OUR POST-TRUTH INFORMATION SYSTEM

By Charlie Warzel/ New York Times/ August 13, 2019

Even on an internet bursting at the seams with conspiracy theories and hyperpartisanship, Saturday marked a new chapter in our post-truth, choose-your-own-reality crisis story.

It began Saturday morning, when news broke that the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein had apparently hanged himself in a Manhattan jail. Mr. Epstein’s death, coming just one day after court documents from one of his accusers were unsealed, prompted immediate suspicion from journalists, politicians and the usual online fringes.

Within minutes, Trump appointees, Fox Business hosts and Twitter pundits revived a decades-old conspiracy theory, linking the Clinton family to supposedly suspicious deaths. #ClintonBodyCount and #ClintonCrimeFamily trended on Twitter. Around the same time, an opposite hashtag — #TrumpBodyCount — emerged, focused on President Trump’s decades-old ties to Mr. Epstein. Each hashtag was accompanied by GIFs and memes picturing Mr. Epstein with the Clintons or with Mr. Trump to serve as a viral accusation of foul play.

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Common Sense (You’d Think)

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History Repeats Itself

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Impeachment Time

Letter to Monterey Herald July 17, 2019:

As the White House swats away and continues to resist Democratic subpoenas and requests for information, it is increasingly clear that impeachment of President Trump is the only good way to get evidence to hold this president accountable for his crimes. A growing number of Democratic representatives, over 80 now, are calling for impeachment. One of the holdouts is our local congressman, Jimmy Panetta. It’s time to step up and do what’s right, Jimmy.

Arlen Grossman

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What’s to Celebrate?

US is a Classic Empire and Is Becoming a Repressive Police State at Home

By Dave Lindorff/ Thiscantbehappening.net/ July 4, 2019

 

US Flag Around the Earth

As I set out to fly home from the UK on Monday following a short film project in Cambridge, I found my boarding pass, which I had been blocked from obtaining online the night before, carrying a bold-faced SSSS stamp in the lower right corner. Asking about it I was told by the British employee at the United check-in counter, “That is because you are on a US Department of Homeland Security list, sir.”

Later, after my son and I got the boarding gate, my name was called and I was ushered through a door in the wall behind the gate desk where two British security agents pawed through my bag and ran a cloth over computer, phone and all the zippers on my suitcase and computer bag looking for traces of explosives. After that I was politely told that I and my son (whose luggage was left uninspected) could board the plane. When I asked why I, a journalist with no criminal record, was being treated like a suspected terrorist, they laughed and said I would have to inquire of the DHS.

It’s not the first time this has happened to me. The same thing happened when my wife and I flew to Vienna in March where she was playing a concert on Vienna State Radio. That time at a checkpoint between Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and Terminal 2, my boarding pass was rejected, and when I got it reprinted a red stamp saying “ICE Security” was added. As on Monday, I was subjected to a special search in a separate location near the gate by an apologetic British security officer.

Today is July 4, and many American citizens will be bringing blankets and lawn chairs to local fireworks displays to celebrate American independence. Of course, those fireworks really hark back to the “rockets’ red glare” referred to in Francis Scott Key’s racist national anthem, which was largely a condemnation of the freed black slaves that the British employed in their effort to conquer Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812.

What, really, have we got to celebrate?

The US today is a global empire. Our country’s military, ballooning to some 2.1 million in uniform at a time that there is really no significant war underway. US military spending, greater in constant dollars than at any time since WWII, represents 34% of all global military spending, and the US military budget, depending on how one counts it, is larger than the next largest eight-to-ten countries’ military budgets combined. To show how ridiculously huge the US military is, consider that at $220 billion for fiscal year 2020, the US budget for Veterans Affairs alone (that’s the agency that provides assistance of all kinds, including medical, to those who served in the military, not counting career soldiers who receive a pension that is counted separately) this one military budget line item is larger than the entire military budget of China, and is more than three times as large as the entire military budget of Russia, considered by many to be our primary “adversary”!

And remember — US empire and militarism is and has always been supported by both political parties.

