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In This Edition

Thom Hartmann with a must read, "The Second Amendment Was Ratified To Preserve Slavery."

Uri Avnery says, "Welcome, Chuck."

Graham Nash considers, "Punishment Before Trial."

Robert Reich explains, "Why Obama's Gamble On The Debt Ceiling Depends On The GOP Being More Sane Than It Is."

Jim Hightower is, "Slippin' And Slidin' On Corporate Cash."

Naomi Wolf wonders, "Will Obama's 'War On Weed' Really Ride Roughshod Over American Voters?"

James Donahue says, "Hitler Was Not The Worst Killer In History."

John Nichols discovers, "RNC's Priebus Proposes To Rig Electoral College So Losing Republicans Can 'Win.'"

Chris Hedges explores, "The Myth Of Human Progress."

Glen Ford warns, "Don't You Dare Conflate MLK And Obama."

Paul Krugman reports, "Japan Steps Out."

Glenn Greenwald examines, "The Bombing Of Mali Highlights All The Lessons Of Western Intervention."

David Swanson presents, "A New Jefferson Bible."

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre, wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Matthew Rothschild finds, "Banning Semi-Automatic Weapons Is Not Enough."

William Pfaff returns with, "God Loves Us And We Will Bomb You."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Silvio Berlusconi Swears Dancer Was Of Legal Age When He Paid Her For Sex Using State Money" but first Uncle Ernie exclaims, "It's Going To Be A Bumpy Four Years!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Randall Enos, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Derf City, Mr. Fish, Clay Bennett, Married To The Sea, Ozzy Amos, Gage Skidmore, Eileen Kelly Fors, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Reuters, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
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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It's Going To Be A Bumpy Four Years!
By Ernest Stewart

Yankee Doodle came to terms, writing Martin Buber. Stuck a Fuhrer in our back, And called it Schicklgruber! ~~~ The Firesign Theatre

"To go so far as to make the safety of the President's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly." ~~~ White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

His comrades fought beside him - Van Owen and the rest
But of all the Thompson gunners Roland was the best
So the CIA decided they wanted Roland dead
That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen blew off Roland's head
Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner ~~~ Warren Zevon

"There is a very real relationship, both quantitatively and qualitatively, between what you contribute and what you get out of this world." ~~~ Oscar Hammerstein II

Yes, I get it; Barry is a politician which means he's the best liar in the country; and it's only politics and the epiphany that gave me this thought was back in 1972: "The word Politics, comes from the Latin, 'Poli' meaning 'Many' and from the English 'Tics' meaning 'Blood Sucking Creatures,' Poli-Tics," so why has his latest little faux pas upset me? I certainly should know better by now!

When Barry lies his ass off with his hand on the bible next Sunday, all of the celebrations and festivities that will last for three days will be paid for. A tab expected to be around $45 million dollars will be paid for by his 1% corpo-rat pals who are buying their way into Barry's heart via his backpocket! This is, after all, something Barry swore to Zeus that he would never, ever do, back in 2008, you remember, right?

Of course, his spin masters are going non-stop to say even though it looks like what it really is, i.e., various and sundry acts of treason, it really isn't, because it's all being vetted, and then suggests that when the bribing begins we should either go out and pick up trash, or feed the homeless, or, better still, roll back over and go back to sleep, cause it really is better if you just don't know, less you do something about it!

Yes, I know, when compared to Barry's other acts of treason, mass murder, war crimes and such, this is really no big deal; but coming as it does at the beginning of his second term, when all the restraints of having to run again are off, it does not bode well, America. Next stop: a new fiscal cliff as the government runs out of money and has to shut down or kiss Boner's ass. I know, what a happy couple of thoughts; but that's not going to happen. What is going to happen is that the poor, the elderly, the hungry, and the sick are going to get screwed -- and the rich are going to get richer.

Yes, I know, that's the nature of the beast; and I can go on tilting at all the windmills I like; but it's going to change nothing -- something I had drilled into my head on first day in poli-sci 101, viz., "You are so fucked young man; and there is nothing you can do to change it, nothing. Be afraid, be very afraid!" Which eventually led me to drop out so I wouldn't have to teach it. I then became a DJ -- something that always made the people happy and not sad. There are worse things in life than making folks happy, if only for a few minutes! I then spent the next 30 years ignoring all the political bullshit that I possibly could, until the 12-12-2000 coup d' etat went down and "pulled me back in," c'est la guerre.

So, as I look forward into the next four years, I see some more of our guaranteed rights disappear. I see perhaps, two or three new wars against Muslims. I see more state-and-federally-owned things being taken over by the corpo-rats. I see more people sleeping under bridges in tents, and perhaps a new depression that makes the old one and our current one look like a Swiss Picnic by comparison. The corpo-rats want all this; and Boner and Barry are going to give it to them -- see if they don't! Oh, and if you make their radar, expect to be followed whereever you go by some of those new 20,000 + drones that are being brought online over American skies, even as we speak! Are you still sure that Willard would have been any worse, than Barry is? "Hold on tight and fasten your seat-belts, America. It's going to be a bumpy four years!"

In Other News

When did Barry turn into TV man? Seems to be a lot of him on the tube lately, and more to come with his big day coming up! Today, he was on teevy about gun control, and what he was going to do about it and went so far as to sign a bunch of executive orders with the school children props standing behind him. Talk about your photo ops!

"Here is the list provided by the White House of the 23 executive actions President Obama signed to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre:"

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rule-making to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Of course, this will do next to nothing to solve the problems. The only hope of that lies with Con-gress and there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that they will do anything meaningful. So you NRA members can relax. You can still play army with your pals and pretend you're saving America from Obama and those damn liberals, who are cleaning their assault rifles to protect us all from the rat-wing and the NRA while the 1% and their political criminal pals keep going to the bank, knowing full well that your guns don't frighten them in the least. How long will your 30 round banana clips even taped back to back last against a Warthog firing 4,000 30 mm cannon rounds a minute in your general direction or an F-22 firing 7,000 rounds a minute or a drone firing hell-fires at you from 50,000 feet? How long will your AR-15 stand up against an Abrams?

