive runoff from 500 tons per day to about 150 tons. But the ice wall depends on refrigeration and this depends on electricity from some source. Thus Caldicott said the wall has always been "a transient thing . . . so it's ridiculous. Over time the Pacific is going to become more and more radioactive."
The molten cores of the three ruined plants have proven impossible to fix. "When robots go in and try to have a look at them their wiring just melts and disappears. They're extraordinarily radioactive. No human can go near them because they would die within 48 hours from the radiation exposure. They will never, and I quote never, decommission those reactors. They will never be able to stop the water coming down from the mountains. And so, the truth be known, it's an ongoing global radiological catastrophe which no one really is addressing in full," she said.
Caldicott said the radiation is having a major effect on the seafood coming from the Pacific Ocean so it is prudent for people to stop eating fish caught in this part of the world. She also warned: "Do not eat any Japanese food because you don't know where it's sourced. Do not eat fish from Japan, miso, rice, you name it. Do not eat Japanese food. Period. Um, fish caught off the west coast of Canada and America, well, they're not testing the fish so I don't know what you'd do. Um, I mean, most of it's probably not radioactive but you don't know because you can't taste it."
Is the Fukushima radiation reaching North American soil and affecting the food grown along the California and Canadian coast? That is an unknown because Caldicott said the air-borne radioactive measuring instruments along the coast have been closed down. Our check with RadNet, the Environmental Protection Agencies' nationwide radiation monitoring system, confirms this. The problem has apparently been the government's budget cuts that are heavily affecting the EPA.
A report by Global Research stated that the latest testing by the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center finds that "radiation levels at radiation monioring stations all over the country were elevated . . . This is particularly true along the west coast of the United States. Every single day, 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean. That means that the total amount of radioactive material released from Fukushima is constantly increasing, and it is steadily building up in our food chain."
Beta is a lower form of radiation, but it has the potential of causing cancer when people and animals are exposed to it for any length of time. When taken internally the beta emissions in toxic fish products, for example can cause tissue damage as well as increase the risk of internal cancers.
Some beta-emitters like Iodine-131 attack the thyroid gland and Strontium-90 builds up in the bones and teeth. Carbon 14 spreads throughout the body.
If the reports are correct, the United States and Canada . . . and perhaps the entire Northern Hemisphere of the world, is under silent attack from the Fukushima disaster cannot be brought under control.
In conclusion Caldicott reiterated her concern about future earthquakes and tsunamis, which have happened historically in that part of Japan. "If there's another large earthquake, number one, all those tanks would be destroyed and the water would pour into the Pacific. Number two: there could be another meltdown, a release - huge release of radiation, um, from the damaged reactors. So, things are very tenuous, but they're not just tenuous now. They're going to be tenuous forever."
(c) 2019 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.
At a cabinet meeting in January, President Donald Trump sat with a poster of himself declaring, "Sanctions Are Coming," inspired by the TV series, Game of Thrones.
The Curse Of Donald Trump
Our ex-presidents should come forward to try to break the spell
By Michael Winship
I know that everyone's talking about the final episodes of HBO's Game of Thrones and some are comparing our current woes to the battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms.
Hell, even our hopeless tinpot dictator of a president has tweeted GoT memes and in his cabinet room admired a poster of himself that promoted the economic punishment of Iran, announcing "Sanctions Are Coming." Apparently, Trump didn't care that to normal people the Game of Thrones phrase from whence it came, "Winter Is Coming," is about a cold and bitter threat to all of civilization's survival. It was a picture of him and that's all that mattered. HBO and series cast members have let their displeasure be known.
But I keep thinking instead about another fantasy tale, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and the decades-long spell cast over good King Theodon of Rohan – the evil magic that clouds his judgment until the spell is broken by Gandalf the wizard and Theodon becomes a hero again.
Because, let's face it, a spell or curse sometimes seems the only reasonable explanation for why so many in the echelons of government and politics, people who should know better, have fallen under the thrall of our snake oil salesman-in-chief. I'm reminded of a TV show I worked on years ago in which that mentalist The Amazing Kreskin took a bunch of otherwise rational people to a New Jersey field and convinced them that flying saucers were hovering overhead.
In particular, the obsequious bootlicking that accompanies the illusion is a national embarrassment, more befitting the toadying of vassals to a Game of Thrones-like medieval king than men and women working for the president of an allegedly independent republic.