Here at home, our police are increasingly militarized to the point that most people now view the police as a potential threat, cowering politely in any interaction with cops, and fearing to assert their rights when they disagree with a stop for fear they will be cuffed, brutalized and arrested for speaking up. Our militarized, power-tripping law-enforcement officers insist on “respect,” are quick to make up reasons to take us down and take us in (like “resisting arrest” or “causing a disturbance”) if we don’t show it, and are quick to fire a taser or a gun if they “feel threatened,” knowing that prosecutors and the courts will almost always give them the benefit of the doubt even if video evidence shows them to have been in the wrong.

I’m 70, and the decline in freedom in this country has been a long but quite visible process back at least to when I was a young adult resisting the draft and the Vietnam War. Being on a “watch list” is nothing new for me. I learned from the FBI file I obtained back in the late ‘70s when the Freedom of Information Act was still actually working as originally intended, that I was on a list back during the war years and in fact was scheduled to be arrested by the US Attorney in Hartford, CT for draft resistance until the order, all unknown to me, was rescinded at the last minute. The FBI visited a colleague of my father’s at the UConn Engineering School in 1971 looking into an effort I and my wife made at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, Canada to obtain permission to visit China.

Is the US a police state? Yes, certainly it is for some people. It is certainly a police state for immigrants, legal and undocumented alike, for black people wherever they reside, for hispanics and Native Americans, and for those like myself who oppose the political policies and foreign policy of this country. And I guess that answers the question. One doesn’t define a police state as a place that represses everyone, since by definition those who keep their heads down, support the political status quo and those in power, are doing what the state wants them to do. There is no need to show the iron fist or the jackboot to them. A police state is a place that applies force and the tools of repression to those who challenge it. So even before we consider the concentration camps for immigrants along the border, the outrageous separation and imprisonment of babies, toddlers and children by Border Patrol thugs, and our latest president’s desire for military parades to honor himself on this day, the real answer is: Yes! the US must be considered, today, to be a police state.

So what’s to celebrate?

tanks

I read that a recent Gallup Organization poll shows a significant drop in the percentage of US Americans who are “extremely proud” of their country. True, 45% still say they are “proud” of America, but normally that is how many say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans. That’s a significant fall-off. Even among normally super-patriotic Republicans the percentage of those saying they are “extremely proud” this July 4 of this country was down to 76%, a 10% drop from 2003, and close to the 68% low point reached at one point during the Obama administration.

The main cause of the loss of patriotic ardor appears to be dismay or disgust with the US political system. According to the poll, only 32% of Americans say they are “proud” (forget “extremely proud”!) of America’s vaunted political system. In a close second for popular disgust, only 37% said they are “proud” of the US health care system.

So I guess I’m in pretty good company. I won’t be oohing and aaahing at the local fireworks display this year. It’s basically a glorification of US war-making anyhow, and there’s nothing at all to be proud of in that regard, particularly with the US in the midst of a $1.5-trillion upgrade of its nuclear arsenal, threatening war with Iran, pulling out of a Reagan-era treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear missiles, and embarking in a new arms race both in space and in virtually unstoppable hypersonic cruise missiles.

In my view, my country has become the world’s leading “rogue” nation, dismissive of all international laws and codes of conduct, actively attacking many countries on its own authority, without the support of UN Security Council resolutions, exonerating war crimes committed by its soldiers, and committed to the first use of nuclear weapons, both as a first strike against major power rivals like Russia and China, and against non-nuclear nations like Iran, and equally dismissive of all efforts, large and small, to respond to the crisis of catastrophic global heating. At home, the US legal system has become a supine supporter of virtually unlimited executive power, of unchecked police power, and of repressive actions against the supposedly constitutionally protected free press.

It’s tempting to hope that the decline noted by Gallup in the percent of Americans expressing “extreme pride” and even of “pride” in the US might mean people are getting fed up with the militarism and endless wars and the thoroughly corrupt political system, but support for the US among the country’s citizens still remains shamefully high in the face of all these negatives.

Anyhow, count me among those who won’t be celebrating today’s July 4 national holiday.

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Media Bias, A Chart

Have fun with this….and see if you agree or disagree…..chart

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He Came Close Last Time

Moore

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IMPEACH NOW!

