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In This Edition


Norman Solomon asserts, "There Is Only One True Choice For Progressives In 2020."

Josh Voorhees concludes, "Bernie Can Offer Something His 2020 Rivals Can't. Will It Be Enough?"

Glen Ford finds, "Pelosi Sabotages Medicare For All, But Corporate Media Pretend Not To Notice."

Lee Camp joins us with a must read, "Everyone Has Fallen For The Lies About Venezuela."

David Swanson asks, "Will The U.S. Senate Let The People Of Yemen Live?"

John Nichols wonders, "Bernie Can Offer Something His 2020 Rivals Can't. Will It Be Enough?"

James Donahue wonders, "Can Global Warming Bring Arctic Winter?"

William Rivers Pitt asks, "Can Trump's Wall Survive His Fake Emergency?"

Heather Digby Parton reports, "Bill Barr Has A History Of Partisan Interference."

David Suzuki says, "Children Should Be Seen And Heard."

Charles P. Pierce declares, "Mark Harris Should Never Sit In The U.S. Congress."

Ralph Nader considers, "The Realized Temptations Of NPR And PBS."

Jane Stillwater examines, "Syria's Assad & Venezuela's Madero."

Newspaper editor Goodloe Sutton, wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich observes, "Dictator Trump."

Chris Hedges warns of, "Worshipping The Electronic Image."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Jeff Bezos Chooses Soon-to-Be Bankrupt Mar-a-Lago As New Amazon Headquarters," but first Uncle Ernie listens to tRump, "Ramble On."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Ken Catalino, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from, Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Dennis Van Tine, Sean Rayford, JB Lacroixd, Chip Somodevilla, Joe Raedle, World Economic Forum, Shutterstock, Reuters, Flickr, AP, Getty Images, Black Agenda Report, You Tube, and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments-

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

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













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Ramble On
By Ernest Stewart

"I get my numbers from a lot of sources, like Homeland Security, primarily. And the numbers that I have from Homeland Security are a disaster. And you know what else is a disaster? The numbers that come out of Homeland Security, Kirstjen [Nielsen], for the cost that we spend and the money that we lose because of illegal immigration. Billions and billions of dollars a month. Billions and billions of dollars and it's unnecessary. . . . I use many stats . . . you have stats far worse than the ones I use, but I use many stats. But I also use Homeland Security." ~~~ Donald tRump

Wally was unique, brilliant and combative. He wasn't fooled by the cooling of the 1970s. He saw clearly the unprecedented warming now playing out and made his views clear, even when few were willing to listen." ~~~ Michael Oppenheimer ~ Princeton University professor

"If you're honest with yourself, you're going to find out whether you truly love America, or whether your primary allegiance is to the Republican party." ~~~ Vincent Bugliosi

You know, the landlord rang my front door bell
I let it ring for a long, long spell
I went to the window,
I peeped through the blind,
And asked him to tell me what's on his mind

He said,
Money, honey, uh uh
Money, honey
Money, honey, if you want to get along with me
Money Honey ~~~ Elvis Aaron Presley



I just read tRump's speech on declaring a national emergency for his border wall and where, oh where to begin? If I turned in something like that speech to my publisher I hate to think of what his reply would be. If I presented sentence structure of a raving 10 year old I'd be warned not to give up my day-timer just yet!

You would think in a speech about declaring a national emergency which most folks think is illegal as it violates the power of the purse which is vested in the Congress as laid down in the Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 to be percise and more importantly and Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 (the Taxing and Spending Clause). He wouldn't have started about his trade wars with China. You would have thought that, but you don't have the brains of a duck like tRump has! Oh, and yes I must now give a deep, sincere apology, to all the members of duckdom for comparing their mental facillities to those of tRumps!

tRump Rambled on, "I didn't need to do this," he added, undermining any legal justification for an emergency declaration. "But I'd rather do it much faster." I'm going to repeat that again, for those of you on drugs.

tRump couldn't be bothered with obeying the law because, to do so, takes up too much of his TV time.


tRump says he has to do it because he promised his cult that we would build a wall, forgetting that he also promised that Mexico would pay for it. Not to mention when he controlled the House and the Senate for two years and could have easily passed anything that he wanted, he chose to work instead on getting himself and his 1% pals a gigantic tax cut, instead of passing his wall emergency. 2020 you can not come quick enough!

In Other News

I see where the scientist who raised early alarms about climate change and popularized the term "global warming" died. Wallace Smith Broecker was 87. The longtime Columbia University professor and researcher died Monday at a New York City hospital.

Broecker brought "global warming" into common use with a 1975 article that correctly predicted rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced warming. He later became the first person to recognize what he called the Ocean Conveyor Belt, a global network of currents affecting everything from air temperature to rain patterns.

In the Ocean Conveyor Belt, cold, salty water in the North Atlantic sinks, working like a plunger to drive an ocean current from near North America to Europe. The Gulf Stream waters borne by this current help keep Europe's climate mild.

Otherwise, he said, Europe would be a deep freeze, with average winter temperatures dropping by 20 degrees Fahrenheit or more and London feeling more like Spitsbergen, Norway, which is 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

As I've said before we've known all about global warming since the 1950s when some oil companies tried to cover it up, and some scientists predicted global warming back in the 1890s. And yet tRump has us cutting our own throats, so his energy pals can make a buck!

And Finally

It's always something! I'm sure you've heard by now about the 6th grade student in Florida who got arrested for not say the pledge of allegiance. Yes, I know, it's against the law to make someone recite the pledge or salute Old Gory as it's a violation of our first amendment rights. The student didn't want to pledge to Old Gory as he thought the flag is racist, imagine that! The substitute teacher didn't know and called the cops, who apparently didn't know either so they changed the charges to save their face and charged the 11 year old because "he started a disturbance" by not saying the pledge. Yeah, I know!

The substitute teacher didn't know that students can't be compelled to participate in the pledge, the school district said. That's been true since 1943, when the Supreme Court ruled in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that students couldn't be forced to salute the US flag or say the pledge because doing so would violate their First Amendment rights. Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the majority opinion, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."

The case ended up with the high court after West Virginia's state Board of Education passed a resolution in 1942 requiring students and teachers to salute the flag. A group of Jehovah's Witnesses sued, saying the requirement went against their religious beliefs.

So, it's been the law of the land that a poem written in a magazine in 1892 is not a requirement to recite. This poem was added to in 1954 when the Rethuglicans changed it from, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Not a bad thought, but of course, it's never been true. The Rethuglicans changed it to, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Can I get a sieg heil, America?

Keepin' On

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

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

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

*****


11-29-31 ~ 02-18-2019
Thanks for the warning!



02-13-1942 ~ 02-21-2019
Thanks for the laughs and the music!


*****

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

*****

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

Until the next time, Peace!

(c) 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.







There Is Only One True Choice For Progressives In 2020
By Norman Solomon

Presidential candidate Kamala Harris began this week in the nation's first primary state by proclaiming what she isn't. "The people of New Hampshire will tell me what's required to compete in New Hampshire," she said, "but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist."

Harris continued: "I believe that what voters do want is they want to know that whoever is going to lead, understands that in America today, not everyone has an equal opportunity and access to a path to success, and that has been building up over decades and we've got to correct course."

Last summer, another senator now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren, went out of her way to proclaim what she is. Speaking to the New England Council on July 16, she commented: "I am a capitalist to my bones."

A week later, Warren elaborated in a CNBC interview: "I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets. What I don't believe in is theft, what I don't believe in is cheating. That's where the difference is. I love what markets can do, I love what functioning economies can do. They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity. But only fair markets, markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all, it's about the powerful get all of it. And that's what's gone wrong in America."

In the obvious contrasts with Harris and in the less obvious yet significant contrasts with Warren on matters of economic justice as well as on foreign policy, Bernie Sanders represents a different approach to the root causes of - and possible solutions to - extreme economic inequality, systemic injustice and a dire shortage of democracy.

It's not mere happenstance that Bernie is willing to use the word "oligarchy" to describe the current social order in the United States. What's more, he pointedly ties his candid analysis of reality to more far-reaching - and potentially effective - solutions.

Now that Bernie has announced he's running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, progressives will need to decide on how to approach the contest. Anyone with feet on the ground understands that the Democratic nominee will be the necessary means to achieve the imperative of preventing a Republican from winning another four years in the White House. So, who is our first choice - whose campaign deserves strong support - to be the nominee of a Democratic Party that has remained chronically dominated by corporate power?

The "tweak options," represented by Sen. Harris, recycle the kind of mild populist rhetoric that served the presidential aspirations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama so well. Corporate interests backed them from the outset, and corporate interests benefited. Overall, Wall Street soared while Main Street got clobbered.

The "regulatory options," represented by Sen. Warren, would be a positive departure for the top of the Democratic Party. Yet the constrained analysis (markets I>"are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity") puts forward constrained remedies, more palliative than cure.

The tweak options are fully compatible with further consolidation of the reign of corporate power that has enthroned oligarchy in the United States.

Strong regulatory options, if implemented, could roll back some excesses of corporate power, and that would certainly be progress. But we live in a world where mere plodding progress won't be enough to halt catastrophic trends.

The concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to more and more disastrous momentum, from vast income inequality to out-of-control climate change to rampant militarism. For those who want the next president to fight for solutions that match the scale of such problems, the choice should be clear.