And Finally

I've been hearing a lot of so-called "conspiracy theories" lately, from Sandy Hook to Obamahood -- none of which pass muster. Not only is there not a drop of any evidence or even a convincing theory in them, but most are simple schemes on making some money on the stupidity of the average American Sheeple. Then, there's the government theories, designed to discredit the current or a past real theory. Like the many on Sandy Hook, which are so obviously bullshit that other real ones, like 9/11 or the JFK sanction, suffer by association. This conspiracy theory is obviously bullshit, so the rest of them are, too; so just roll over and go back to sleep; Big Brother will protect you!

Then there are the more subtle ones, like this week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner the NRA's star spin master: Wayne LaPierre. Wayne and his pals have found riches beyond their wildest dreams as most would be asking if you'd like fries with that if it wasn't for their big NRA paychecks. What Wayne won't admit is what's obvious to everyone else. Guns kill people! Some guns have no other use than killing people. Not for sporting, not for hunting, the old Ma Deuce, viz., the Browning M2 machine gun, is a good example of that. Just imagine if everyone could buy Thompson sub-machine guns from catalogs with 100 round clips through the mail like you used to be able to. Ya'll remember the Roaring Twenties? The Tommy Gun made them roar. Anyone else against outlawing them for over the counter sales? Anyone?

Trouble is that Mr. LaPierre (there's a real macho name, huh? No wonder he goes around armed!) now insists we turn our school campuses into armed camps -- might as well take it to the next level - armed concentration camps! Now what could possibly go wrong with that? Worst still, is arming the teachers, now little Johnny won't have to bring a gun to school, because everybody knows there is a loaded 44 magnum in Miss Crabtree's desk, let's rock class! Did I mention that in most similar cases to Sandy Hook there were cops on campus? Columbine and Virginia Tech spring to mind....

Ergo, Wayne is this week's winner!

Keepin' On

Well, I finally got down to Taylor last Saturday; and much to my surprise, I found some money from Sweet William from New Orleans, and some more from one of our "Usual Suspects," good ole Doc 2th and his kinky partner in crime, Mr. Jack. It was a first time donation for Sweet William, but not so for Doc 2th who is an original member of the "Usual Suspects," without whose help, you wouldn't be reading this!

We couldn't go on without the help of the "Usual Suspects" as last year they made up about 70% of all donations. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen; without you we'd be nowhere; but with you, we finally managed to break even for 2012! Yippee, tie one on!

I also heard a rumor from another one of our "Usual Suspects" that our first donation of 2013 is on the way to my p.o. box. Thank you so much for that! If you like to help us pay the bills that allow us to bring you the truth that is so hard to find in this day and age, and that just might save your life and the life of your family somewhere down the line, then please send us whatever you can, whenever you can and we'll put it to good use in the fight to restore the old Republic!


09-19-1941 ~ 01-11-2013
Thanks for the film!

02-04-1923 ~ 01-14-2013
Thanks for the film!


We get by with a little help from our friends!
So please help us if you can...?


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2013 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 12 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Face Book. Follow me on Twitter.

The Second Amendment Was Ratified To Preserve Slavery
By Thom Hartmann

The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the Framers knew the difference - see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason, and James Madison were totally clear on that . . . and we all should be too.

In the beginning, there were the militias. In the South, they were also called the "slave patrols," and they were regulated by the states.

In Georgia, for example, a generation before the American Revolution, laws were passed in 1755 and 1757 that required all plantation owners or their male white employees to be members of the Georgia Militia, and for those armed militia members to make monthly inspections of the quarters of all slaves in the state. The law defined which counties had which armed militias and even required armed militia members to keep a keen eye out for slaves who may be planning uprisings.

As Dr. Carl T. Bogus wrote for the University of California Law Review in 1998, "The Georgia statutes required patrols, under the direction of commissioned militia officers, to examine every plantation each month and authorized them to search 'all Negro Houses for offensive Weapons and Ammunition' and to apprehend and give twenty lashes to any slave found outside plantation grounds."

It's the answer to the question raised by the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained when he asks, "Why don't they just rise up and kill the whites?" If the movie were real, it would have been a purely rhetorical question, because every southerner of the era knew the simple answer: Well regulated militias kept the slaves in chains.

Sally E. Haden, in her book Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, notes that, "Although eligibility for the Militia seemed all-encompassing, not every middle-aged white male Virginian or Carolinian became a slave patroller." There were exemptions so "men in critical professions" like judges, legislators and students could stay at their work. Generally, though, she documents how most southern men between ages 18 and 45 - including physicians and ministers - had to serve on slave patrol in the militia at one time or another in their lives.

And slave rebellions were keeping the slave patrols busy.

By the time the Constitution was ratified, hundreds of substantial slave uprisings had occurred across the South. Blacks outnumbered whites in large areas, and the state militias were used to both prevent and to put down slave uprisings. As Dr. Bogus points out, slavery can only exist in the context of a police state, and the enforcement of that police state was the explicit job of the militias.

If the anti-slavery folks in the North had figured out a way to disband - or even move out of the state - those southern militias, the police state of the South would collapse. And, similarly, if the North were to invite into military service the slaves of the South, then they could be emancipated, which would collapse the institution of slavery, and the southern economic and social systems, altogether.

These two possibilities worried southerners like James Monroe, George Mason (who owned over 300 slaves) and the southern Christian evangelical, Patrick Henry (who opposed slavery on principle, but also opposed freeing slaves).

Their main concern was that Article 1, Section 8 of the newly-proposed Constitution, which gave the federal government the power to raise and supervise a militia, could also allow that federal militia to subsume their state militias and change them from slavery-enforcing institutions into something that could even, one day, free the slaves.