The Real Reason Nancy Pelosi Is Ducking Impeachment

By Todd Stern/ Washington Post/ June 13, 2019

Eight weeks after the release of the redacted Mueller report, the central question of whether to open a formal impeachment inquiry remains unanswered, with the vitality of our democracy at a crossroads.

The pillars of that democracy are a strong Congress, a vibrantly free press, an independent judiciary, law enforcement without political manipulation and a foundational commitment to the truth. President Trump is attacking every one of these pillars repeatedly, forcefully and with malice aforethought.

Yet Democrats stand divided and unsure on the impeachment question, unwilling to act while faced with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s opposition. The speaker is enormously able, a hero in our party. But she is not infallible. And, in my view, she is wrong now. Democrats ought to open an impeachment inquiry without delay.

As a threshold matter, it appears that Trump has committed a variety of impeachable offenses. Obstruction of justice is the most obvious, because the Mueller report lays out a withering case of criminal obstruction, and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III himself made clear he didn’t consider such a case only because of Justice Department guidance against indicting a sitting president.More than 1,000 former prosecutors, Democrats and Republicans, have declared in a petition that Trump would have been indicted on multiple obstruction counts if he were not not president. A partial list of other grounds for impeachment would include Trump’s failure to protect the United States against foreign attacks on our electoral system, his blanket refusal to comply with lawful congressional subpoenas, his attempt to prosecute political enemies, and his welcoming, benefiting from and rewarding of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

The speaker and her leadership team have sought to defend their refusal to open an impeachment inquiry on several grounds, but none of them adds up. They have said we need to hold investigative hearings first to gather more information, but the truth is that we know more than enough already from the Mueller report and Trump’s public conduct to begin an impeachment inquiry now. Such a formal inquiry would put the House in the best possible position to defeat Trump’s effort to block access to documents and witnesses, because Congress’s constitutional impeachment power is undisputed. Suggesting we don’t know enough yet only sends a misleading message to the public.

The speaker has also said impeachment would be divisive, so we shouldn’t move forward unless there are enough Senate Republicans to convict. But if divisiveness were a ground for taking a pass on impeachment, this essential safeguard would wither on the vine. And since when do strong, proud, able Democrats seek approval from the other side before acting on a matter of crucial constitutional, moral and political consequence?

The House leadership team has also said Trump is goading us into impeachment because it’s just what he wants politically. But his own words belie this theory; They are a tell. Speaking to reporters outside the White House on May 30, he described impeachment as“dirty, filthy, disgusting.” Those words occupy the last rung of Trump’s phobic hell.

Most recently, the speaker has said she wants to see Trump in prison, not impeached — meaning beat him next year and then indict. But this is a silly attempt to show toughness. Whether Trump ever goes to prison is beside the constitutional and political point. He is unfit for office. He has abused his power. He has violated his oath. The Constitution affords the remedy. Talk about prison is a distraction.

The real reason the House leadership is ducking impeachment is almost surely politics. Some say polls argue against impeachment, but polls mean little when the vast majority of people have neither read the Mueller report nor absorbed what it says from in-depth reporting. What the public has heard is the Trump team celebrating

reason Nancy Pelosi is ducking impeachment – The Washington Post 6/14/19, 7)02 AM

exoneration while the Democrats seem uncertain and conflicted. Polls will change if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, just as they did during Watergate, when support for impeachment rose from 19 percent to 57 percent, per Gallup, within 14 months of the time impeachment hearings began.

In short, the time of reckoning is upon us. Of course, there are risks in moving forward, but the risks of not doing so are greater. Taking into account principle, precedent and politics, the House should open an impeachment inquiry, upholding its separate but equal power to do its sworn duty. Now is a moment for clarity, toughness and spine. History is watching.

impeach

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DEATH THROES OF DEMOCRACY

How our republic could die in the age of Trump — in a stunning parallel to the fall of Rome

By Thom Hartmann/ Alternet/ May 20, 2019

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: The Donald Trump version of the Bible

The American republic could die, just like Rome.

Wavering for some time on the verge of becoming a complete oligarchy, America is on the verge of flipping from a democratic republic to a strongman or autocratic form of government, something that’s happened to dozens of democracies in the past few decades, but never before here. It’s possible we won’t recover from it.