One of the most exciting aspects of the upcoming Bernie campaign is the enormous potential for synergies with social movements. There are bound to be tensions - that's inherent in the somewhat divergent terrains of seriously running for office and building movements - but the opportunities for historic breakthroughs are right in front of us.

Meanwhile, corporate media outlets are poised to be even more negative toward the Bernie campaign than they were last time. This time, independent progressive media outlets - especially online - will be vital and could prove to be decisive.

The only real hope for the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign is that a grassroots uprising will become powerful enough to overcome the massive obstacles. It's a huge cooperative task, but success is possible.

(c) 2019 Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."




Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd during the annual Martin Luther King Jr.
Day at the Dome event on January 21, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina.



Bernie Can Offer Something His 2020 Rivals Can't. Will It Be Enough?
By Josh Vooreees

Bernie Sanders is not shy about his ambitions for 2020. In the 2016 Democratic primary, the Vermont senator claimed about 43 percent of the votes and 46 percent of the (non-super) delegates, a remarkable showing against one of the biggest favorites in presidential nominating history. He says he'll do far better this time. "We're going to win," he told CBS News on Tuesday as part of his official campaign rollout. "We are also going to launch ... a grassroots network to lay the groundwork for transforming the economic and political life of this country."

That is easier said than done. Bernie is still beloved by his base, but he's not exactly picking up where he left off three years ago. He's spent most of the past year polling in the teens, a worrisome development for a candidate who has remained in the spotlight. 2020 will also come with new problems for the septuagenarian: He can't count on the support of the anybody-but-Hillary types who might not have agreed with him on policy but felt they had no other choice last time. And he already has plenty of competition from within the progressive wing of the party, many of whom can offer similar policy promises in far fresher packaging.

Still, Sanders won't get lost in the shuffle. As an independent, technically, he stands firmly on the left flank of the left wing of the party, and his progressive bona fides will not be in doubt at a time when newcomers who claim to be progressive will face skepticism. Informed voters know what they're going to get with Sanders, which will be central to his pitch. Among the top tier, Elizabeth Warren may be able to give him a run for his $27 when it comes to economic populism, but as a self-identified capitalist and a Democrat, she can't offer the same full-throated anti-establishment jeremiad that Bernie can. Warren and Sanders both rail against the status quo, but she wants to work to fix the system from within, while he can credibly sound like he wants to blow it up. That alone offers Sanders a clear justification for getting in the race.

His case is similarly made stronger by the emergence of a center lane in the Democratic primary. A month ago, the early frontrunners were all veering to the left; more than a few are now easing off the gas. Every time someone like Kamala Harris or Cory Booker glances over to the center-or when Amy Klobuchar or Sherrod Brown talk about pragmatism-Bernie's campaign will appear more compelling and even urgent to progressives, many of whom remain fearful that the eventual nominee will pivot hard to the middle in a general election against Trump.

Sanders' most pressing problem, however, may be that as much as the Democratic Party now sounds like him, it looks less like him. The 2018 midterms suggest there is clear appetite among the party's rank-and-file for candidates who are anything but an old white dude. How Sanders addresses that reality will be his first real test of his campaign.

His Tuesday rollout suggests he is serious about expanding his appeal beyond his white, male base-but he still has a high hurdle to clear. For instance, Sanders was quick to call Trump "a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe" in his announcement email to supporters, and his staff suggested Sanders will work to draw a stronger connection between economic inequality and racial inequality than he did in 2016. But asked by Vermont Public Radio on Tuesday morning whether he best represents "the face of the new Democratic Party," Sanders still sounded like a man who's not fluent in the language of lived experience. "We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age," Sanders said. "I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for." It's unlikely that answer is going to satisfy his critics if that's the beginning and end of his identity defense.

(c) 2019 Josh Voorheees







Pelosi Sabotages Medicare For All, But Corporate Media Pretend Not To Notice
By Glen Ford

When the top Democrat secretly plots to subvert a proposal supported by the vast majority of her party, that's supposed to be news -- unless the corporate media decide otherwise. Thanks to Bernie Sanders' presidential bid in 2016, his signature Medicare for All proposal is the litmus issue for Democrats in the unfolding 2020 campaign. With supermajority support among Democratic and independent voters and backed by more than half of Republicans, the single payer scheme was endorsed by a majority of Democratic candidates in November's House races. Most of the declared Democratic presidential candidates claim to back Medicare for All, including even New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who has accepted more money from Big Pharma than any other member of his party. So compelling is the issue, a Politico-Harvard poll shows that fully 84 percent of Democrats want the party to make Medicare for All "an extremely important priority."

It should be huge news, then, that the top Democrat in Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, is actively working to discredit and sideline the most popular domestic political proposal of the century. But, apparently not. The Intercept's February 5 blockbuster, "Top Nancy Pelosi Aide Privately Tells Insurance Executives Not to Worry About Democrats Pushing 'Medicare for All,'" was picked up by only one "mainstream" corporate media outlet: Newsweek. In burying this bombshell, the plutocrat-owned press is protecting Pelosi from the extreme embarrassment of being caught conspiring with insurance companies to subvert Democratic voters' highest priority issue, with the obvious aim of derailing Bernie Sanders' anticipated second run for the presidency.

The Intercept got its hands on the slide presentation that Pelosi advisor Wendell Primus presented to Blue Cross Blue Shield executives on December 4. Primus assured the executives that Democratic leadership has>"strong reservations" about Medicare for All and "would be allies to the insurance industry in the fight against single-payer health care." The slide presentation outlined Pelosi's three-prong attack on single payer:

1. Cost: "Monies are needed for other priorities."

2. Opposition: "Stakeholders are against; Creates winners and losers."

3. "Implementation challenges."

Primus's mission was to enlist the insurance industry as allies in Pelosi's planned counter-campaign to reduce drug prices, which is also good for Big Insurance bottom lines. But that requires assuring the insurance fat-cats that Medicare for All will, in Hillary Clinton's words, "never, ever come to pass." Pelosi's strategy is to orchestrate a defense of what's left of Obamacare while softening up the drug industry over prices -- in a possible alliance with Donald Trump, who signaled his willingness to partner with Democrats on the issue in his State of the Union address:

"It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, this is unfair, and together we will stop it. We will stop it fast. I am asking the Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients."
In light of the Primus presentation, it is clear that Pelosi had her "Grand Bargain" with Trump and the GOP in mind when she spoke of "a responsibility to seek common ground where we can," shortly after the polls closed in November. "Openness and transparency, accountability [and] bipartisanship [are] a very important part of how we will go forward."

Pelosi's game plan to deal with single payer supporters in her own party is exactly the opposite: subversion and backdoor deals to undermine Medicare for All, in secret.

The corporate media is part of the conspiracy of silence on Pelosi's undercover Medicare for All machinations, just as they collude in ignoring Bernie Sanders' steady stream of speeches on this issue and a slew of wildly popular proposals that would end private exploitation of a whole range of services to the people. Although single payer healthcare would directly benefit most businesses that employ workers, by eliminating profit-driven insurance payments and driving down drug and hospital costs, passage of Medicare for All would open Pandora's box, shattering the corporate consensus on endless austerity and the sanctity of the "market." Nobody but the Lords of Capital believes in the "market," which is nothing but the state-protected right to profiteer from essential human needs. To preserve the fiction that "there is no alternative" to capitalist markets (Margaret Thatcher), the corporate media erases the people's public options through its control of the political narrative.

That's what Russiagate is really about - not fantasy plotters in Moscow, but silencing actual dissent to the corporate narrative at home. Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders and his brand of Democrat "socialists" can't grasp the connection. They embrace the half of the corporate narrative that justifies endless war with Russia, China, Syria, and now Venezuela - while rejecting its twin: endless austerity. And then they wonder why the corporate narrative is just as hostile to single payer, free college tuition and a Green New Deal as it is to Putin, Assad and Maduro. Which leaves them at the mercy of their conniving corporate overseer, Nancy Pelosi.

(c) 2019 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com




Our American empire knows no bounds to its nation-building (after nation-destroying).




Everyone Has Fallen For The Lies About Venezuela
There are three things that seem to provoke the ornery United States into overthrowing or bringing down a foreign government, no matter how many innocent civilians may die in the process
By Lee Camp

There are three things I know for sure in this fanciful, sometimes inglorious experience we call life:

1. You will never have a safety pin when you need one, and you will have thousands when you don't need one.
2. Wild animals are breathtakingly majestic until they're crawling up your pant leg.
3. A U.S. presidential administration will never admit that it invaded another country or backed a coup attempt in order to essentially steal the natural resources (oil) of said country.
This is why it was so very shocking last week when members of the Trump administration admitted they were backing a coup attempt in order to essentially steal the natural resources (oil) of another country.

That country is Venezuela. I'll get back to this in a moment.

Let's take a second to go over the big three. There are three things that seem to provoke the ornery United States into overthrowing or bringing down a foreign government, no matter how many innocent civilians may die in the process. (If enough die, the perpetrators often get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.) If your country has one of these things, the U.S. might screw with you. If your country has two of these things, the U.S. will definitely screw with you. If your country has three of these things, then look behind you, because the U.S. is currently screwing you:

1. Being socialist.

Pretty self-explanatory. If you don't have the same economic system as we do, we treat it like you have candy and we're not allowed to have any, so we slip razor blades in yours and tell everyone your candy kills people.