Remember that inaugural meeting of Trump's full cabinet in June 2017? First, he announced that in his first 143 days, "Never has there been a president... with few exceptions...who's passed more legislation, who's done more things than I have." A complete and total lie, but what else is new? He then went around the room and had every secretary say how wonderful he was. Even soon-to-be-booted chief of staff Reince Preibus chimed in: "We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda." Please, sir, I'd like another. It's been nothing but downhill since.
Beyond sorcery, there is, of course, a rational explanation. What they all quickly realized and the rest of us have come to know too well-including world leaders and despots-is that the only thing to which this president responds positively is abject flattery, the more outlandish and overblown the better.
And so to get what Republicans want-the power, money, deregulation, tax cuts and right-wing judges they crave-they'll say anything El Exigente wants to hear, and go blind, deaf and mute when it comes to his overall offensiveness, ineptitude and careless destruction of democracy. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently noted, "We are in a very, very, very challenging place, because we have a Republican Party that is complicit in the special-interest agenda... so they are not going to say anything."
Add to that their fear of Trump's zealous and idolatrous base and you have a party leadership as reluctant to protest as the noblemen who ignore their king's nakedness in "The Emperor's New Clothes." As GOP strategist and anti-Trumper Rick Wilson told the New York Times, "The Republican Party, and the Senate, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump. Occasionally, a few guys in the Senate will furrow their brows, but it will never be backed up by action. They wake up every day and pray, 'Please, God, don't let Trump be mean to me on Twitter.'"
All of this has only gotten worse with time, especially as Trump has felt more empowered, yet simultaneously cornered like the rat he is by the Mueller report and more than twenty, ongoing federal and state investigations and lawsuits. Note this past week's letter from now more than 700 former federal prosecutors who said that if Trump weren't president his behavior would "result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice."
To push back, he has relied on such sycophants to do his bidding as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Attorney General William Barr; the former fighting the release of the president's tax returns, the latter resisting every subpoena and and playing word games with the law, wrecking a once semi-reputable legal career as he continues abetting this administration's constant malfeasance. They clearly have decided that rules do not apply to the exalted likes of them. And don't forget to add to the toady roll call those enablers Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham and the rest of the GOP congressional leadership.
This lemming-like forfeit of morality and dignity would be comic if it weren't so tragic and deeply dangerous. Not surprisingly, it permeates right-wing media as well-to the risible depths of last week's "Fox & Friends"' reaction to The Times' reporting of Trump's 1985-94 tax returns.
The article revealed that he had hemorrhaged more than a billion dollars in that period-at one point losing "more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer." But "Fox & Friends" co-host Ainsley Earhardt declared, "If anything, you read this and you're like: 'Wow, it's pretty impressive all the things that he's done in his life.' It's beyond what most of us could ever achieve."
I'm slapping my forehead. For the week's most idiotic rationalization, it was right up there with Secretary of State Pompeo's declaration that the Arctic ice melt was good for opening new shipping lanes to trade. And yet an audience that watches, reads or listens to all this and little else is mesmerized, convinced of its veracity.
This thick haze of credulity and willful, belligerent ignorance will kill us all. In truth, if the version of the Deep State about which Donald Trump fantasizes and rants really existed, he'd be gone by now. Since that's not the case, to tide us over for the next twenty months we have to turn the screws on Congress to bring to bear the force of investigation and impeachment while working our collective asses off to vote this president and his bilious band out of our lives.
But here's another idea, perhaps as fantastical as those fire-breathing dragons on Game of Thrones. Our living ex-presidents should come forward and together as one make a big public statement -- even do so in front of the White House -- decrying what that building's current inhabitant is doing to the office of the presidency and American democracy. Break the tradition of former chief executives keeping mum about their successors. There's just too much at stake.
All four -- Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- or maybe just one of the Democrats and Bush, to keep it even between Democrats and Republicans -- could lay it all out, chapter and verse, like their own State of the Union, detailing what Trump has done, is doing, and may do in the name of vile and avaricious self-interest to destroy our nation and what's left of our principles.
What have they -- or we --got to lose? Winter Is Coming.
(c) 2019 Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on twitter:@MichaelWinship
What Are The Risks Of Not Impeaching Trump?