This was not an imagined threat. Famously, 12 years earlier, during the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, Lord Dunsmore offered freedom to slaves who could escape and join his forces. "Liberty to Slaves" was stitched onto their jacket pocket flaps. During the War, British General Henry Clinton extended the practice in 1779. And numerous freed slaves served in General Washington's army.

Thus, southern legislators and plantation owners lived not just in fear of their own slaves rebelling, but also in fear that their slaves could be emancipated through military service.

At the ratifying convention in Virginia in 1788, Henry laid it out:

"Let me here call your attention to that part [Article 1, Section 8 of the proposed Constitution] which gives the Congress power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States. . .

"By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither . . . this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory."

George Mason expressed a similar fear:

"The militia may be here destroyed by that method which has been practised in other parts of the world before; that is, by rendering them useless, by disarming them. Under various pretences, Congress may neglect to provide for arming and disciplining the militia; and the state governments cannot do it, for Congress has an exclusive right to arm them [under this proposed Constitution] . . . "

Henry then bluntly laid it out:

"If the country be invaded, a state may go to war, but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress . . . . Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia."

And why was that such a concern for Patrick Henry?

"In this state," he said, "there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States. . . . May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free."

Patrick Henry was also convinced that the power over the various state militias given the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave-patrol militias. He knew the majority attitude in the North opposed slavery, and he worried they'd use the Constitution to free the South's slaves (a process then called "Manumission").

The abolitionists would, he was certain, use that power (and, ironically, this is pretty much what Abraham Lincoln ended up doing):

"[T]hey will search that paper [the Constitution], and see if they have power of manumission," said Henry. "And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery? May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power?

"This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it."

He added: "This is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress."

James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" and a slaveholder himself, basically called Patrick Henry paranoid.

"I was struck with surprise," Madison said, "when I heard him express himself alarmed with respect to the emancipation of slaves. . . . There is no power to warrant it, in that paper [the Constitution]. If there be, I know it not."

But the southern fears wouldn't go away.

Patrick Henry even argued that southerner's "property" (slaves) would be lost under the new Constitution, and the resulting slave uprising would be less than peaceful or tranquil:

"In this situation," Henry said to Madison, "I see a great deal of the property of the people of Virginia in jeopardy, and their peace and tranquility gone."

So Madison, who had (at Jefferson's insistence) already begun to prepare proposed amendments to the Constitution, changed his first draft of one that addressed the militia issue to make sure it was unambiguous that the southern states could maintain their slave patrol militias.

His first draft for what became the Second Amendment had said: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person."

But Henry, Mason and others wanted southern states to preserve their slave-patrol militias independent of the federal government. So Madison changed the word "country" to the word "state," and redrafted the Second Amendment into today's form:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State [emphasis mine], the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Little did Madison realize that one day in the future weapons-manufacturing corporations, newly defined as "persons" by a Supreme Court some have called dysfunctional, would use his slave patrol militia amendment to protect their "right" to manufacture and sell assault weapons used to murder schoolchildren.
(c) 2013 Thom Hartmann is a New York Times bestselling Project Censored Award winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his radio program. He also now has a daily independent television program, The Big Picture, syndicated by FreeSpeech TV, RT TV, and 2oo community TV stations. You can also listen or watch Thom over the Internet.

Welcome, Chuck
By Uri Avnery

I FIND Chuck Hagel eminently likeable. I am not quite certain why.

Perhaps it's his war record. He was decorated for valor in the Vietnam War (which I detested). He was a mere sergeant. Since I was a mere corporal in our 1948 war, I find it elating to see a non-commissioned officer become Minister of Defense.

Like so many veterans who have seen war from close up (myself included), he has become an enemy of war. Wonderful.

NOW Hagel is violently attacked by all the neocon warmongers, almost none of whom has ever heard a bullet whistle in the wars to which they sent others, and the combined political regiments of the American Jewish establishment.

His main sin seems to be that he objects to war against Iran. To be against an attack on Iran means to be anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, indeed to wish for the destruction of Israel if not all Jews. Never mind that almost all present and past chiefs of the Israeli army and intelligence community object to an attack on Iran, too. But Binyamin Netanyahu knows better.

Last week, the former much-lauded chief of the Shin Bet painted a frightening picture of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak at a security meeting to discuss the bombing of Iran some time ago. The two were in high spirits, puffing on cigars and drinking whiskey, much to the disgust of the assembled security chiefs. In Israel, cigars are considered an ostentatious luxury and drinking at work is taboo.

Netanyahu's spin-doctors retorted that Winston Churchill, too, was a brandy drinker and smoked cigars. Seems that spirits and cigars are not enough to make a Churchill.

Actually, I think that the appointment of Hagel may come as a relief to Netanyahu. After years of depicting the Iranian nuclear bomb as the end of the world, or at least of Israel, the bomb is mysteriously absent from Netanyahu's election campaign. Hagel's appointment may allow Netanyahu to climb down from this tree altogether.

But the catalogue of Hagel's crimes is much more extensive.

Many years ago he called the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington (would you believe it?) the "Jewish lobby." Until then, it was understood that AIPAC is mainly composed of Buddhists and financed by Arab billionaires like Abu Sheldon and Abel al-Adelson.

HOWEVER, HAGEL'S most heinous sin is not often mentioned. While serving as the Republican senator for Nebraska, he once uttered the unspeakable words: "I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!"

That is really the crux of the matter.

US senators are nearly all Israeli senators. Ditto for US congressmen. Hardly any of them would dare to criticize the Israeli government on any issue, negligible as it may be. Criticizing Israel is political suicide. Not only does the Jewish lobby use its huge resources to get loyal pro-Israelis elected and re-elected, but it openly employs these resources to unseat the few elected officials who dare to criticize Israel. They almost always succeed.