2. Dropping the U.S. dollar.

Iraq dropped the dollar. We invaded.
Syria dropped the dollar. We invaded.
Iran dropped the dollar. We want to invade.
Libya dropped the dollar. We invaded.

Pakistan dropped the dollar in trade with China, and the following day the U.S. added them to the list of countries violating religious freedom. (I guess you could argue they did indeed violate our religion: The dollar.)

Basically, we do NOT take kindly to countries dropping the dollar.

In unrelated news, Venezuela dropped the dollar.

3. Having oil or other natural resources the U.S. needs.

In case you were curious, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the known world. (But we haven't checked northern Wyoming yet, because it's a long, cold drive with nary a 7-11.

So these are the three ACTUAL reasons the U.S. has created an attempted coup in Venezuela over the past several weeks. And right now, you are falling into one of two categories. Either you're saying to yourself, "Of course those are the reasons. Those are the only reasons the U.S. ever tries to bring down governments." OR you still have some strange, deep-rooted faith in our Pepsi-and-pharmaceutical-owned media outlets, and therefore you're thinking, "That's not true. The U.S. supports the opposition in Venezuela because we want to help those poor starving people." But if that were accurate, we would be tripping over ourselves to help starving and sick people around the world. Instead we (oddly) only seek to help them when they have oil under their feet. And in fact, data has proven this true. A study a few years ago from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex found that foreign intervention in civil conflicts is 100 times more likely if the country has a great deal of oil, versus none.

So who is feeding the average American the idea that our involvement in Venezuela is about helping people? Only EVERY mainstream media channel in America-from MSNBC to Fox News to NPR to Bill fuckin' Maher. It's truly mind-numbing to watch so-called "liberals" march in lockstep with the likes of John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, Donald Trump and every neocon not currently in a coma.

These outlets froth at the mouth while presenting segments explaining that the Venezuelan people are starving, but they also purposefully avoid mentioning that a lot of Venezuela's hardships are due to U.S. sanctions. This isn't to say Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, has done an awesome job. But whether he has or not, saying we must sanction them to help them is like if somebody fell through a plate glass window and you said, "Let's help him! Let's start cutting the glass shards out of his skin with this rusty flathead screwdriver I found in an abandoned mine! Then we'll pour Mountain Dew and sewage water in the wounds to help them heal!"

But that's what our sanctions are designed to do. They're devised from day one to hurt poor and average people the most, in order to make them angry enough to rebel. Over a year ago, when Rex Tillerson was secretary of state, he publicly said we could tell our sanctions on North Korea were working great because poor fishermen were washing up on the beaches starved to death. (One is perplexed by how difficult it is at times to tell the difference between "helping other countries" and mass murder.)

Sanctions are not smart bombs. They destroy everybody, except the rich-who have enough money to weather the sanctions. Come to think of it, sanctions are kind of like smart bombs. We're told they're only going to hit the bad guys, but in fact "smart bombs" kill all kinds of innocent civilians, just like sanctions do.

Furthermore, the U.S. "humanitarian aid" that we claim to be sending is not what it seems. Even NPR took a break from its traditional role as State Department stenographer-in-training to reveal that the "humanitarian aid" is actually meant to create regime change. And McClatchy last week uncovered that the North Carolina-based private freight company 21 Air LLC has made 40 secretive flights to Venezuela from the U.S. in the past month, and the Venezuelan government claimed the flights were filled to the brim with assault weapons and ammunition destined for opposition forces. (Apparently we thought the Venezuelans were going to cook up a fresh pot of bullet stew to ease their hunger pains.) To make matters worse, two executives at the company have ties to an air cargo company that helped the CIA "rendition" supposed terrorists to black sites for "interrogation" (read: torture).

The next piece of propaganda lovingly pedestalled by our mainstream media robot-heads is simply calling Juan Guaidó the "interim president" without mentioning that he was not elected to that position and only 30 out of 200 nations recognize him as such. He just declared himself president. Last I checked, that's not really how governments work. But if it is-OK, I hereby declare myself governor of ... let's say, Idaho. No one will really notice. I'm pretty sure the current governor is a hedgehog in a bow tie.

There are many other things CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and all the rest don't want you to know about Juan Guaido. For example, until he named himself president, 81 percent of Venezuelans didn't even know who he was, according to a poll conducted by the Venezuela-based firm Hinterlaces. And he only won his own assembly seat with 26% of the vote. In order to win elections in any country, you often need more than 30 percent of the people to have heard of you. Pauly Shore has more name recognition among Venezuelans than Juan Guaido.

On top of that, Guaido went to George Washington University. As the Grayzone Project reported, "[In 2007] He moved to Washington, D.C., to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund. ..."

Guaido went to GW, trained under Mr. IMF, and then we declared him president of Venezuela. That's like studying at the WWE, training under Henry Kissinger, and then the U.S. declares you the King of Japan.

But it doesn't stop there, according to the Grayzone Project:

"Juan Guaido is the product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington's elite regime change trainers. While posing as a champion of democracy, he has spent years at the forefront of a violent campaign of destabilization."

Furthermore, Juan Guaido has already said he wants to sell Venezuela's oil to foreign companies and let the IMF back in, which will drown the country in debt.

So he's an American regime-change pawn who was groomed by the IMF to take over Venezuela and give away their natural resources. What a catch. ... But if this is what the Venezuelan people really want, then we should respect their wishes. The corporate media tells us this is what the people want, right?

Except that it's not.

"According to a study conducted in early January 2019 ... 86 percent of Venezuelans would disagree with international military intervention," Grayzone's Ben Norton reported last month. "And 81 percent oppose the US sanctions that have gravely hurt the nation's economy."

So, based on the Hinterlaces poll, most Venezuelans didn't know Guaido until recently. Most Venezuelans still support Maduro even if they believe corruption in the government has increased (whether you personally like Maduro or not doesn't matter), and most Venezuelans don't want military intervention or U.S. sanctions. Yet CNN and NPR and Fox News and the BBC and every other corporate outlet will have you thinking everyone is starving to death, on their knees begging for America's democracy bombs to rain down like dollar bills at a strip club.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe those people really need our help, and U.S. intervention will work out great-exactly like it did in Syria,
and Yemen,
and Iraq,
and Iran,
and Afghanistan,
and Chile,
and Honduras,
and Haiti,
and Somalia,
and Libya,
and Guatemala,
and Nicaragua,
and Colombia,
and Panama,
and Fraggle Rock,
and those tree forts where the EWOKS LIVED!

Now that we have a general understanding of the situation (and why Anderson Cooper is not keen to remind viewers what happened with Fraggle Rock in the early '90s), let's get back to the question of oil.

When I first started writing this, I didn't have proof the American government wanted Venezuela's oil; it was just a hunch. Kinda like if you put a balloon in a room with a porcupine, you have a hunch he'll pop the balloon. But I didn't have a quote from a top Trump administration official saying, "We'd like to take their oil."

Then national security adviser and Mustache of Doom John Bolton said, "hold my beer." While on Fox News he stated clearly, "It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela."

That's Beltway Speak for "We want their oil."

For 20 years we've been trying to destroy Venezuela, and our government always gives the standard line: "We want to help the people. We care about their democracy. They have a lot of inflation, and that's why we need to drop our freedom bombs on their heads." They've trotted out that bullshit brigade under Bush, Obama and now Trump. The officials never just say, "Yeah, there's like, tons of oil there, and we want it."

Yet, here it is. The disguise of neoliberal world domination has come off. (Ironically, the fake mustache was yanked off to reveal a much larger mustache.)

Also, it's amazing how monotone and matter-of-fact Bolton is as he speaks. A U.S.-backed coup often ends in terrible violence with tens of thousands of innocent people killed. It's truly heartbreaking, no matter which side you support. Sometimes it ends up with a brutal military junta taking control. Yet, here is John Bolton discussing it the same way he would analyze whether to have chocolate fudge ice cream or apple pie for dessert. ("Hmmm, possible death of a hundred thousand people? That sounds good-I'll have that.")

This is all the more horrifying because these policies are decided by unelected maniacs like Elliot Abrams, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. Trump just named Abrams special envoy to Venezuela despite the fact the guy has a resume that would make Josef Mengele blush. And what's even more jaw-dropping is watching the liberati like Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher and nearly every democrat in Congress get in line to support the talking points of right-wing warlords (the belligerati) like Bolton, Abrams, Pompeo, Trump, Hannity and nearly every Republican in Congress. The mountains of propaganda put forward make it hard to breathe (the air is thinner up here).

Worse yet-even the Wall Street Journal stated the U.S. push to oust Maduro is just the first shot in the oligarchy's plan to reshape Latin America. It turns out sociopathy is addictive. Our American empire knows no bounds to its nation-building (after nation-destroying).

The Venezuelan people deserve self-determination, no matter how you feel about the current government. The absolute last thing they need is to be turned into a neocon / neoliberal parking lot in which America rips all their resources out from under them while calling it "freedom." Luckily, there are already many signs this U.S.-created attempted coup is failing.

(c) 2019 Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show "Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp" on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.