By Heather Digby Parton
The president of the United States blew up an epic tweetstorm this past week-end hitting on subjects from the trade talks with China to his son's subpoena from the Senate Intelligence committee and a number of others in between. It was a manic performance that returned repeatedly to one subject, however. He continues to publicly vent his spleen about the Russia investigation and the Mueller Report even taking the risky step of contradicting his former White House Counsel Don McGahn:
I was NOT going to fire Bob Mueller, and did not fire Bob Mueller. In fact, he was allowed to finish his Report with unprecedented help from the Trump Administration. Actually, lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan!
He was clearly glued to his television all weekend and worked himself up into a frenzy, finally culminating with this final series late on Sunday evening:
"Even Director James Clapper admits that the FBI actions against the Trump Presidential Campaign do in fact meet the definition of spying, perhaps FBI Director Christopher Wray will be the next to do so." @LouDobbs
....and the Democrat National Committee-The Democrat Party apparatus-has been caught using donor Dollars to Collude with Russian Intelligence to attack a domestic political opponent (me). The FBI has no leadership. The Director is protecting the same gang.....that tried to....
His last tweet said:
....overthrow the President through an illegal coup. (Recommended by previous DOJ)
In other words, he's not only blaming the last administration, he's now turned his aim at the current FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said last week that he didn't consider what the FBI did during the last campaign to be "spying." So now he is accused of protecting people who tried to overthrow the president through an illegal coup.
We've long since come to the point at which the media just figuratively rolls its eyes at Trump's comments and twitter feed, as if its some kind of primal scream therapy for the man. Much of the country probably does the same thing. But the people who follow him take this seriously and they have been convinced that the Special Counsel's investigation wasn't just a "witch hunt" but an attempted coup. And anyone in government who says otherwise will soon be in the crosshairs.
This is a president who has already been named as an unindicted co-defendant in a felony for which his former lawyer is now serving time in a federal prison. The Mueller investigation found that he and his campaign welcomed the sabotage of his opponent in the 2016 election which falls under the category of grossly unethical even if it isn't strictly illegal. And there is little doubt that he repeatedly obstructed justice during that probe. The Special Counsel, precluded from bringing charges by DOJ policy, clearly meant for his report to be a "roadmap" for the House of Representatives to consider an impeachment inquiry.
So far the Democratic majority has balked at doing that because they believe it presents too big a risk. Some are fighting the last war, believing that the Clinton impeachment worked against the Republicans and would do the same to them. (This will come as a surprise to President George W. Bush.) Others believe they will be punished for "over-reaching" and that Trump will garner sympathy from people who don't currently support him. A few contend that this is a big trap laid by the master strategist Trump who knows he will become much more popular if he's engaged in an impeachment fight. But the most common excuse is that impeachment would simply be too divisive and the country just can't deal with that.
All of these reasons are based upon the simple calculation that since Republicans are so blindly partisan there is no chance to convict Trump in a Senate trial, which requires a 2/3rds vote to remove him. This means that an impeachment proceeding will result in a failure to remove the president, which Democrats think people will interpret as more evidence of his omnipotence. And that could happen, no doubt about it. Trump will certainly spin it that way and the GOP seems ready to echo all of his ridiculous boasts. It's a risk.
As Martin Longman at The Washington Monthly pointed out in this post, the problem is a result of a mistake by the founders: the failure to properly reckon with factionalism, a tendency they desperately wanted to avoid, after having observed centuries of civil wars in Europe. But they clearly failed. Political parties emerged almost immediately and have been part of the system ever since. There have been terrible periods of partisan strife but with the exception of the immediate post civil war presidency of Andrew Johnson, there were no presidential impeachment proceedings until 40 years ago. Perhaps that was a function of working norms of political behavior that kept presidents and their partisan opposition in the congress from pushing that envelope. If so, it's clear those norms are gone.
We are seriously contemplating a third impeachment out of the last eight presidencies.
In all the recent cases it was one faction, the Republicans, that busted the norms. Nixon committed high crimes, the Clinton impeachment was a GOP farce which the public rejected in massive numbers and now we have Trump. In all the cases, however, no president has yet been convicted. (Nixon resigned but you have to wonder if he might have been able to tough it out after all.) What all these failed impeachments demonstrate is that as long as a president can hold one-third of the Senate plus one, they are immune from removal or legal punishment. The point is that our system has an extremely poor mechanism for removing a president who commits high crimes and misdemeanors.