In the present election campaign, the Likud is showing again and again (and again) the scene of Netanyahu addressing the US congress. The senators and congressmen are seen wildly applauding after every single sentence, jumping up and down like children in gymnastics class. The text of the clip says: "When Netanyahu speaks, the world listens!"

(A curiosity: right after this shameful scene, the clip shows Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly. Since the applause there was sparse - hardly anyone, other than Avigdor Lieberman and the other members of the Israeli delegation in the half-empty hall did applaud - the editors of the clip used a little trick: they took the applause from the US Congress and transferred it to the UN Assembly hall.)

Somebody sent me a satirical piece saying that if Hagel's appointment is not cancelled by the US Senate, Israel will have to use its veto power to block it. In such a case, the senate would have to muster a 90% majority to overcome the veto. If this fails, President Obama would have to choose another Defense Secretary from a list of three names provided by Netanyahu.

Jokes aside, the Israeli defense establishment is not worried by the Hagel appointment. They seem to know him as quite receptive to Israeli requests. Several Israeli generals have already come to his defense.

THIS WHOLE episode might be considered trivial, or even funny, were it not for the question: Why did President Obama put forward this controversial figure in the first place?

An obvious answer is: Revenge. Obama is a master of controlling his emotions. During all the months of Netanyahu supporting Mitt Romney, Obama did not react. But his anger must have been building up inside.

Now the time has come. Appointing Hagel and openly humiliating the pro-Israel lobby was one way. More of this can be expected to come. Any slight nudge from America is bound to be felt by Israel as a heavy blow.

By the way, this blow could be used by the opposition parties here to to expose Netanyahu's rank incompetence. Supporting Romney was plain stupid. All the more so as Netanyahu, who was raised in the US, depicts himself as an expert on US affairs. But no party dares to raise this subject in our election campaign, for fear of being considered less than super-patriotic.

I don't expect President Obama to change the US treatment of Israel in the near future, beyond some small punitive acts like this one. But when we raise our eyes towards the horizon, the picture looks different.

There is already a marked difference between Obama I and Obama II. When he was elected the first time, he chose Chas Freeman, a highly respected diplomat, to head the National Security Council. The pro-Israel lobby raised a storm, and the appointment was withdrawn. Obama then preferred public humiliation to a confrontation with the lobby. How different this time!

This change may well become more marked in Obama's second term and far beyond. The lobby's stranglehold on Washington DC is loosening, slightly, slowly, but significantly.


I believe that one of the reasons is that the perception of the American Jewish community is changing. American politicians are beginning to realize that Jewish voters are far from unanimously behind the lobby. American Jewish "leaders", almost all of them self-appointed and representing nobody but a small clique of professional representatives, as well as the Israeli embassy and some right-wing billionaires, do not control the Jewish vote.

This became clear when Netanyahu supported Romney. The great majority of Jewish voters continued to support Obama and the Democratic Party.

This is not a sudden development. For years now, American Jews - especially young Jews - have distanced themselves from the Zionist establishment. Becoming more and more disillusioned with official Israeli policy, alienated by the occupation, disgusted with the pictures of Israeli soldiers beating up helpless Palestinians, they have quietly dropped away. Quietly, because they fear an anti-Semitic backlash. Jews are indoctrinated from early childhood that "we Jews have to stick together" in face of the anti-Semites.

Only a few brave American Jews are ready to openly - though ever so timidly - criticize Israel. But US politics are slowly adjusting to the fact that much of the lobby's strength is bluff, and that most American Jews don't let Israel determine their voting pattern.

AMERICANS MUST be a race of angels - how else to explain the incredible patience with which they suffer the fact that in a vital sphere of US interests, American policy is dictated by a foreign country?

For five decades, at least, US Middle East policy has been decided in Jerusalem. Almost all American officials dealing with this area are, well, Jewish. The Hebrew-speaking American ambassador in Tel Aviv could easily be the Israeli ambassador in Washington. Sometimes I wonder if in meetings of American and Israeli diplomats, they don't sometimes drop into Yiddish.

I have warned many times that this can't go on forever. Sooner or later real anti-Semites - a disgusting breed - will exploit this situation to gain legitimacy. The hubris of AIPAC bears poisonous fruit.

Since Israel is dependent on US support in almost every sphere - from the UN Security Council to the battlefields of future wars - this is a real existential danger.

Perhaps the lobby is becoming alert to this danger. In the present affair, their voice is remarkably subdued. They don't want to stand out.

THE SADDEST part of the story is that all these false "friends of Israel" in the US Congress and media are not really embracing "Israel". They are embracing the Israeli right-wing, including the extreme and even fascist right-wing. They are, thereby, helping the right-wing to tighten their control over our country.

American policy plays a major role in the agony of the Israeli peace camp, which is so manifest in the present election campaign. Just one example: the huge settlement effort now in process, which makes the two-state peace solution more and more difficult to implement, is financed by American Jews who funnel their donations through tax-free organizations. Thus the US government in practice finances the settlements, which it officially condemns as illegal.

Since the 19th century, newspapers have got used to abbreviating their reports by saying "France protests" and "Germany declares" when they mean "the French government protests" and "the German government declares". Thus the media today write that "Israel" promotes the settlements, when in actual fact it is the Israeli government which does so. Several respected recent polls prove that most Israelis want peace based on the two-state solution, which is undermined by our government on a daily basis.

BACK TO Senator Hagel: the Israeli government and the "friends of Israel" will do anything to undermine his appointment.

Speaking for myself, I hope that his appointment will herald a new American policy - a policy of support for a sober, rational, liberal, secular, democratic Israel, striving for peace with the Palestinian people.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Punishment Before Trial
More Than 1,000 Days and Counting for Bradley Manning
By Graham Nash

I read the news about Colonel Denise Lind's ruling in the case against Bradley Manning with great interest. She ruled that Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of releasing thousands of military and diplomatic emails and cables to Wikileaks was indeed subjected to excessively harsh treatment whilst in military detention and this must surely be seen as a small victory for the Manning defense team.