Will The U.S. Senate Let The People Of Yemen Live?
By David Swanson

In 1973 the War Powers Resolution weakened the U.S. Constitution's placement of the power to start and end wars with the first branch of the U.S. government, the Congress. The new law carved out exceptions to allow presidents to start wars. However, it also created procedures by which a single member or group of members of Congress could force a vote in Congress on whether to end a war. Despite weakening the written law, the War Powers Resolution may finally be about to prove itself to have strengthened the ability of proponents of peace to put an end to mass slaughter.

Since 1973 we've seen numerous wars waged in blatant violation of both the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, not to mention the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact. But we've also seen Congress members like my friend Dennis Kucinich force votes on whether to end wars. These votes have usually failed. And the Congress that ended this past December illegally refused (in the House) to even hold such votes. But debates have been created, people have been informed, and the notion that a law still exists that merits respect has been kept alive.

Never yet have both houses of Congress jointly passed a War Powers Resolution bill to end a war. That may soon change. On Wednesday, the House voted 248-to-177 to end one of the many current U.S. wars, that on Yemen. (Well, sort of. Keep reading.) Back in December, during the previous Congress, the Senate passed the same resolution (or nearly identical). So, the big question is now whether the Senate will do it again. If you're from the United States, I recommend calling (202) 224-3121, telling the operator what state you're from, and asking to speak with the offices of each of your two senators. Ask them if they will vote to let the people of Yemen live! Or click here to send them both an email.

Now, the Senate passed this in December, and the Senate didn't change much come January. But a vote to actually pass a bill together with the House, even in the face of a veto threat, is not the same as a vote to pass something the House is blocking. Back in December the hundreds of thousands of lives at stake in Yemen were apparently rendered meaningful by the one death of a Washington Post reporter, whose death has now apparently become old news, while the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children (busloads of little children) continue to not be worth much. Partisan pressure is also evident in the House vote, in which every No vote came from a Republican and almost all of the Republicans cast No votes. The Senate has a majority of Republicans.

Still, observers believe there is a good chance of passage, finally, these many weeks into the new Congress, which may at long last do the right thing without effectively communicating that it really grasps the urgency. Yemen continues, day after gruesome day, to be the worst humanitarian disaster on earth, with tens of thousands dead and far worse looming if action is not taken quickly. According to the World Health Organization, 24.4 million Yemenis, 80 percent of the country, are in need of humanitarian assistance, millions of children are suffering, and 16.6 million people lack water and sanitation services.

As in other recent U.S. wars in the Middle East, a result of the U.S./Saudi war on Yemen (just like the result of the U.S. drone murders that helped create the wider war) has been increased terrorism. Along the way, the United States and its allies have in fact sometimes partnered with Al Qaeda. A primary U.S. ally in the region is, of course, Saudi Arabia, a government whose brutality and violence can match that of any entity on earth.

Congress has swallowed enough lies and empty promises from the White House and Pentagon. If this Congress is even the slightest bit more humanitarian than the last one, it will end the U.S. role in the war on Yemen immediately, an action which would make it difficult for Saudi Arabia to continue the war alone.

Let's look at what the language of the bill says:

". . . Congress hereby directs the President to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen . . . ."

And:

"For purposes of this resolution, in this section, the term 'hostilities' includes in-flight refueling, non-United States aircraft conducting missions as part of the ongoing civil war in Yemen."

This would seem to suggest that members of the U.S. military cannot participate in any way in the war on Yemen.

Then come the loopholes:

". . . except United States Armed Forces engaged in operations directed at al-Qaeda or associated forces . . . ."

And: "Nothing in this joint resolution may be construed to influence or disrupt any military operations and cooperation with Israel."

The bill lists current participants in the war, with no mention of Al Qaeda or Israel. These two loopholes are ridiculous or dangerous depending on what's done with them, and what Congress can reasonably be expected to do if they are abused. People who will claim that Venezuela harbors cells of Hezbollah intent on destroying your freedom, that Iran is building nuclear weapons, and that a wall is needed to save you from Mexican rapists might certainly be imagined claiming that the war on Yemen is against Al-Qaeda and/or that Israel has joined the war. Israel, for that matter, might actually join the war. And a Congress that won't impeach Donald Trump after a long list of impeachable offenses, and with half the Congress claiming Trump was installed by a foreign government, is unlikely to impeach him for violating this new law.

If the point of the loopholes is not to undo the law, what is the point of them? Are fighting Al-Qaeda and fighting for Israel such sacred ideals that they have to be meaninglessly added into random legislation?

Then there's the problem that Trump has threatened to veto.

Then there's the problem that weapons sales to Saudi Arabia could roll on, no more illegal than before, following passage of this bill.

Of course, either house of Congress alone could refuse to allow a dime to be spent on U.S. war-making in Yemen. But there isn't any mechanism, as far as I know, for a member of Congress to force either chamber, despite its "leadership," to hold a vote on doing that. This is why making the War Powers Resolution real by finally using it is so valuable. Despite all the caveats, and despite all the steps that will remain to be taken, for Congress - after 46 years and more wars than anyone can count - to finally legislate the end of a particular war is ground breaking.

If Congress can end one war, why not eight more? Why not the ones that are threatened and not yet begun?

If the U.S. Congress can end a war, why not the legislatures of every junior partner in U.S.-led coalition wars?

If the U.S. Congress can end a war, why not also close a base?

If the Congress can end war after war, one by one, why not move some of the money, billion by billion, out of the war machine and put it to good use?

If people can persuade one or more members of Congress to force a vote and persuade a majority of Congress to pass that vote, perhaps people, even in the greatest purveyor of violence on earth, can begin to create the understanding needed to begin dismantling the institution of war altogether.

(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.








Reactionaries Call The Green New Deal 'Radical,' Like That's A Bad Thing
Supporters of action on climate change must borrow a page from FDR by laughing off critics-recognizing that there are times when we must indeed be radical.
By John Nichols

(c) 2019 John Nichols John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, is published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.








Can Global Warming Bring Arctic Winter?
By James Donahue

Folks in the Midwest and on the East Coast are wondering why they have been hit with a "polar vortex," periods of extreme cold, while researchers are blaming it on global warming. A report in Forbes written by Ethan Siegel attempts to explain this phenomenon.

Siegel wrote: "The exact details of how this works are complex, but the explanation is simple: warmer land temperatures, particularly in North America and northern Eurasia, all more heat to be transported into the Arctic stratosphere. A warmer Earth makes sudden stratospheric warming events more likely and more frequent. And those events destabilize the polar vortex, bring cold air down into the mid-latitudes, and cause the extreme weather we're experiencing right now."

So get used to the extremes. "As the Earth continues to warm, extreme weather events like this will become commonplace, with many climatologists predicting an unstable polar vortex bringing storms like this to us multiple times per decade," Siebel concluded.

Disturbing reports in other creditable journals suggest that a theory of an arctic winter, brought on by global warming, may also be starting to happen.

The Washington Post published a report that swimmers, fishermen and surfers along the Atlantic coast have been complaining that the water is getting unusually frigid.

And New Scientist.com warned that a decade-long storm of galactic dust is entering our Solar System and some scientists worry that it might be thick enough to effect the sun's warming of the Earth. They ask if a storm like this caused the past ice ages and mass extinction.

Dr. Warren Washington, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, was quoted on the Environmental News Service web site as warning a decade ago that the warming could have abrupt effects in global climate. He warned that the melting of glaciers and increase in fresh water in the North Atlantic "may change the transport of warm water in the Gulf Stream." New reports say this is now happening.

Whitley Strieber and Art Bell predicted this effect in their book The Coming Global Superstorm. In their book, Strieber and Bell said scientific evidence suggests that before the last ice age started, there was a buildup of methane gas in the atmosphere that slowly caused the planet to heat. Once the planet reached a certain temperature, there was a sudden release of the methane from the oceans and land, which caused a dramatic temperature spike. Climate researchers say methane is now seeping up from the ocean floor throughout the Arctic regions.

They say the irony of the heat is that the melting ice caps not only floods the planet, but lowers the salt content of the North Atlantic. This causes an alteration in the speed and direction of the Gulf Stream and other natural ocean currents that keep world climates stable.

Geology professors Howard Spero of UC Davis and David Lea of UC Santa Barbara issued a report in Science, that supports Bell and Strieber's theory.

Their article, titled, The Cause of Carbon Isotope Minimum Events on Glacial Terminations, links global warming to shifts on deep ocean currents.

"An understanding of the relative timing of this event is critical because the greenhouse gases that humans are producing are likely to affect not only the warming of the atmosphere but also the circulation of the oceans," Spero said in a story released by University Of California - Davis. "Changes in atmospheric temperature can have immense effects on the flow of the deep ocean currents, which in turn can affect weather and climate worldwide."

Terrence Joyce, senior scientist at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, recently developed a theory that also links this gaseous heating of the planet to the onset of a possible ice age.

His article in the New York Times, titled The Heat Before the Cold, warned: "paradoxically, global warming could actually bring colder temperatures to some highly populated areas like Eastern North America and Western Europe."

Joyce said there has been a gradual buildup of fresh water in the North Atlantic, caused by the melting Arctic ice, which is lowering the salt content of the ocean. This, in turn, threatens to slow or turn the ocean current of warm water that flows from the tropics northward along the East Coast of the United States before turning toward Europe.

Peculiar activity by the Sun, and the influx of the solar dust cloud seems to be timed almost perfectly to assure that an ice age, if it happens, could be severe enough to destroy life without wrecking the planet.