Donald Trump has decided to push that weakness to the limit. He isn't just exercising executive privilege. He's defying all congressional oversight. The White House has refused to respond to any requests from the House of Representatives at all since the new Congress was sworn in. He and his henchmen have surmised that the Democrats will flail about impotently, demanding witnesses and issuing subpoenas and the public will reward Trump for his strength and defiance.
If that's true, we have a much bigger problem. And it raises the question: what are the risks if the Democrats don't impeach?
On a political level, consider whether or not Trump's criminal behavior and defiance of congressional oversight results in nothing but delayed court cases and handwringing in the press. Will he not get just as much credit from his base for resisting the Democrats' demands as he would for fending off an impeachment conviction by the good graces of Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell? He technically "wins" either way but I think it's debatable as to which benefits him more.
But the stakes are much bigger than just the short term political considerations. If Republicans are able to demonstrate that Democrats won't move even in the face of a president like Trump, I think we can be very sure that further Republican presidents will no longer even bother to observe the law much less the norms and rules that have governed us since the beginning. They've been heading this way for some time.
Regardless of whether or not the Senate can protect the president from conviction, the risk of failing to impeach Trump is greater than the risk of doing it. If the Democrats refuse to even open an impeachment inquiry with all the evidence they have at hand, it's pretty clear that the entire concept is dead. At that point we will have shown that a president is literally unimpeachable and is therefore above the law. Trump won't be the last to take advantage of that fact.
(c) 2019 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.
Norwegian EV owners enjoy incentives such as reduced tolls, bus-lane access and free parking and ferry rides.
Government Support For Electric Vehicles Drives Down Emissions
By David Suzuki
Electric vehicles won't save us from runaway climate change, but they're part of the solution, along with support for public transit and active transport like waking and cycling. The transportation sector accounts for almost one-quarter of the world's carbon emissions, so it's an area where change is necessary and possible.
As Norway and other countries are demonstrating, incentives and tax policy can move people quickly into cleaner vehicle options. Half of Norway's cars are expected to be electric this year, and it's on track to meet its commitment to have only zero-emissions cars sold by 2025. Its strong EV mandate, inexpensive hydropower, tax incentives and price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles contributed to this success.
Reduced tolls, bus-lane access and free parking and ferry rides sweetened the option for Norwegians. Only four per cent of the country's EV owners say they would go back to conventional cars.
Norway is ahead of much of the world, but electric vehicles are on track to reach more than half of global new car sales by 2040. Government policies have driven this shift. The Norwegian government offered about US$1 billion in incentives this year, including waiving high vehicle import duties and taxes for electric car buyers. The government plans to phase these out in 2021, gradually replacing them with higher taxes on fossil-fuelled vehicles.
Although Canada isn't embracing the full policy package needed for significant behavioural change, it's making progress, with commitments to reach 100 per cent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2040, and 2025 and 2030 targets coming. But it's a long road ahead. Just 2.5 per cent of total vehicle sales last year were electrics. Federal rebates implemented in May should boost electric vehicle sales, but we need mandatory targets.
Provincially, B.C. and Quebec are echoing California, which in 1990 became the first place to set up a zero-emission vehicle standard. One of 10 new vehicles purchased there last year were EVs. Quebec's mandate sets a target for one-third of all new vehicles sales to be EV by 2030. B.C.'s mandate, expected to become law soon, requires that all new light-duty car and truck sales be zero-emission by 2040. That could play a big role in helping B.C. meet its transportation climate targets.
Municipalities and provinces can help prepare for the EV transition by building more public charging infrastructure and requiring new residential buildings to install chargers or be electric-vehicle friendly. Other ways to lower transportation emissions include cleaning up the electricity used to charge EVs and reducing the carbon content of fuels for non-electric vehicles with biofuels or hydrogen produced from renewables.
Even without government interventions, electric vehicles may cost less than gas-powered cars by 2024, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts. Add lower operating and maintenance costs and savings from forgoing high-priced gas, and there are many incentives to switch. Hydro-Quebec's online calculator estimates it costs $10.65 to drive a gas-fuelled compact car 100 kilometres and $2.10 for an electric.
