He Came Close Last Time


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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.


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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?


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What’s Next? Impeachment!

Thom’s blog
What Does America Do With the Grifter President Who is Actually Broke?
Thom plus logo  It’s looking increasingly like Donald Trump has had zero or negative net worth ever since the 1980s or 90s, according to the tax reports released by the New York Times yesterday. He’s been a grifter all along, running a huge con on America. He was broke when he wrote Art of the Deal, and he was broke when he was on The Apprentice. He’s almost certainly broke now.

So, what do Americans do as we realize that the guy in the White House is a world-class grifter and compulsive liar Who is so broke that he is willing to sell out his country in exchange for cash flow from his businesses in Turkey, the Philippines, and the $1 billion opportunity in Moscow that he was negotiating and lying about throughout the campaign?


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Is This How Fascism Begins

Editor’s note: This is a revised and expanded version of an article posted here April 12 (now deleted). This one was also published at OpEd News April 24-25, 2019

By Arlen Grossman


“If you aren’t outraged, then you just aren’t paying attention.”
– Lisa Borden

I regularly check on President Trump’s approval rating, waiting to see it go down, but I’m wasting my time–it never does. The country is burdened with an incompetent, angry, narcissistic leader, and no matter what crazy or cruel thing he says or does, there are many Americans who think he is doing just fine. His approval ratings never seem to fall below the low-40s. In other words, a single-digit bounce and the majority of the voters might be inclined to re-elect our current president!

To understand this phenomenon, it helps to examine some historical perspective. Many of us have wondered how a modern, civilized European country like Germany could fall under the spell of a hateful, murderous leader like Adolf Hitler, who launched World War II and the Holocaust, resulting in the torture and death of tens of millions. And how could Italy tolerate their fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini? I have often wondered how it was possible, but now I’m starting to understand.

German fascism developed for a number of reasons, among them economic turmoil, political instability, profound social change, and of course, a charismatic, evil, strong-willed leader. Toss in the tolerance and promotion of hate, and a large dose of patriotic, militaristic nationalism, and the result was the Nazi Party.

The story was only slightly different in Italy, the first fascist country, led by the strong-armed despot Mussolini, with his jutting-out jaw (does that sound familiar?). Their rigid ideas appealed to the political right, and like their German allies, Italy’s fascists were anti-abortion, anti-socialist, strongly corporatist, and believed in the rule of elites. They also valued strong nationalism and a powerful authoritarian leader.

Do the same ideas and conditions once found in Italy and Germany exist in America today? Let’s start with our economy. Everyone can see that the wealthiest Americans have benefited the most, while the Federal Reserve reports that four in 10 American adults say they don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense, and nearly 80 percent of workers say they’re living paycheck to paycheck. In addition, the aforementioned political instability and profound social change here is palpable. So is intolerance. And yes, there is our evil, strong-willed leader, Donald Trump.

Compare pre-WWII Italy and Germany with modern-day America and note today’s volatile conditions. Ask yourself: do we have a society in which fascism (I won’t go as far as Nazism) could develop and grow? Does the George Santayana quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” apply here?

It may be that today’s United States of America is quite a bit different than the emerging fascist nations of the early 1930s. But I am haunted by the similarities. And if you are paying attention, you should be, too.


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Why Is America Always At War?

Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’

By Brett Wilkins/ Counterpunch/ April 19, 2019

The only US president to complete his term without war, military attack or occupation has called the United States “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.”

During his regular Sunday school lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, Jimmy Carter revealed that he had recently spoken with President Donald Trump about China. Carter, 94, said Trump was worried about China’s growing economy and expressed concern that “China is getting ahead of us.”

Carter, who normalized diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing in 1979, said he told Trump that much of China’s success was due to its peaceful foreign policy.

“Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked.
“None, and we have stayed at war.” While it is true that China’s last major war — an invasion of Vietnam — occurred in 1979, its People’s Liberation Army pounded border regions of Vietnam with artillery and its navy battled its Vietnamese counterpart in the 1980s. Since then, however, China has been at peace with its neighbors and the world.

Carter then said the US has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation. Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in US history — 1976, the last year of the Gerald Ford administration and 1977-80, the entirety of Carter’s presidency. Carter then referred to the US as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” a result, he said, of the US forcing other countries to “adopt our American principles.”

China’s peace dividend has allowed and enhanced its economic growth, Carter said. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked. China has around 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of high speed rail lines while the US has “wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending. According to a November 2018 study by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, the US has spent $5.9 trillion waging war in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nations since 2001.

“It’s more than you can imagine,” Carter said of US war spending. “China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”

“And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure you’d probably have $2 trillion leftover,” Carter told his congregation. “We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing, we’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of say South Korea or Hong Kong.”

While there is a prevalent belief in the United States that the country almost always wages war for noble purposes and in defense of freedom, global public opinion and facts paint a very different picture. Most countries surveyed in a 2013 WIN/Gallup poll identified the United States as the greatest threat to world peace, and a 2017 Pew Research poll found that a record number of people in 30 surveyed nations viewed US power and influence as a “major threat.”

The US has also invaded or bombed dozens of countries and supported nearly every single right wing dictatorship in the world since the end of World War II. It has overthrown or attempted to overthrow dozens of foreign governments since 1949 and has actively sought to crush nearly every single people’s liberation movement over that same period. It has also meddled in scores of elections, in countries that are allies and adversaries alike.

Focus on the Good Apples
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Soft on Trump?