The death of a republic is different from the death of a nation; Rome was a nation for nearly 2,000 years, but its period of being a republic was only around 300 years long. For the rest, it was a brutal empire with a small but wealthy and corrupt ruling class and a thin patina of democracy-for-show.

Trump is openly defying the norms and laws of our republic, while calling for the imprisonment of both his political enemies and members of the very law enforcement agencies that might hold him to account. And he’s only able to do it because billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, with Fox News, and the billionaires Republicans depend on to fund their re-elections are providing him with cover.

And they’re largely able to do that because five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court empowered billionaires to own the political system with the 1976 Buckley and 2010 Citizens United decisions.

Already, it is evident there are similarities between the end of the Roman Republic and America today when it comes to political theater. In the Roman Republic, the question of what was “real” or “fake” was decided by the people and common sense until the republic began to splinter in the first century BCE. Once the political/power cracks appeared, truth and lies became a constant matter of debate. Today we have a reality-show president who has told over 10,000 lies, many uncritically repeated daily by the media and others aggressively defended by politicians owned by the same billionaires who support Trump. Trump is constantly at war with the truth and “fake news.”

Republics die when the price of losing political struggles becomes higher than individual politicians are willing to pay, so they just roll over in favor of the interests of whoever is most powerful. Republics die when compromise is seen as betrayal, and a single principled vote, position or statement is enough to cause donors and party to turn their back and end a political career, or even end a person’s ability to earn a living.

In Rome, after the republican phase ended in the first century BCE with the assassination of Julius Caesar, it often meant physical death; in America today it means political and economic death, but the dagger at the heart of what the founding fathers called our “republican form of government” is no less sharp.

A republic falters because it ceases to be functional and democratic—meeting the needs of the people and being governed by the people—when behind-the-scenes plutocrats, warlords, or corporations achieve near total—and nearly invisible—political/financial dominance over the visible political process.

This failure of governance and plutocratic takeover is followed by threats of overwhelming political destruction, and, in the final stages, violence often takes over.

That was when, in 1933, the Weimar Republic became the Nazi tyranny; in 1938 when Mussolini dissolved parliament and replaced it with the Chamber of Fascist Corporations; in 1980 when Augusto Pinochet replaced Chile’s constitution with one that banned opposition political groups; in 2016 when President Erdogan of Turkey brutally responded to a coup attempt. Recently we’ve also seen it in Russia, the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary, and Poland.

The forces driving the death of our republic include Trump trying to prosecute those who investigated him for his campaign’s Russia ties and his disavowal of the rights and powers of the first branch of American government, the Congress. Fueling the process for nearly two generations are the right-wing billionaires funding politicians who tolerate the promotion of deadly white supremacist violence, all in the pursuit of lower taxes, higher profits, and a dog-eat-dog political ideology that doesn’t let average people get their needs met through the political process.

The disintegration of the Roman Republic began, writes Edward J. Watts, the author of Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny, in the years around 100 BCE when politicians became rigidly bound to their patrons and thus refused to compromise, raising the cost of normal political activity to a level where egalitarian governance became a sham. Instead of disagreeing with each other, Roman politicians began to prosecute each other and fund reactionary “populist” forces.

Watts told me that the consequence, over the next century, was political violence and the end of the republic; by the time of Augustus, Rome had become an autocratic, plutocratic empire and democracy was dead, even though the iron-fisted empire would last another 1,400 years, finally petering out (no pun intended) as the modern Catholic Church.

A republic is dying when the price of political activism becomes so high that the only people willing to engage in it are also willing to kill or die for their positions. But before the physical killing and dying happens, first comes financial and political killing and dying.

When politicians are terrified that the wrong statement or vote will lose them their political and financial patrons—or could even get them thrown in jail or killed—they cease to be players in a republican democratic drama, and instead become sycophants to and enablers of the plutocrats who have the actual political power, even though they don’t hold office.

This is the position elected members of the Republican Party find themselves in today relative to the billionaires and industries that own them, and the white supremacists and religious zealots they’ve invited in as allies; the future of our democratic republican form of government will depend on whether they continue to encourage this poison, or reject it.

The modern Republican Party has, since the Reagan era, stood exclusively for making the very rich much richer, privatizing Social Security, ending Medicare and Medicaid, gutting food stamps and other programs to help those in poverty and the working poor, increasing levels of poison and pollution in our air and water, and turning our entire school system over to for-profit vultures.