EV travel range continues to increase and they're performing well in cold weather. Electric motors are also efficient, whereas internal combustion engines waste much of the energy as heat. Used EV batteries are finding new lives in energy storage, and researchers are investigating how to make the lithium supply chain, from extraction to recovery, a model of the circular economy.
Despite their appeal, single occupancy electric vehicles don't address congestion in growing urban areas or the amount of valuable space parking consumes. Investments in active transportation and transit infrastructure promote healthier lives and livable urban environments. Shared high-speed, non-polluting transit remains the gold standard for livability, equity and health. Committed federal funding for transit is essential to create the kind of resilient communities climate change demands.
A recent study shows Canada's climate is warming at twice the global rate and that to prevent environmental catastrophe, human behaviour must change. Canada would be wise to emulate Norway and other countries and speed up its transition to a low- to no-carbon future.
Vice President Mike Pence Speaks At Access Intelligence Conference
Mike Pence Brought The Full Snowflake Persecution Complex To This Commencement Speech Liberty University graduates must fear the multiplex, according to the vice president.
By Charles P. Pierce
Mike Pence Brought The Full Snowflake Persecution Complex To This Commencement Speech
Liberty University graduates must fear the multiplex, according to the vice president.
Vice President Mike Pence, the administration*'s designated box of rocks whose entire portfolio consists of making sure the Bibles keep getting banged good and proper, gave the commencement speech at Liberty University at the invitation of Jerry Falwell, Jr., who hasn't been having the greatest of Christian weeks his own self. Pence was there to warn the assembled graduates that it's hard out there for holy folk, and that there's probably a Diocletian hiding in every movie theater. From USA Today:
"Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs," Pence said. "Be ready." With his wife, Karen, sitting on stage as he spoke, Pence recounted the "harsh attacks" he said they endured when she returned this year to teaching art at a Christian elementary school where she'd worked when he'd served in Congress. Unlike her previous stint, this time Karen Pence faced scrutiny after news reports pointed out that the school bans gay students and teachers. "Throughout most of American history, it's been pretty easy to call yourself Christian," Pence said. "It didn't even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now." Pence said the graduates will be asked not just to tolerate things that violate their faith, but to endorse them...
...Pence referenced the Biblical figures of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is warning graduates that they are going "to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture." The three men refused to worship a golden idol and were thrown into a fiery furnace. But after King Nebuchadnezzar saw them walking around in the flames unharmed, accompanied by the son of God, he had the men removed and said their God should be worshipped. "Just know this: If, like Shadrek, Meshach and Abednego you end up in the fire, there'll be another in the fire," Pence told the graduates, who applauded the reference.
If there's a more conspicuous combination of snowflake and drama queen in American politics than Mike Pence, I don't want to pass the collection plate to him.
And, anyway, here's our Scripture for Monday. It comes from the 16th Chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew:
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
I mean, that's a helluva deal from The Founder. The Gates of Hell can't damage his church. I don't think any of the cherub-faced Liberty U. grads have anything to worry about at the local multiplex, or from Joe Biden. Have a good summer, kids, and don't worry about Mike Pence.
(c) 2019 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.
"What good fortune for those in power that people do not think."
~~~ Adolf Hitler
Toad Venom They don't call it the God Molecule for nothing!
By Jane Stillwater
Many years ago I visited Zacatecas, an old colonial silver-mining town in northern Mexico with lots of historic architecture and stuff. And a strange thing happened to me back in Zacatecas as well. I met a young Mexican man named Vicente who belonged to some unpronounceable Native American tribe up near the US-Mexico border.
I had forgotten all about Vicente and my experiences in Zacatecas until the other day when I found an old wooden box containing my photos from back then. Here is the story of my encounters with Vicente. How could I possibly have forgotten about this!
Vicente was selling small bead-work craft items on the street in front of my guest house when I met him. "I'm on my way to the Feria de San Marcos in Aguascalientes," he said, "to sell toad venom gathered by mis amigos in the northern desert." Yuck! "Would you like to try some? It will change your world."
Change my world? Who could possibly resist such an offer. "Sure."
You gotta remember that I was a young beatnik back then, it was a different time, LSD was still legal in the United States, there were no iPhones to distract folks with cat videos -- and I was pretty much up for anything that might make me spiritual and wise. I inhaled the venom. I passed out cold. I saw visions. I was floating. I became an angel, a goddess. I saw colors and rainbows and stars. I loved this stuff!