In the past the magnetic field of the Sun acted like a shield, deflecting the electronically charged galactic dust away from our Solar System. But the Sun's cycle of activity has changed. Not only is it burning hotter, but the Sun shifted its magnetic field, going through a complete pole shift a few years ago.

Now, instead of deflecting the galactic dust, the magnetic field seems to be channeling the dust in our direction.

A NASA research vessel Ulysses, launched in 1990, has been measuring cosmic dust. According to Markus Landgraf and his colleagues at the Max-Planck-Instutute in Heidelberg, three times more galactic dust is now entering the Solar System than 10 years earlier.

Some scientists suggest that the dust will have an effect on the Earth's atmosphere and may indeed be the cause of the next ice age.

(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.




A White House Communications Agency staff member stands by as Donald Trump answers reporters'
questions about border security in the Rose Garden at the White House February 15, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
Trump said he would declare a national emergency to free up federal funding to build a wall along the southern border.



Can Trump's Wall Survive His Fake Emergency?
By William Rivers Pitt

For a fleeting moment on Friday morning, a wild hope galloped through my mind like a horse fleeing a barn fire. Trump would step to the podium to make his emergency declaration, smirk at the assembled reporters and say, "My fellow Americans, I have never told a joke in my life." With a sudden howl, he would rip the rubber mask off his head to reveal a man everyone thought was dead. I knew it! It's Andy Kaufman! Behind him, Mike Pence would tear his mask off to reveal Jerry Lawler, and the two would walk away arm in arm giggling like titmice on a tree bough, having pulled the greatest prank of all time.

If you're going to cause a constitutional crisis, you may as well make it fun, right?

Nope. When Trump unleashed a disorganized, rambling, snarling, sniff-riddled word cloud on China, Korea, Syria, missiles, Obama, wars, duct tape, "bob" wire, Democrats, singsong Beat poetry, caravans and the stock market while announcing his illegal emergency declaration, it wasn't fun. It was surreal to the point of brown-acid psychedelia, and it was perfectly terrifying in the main, but it wasn't fun. In an administration made of low points, Friday's Rose Garden debacle was a Jules Verne novel on live television. Dead or alive, Andy Kaufman would have been a substantial improvement.

So that happened, as Trump said on Friday, and here we are. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell jettisoned the last lingering threads of his integrity and endorsed the emergency declaration on Thursday afternoon, likely because he's also getting the shutdown-avoiding border bill he wanted. With McConnell now on board, a majority of the lemmings in his caucus - many of whom are deeply concerned about the precedent being set - will likely fling themselves over the cliff if House Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Joaquin Castro force a vote on the declaration, which they are all but certain to do.

It will be a hot political mess for the Republicans, but Trump's declaration will probably survive a congressional assault. Even if a bill to thwart the declaration manages to pass both chambers, there will almost certainly not be enough Republican votes to override a veto. Thanks to McConnell, a legislative solution to this contra-constitutional fiasco is likely out of reach.

The real fight, therefore, will be in the courts. One of the most significant obstacles Trump's declaration will face is sure to come from landowners, particularly in Texas. "More than 90 lawsuits involving landowners opposing the federal seizure of their property in South Texas remain open from 2008," reports Ron Nixon for The New York Times. "The property owners have the support of many Texas politicians in a state where land ownership has an almost mythic resonance, and their opposition to a border wall could delay any construction by years while lawsuits wind through the court system."

The National Emergencies Act gives a president wide, almost unlimited latitude to declare an emergency. The issue has not come to a final, definitive judicial head because most prior presidents have not abused the power, and those who did, like President Truman, were smacked down hard. Even President Obama's 2014 emergency declaration on immigration - which both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence vigorously denounced at the time - took a beating in the courts.

The legal question may come down to intent and whether this action was taken in good faith, as Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice argues in The Washington Post: "With sufficient evidence that Trump is acting in bad faith - that he is abusing the discretion Congress granted him for the purpose of subverting constitutional constraints, including the prohibition on spending funds that Congress has not appropriated - a judge could still find that the emergency declaration is invalid."

Which brings us back to the Rose Garden, and this all-important exchange between Trump and NBC reporter Peter Alexander:

ALEXANDER: In the past, when President Obama tried to use executive action as it related to immigration, you said, "The whole concept of executive order, it's not the way the country's supposed to be run." You said, "You're supposed to go through congress and make a deal." Will you concede that you were unable to make the deal that you had promised in the past, and that the deal you're ending up with now from congress now is less than what you could have had before a 35-day shutdown?

TRUMP: I went through Congress. I made a deal. I got almost $1.4 billion when I wasn't supposed to get one dollar, not one dollar, he's not gonna get one dollar. Well, I got $1.4 billion, but I'm not happy with it. I also got billions and billions of dollars for other things, port of entries, lots of different things, the purchase of drug equipment, more than we were even requesting. In fact, the primary fight was on the wall, everything else we have so much, as I said, I don't know what to do with it, we have so much money. But on the wall, they skimped, so I did, I was successful in that sense, but I want to do it faster.

I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster. And I don't have to do it for the election, I've already done a lot of wall for the election, 2020, and the only reason we're up here talking about this is because of the election, because they want to try and win an election which it looks like they're not going to be able to do, and this is one of the ways they think they can possibly win is by obstruction and a lot of other nonsense, and I think that I just want to get it done faster, that's all.

Bad faith, abuse of his discretion, Article I, and never mind the fact that if you wait months to declare an emergency, there is no emergency. Trump himself called the action unnecessary right there on television, and said haste was his only impetus right before declaring that election politics is also a prime motivator. That, right there, feels like the ballgame. When we look back at the crater left by this incredible failure of leadership, we will in all likelihood remember that Trump's big, beautiful border wall died at its own Rose Garden party because he tried and failed to outsmart a reporter.

It took less than a day for Trump and his emergency declaration to be sued: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the ACLU and the state of California are first in line, with more likely to follow. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler sent a letter to Trump announcing the committee's intention to investigate all facets of the declaration; one Twitter commentator described the letter as "a rough draft of impeachment."

Everything about this border wall situation - Trump's extralegal tantrum, the craven capitulation of McConnell and the Republicans, the shameless lies, the howling mobs, all of it - is a disgrace to the nation that will not be easily forgotten. Most disgraceful of all is the idea of the wall itself: a monument to vicious nativism, white nationalism, toxic masculinity and perfect cowardice. It would almost be worth it to build the thing just so we could immediately burn it down and then dance in the firelight to the old Woody Guthrie anthem, "All You Fascists Are Bound to Lose."

(c) 2019 William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co_written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.







Bill Barr Has A History Of Partisan Interference
By Heather Digby Parton

Josh Marshall points to an article he wrote for Salon back in 2002 about the final report that came out about the Whitewater investigation (which no one paid any attention to.) William Barr played a part and it wasn't good. Before the election, Bush Sr apparently got wind of a referral to the Department of Justice about that stupid Arkansas land deal back in the 1980s:

According to the report, on Sept. 17, 1992, Edie Holiday, the secretary to the Cabinet in the Bush White House, contacted then Attorney General William Barr and -- after some awkward back and forth -- asked Barr if he "would be aware of a pending matter in Justice (she may have said it was a criminal referral) about a presidential candidate or a family member of a presidential candidate."

At around the same time, according to the report, then-White House counsel C. Boyden Gray also apparently took action. He inquired about the status of the referral with the head of the Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC), the agency from which the referral to the U.S. attorney originated.<> Washington is replete with rules prohibiting or discouraging contact that might create the appearance of a conflict of interest. And most cover inappropriate contact between the political side of the executive branch and the law enforcement side of the executive branch, for obvious reasons. During a later phase in the Whitewater investigation, the general counsel at the Treasury gave White House lawyers a heads up about a possible upcoming indictment of Jim McDougal and possibly President Clinton, which was being reported in an internal RTC newsletter called the "early bird report." That incident was enough to get several White House officials hauled before a federal grand jury and led to the eventual resignations of White House counsel Bernie Nussbaum and Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman. The series of incidents noted in Wednesday's Whitewater report are considerably more serious: political appointees trying to use their influence over the executive law enforcement agencies for political gain.

And it has former Clinton staffers steamed.

"It doesn't pass the smell test," says one legal source close to the former president. "How did anybody at the White House even know about it? It suggests to us clearly that they were using the Justice Department and an investigation to influence the election." How did Edie Holiday find out about the referral? Or C. Boyden Gray? Why did they try to intervene as they did? What other officials were involved? On all of these questions the report is silent. What is clear is that Barr went on to get in touch with Ira Raphaelson, the Justice Department's special counsel for financial institution fraud, and asked him to find out whether such a referral existed. When Raphaelson didn't uncover one at first, Barr asked him to try again. From here, the story takes a turn that is either comic or Kafkaesque.

Though Barr had no apparent reason to believe that the budding case against the McDougals was being handled inappropriately, he instructed his subordinates at the Department of Justice and the FBI to commence a series of contacts with local officials in Little Rock to make sure the case was being handled appropriately. The OIC Report is replete with self-serving statements from these officials, to the effect that they simply wanted to make sure it was handled neither more quickly nor more slowly than any other similar case. Barr, the report explains, told a subordinate that "he did not want action on it artificially sped up or slowed down -- it was to be dealt with on its merits and in the normal course."