These are all pretty unpopular positions, so to get elected the GOP has pulled together a coalition of white supremacists, gun fanatics, and religious zealots who want total control over women and their bodies.

That’s nearly enough people to win the occasional election, but the real force behind the modern GOP are the plutocrats, the billionaires who fund everything from “conservative” think tanks, to super PACs (and their social media troll farms), to billion-dollar media buys.

Republican politicians now live in such fear of these billionaires and the corporations who made them rich that they’re unwilling to acknowledge simple science like climate change or the impact of industrial pollution on children.

These are the signs of a dying republic.

Into this moment in history comes Donald Trump, going after the walls and floors of our political house with a sledgehammer. Institutions that were treated with respect and even reverence are ridiculed as “weak” or “useless” by Trump; the hard-right billionaires cheer him on and keep writing checks to the GOP.

These are the symptoms of a republic in crisis.

  • Calling the press “the enemy of the people.”
  • Refusing to interact with Congress as the Constitution dictates.
  • Packing the courts with demonstrably unqualified ideologues.
  • Lying to the people on a daily basis.
  • Embracing autocrats while trashing traditional allies.
  • Breaking the law and flaunting a Nixon-era “guideline” from the DOJ saying that the president can’t be prosecuted, while he runs out the clock on the statute of limitations.
  • Bragging that he’s making money on the presidency and daring anybody to stop him.
  • Putting lobbyists in charge of public lands, our banking system, and our environment.
  • Embracing violent and hateful people and movements, both at home and abroad.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on in the press and in D.C. about Trump’s political and legal excesses. What everybody seems to be missing is the permanent damage he’s doing to our republic by finding the loose floorboards under our republic, the loopholes and norms of political behavior that have been enforced for centuries out of good will and respect, rather than fear of the law.

Like a petulant child or a juvenile delinquent, he delights in breaking them right in front of us.

Marian Kamensky / Austria

Nixon didn’t want to turn over the tapes, but when the courts told him to, he complied. Hillary Clinton didn’t want to testify for more than eight hours about Benghazi, but when Congress demanded it, she showed up. These have been American norms since the presidency of George Washington.

It’s entirely possible that Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr are right that Congress now has no real means to enforce their subpoenas and requests for testimony and documents; if so, it’s been that way since the founding of the republic.

Our government has functioned from one administration to another since its founding not because presidents and members of Congress were afraid of going to jail; things have held together because our politicians have, almost without exception, honored the institutions of our nation, even when they didn’t need to fear them.

Our Constitution, in many very real ways, is rather weak when faced with parties or persons who flaunt its norms, or won’t use the tools it provides to ensure accountability.

There was, for example, no jail cell waiting for Mitch McConnell when he refused to allow President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to even have a single hearing. Nobody had ever done such a thing because there’d never in our history been a Senate majority leader with so little respect for our nation and our Constitution, or so much loyalty to a small group of billionaires.

But now there’s a man in the White House so craven in his lust for personal wealth and power, and so owned by fossil-fuel interests, bigots, and religious fanatics that he’s willing to exploit that weakness in our Constitution to take an ax to the roots of our tree of liberty.

He is our nation’s Augustus Caesar, the killer of a republic and the herald of a corrupt and collapsing empire.

He’s willing to break laws in public and dare Congress to hold him responsible, while starting an “investigation” into those concerned about a foreign power breaking our election laws to make him president. He openly praises thugs and killers, both foreign and domestic, and delights in pardoning war criminals.

America will not “bounce back” from the Trump presidency when it ends, and may lose all ability to recover at all if that presidency lasts six rather than two more years.

If Republicans in the Senate are too cowardly to repudiate the petro-billionaires who threaten to fund their primary opponents, we will continue on the rapid downward slide Rome experienced in the first century BCE.

And if Democrats don’t take strong, immediate, and decisive action to curb GOP excesses, we may well never again have a chance to return to our democratic-republican roots.

Democrats “getting a spine” isn’t just good politics; it may be the last hope to salvage our republic and preserve our constitutional form of government.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and author of more than 25 books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

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False Flag Coming?

Iran

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