The punishment of Bradley Manning goes directly against the Uniform Code of Military Justice's own laws, namely Section 813 article 13, which basically states, "No punishment before trial." This law was obviously broken. People in this country are entitled to a "speedy trial," which is normally between 100 and 120 days from the date of the crime. Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for more than 1,000 days before his trial has begun and even a United Nations investigation confirmed that Manning was being held in inhumane conditions that was tantamount to torture.

In my humble opinion, the judges' ruling, granting Manning a 112-day reduction in any sentence he might receive, is welcome but far short of true justice. If the military broke its own laws and President Obama even declared publicly that Manning had broken the law, then how can anyone say that this could be a "fair" trial? Which military judge is going to go against the statements of his or her commander in chief?

An internal investigation by the Marine Corps, which operates the prison in which Manning was being held, stated that Manning's jailers violated their own policies in imposing oppressive conditions. The Obama administration's own State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, denounced the detention conditions as "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid" and was fired for his outspokenness.

President Obama, a constitutional lawyer, pays great lip service to "whistle blowers," maintaining that the U.S. needs people who will attempt to tell the truth, that the country needs people of courage to step forward when they witness wrongdoing of any kind, but cannot see the need to protect Bradley Manning. Perhaps the greatest crime that Manning committed was one of embarrassing the military and disturbing the status quo and one also has to wonder why the newspapers that profited from the publication of the events are not being brought to task. Manning is accused of aiding the enemy but surely the members of Al-Qaeda can read the newspaper.

When Bradley Manning saw and was asked to take part in things that troubled his heart and soul he went through the normal channels, bringing his concerns to his superiors only to be disregarded. As a U.S. soldier Manning swore an oath to protect the constitution of the United States and when he witnessed murder and mayhem being carried out in the name of the American people he felt it necessary to reveal what he knew. I truly believe that he wanted, above all, to start a serious dialogue about what was really being done in our name.

When Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers to the American public in 1971, the case against him was thrown out when it was discovered that the Nixon administration had illegally broken into his offices. If, as the judge in Manning's case declared, he was subjected to excessively harsh treatment in military detention then surely the case against Bradley Manning should be held to the same standards.

I became a citizen of this country more than 30 years ago and it is an honor and a privilege to be a small part of the USA. I came here to "the land of the free" because of the wonderful people I met and the beauty of the country I saw. The fact is that we are supposed to be a nation of laws, but when we break our laws and very little is done about it then I begin to question one of the primary reasons I came here in the first place.
(c) 2013 Graham Nash is singer, songwriter, photographer and political activist. Member of the groups Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and The Hollies. Nash is a founding member of

Why Obama's Gamble On The Debt Ceiling Depends On The GOP Being More Sane Than It Is
By Robert Reich

A week before his inaugural, President Obama says he won't negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt limit.

At an unexpected news conference on Monday he said he won't trade cuts in government spending in exchange for raising the borrowing limit.

"If the goal is to make sure that we are being responsible about our debt and our deficit - if that's the conversation we're having, I'm happy to have that conversation," Obama said. "What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people."

Well and good. But what, exactly, is the President's strategy when the debt ceiling has to be raised, if the GOP hasn't relented?

He's ruled out an end-run around the GOP.

The White House said over the weekend that the President won't rely on the Fourteenth Amendment, which arguably gives him authority to raise the debt ceiling on his own.

And his Treasury Department has nixed the idea of issuing a $1 trillion platinum coin that could be deposited with the Fed, instantly creating more money to pay the nation's bills.

In a pinch, the Treasury could issue IOUs to the nation's creditors - guarantees they'll be paid eventually. But there's no indication that's Obama's game plan, either.

So it must be that he's counting on public pressure - especially from the GOP's patrons on Wall Street and big business - to force Republicans into submission.

That's probably the reason for the unexpected news conference, coming at least a month before the nation is likely to have difficulty paying its bills.

The timing may be right. President is riding a wave of post-election popularity. Gallup shows him with a 56 percent approval rating, the highest in three years.

By contrast, Republicans are in the pits. John Boehner has a 21% approval and 60% disapproval. And Mitch McConnell's approval is at 24%. Not even GOP voters seem to like Republican lawmakers in Washington, with 25% approving and 61% disapproving.

And Americans remember the summer of 2011 when the GOP held hostage the debt ceiling, bringing the nation close to a default and resulting in a credit-rating downgrade and financial turmoil that slowed the recovery. The haggling hurt the GOP more than it did Democrats or the President.

But Obama's strategy depends on there being enough sane voices left in the GOP to influence others. That's far from clear.

Just moments after the President's Tuesday news conference, McConnell called on the President to get "serious about spending," adding that "the debt limit is the perfect time for it." And Boehner said "the American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time."

The 2012 election has shaken the GOP, as have the post-fiscal cliff polls. Yet, as I've noted before, the Republican Party may not care what a majority of Americans thinks. The survival of most Republican members of Congress depends on primary victories, not general elections - and their likely primary competitors are more to the right than they are.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Slippin' And Slidin' On Corporate Cash

The official theme song of President Barack Obama's three-day inaugural ceremony and celebration should be Little Richard's classic: "Slippin' and a slidin', peepin' and a hidin'."

A month ago, Obama himself put his Inaugural Committee on the slippery slope of ethical compromise by choosing to accept cash donations from corporations to pay for the festivities, which are estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $40 million. This decision went against his principled stand just four years ago to reject money from these special interests. Acknowledging that his ethical backflip this year looks bad, he's tried to soften the impact by declaring that (one) his lawyers would vet every corporate check to make sure it doesn't pose a conflict of interest, and (two) that every donation would be promptly posted on the Inaugural Committee's website for all to see.