In the succeeding pages, statements such as these are coupled with actions that clearly belie them. Everything in this case should be handled like every other case, Washington seemed to be telling the U.S. attorney in Little Rock. But after reading the OIC's recounting, it is virtually impossible to conclude that Barr and his colleagues at Justice were concerned with anything except the possibility that the potential case might not be moving as quickly as it could.

On Oct. 7, 1992, Banks informed his superiors in Washington that based on his review of the referral he was not inclined to open an investigation or move toward issuing indictments. Justice and FBI officials then met and responded to Banks' message by ordering him to commence an investigation and report back to them on Oct. 16.

Banks had little doubt about the origins of the sudden urgency to move ahead with the case. "All of a sudden, we had this FBI pressure that something had to be done by October 16th," he later told the OIC. But Banks and other law enforcement officials in Little Rock held their ground.

Officials in the Bush Justice Department apparently realized that it wouldn't do to order local officials to fast-track the case, but they nudged them as much as they could. It reflects well on Banks that he didn't let his superiors convince him that they knew better than he did. He believed he was being angled into issuing subpoenas in the case before the November election, and later testified that he would have resigned before doing so.

There are many passages in the OIC report that beg the question of whether more questions would have been asked if the independent counsel were interested in scrutinizing the behavior of former Bush administration officials rather than people tied to the Clinton administration. Why did the independent counsel choose to investigate possible foot-dragging on the part of U.S. Attorney Banks (who is completely vindicated in the report), when Banks had no reason to help Bill Clinton, and ignore the possibility that inappropriate pressure tactics were employed by Attorney General Barr, when Barr had a vested interest in seeing Clinton lose in November?

After Banks refused to pursue the Whitewater investigation, and after Bill Clinton's election, departing Bush Justice Department officials revealingly lost their sense of urgency about the case. Whitewater ultimately came into full bloom when Clinton requested a special prosecutor to look into it in 1994, following pressure from the media and critics.

Another tantalizing tidbit in the report is the central role that FBI director Robert Mueller, then assistant attorney general for the criminal division, played in Barr's fishing expedition. From the facts contained in the report, it's not clear that Mueller was doing anything more than overseeing the execution of decisions made by others or overseeing meetings of Justice Department and FBI officials in Washington. But he was clearly in the center of the drama and in the position to see almost everything that was going on.

All we can hope for is that Mueller still has enough juice with Barr to keep him from reverting to his old partisan ways. I think the odds are no better than 50-50.

(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.




Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg is interviewed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.




Children Should Be Seen And Heard
By David Suzuki

Children Should Be Seen And Heard By David Suzuki with contributions from Senior Editor Ian Hanington Summer 2018 was Sweden's hottest since record-keeping began more than 260 years ago - marked by drought, wildfires and extremely low reservoir levels. That was too much for 15-year-old Greta Thunberg. She heard politicians talking about climate change but didn't see them doing enough about it.

So she refused to go to school until a general election on September 9. Every day, she sat outside Parliament in Stockholm and handed out leaflets with the message, "I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future."

Now her lone action has spread worldwide, and she's gone on to address negotiators at December's UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, and delegates at the January World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She's also inspired thousands of students from Brussels to Melbourne to Winnipeg to walk out of classes every Friday to draw attention to the climate crisis and opportunities to fix it.

Young people have also launched a number of climate-related legal actions in the U.S., Canada, Belgium, Norway, India, Colombia and elsewhere. With the slow pace of justice, the kids could be grown up and the planet half-cooked before their cases are decided. A suit launched by 21 young Americans in 2015 is still making its way through the courts. The plaintiffs argue that government promotion of fossil fuels in the face of known climate impacts violates "the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property." At least government attempts to dismiss the case have failed.

These kids have more wisdom than the grownups elected to represent our interests. They also have more at stake. While governments support the fossil fuel industry with subsidies, incentives and propaganda for the sake of short-term profits, young people must consider what kind of world they'll inherit from their short-sighted elders. Because most are too young to vote, they have few avenues other than protests and legal action to get politicians and others to pay attention.

Thunberg has a good response to those who accuse her and other youth of being simplistic: "You say nothing in life is black or white,">she told wealthy elites in Davos. "But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie. Either we prevent 1.5 C of warming or we don't. Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control or we don't. Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don't. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival."

Sweden is ahead of much of the world on climate action and policies. But as Thunberg knows, that's not so much a statement about her country's progress as it is about the world's inability to confront this crisis with the urgency it demands.

As much as I admire these kids, I'm saddened that it's come to this. Children shouldn't have to spend their time in court or protesting. They should be enjoying their formative years, getting outside, playing, spending time with friends and family, studying - even connecting on social media.

"I wish I didn't have to be here today," 11-year-old Lucie Atkin-Bolton told the Guardian during a Sydney, Australia, protest. "I'm the school captain at my primary school. We've been taught what it means to be a leader. You have to think about other people."

She said politicians have let her down. As if to prove her point, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison berated students protesting throughout the country, telling them they should be learning about mining and science. "The best thing you'll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue," he said.

As Thunberg says, "Some people say that we should be in school instead. But why should we be studying for a future that's soon to be no more? And when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future?"

Too many adults become complacent, unwilling to even imagine making sacrifices for their children and grandchildren - even though many changes required to bring emissions and warming under control would confer numerous benefits, from healthier diets to reduced pollution to greater employment and economic opportunities in clean energy.

It's time to heed the world's youth, or get out of their way.

(c) 2019 Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co_founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.








Mark Harris Should Never Sit In The U.S. Congress
No matter what North Carolina's election board decides, the House needs to act.
By Charles P. Pierce

How did you spend Presidents Day? Me, I spent part of it watching the livestream of a meeting of the North Carolina Board of Elections. (This wild life is killing me.) At issue was the disputed election in that state's Ninth Congressional District, a wild-kingdom tangle of penny-ante ratfcking that somehow produced Republican preacher Mark Harris as the winner over Democratic candidate Dan McCready by 905 votes.

The election, however, hangs fire at the moment because of the actions of the Harris campaign in connection with a guy named Lesley McCrae Dowless, a veteran Republican operative in poor, rural Bladen County, down in the south-central part of the state. The key witness was a woman named Lisa Britt, whose mother had been married to Dowless for a spell. (Dowless was in the committee room, glowering from the gallery like Uncle Teardrop in Winter's Bone. He has refused to testify unless granted immunity, which, as it happens, he desperately needs.)

Britt described in detail a clumsy yet effective scheme to ratfck McCready through the abuse of absentee ballots, which Britt "harvested" on behalf of Dowless who, it appears, was working as a contract employee of a consulting firm connected with the Harris campaign, and who, investigators say, made $130,000 to do so. Together, they all engaged in what Kim Strach, the executive director of the Board of Elections called "a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated during the 2018 general election in Bladen and Robeson counties."


Leslie McCrae Dowless.

Strach, a Republican appointee of former Republican governor Pat McCrory, was a compelling presence at the hearing. She carefully led Britt through the details of the ratfcking scam while Britt, who appeared at the hearing without immunity and without a lawyer, walked deeper and deeper into the swamp. From the Raleigh News and Observer:
Britt, a convicted felon who had previously spoken to investigators, said she didn't think Dowless would have her do anything illegal. Britt, who testified without immunity and without a lawyer present, admitted to multiple election fraud activities. "I don't want to get him in trouble. I don't want to get anyone in trouble," Britt said. "Mr. Dowless has been a father figure to me for 30 years. There's certain things you would place trust in. He's not going to put you out here to do something illegal."

But Britt outlined a process by which she and other workers often signed as witnesses for ballots they did not see signed, traced over signatures to make sure the ink colors matched that of the voter's, dated forms incorrectly, forged signatures and filled in down-ballot races on some ballots. It is illegal in North Carolina for anyone outside of a close relative to handle a voter's absentee ballot.

Her testimony was backed by another witness, Kelly Hendrix, who testified that she collected ballots and turned them into Dowless with only one of the two required witness signatures. The forms were signed later, Hendrix said, by people who did not see them collected. Britt also told the board that Dowless-on at least two occasions-tried to influence her public statements and testimony. As controversy swirled over the election results last year, Britt said Dowless called her and other workers together for a meeting at his house."As long as we all stick together we'll all be fine, because they don't have anything on us," Britt said Dowless told them.

Britt's mother, who is also Dowless's ex-wife, testified that she'd overheard a phone conversation between Dowless and candidate Harris. By all rights, Harris should be cooked, but the board needs four votes to call for a new election, and the three Democrats on the five-member board need a Republican to jump ship to avoid a deadlock. What is clear is that, no matter what the North Carolina board decides, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives should refuse to seat Harris if it comes to that. Really, enough is enough.

(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.







The Quotable Quote-



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





Charlie Rose on PBS had many more CEOs on his program than civic leaders.




The Realized Temptations Of NPR And PBS
Over the years, without regular critiques by liberal and progressive groups, both NPR and PBS have bent to the continual right-wing antagonism in Congress that decreased public budgets
Ralph Nader

Recently an elderly gentleman asked me about my opinion on NPR and PBS, knowing of my vigorous support in the nineteen sixties for these alternatives to commercial radio and television stations.

Here is my response:

Congress created NPR and PBS to provide serious programming, without any advertisements, for the American people. Former media executive Fred Friendly and others worried that the commercial stations were not meeting the 1934 Communications Act requirement that they operate for the "public interest, convenience and necessity."