I found out later that toad venom is called the "God Molecule" -- clearly for a good reason.
That whole experience took about 45 minutes and then I was once again suddenly back on planet Earth -- and equipped with the firm realization that my life was going in the right direction, that things were lovely and that I needed to keep up working for Peace on Earth. "Let's do this again!"
Then there was the second time that I took toad venom. A totally different story altogether. It was like a dress rehearsal for Death. The best way to explain this experience was through the acronym P.A.N.D.A.
First I was physically Paralyzed. Couldn't move a muscle. Just laid there. My brain was fully engaged but nothing else worked.
Second, I was given the clear realization that I was all Alone in this world. Period. No backup. No friendly friends, no family -- just me.
Third, it became crystal-clear that I had No future. "Not even any?" I asked the toad. Nope. None.
Fourth, I was visited by Death itself. And death was a good thing, absolutely nothing to be afraid of. And on the other side of Death there lay a beautiful magical kingdom, Heaven, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the Pure Land. "Wow!"
And, last, I found myself floating up through the stars, At one with the universe.
A half-hour later, I was back on this planet -- and much, much, much wiser. "But Vicente," I asked. "Isn't all this exactly what a toad might want me to think -- right before it eats me? Paralyzed, alone, with no future, not afraid of Death?"
Vicente just laughed and thought I was cute. He went back on the road to the fair and I went back to the Lower East Side where I was living at the time -- feeling both more spiritual and a little bit wiser.
Maybe it's time that we also gave our current government leaders in Washington some toad venom as well. It could either make them more spiritual and wiser -- or else toads might come and eat them up too. P.A.N.D.A. But this would be a fate they totally deserve for being so ugly, greedy and evil -- for starting all those endless and stupid "wars" for fun and profit, lying about almost everything and stealing food out of our babies' mouths. Yep, let's do it. The God Molecule don't like ugly!
PS: Things have changed a lot since my trip to Zacatecas. No one in America today seems to be even the slightest bit interested in becoming either more spiritual or wiser. And for those of us who do try our best to become more like Christ or Buddha? We have no media megaphone at all -- and in fact the screws on us are getting tighter and tighter. All too many of us are ending up in jail just for speaking the truth.
I just heard a talk by an author who, in desperation, had to turn to comic books and graphic novels to get his point across to Americans -- that we are being used and abused by the non-spiritual and definitely un-wise dolts in DC who are currently at the top of their wicked pyramid scheme to steal our country's wealth. The other author on the platform talked about weaving her heroine's fight against disaster capitalism into her romance novels. Harlequin Romances goes rogue? Apparently so.
Perhaps they should also start making wiser and more spiritual cat videos too!
Corporate bosses don't talk about it in public, but among themselves - psssst - they whisper excitedly about implementing a transformative "AI agenda" across our economy.
AI stands for artificial intelligence, the rapidly-advancing digital technology of creating thinking robots that program themselves, act on their own, and even reproduce themselves. These automatons are coming soon to a workplace near you!
Not wanting to stir a preemptive rebellion by human workers, corporate chieftains avoid terms like automation of jobs, instead substituting euphemisms like "digital transformation" of work. Privately, however, top executives see AI as their path to windfall profits and personal enrichment by replacing whole swaths of their workforce with an automated army of cheap machines that don't demand raises, take time off, or form unions.
As one prominent tech exec confided to the New York Times, AI "will eliminate 40 percent of the world's jobs within 15 years." Some CEOs are so giddy about AI's profiteering potential that they openly admit their intentions. Take Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant hailed as a job creating savior last year by Donald Trump. It was given $3 billion in public subsidies to open a huge manufacturing plant in Wisconsin, but it's now reneging and declaring that it intends to replace 80 percent of its global workforce with robots within 10 years. Corporate apologists say displaced humans can be "reskilled" to do something else. But what? Where? When? No response.
Executives try to skate by the human toll by saying that the machine takeover is the inevitable march of technological progress. Hogwash! There's nothing "natural" about the AI agenda - it's a choice being made by an elite group of corporate and political powers trying to impose their selfish interests over us.
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, Donald J. Trump, 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 demanding that women shouldn't have control of their bodies, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican Whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!
Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Trump at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-18-2019. We salute you Frau Collins, Sieg Heil!
Wealth is also passed from generation to generation. An estimated 60% of the wealth in the United States is inherited. Many of today's super-rich never did a day's work in their lives. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percentof Americans combined.
America is now on the cusp of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers die, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.
Over time, this wealth will continue to grow even further - without these folks lifting a finger. This concentration of wealth will soon resemble the kind of dynasties common to European aristocracies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
It's exactly what our Founding Fathers sought to combat by creating a system of government and economy grounded in meritocracy.
Dynastic wealth puts economic power into the hands of a relatively small number of people who make decisions about where and how to invest most of the nation's capital, as well as which nonprofit enterprises and charities deserve support, and what politicians merit their campaign contributions.
That means their decisions have a disproportionately large effect on America's future.
Chris Hedges gave this talk to 27 graduating students who were formerly incarcerated-several of whom he taught in prison-and their families at Rutgers University on Friday. The ceremony was held by the Mountainview Program at Rutger>, which helps students complete their degrees at Rutgers after they take college courses inside prisons through the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons Consortium (NJ-STEP) program.
My fellow college graduates: Integrity is not an inherited trait. It is not conferred by privilege or status or wealth. It cannot be bequeathed by elite schools or institutions. It is not a product of birth or race or gender. Integrity is not a pedigree or a brand. Integrity is earned. Integrity is determined not by what we do in life, but what we do with what life gives us. It is what we overcome. Integrity is the ability to affirm our dignity even when the world tells us we are worthless. Integrity is forged in pain and suffering, loss and tragedy. It is forged in the courtrooms where you were sentenced. It is forged in the shackles you were forced to wear. It is forged in the cages where you lived, sometimes for decades. It is forged in the cries of your children, those who lost their mothers or their fathers to the monstrosity of mass incarceration. It is forged in the heartache of your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your spouses and your partners. Integrity is forged by surmounting the hell around you to study in a cramped and claustrophobic cell for the college degree no one, perhaps not even you, thought you would ever earn. Integrity is to refuse to become a statistic. Integrity is to rise up and shout out to an indifferent universe: I AM SOMEBODY. And today no one can deny who you are, what you have achieved and what you have become-college graduates, men and women of integrity who held on fiercely to your dignity and your capacity to exert your will, and triumphed.
Several of you are my former students: Boris, Steph, Tone, Hanif and Ron-although to be honest it is hard for me to use the word "former." To me you always will be my students. I have spent many hours with you in prison classrooms. I know the scars you bear. You will bear these scars, this trauma, for life. Own your suffering. Do not deny it. And know that healing comes only by reaching out to others who suffer. It is to say to those thrown aside by society: "I too was despised. I too was where you are. I too felt alone and abandoned. But like me, you can and will endure." I am not romantic about suffering. I saw a lot of it as a war correspondent. Suffering can make some people better. Others, it degrades and destroys. But those who surmount suffering, who hold fast to compassion and empathy, can become what Carl Jung called "wounded healers." Thornton Wilder, in his play "The Angel That Troubled the Waters," wrote, "Without your wounds, where would your power be? ... The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve." And there was something else I learned as a war correspondent: Education is morally neutral. The highly educated can be as cruel and sadistic as the illiterate. This is why so many human predators who profit from the misery of the poor in corporations such as Goldman Sachs have been groomed in Ivy League universities. This is why James Baldwin wrote that "brilliance without passion"-and by this he means moral passion-"is nothing more than sterility."
In Tony Kushner's play "Angels in America" he writes of the suffering and demonization of gay men with AIDS, not unlike the suffering and demonization many of you have felt as members of the criminal caste.
"In your experience of the world. How do people change?" Harper asks.
"Well it has something to do with God so it's not very nice," the Mormon mother answers. "God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching."
"And then get up," Harper says. "And walk around."
"Just mangled guts pretending," the Mormon mother affirms.
"That's how people change," says Harper.
Trauma is not static. It is dynamic. It is written on your flesh. These scars will keep you honest if you use them to see your own face in those who are demonized-women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, poor people of color. If truth is to be heard, as Theodor Adorno wrote, suffering must be allowed to speak. Flannery O'Connor recognized that the moral life always entails confrontation with the world. "St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: 'The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.' No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller."