But as he slid behind this pledge of transparency, he slipped on his own legalistic cleverness. Go to the website (, and sure enough you'll find a long list of names. But that's it. No indication of whether they are corporate executives, no clue as to what city or state they're from, and no revelation of how much money they've chipped in. This isn't transparency, it's trickery!

Only six corporate names appear, including AT&T, Microsoft, and Swiss-owned biotech giant, Genentech. Excuse me, but all three of these have truckloads of favors they want from the White House - they reek of conflicts of interest. Again, there's no disclosure of how much cash each one put up - but news stories have revealed that the Obamacans are asking some donors for as much as a million bucks.

Who do they think they're fooling - besides themselves? This isn't slick, it's clownishly inept. And ethically shameful.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Will Obama's 'War On Weed' Really Ride Roughshod Over American Voters?
By Naomi Wolf

Two states took the plunge: Colorado and Washington State recently voted to decriminalize possession, if you are over 21, of small amounts of marijuana (although you still can't smoke it in public there). But the White House is warning that these state moves are in violation of federal law - the Controlled Substances Act - which the government gives notice it intends to continue to enforce.

Indeed, Obama is thinking about more than a warning: he might actually sue the states, and any others that follow Colorado's and Washington States' leads. Pot legalization proponents, however, point to the fact that the states' change in the law has been hailed by local law enforcement, because being able to leave small-scale pot users alone means freed-up resources for police to go after violent crime.

David Sirota reported, in Salon this past week, on a petition he submitted to the White House, in which 46,000 people asked Obama to support proposed legislation that would not legalize marijuana on a federal level but simply change federal law so that states could choose to legalize personal use if they wished to do so. Sirota points out that polls demonstrate that "between 51% and 68% of Americans believe states - and not the feds - should have marijuana enforcement authority."

The White House ignored the petition - in spite of Obama's promise to take action on petitions that garner such levels of support. And the New York Times reports that the administration is considering taking legal action against any states that claim the authority to legalize marijuana. One approach being contemplated is for the federal government to sue the states "on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law."

Initially, I found it hard to care much about the grassroots movement to legalize pot - the right to get high with impunity seemed like a very trivial concern given the other issues facing the nation. But when one sees how the "war on drugs" generates far bigger consequences than mere buzz suppression - from racist incarceration outcomes, to prison lobbies writing our laws, to the mass disenfranchisement of the felons convicted of marijuana possession, whose conviction prevents them from being allowed to vote - then the move toward decriminalization by these two states seems urgently needed, and a model for others. And the White House's response appears especially benighted.

The larger critique also make the case that US drug laws go to heart of the issue of who controls our justice system. Besides the trend toward privatization of local police forces, which I've written about, many of our prisons too are being privatized, and for these businesses, punitive marijuana laws are at the center of this growth strategy.

Indeed, marijuana legalization groups argue that some prison lobbies are so powerful and intrusive that they directly affect state law - to make sure that prisons have 90% occupancy. (This is hard to achieve solely by prosecuting violent crime, major hard-drug trading, and white-collar crime.) Forbes notes that any easing of the laws that ensnare small-scale users also threatens the profitable spin-off of the "war on drugs" - the businesses that want to grow privatized incarceration.

Not only does US drug policy boost US incarceration, but many claim it also devastates our neighbors to the south. Some in Latin America are breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of US decriminalization: leaders from Mexico to Colombia bemoan what they call the distortion of their nations' violence levels and economies in the orbit of militarized US drug trade interdiction, blaming American policies for escalating local cartel warfare, resulting in the deaths of soldiers, police, traffickers and, in Mexico, scores of journalists, too.

A congressman in Mexico, Fernando Belaunzaran, introduced a marijuana bill modeled on the ones that recently passed in the US:

"Everyone is asking, 'What sense does it make to keep up such an intense confrontation, which has cost Mexico so much, by trying to keep this substance from going to a country where it's already regulated and permitted?'"

Federal actions are not addressing this grassroots revulsion at a failed policy; they are, rather, riding roughshod over state voters' decisions at the ballot box. So, to all the other bigger issues the "war on drugs" raises, add that it is the latest infringement by an overweening federal government against the expressed will of the people.

Though medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, distributor Aaron Sandusky was recently sentenced in federal court to ten years in prison. Sandusky joins four defendants in the US who have been targeted by federal prosecutors for medical marijuana dispensation - in states in which that is legal. He told the courtroom that colleagues of his similarly ensnared are being "victimized by the federal government who has not recognized the voters of this state."

California's four federal prosecutors are not stopping with arrests of distributors: since 2011, they have also threatened landlords with seizure of their property, which has forced hundreds of dispensaries to close their doors. The feds have added this latest chapter to an under-reported but important trend of states' legislators finding themselves in a fight with federal laws.

States' efforts, for example, to fight the TSA's invasive screenings have created a cluster of such battles: Texas's bill to opt out of TSA screening is one example. The TSA, however, has fought back before against such efforts. In 2010, New Jersey and Idaho sought to ban invasive body image scanners and individual airports at that time could opt out of screening. But the TSA closed that legal option for states in 2011 - effectively federalizing a state resource.

State nullification bills regarding the National Defense Authorization Act are another example of this fight: Michigan's house passed a bill, 107 to nothing, against the NDAA.A similar bill has been introduced in Nevada. Northampton, Massachusetts, also voted to "opt out" of the NDAA is another. Texas has introduced a similar bill, and such efforts are taking place across the country. (I have written extensively about the grave civil liberties concerns over the NDAA, most recently here.)

The cry of "states' rights" is not often associated with progressive causes, but with the "war on drugs" comprehensively declared a $1tn failure by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the call has reason and justice on its side. Will the feds carry their fight against the voices expressing popular will from California to Colorado, Washington State and beyond? Or will the White House temper its approach with respect for local democracy?
(c) 2013 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

Hitler Was Not The Worst Killer In History
By James Donahue

The very name Adolf Hitler has gone down in contemporary annuals as the most evil human who ever lived. The stigma attached to the man is so terrible after World War II that Hitler's relatives literally changed the family name and people who knew him, even casually, refused to admit it.