In 1961, before a shocked convention of broadcasters, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Newton Minow called commercial television "a vast wasteland."

Over the decades, NPR and PBS have produced some good programming - original features (among the best coming from Boston affiliate WGBH) and interviews. NPR has the largest radio audience in the country. David Brancaccio, the bright host of Marketplace Morning Report, has a daily listening audience of 11 million.

However, over the years, without regular critiques by liberal and progressive groups, both NPR and PBS have bent to the continual right-wing antagonism in Congress that decreased public budgets. PBS started to allow advertisements (called "support for x station or x PBS network program comes from y corporation.") These ads have become more frequent and can be as long as 15 seconds.

During the 8am to 9am hour WAMC, Albany recently aired 28 such "support from..." commercials. That is almost one "ad" every two minutes!

The omnipresence of the ads hour after hour has irritated many NPR listeners around the country. By way of comparison, a major commercial station in Hartford - WTIC - clocked 18 advertisements in that 8am hourly slot - albeit they were longer than the NPR ones.

It seems that NPR and PBS, often by their omissions and slants, bend over backward in order not to offend right-wing lobbies and corporations. They invite guests on air who ideologically oppose public broadcasting - that's fine, but then they minimize the appearances by leading progressives.

Occasionally, I speak with the NPR and PBS Ombudsmen. The purpose of the ombudsman is to maintain proper standards and ethics as well as to consider audience complaints. A while back, an NPR Ombudsman volunteered to me that NPR was giving far more time to representatives of conservative evangelical groups than to representatives of liberal religious organizations.

Charlie Rose on PBS had many more CEOs on his program than civic leaders. During a rare appearance by me on his show with Jim Hightower and William Greider in 1998, the audience reaction was robust. The response from around the country was so pronounced that in an internal e-mail, that was inadvertently sent to my office, a Rose staffer complained that we might have been encouraging the positive response. Absurd and false, but revealing nonetheless.

Rose, by the way, set the stage for PBS and NPR by interviewing his two favorite reporters again and again instead of active specialists or scholars in various fields. For example, Judy Woodruff, the ultra-cautious, exclusionary anchor of the "News Hour," interviewed reporters on complex tax legislation instead of authentic experts such as the long-time director of the well-regarded Citizens for Tax Justice, Robert McIntyre, often invited by her predecessors.

In 2016 we convened for eight days in the largest gathering of civic leaders, doers, and thinkers of more reforms and redirections ever brought together. They made over 160 presentations in Constitution Hall (see breakingthroughpower.org). Although we advanced this remarkable Superbowl of Civic Action directly to NPR and PBS producers, their reporters never showed up. Certainly, they have not treated right-wing conventions in Washington, D.C. in that manner.

There are other practices of public broadcasting and its syndicated talk shows, that its audiences should know about to understand how much broader coverage they have been denied. One is that the amount of time devoted to music and entertainment pieces goes well beyond the intent of the legislators who created NPR and PBS (both created by the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967). Members of Congress knew that entertainment was adequately taken care of by the thousands of commercial stations.

Moreover, even commercial network radio would not use its weekday 6pm hour for music, as one NPR station does in Washington, D.C. Nor does commercial network TV news in the evening start their programs with several advertisements, as does PBS's The NewsHour and Kai Ryssdal's jazzy, drumbeat, breathless NPR evening show - Marketplace.

Recently, I discovered another woeful transformation. Wondering why I could not get calls back from the state-wide NPR stations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I sent them written complaints. These stations had venerable programs that used to interview me and other civic leaders on consumer, environment, and corporate crime topics.

Minnesota Public Radio politely wrote back, regretting that they had not called me back and explained that they now adjust their programming to react or expand on "what is in the national conversation." Since Trump et al. command the heights (or the depths) of the news agenda, very important subjects, conditions and activities not part of this frenzied news feed are relegated to far less frequent attention.

These are just a few of the issues that should be analyzed by print journalists who cover the media full time, such as the estimable Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post, formerly the "public editor" of The New York Times. But then, she also doesn't return my calls.

The slide toward commercialism and amiable stupefaction will continue on PBS and NPR until enough people review public broadcast's history, raise their expectation levels consistent with why PBS and NPR were created, and insist on adequate public funding (a truly modest amount compared to giant corporate subsidies by taxpayers). These redirections would enable public broadcasting to fulfill better its serious statutory public interest missions.

(c) 2019 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His latest book is The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future. Other recent books include, The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood, Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism: Build It Together to Win, and "Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us" (a novel).








Syria's Assad & Venezuela's Madero
Two guys we are spozed to hate but shouldn't
By Jane Stillwater

"Everyone in Syria really loves President Assad," I keep telling anyone who will stand still long enough to listen -- and yet almost nobody believes me. Even my FaceBook friends are fairly tired of me always getting in their faces about the virtues of Bashar Assad.

"But Assad is a dictator!" they always parrot back to me in reply. Now where did they get that idea? I'll tell you where. It comes from public relations firms such as Omnicon, Hill & Knowlton, WPP and the Rendon Group -- the very same folks who brought us that messy "war" on Yugoslavia, that brutal "war" on Libya, that sleazy "war" on Afghanistan, that trumped-up "war" on Iraq (twice), those cruel proxy-wars on Palestine and Yemen, the murderous "wars" on Central America and even America's future wannabe "wars" on Venezuela, Russia and Iran.

And Americans just keep falling for it every freaking time.

These public relations firms are really that good -- they're even better than Goebbels. Much better in fact.

How many times have these PR firms spent billions of dollars convincing Americans to run off to the mall, click on Amazon (or send Lockheed-Martin a huge check) in order to buy stuff that they really didn't want -- or need? Including fake wars? And yet Americans still fall for it every time, still get sucker-punched every single time, either at the mall, online -- or at the Pentagon.

I was an election observer in Syria in 2014, five long hard years ago -- long hard years for the Syrian people as they struggled and died in order to keep Syria from becoming yet another ISIS and al Qaeda stronghold like Libya.

Hell, even the Syrian Kurds prefer Assad. And what do the Syrian Christians have to say about Assad? "He is our person." Even the Sunni Muslims love him -- and that's a hard sell.

I recently e-mailed a Syrian friend of mine living in Aleppo. "Who would you prefer to be your president?" I asked her. "Assad or Trump?" And what was her instant reply? A huge yellow emoji -- laughing its head off!

Yeah, I know. It really is hard to convince Americans that they are being played. "Assad is a dictator. He gassed his own people," they constantly parrot back to me. Blah blah blah. But still. I still can't resist trying to tell people the truth. Somebody's gotta do it.

PS: And now folks like Omnicon, Hill & Knowlton, WPP, the Rendon Group and all the rest of those sleazy con-men are now busy wasting our tax dollars on telling us how to think about Venezuela too. "Madero is a corrupt bum. Our guy is a God among men!" they constantly tell us.

Hell, nobody in America (or even in Venezuela) can even remember what their guy's name even is. And Venezuelans also love Madero -- if for no other reason than they would greatly prefer to keep their own oil to themselves rather than be forced to hand it over to Exxon and John Bolton. Not to mention how many billions of dollars this phony "war" is gonna cost us taxpayers -- but with not a penny coming from Bolton or Exxon.

(c) 2019 Jane Stillwater. Stop Wall Street and War Street from destroying our world. And while you're at it, please buy my books!





The Dead Letter Office-





Goodloe gives the corporate salute

Heil Trump,

Dear Zeitungsredakteur Sutton

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling, and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your editorial saying, "Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again," 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 04-01-2019. We salute you herr Sutton, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Pence

Heil Trump






Dictator Trump
By Robert Reich

A president who claims he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency and spend government funds that Congress has explicitly refused to appropriate for the ends he seeks, is assuming the role of a dictator.

A president who shuts down government in order to get his way on a controversial issue, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico, and offers to reopen it as a concession when and if his opponents give in, is treating the government of the United States as a bargaining chip. This, too, is the behavior of a dictator.

As is spouting lies over what Trump terms an "undeniable crisis" at the southern U.S. border, which is in fact no crisis at all.

Donald Trump is violating the Constitution. He is negating our system of government based on the rule of law. He is violating a president's core responsibility to protect American democracy.

But the threat to American democracy is not just from Trump's dictatorial moves. And real threat to American sovereignty is not coming from Trump's fantasized hordes seeking to cross the Mexican border.

It is coming from a foreign government intent on undermining our democracy by propagating lies, turning Americans against each other, and electing a puppet president.

We do not know yet whether Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election. What we do know so far is that Trump's aides and campaign manager worked with Putin's emissaries during the 2016 election, and that Putin sought to swing the election in favor of Trump.

We also know that since he was elected, Trump has done little or nothing to stop Putin from continuing to try to undermine our democracy. To the contrary, Trump has obstructed inquiries into Russian meddling, and gone out of his way to keep his communications with Putin secret, even from his own White House.

He has also done exactly what Putin has wanted him to do – threaten to pull out of NATO, pull out of Syria, and accept Russia's presence in Ukraine.

Perhaps Trump's current attack on American democracy through his assertion of a fake national emergency is intended as to distract from this larger attack on America. No matter. Both threaten the essence of the nation.

There is only one answer: Donald Trump must be removed from office. Impeachment should start immediately.