There are people in this room who committed crimes, but there are no criminals here today. Not that criminals do not exist. Is it not criminal to allow more than 12 million children in the United States to go to bed hungry every night while Amazon, which earned $11 billion in profits last year, paid no federal taxes? In fact, in our system of corporate welfare, Amazon received a $129 million tax rebate from the federal government. Is it not criminal that half of all Americans live in poverty, or near-poverty, while the three richest men in America, including the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, have combined fortunes worth more than the total wealth of the poorest half of Americans? Is it not criminal that millions of factory jobs, which once allowed families to earn a living wage with health and retirement benefits, have been shipped to places like Monterrey, Mexico, where Mexican workers in GM plants earn $3 an hour without benefits? Is it not criminal that our families have been sacrificed to feed the mania for corporate profit, left to rot in violent and post-industrial wastelands such as Newark or Camden? Is it not criminal to harass and terrorize the poor on the streets of our cities for petty activities, such as selling loose cigarettes or "obstructing pedestrian traffic," which means standing too long on a sidewalk, while Bank of America, Citibank and Goldman Sachs have never been held accountable for trashing the global economy, wiping out 40 percent of the world's wealth through fraud? Is not criminal that, as poverty has gone up and crime has actually gone down, our prison population has more than doubled?
George Bernard Shaw got it right:
Poverty is "the worst of crimes. All the other crimes are virtues beside it; all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities, spreads horrible pestilences, strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound, or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then. What do they matter? They are only the accidents and illnesses of life; there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill-fed, ill-clothed people. They poison us morally and physically; they kill the happiness of society; they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime; we all fear poverty."
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said of society that "some are guilty, but all are responsible." The crime of poverty is a communal crime. Our failure, as the richest nation on earth, to provide safe and healthy communities, ones where all children have enough to eat and a future, is a communal crime. Our failure to provide everyone, and especially the poor, with a good education is a communal crime. Our failure to make health care a human right and our forcing parents, burdened with astronomical medical bills, to bankrupt themselves to save their sick sons or daughters are communal crimes. Our failure to provide meaningful work-in short, the possibility of hope-is a communal crime. Our decision to militarize police forces and build prisons, rather than invest in people, is a communal crime. Our misguided belief in charity and philanthropy rather than justice is a communal crime. "You Christians have a vested interest in unjust structures which produce victims to whom you then can pour out your hearts in charity," Karl Marx said, chastising a group of church leaders.
If we do not work to eliminate the causes of poverty, the greatest of all crimes, the institutional structures that keep the poor poor, then we are responsible. There are issues of personal morality, and they are important, but they mean nothing without a commitment to social morality. Only those who have been there truly understand. Only those with integrity speak the truth. And this is why I place my faith in you.
My first student to get out of prison, nearly four years ago, Boris Franklin, is graduating today. I met him with his mother at the gate. He had spent 11 years inside. His first words to me were "I have to rebuild my library."
Boris was part of the class in East Jersey State Prison that wrote the play "Caged." He and I devoted hundreds of hours over the last four years editing and rewriting it for the stage. It was performed a year ago at the Passage Theatre in Trenton, with Boris taking one of the pivotal roles. It was sold out nearly every night, attended by families who knew too intimately the pain of mass incarceration.
In that class we read August Wilson's play "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." The conjurer Bynum Walker tells traumatized African Americans emerging from the nightmare of slavery and lynching that they each have a song, but they must seek it out. Once they find their song, they will find their unity as a people, their inner freedom and their identity. The search for one's song in Wilson's play functions like prayer. It gives each person a purpose, strength and hope. It allows a person, even one who has been bitterly oppressed, to speak his or her truth defiantly to the world. Our song affirms us, even if we are dejected and despised, as human beings.
Boris was as determined as I to make that song, your song, heard outside the prison walls, to lift up that truth, to affirm the integrity of those the world has forgotten and demonized. Your song is vital. It must be heard. I do not know if I could have endured what you have endured and become who you have become. Boris once told our friend Michael Nigro that he did not understand why people like me went into the prison, that in the 'hood when somebody did something for you, he or she usually wanted something. But you should know, my students, what you have given me. It cannot be quantified monetarily. It is one of the most precious things I possess. It is your friendship. And that is why today I am the most blessed among you.
(c) 2019 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 www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges.
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