I once met a man who attended school with Hitler when he was growing up in Austria. When he learned that I was a newspaper reporter and interested in writing about his unique experience, he slammed the door in my face.

Hitler was surely among the more evil characters that ever lived. He was responsible for the genocide killings of an estimated six million Jews and millions of others in state-sponsored murders, and he launched the invasions of nations adjoining Germany that helped trigger the greatest and most deadly world wars in human history.

But there have been worse killers over time than Hitler.

One of the other evil characters involved in genocide killings during that same war was Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister of Japan who conducted the Rape of Nanking, China in 1937 that killed an estimated 350,000 civilians in the worst single massacre of unarmed people in the history of the Twentieth Century. Another 230,000 people perished in Japanese biological and chemical weapons field tests at a Ping Fan research facility. He also was directly responsible for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into the war. All in all, Tojo was believed to have been responsible for at least the deaths of five million people.

But adding all of the mass murders committed under Hitler and Tojo doesn't begin to compare to the estimated 60 million people who perished under the iron thumb of Russia's Joseph Stalin. Because Stalin became an ally of the great war against Germany, Japan and Italy during World War II, historians tend to have overlooked just how malicious this Communist dictator was during his years of rule. What was worse, Stalin committed these crimes mostly against his own people during a series of political repression and persecution movements remembered as The Great Purge.

And if you want to find an even more brutal killer than Stalin, we need look no further than Chairman Mao, who founded the People's Republic of China and during his 27 years in power was responsible for nearly 64 million deaths of Chinese people. During his Great Leap Forward in 1958, Mao caused 30 million farmers and peasants to starve to death in the largest known famine in world history. Another estimated 30 million Chinese died during Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1969. The people were imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or just went "missing."

Americans also have done their share of killing over the years. Some historians estimate that the genocide of the indigenous people in North America from the time Columbus first stepped foot on the Caribbean Islands until the last tribal American Indian war was fought in the 1800s, totaled as high as 100 million people.

President Truman's order to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the final days of World War II is estimated to have caused the unnecessary killings of over 200,000 Japanese civilians. It is only recently told that the Japanese were attempting to surrender before the bombings and that the bombings were purely an act of genocide. President George W. Bush's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan following the 9-11 attacks in 2001 have caused the still uncounted deaths of over 600,000 Iraqi people, a yet untold number of civilians in Afghanistan, and another 35,000 civilians in neighboring Pakistan. The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, were estimated to have murdered up to 1.7 million Cambodians in purges between 1975 and 1979.

The brutal killing of at least 800,000 Rwandans in 1994 was among various brutal acts of genocide of African people that have occurred within recent years.

The Armenian Genocide brought about the deliberate and systematic destruction of an estimated 1.5 million people after World War I.

The list goes on and on. Genocide has been more common in this world than most people would like to believe.

So why has Hitler been marked as the most evil killer of all time? Is it because he targeted the Jews? The Jewish "Holocaust" is still marked as one of the worst acts of genocide ever. While it was truly terrible, when all of the facts are known, it wasn't the worst.
(c) 2013 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. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Reince Priebus speaks at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

RNC's Priebus Proposes To Rig Electoral College So Losing Republicans Can 'Win'
By John Nichols

Fresh from claiming the GOP's 2012 run was "a great campaign-a nine-month campaignrdquo; that only went awry at the end," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus now wants to rig the Electoral College so that when Republicans lose they still might "win."

Specifically, Priebus is urging Republican governors and legislators to take up what was once a fringe scheme to change the rule for distribution of Electoral College votes. Under the Priebus plan, electoral votes from battleground states such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and other states that now regularly back Democrats for president would be allocated not to the statewide winner but to the winners of individual congressional districts.

Because of gerrymandering by Republican governors and legislators, and the concentration of Democratic votes in urban areas and college towns, divvying up Electoral College votes based on congressional district wins would yield significantly better results for the GOP. In Wisconsin, where Democrat Barack Obama won in 2012 by a wider margin than he did nationally, the president would only have gotten half the electoral votes. In Pennsylvania, where Obama won easily, he would not have gotten the twenty electoral votes that he did; instead, under the Priebus plan, it would have been eight for Republican Mitt Romney, twelve for Barack Obama.

Nationwide, Obama won a sweeping popular-vote victory-with an almost 5-million ballot margin that made him the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to take more than 51 percent of the vote in two elections. That translated to a very comfortable 322-206 win in the Electoral College.

How would the 2012 results have changed if a Priebus plan had been in place? According to an analysis by Fair Vote-The Center for Voting and Democracy, the results would have been a dramatically closer and might even have yielded a Romney win.

Under the most commonly proposed district plan (the statewide winner gets two votes with the rest divided by congressional district) Obama would have secured the narrowest possible win: 270-268. Under more aggressive plans (including one that awards electoral votes by district and then gives the two statewide votes to the candidate who won the most districts), Romney would have won 280-258.

"If Republicans in 2011 had abused their monopoly control of state government in several key swing states and passed new laws for allocating electoral votes, the exact same votes cast in the exact same way in the 2012 election would have converted Barack Obama's advantage of nearly five million popular votes and 126 electoral votes into a resounding Electoral College defeat," explains FairVote's Rob Richie.

This is something Priebus, a bare-knuckles pol who promoted a variety of voter-disenfranchisement schemes in 2012, well understands.

The RNC chair is encouraging Republican governors and legislators-who, thanks to the "Republican wave" election of 2010, still control many battleground states that backed Obama and the Democrats in 2012-to game the system.