(c) 2019 Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. His latest book is "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few." His web site is www.robertreich.org.









Worshipping The Electronic Image
By Chris Hedges

Donald Trump, like much of the American public, is entranced by electronic images. He interprets reality through the distortions of digital media. His decisions, opinions, political positions, prejudices and sense of self are reflected back to him on screens. He views himself and the world around him as a vast television show with himself as the star. His primary concerns as president are his ratings, his popularity and his image. He is a creature-maybe the poster child-of the modern, post-literate culture, a culture that critics such as Marshall McLuhan, Daniel Boorstin, James W. Carey and Neil Postman warned us about.

It is not, as some have suggested, merely that Trump speaks at the level of a seventh-grader or that he harkens back to a preliterate oral culture. He embodies the incoherence of the modern digital age, filled with sudden shifts from subject to subject, a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows punctuated with commercials. There is nonstop stimulation. Seldom does anything occupy our attention for more than a few seconds. Nothing has context. Images overwhelm words. We are perpetually confused, but always entertained. We barely remember what we saw or heard a few minutes earlier. This is by design of the elites who manipulate us.

"It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment is the metaphor for all discourse," Postman points out. "It is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails." Americans, because television stages their world, "no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other." Trump is what is produced when a society severs itself from print, when it pushes art, ethics, classics, philosophy, history and the humanities to the margins of the universities and culture, when its members spend hours sitting inert in front of a screen. Information, ideas and epistemology are, as Postman writes, given form today by electronic images.

It is a mistake to see what is happening as cultural regression. It is worse than that. Oral cultures prized memorization and cultivated the high art of rhetoric. Leaders, playwrights and poets in oral cultures did not speak to their publics in Trump's crude vernacular. More ominous than the president's impoverished vocabulary is that he cannot string together sentences that make sense. This replicates not only the shoddy vocabulary of television, but more importantly the incoherence of television. Trump is able to communicate with tens of millions of Americans, also raised in front of screens, because they too have been linguistically and intellectually mutated by digital images. They lack the ability to detect lies or think rationally. They are part of our post-truth culture.

Nearly any tweet or spoken remark by Trump illustrates this incoherence. In a Jan. 31 interview with The New York Times he gave this answer when asked about the gruesome murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul:

Yeah. Khashoggi. I thought it was a terrible crime. But if you look at other countries, many other countries. You look at Iran, not so far away from Saudi Arabia, and take a look at what they're doing there. So, you know, that's just the way I feel. Venezuela is very much in flux. We've been hearing about it for probably 14 years now, between the two of them. And some terrible things are happening in Venezuela. So, if I can do something to help people. It's really helping humanity, if we can do something to help people, I'd like to do that.
Electronic images are our modern-day idols. We worship the power and fame they impart. We yearn to become idolized celebrities. We measure our lives against the fantasies these images disseminate. If something does not appear on a screen or is proclaimed on a screen its authenticity is questioned. We fervently build miniature social media platforms where we daily update our "life the movie," confusing self-presentation with genuine communication and friendship. This yearning to be validated by electronic images and their audiences has made us an isolated, uninformed, alienated and very unhappy people.

"Now the death of God combined with the perfection of the image has brought us to a whole new state of expectation," John Ralston Saul writes. "We are the image. We are the viewer and the viewed. There is no other distracting presence. And the image has all the Godly powers. It kills at will. Kills effortlessly. Kills beautifully. It dispenses morality. Judges endlessly. The electronic image is man as God and the ritual involved leads us not to a mysterious Holy Trinity but back to ourselves. In the absence of a clear understanding that we are now the only source, these images cannot help but return to the expression of magic and fear proper to idolatrous societies. This in turn facilitates the use of electronic image as propaganda by whoever can control some part of it."

The fixation on electronic images by Trump means he and millions of other American adults-who, according to a 2018 report by the Nielsen company, on average watch four hours, 46 minutes of TV each day and spend "over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media"-have severed themselves from complex thought. They have been infantilized. Television, including the news, reduces all reality to a childish, cartoonish simplicity. News as presented on screens "provides degenerate photographs or a pseudo-reality of stereotypes," James W. Carey writes. "News can approximate truth only when reality is reducible to a statistical table: sport scores, stock exchange reports, births, deaths, marriages, accidents, court decisions, elections, economic transactions such as foreign trade or balance of payments." News on our screens is incapable of imparting complexity and nuance. It is devoid of historical, social or cultural context. TV news speaks in easily digestible clichEs and political and cultural tropes. It is sensational and fragmented. The frenetic pace of TV news means that except when delivering statistics, the programs can trade only in established stereotypes. TV news is, in essence, divorced from the real, mindlessly grounded in the ruling elites' reigning ideology of neoliberalism, militarism and white supremacy.

Postman, in his book "Amusing Ourselves to Death," writes that after the development of the telegraph, "News took the form of slogans, to be noted with excitement, to be forgotten with dispatch." Arguing that the 19th-century invention is the basis for communication in the digital age, he says, "Its language was also entirely discontinuous. One message had no connection to that which preceded or followed it. Each 'headline' stood alone as its own context. The receiver of the news had to provide a meaning if he could. The sender was under no obligation to do so. And because of all this, the world as depicted by the telegraph began to appear unmanageable, even undecipherable. The line-by-line, sequential, continuous form of the printed page slowly began to lose its resonance as a metaphor of how knowledge was to be acquired and how the world was to be understood. 'Knowing' the facts took on a new meaning, for it did not imply that one understood implications, background, or connections. Telegraphic discourse permitted no time for historical perspectives and gave no priority to the qualitative."

Those who seek to communicate outside of digital structures to question or challenge the dominant narrative, to deal in ambiguity and nuance, to have discussions rooted in verifiable fact and historical context, are becoming incomprehensible to most of modern society. As soon as they employ a language that is not grounded in the dominant cliches and stereotypes, they are not understood. Television, computers and smartphones have addicted a generation and conditioned it to talk and think in the irrational, incoherent baby talk it is fed day after day. This cultural, historical, economic and social illiteracy delights the ruling elites who design, manage and profit from these sophisticated systems of social control. Armed with our personal data and with knowledge of our proclivities, habits and desires, they adeptly manipulate us as consumers and citizens to accelerate their amassing of wealth and consolidation of power.

"The only people who grasp the distinction between reality and appearance, who grasp the laws of conduct and society, are the ruling groups and those who do their bidding: scientific, technical elites who elucidate the laws of behavior and the function of society so that people might be more effectively, albeit unconsciously, governed," Carey writes in "Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society."

Daniel Boorstin in "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Reality in America" argues that the fabricated, the inauthentic and the theatrical have now displaced the natural, the genuine and the spontaneous. Reality has become stagecraft. We live in a world, he writes, "where fantasy is more real than reality." He warns:

We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so 'realistic,' that they can live in them. We are the most illusioned people on earth. Yet we dare not become disillusioned, because our illusions are the very house in which we live; they are our news, our heroes, our adventure, our forms of art, our very experience.
Trump is a product of this cultural decay, not an aberration. The way he speaks, acts and thinks is the way many Americans speak, act and think. He will one day disappear, but the cultural degeneracy that produced him will remain. Academic institutions, which should be the repositories of culture and literacy, are transforming themselves, often with corporate money, into adjuncts of the digital age, expanding departments that deal with technology, engineering and computer science-the largest major at universities such as Princeton and Harvard-while diminishing the disciplines that deal with art, philosophy, ethics, history and politics. These disciplines, rooted in print, are the only antidotes to cultural death.

Intellectual historian Perry Miller in his essay "The Duty of Mind in a Civilization of Machines" calls us to build counterweights to communication technology in order "to resist the paralyzing effects upon the intellect of the looming nihilism" that defines the era. In short, the more we turn off our screens and return to the world of print, the more we seek out the transformative power of art and culture, the more we re-establish genuine relationships, conducted face-to-face rather than through a screen, the more we use knowledge to understand and put the world around us in context, the more we will be able to protect ourselves from the digital dystopia.

(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.




The Cartoon Corner-

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Ken Catalino ~~~








To End On A Happy Note-





Have You Seen This-






Parting Shots-





Jeff Bezos Chooses Soon-to-Be Bankrupt Mar-a-Lago As New Amazon Headquarters
By Andy Borowitz

SEATTLE (The Borowitz Report)-Stating that he expected the property to be "bankrupt and vacant within the next two years," Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, announced on Thursday that the Mar-a-Lago club, in Palm Beach, Florida, would be the site of Amazon's second headquarters.

Bezos said that Mar-a-Lago was chosen from a list of soon-to-be-bankrupt properties, including the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, Trump Turnberry, and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Amazon C.E.O. said that, after Amazon acquires Mar-a-Lago, the company will start working around the clock to remove the property's hideous decor, which he fears could prove distracting to warehouse employees.

At Mar-a-Lago, a longtime employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, welcomed the Amazon move, stating, "This is one of the only places in the world where workplace conditions would improve if Amazon came in."

Another Mar-a-Lago employee, raising a question shared by many others, asked, "Does this mean we'll start getting paid?"

If the Mar-a-Lago deal goes through, it would mark the first appearance of books in that location, Amazon confirmed.

(c) 2019 Andy Borowitz




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Issues & Alibis Vol 19 # 08 (c) 02/22/2019


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