By Arlen Grossman

Is there anyone else troubled by the fact that Robert Mueller is a good friend of William Barr, and was known as a conservative Republican prior to being chosen as FBI director by President George W. Bush in 2001? Could that be a factor in his unwillingness to indict President Trump for either conspiring with Russia or obstructing justice? Something to think about…..


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The Crime of Journalism

Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished


By Joe Emersberger/ FAIR/ April 12, 2019


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should never have been punished for working with a whistleblower to expose war crimes. Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower, has done more time in prison, under harsher conditions, than William Calley, a key perpetrator of the My Lai massacre. Remarkably, Manning is in jail again, failed by organizations that should unreservedly defend her, as the US tries to coerce her into helping inflict more punishment on Assange.

As for Assange, he has already been arbitrarily detained for several years, according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Its 2016 press release on the matter stated:

The expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.

Now Assange could be punished even more brutally if the UK extradites him to the US, where he is charged with a “conspiracy” to help Manning crack a password that “would have” allowed her to cover her tracks more effectively. In other words, the alleged help with password-cracking didn’t work, and is not what resulted in the information being disclosed. It has also not been shown that it was Assange who offered the help, according to Kevin Gosztola (Shadowproof, 4/11/19). The government’s lack of proof of its charges might explain why Manning is in jail again.

The indictment goes even further, criminalizing the use of an electronic “drop box” and other tactics that investigate journalists routinely use in the computer age to work with a confidential source “for the purpose of publicly disclosing” information.

Assange Indictment: Purpose and Object of the Conspiracy

In 2010, the Guardian, like the New York Times and a few other corporate newspapers, briefly partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the contents of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, known as Cablegate. That year, WikiLeaks released other confidential US government information as well: the Afghanistan War Logs, the Iraq War Logs, the infamous “Collateral Murder” video.

The material exposed atrocities perpetrated by the US military, as well as other disgraceful acts—like US diplomats strategizing on how to undermine elected governments out of favor with Washington, spying on official US allies and bullying poor countries into paying wildly exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs.

Collateral Murder van aftermath

One US soldier involved in the “collateral murder” airstrike that Manning and Assange exposed, Ethan McCord, was threatened and reprimanded by a superior officer for requesting psychiatric help after the  atrocity. (“Get the sand out of your vagina,” he was reportedly told.) McCord had tended to wounded children during the massacre. He was soon expelled from the military, apparently now “unsuited” for it.

The point of journalism is to expose horrific crimes like this so that the powerful people who order them pay legal consequences, not the ones who expose them. Presumably that is why “press freedom” is considered important, and why it’s guaranteed by the First Amendment. The law should have protected Manning from punishment, the same way it protects somebody who uses violence in justifiable self-defense or in defense of others.

In Manning’s case, that was especially true, because she exposed grave crimes while stationed in Iraq, as the US perpetrated an even higher-level crime—a war of aggression based on a fraudulent pretext.  If the law should have protected Manning, who was at the very heart of the “conspiracy” to expose gruesome crimes, then it obviously should protect Assange, and any of the outlets that worked with him.

Last year, James Goodale, former general counsel to the New York Times, commented on the (now confirmed) idea that a “conspiracy” charge would be brought against Assange by the US government:

As a matter of fact, a charge against Assange for “conspiring” with a source is the most dangerous charge that I can think of with respect to the First Amendment in almost all my years representing media organizations.

The reason is that one who is gathering/writing/distributing the news, as the law stands now, is free and clear under the First Amendment. If the government is able to say a person who is exempt under the First Amendment then loses that exemption because that person has “conspired” with a source who is subject to the Espionage Act or other law, then the government has succeeded in applying the standard to all news-gathering.

Twitter: Manning went to all big US newspapers with Collateral Murder video and all refused to publish becoz it exposed the empire they exist to protect.

One way to avoid being accused of a conspiracy is to simply not publish information that powerful people don’t want published, as independent journalist Matt Kennard, author of The Racket, noted on Twitter.

Another way to protect against prosecution would be to help the government unofficially designate a class of acceptable “journalists,” and join the government in vilifying anyone outside this club as a “spy,” “hacker”—anything but a journalist. 60 Minutes (1/26/11) suggested he was “not really a journalist at all” because “he is an anti-establishment ideologue with conspiratorial views.” An example of such paranoia? “He believes large government institutions use secrecy to suppress the truth and he distrusts the mainstream media for playing along.”

British journalists, too, have taken to this task with glee for many years. Unsurprisingly, Assange’s arrest prompted vicious comments about his appearance from prominent members of the club.

The Guardian editors dropped any pretense of having journalistic standards when it comes to Assange when it published an outlandish claim that Assange met repeatedly with Paul Manafort in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Glenn Greenwald has done tremendous work exposing that journalistic outrage. It has become a “scoop” (heavily tweaked and qualified after publication) that the Guardian doesn’t retract, but doesn’t mention either—even in a very recent editorial (4/11/19) about Assange’s case.

In that editorial, the Guardian, disregarding the UN experts who said Assange had been arbitrarily detained for years, still calls for Assange to be “held to account” for “skipping bail” (though not extradited to the US). Journalism like that, at the “liberal” end of the spectrum, explains why Assange and Manning are in jail, while George W. Bush and Tony Blair walk free.

Featured image: Julian Assange being arrested by British police at the London Ecuadoran embassy. (Image: Ruptly)

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A Better Solution?


“I thought it would be easier than a drawn-out political campaign.”

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