"I think it's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue [Democratic in presidential politics] that are fully controlled red [in the statehouse] ought to be considering," Priebus says with regard to the schemes for distributing electoral votes by district rather than the traditional awarding of the votes of each state (except Nebraska and Maine, which have historically used narrowly defined district plans) to the winner.

Already, there are moves afoot in a number of battleground states to "fix" the rules to favor the Republicans in 2016, just as they have already fixed the district lines for electing members of the House. Thanks to gerrymandering and the concentration of Democratic votes, Republicans were able to lose the overall nationwide vote for US House seats by 1.4 million votes and still take control of the chamber-thus giving the United States the divided government that voters have rejected.

There are many reforms that are needed to expand democracy in the United States. But gaming the Electoral College is not one of them.

Indeed, as Richie says, the very fact that it is possible to rewrite the rules and use gerrymandered congressional district lines to thwart the will of the people regarding the election of the president of the United States the very fact "should give us all pause."

"The Election of the president should be a fair process where all American voters should have an equal ability to hold their president accountable," says Richie. "It's time for the nation to embrace one-person, one-vote elections and the 'fair fight' represented by a national popular vote. Let's forever dismiss the potential of such electoral hooliganism and finally do what the overwhelming majorities of Americans have consistently preferred: make every vote equal with a national popular vote for president."

That's the right standard for a modern nation that respects democracy.

And Reince Priebus, who was wrong about the Republicans running a "great" campaign in 2012, is even more wrong when he proposes rule changes that would allow a losing Republican candidate to "win" the presidency.

For a glimpse of more hopeful post-election GOP policy, read our latest dispatch from Voting Rights Watch.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Myth Of Human Progress
By Chris Hedges

Clive Hamilton in his "Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change" describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that "catastrophic climate change is virtually certain." This obliteration of "false hopes," he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth-intellectually and emotionally-and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the Earth-as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury-as well as unrivaled military and economic power-for the industrial elites are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward, as the draft report of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee illustrates.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in "The Collapse of Complex Societies," Charles L. Redman in "Human Impact on Ancient Environments" and Ronald Wright in "A Short History of Progress" have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the Earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed and self-worship.

"There is a pattern in the past of civilization after civilization wearing out its welcome from nature, overexploiting its environment, overexpanding, overpopulating," Wright said when I reached him by phone at his home in British Columbia, Canada. "They tend to collapse quite soon after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the Romans, the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what I called in 'A Short History of Progress' the 'progress trap.' We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around. The number of people in dire poverty today-about 2 billion-is greater than the world's entire population in the early 1900s. That's not progress."

"If we continue to refuse to deal with things in an orderly and rational way, we will head into some sort of major catastrophe, sooner or later," he said. "If we are lucky it will be big enough to wake us up worldwide but not big enough to wipe us out. That is the best we can hope for. We must transcend our evolutionary history. We're Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit. We are not good long-term thinkers. We would much rather gorge ourselves on dead mammoths by driving a herd over a cliff than figure out how to conserve the herd so it can feed us and our children forever. That is the transition our civilization has to make. And we're not doing that."

Wright, who in his dystopian novel "A Scientific Romance" paints a picture of a future world devastated by human stupidity, cites "entrenched political and economic interests" and a failure of the human imagination as the two biggest impediments to radical change. And all of us who use fossil fuels, who sustain ourselves through the formal economy, he says, are at fault.

Modern capitalist societies, Wright argues in his book "What Is America?: A Short History of the New World Order," derive from European invaders' plundering of the indigenous cultures in the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries, coupled with the use of African slaves as a workforce to replace the natives. The numbers of those natives fell by more than 90 percent because of smallpox and other plagues they hadn't had before. The Spaniards did not conquer any of the major societies until smallpox had crippled them; in fact the Aztecs beat them the first time around. If Europe had not been able to seize the gold of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, if it had not been able to occupy the land and adopt highly productive New World crops for use on European farms, the growth of industrial society in Europe would have been much slower. Karl Marx and Adam Smith both pointed to the influx of wealth from the Americas as having made possible the Industrial Revolution and the start of modern capitalism. It was the rape of the Americas, Wright points out, that triggered the orgy of European expansion. The Industrial Revolution also equipped the Europeans with technologically advanced weapons systems, making further subjugation, plundering and expansion possible.

"The experience of a relatively easy 500 years of expansion and colonization, the constant taking over of new lands, led to the modern capitalist myth that you can expand forever," Wright said. "It is an absurd myth. We live on this planet. We can't leave it and go somewhere else. We have to bring our economies and demands on nature within natural limits, but we have had a 500-year run where Europeans, Euro-Americans and other colonists have overrun the world and taken it over. This 500-year run made it not only seem easy but normal. We believe things will always get bigger and better. We have to understand that this long period of expansion and prosperity was an anomaly. It has rarely happened in history and will never happen again. We have to readjust our entire civilization to live in a finite world. But we are not doing it, because we are carrying far too much baggage, too many mythical versions of deliberately distorted history and a deeply ingrained feeling that what being modern is all about is having more. This is what anthropologists call an ideological pathology, a self-destructive belief that causes societies to crash and burn. These societies go on doing things that are really stupid because they can't change their way of thinking. And that is where we are."

And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we like past societies in distress will retreat into what anthropologists call "crisis cults." The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist belief in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us.

"Societies in collapse often fall prey to the belief that if certain rituals are performed all the bad stuff will go away," Wright said. "There are many examples of that throughout history. In the past these crisis cults took hold among people who had been colonized, attacked and slaughtered by outsiders, who had lost control of their lives. They see in these rituals the ability to bring back the past world, which they look at as a kind of paradise. They seek to return to the way things were. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the 19th century, when the buffalo and the Indians were being slaughtered by repeating rifles and finally machine guns. People came to believe, as happened in the Ghost Dance, that if they did the right things the modern world that was intolerable-the barbed wire, the railways, the white man, the machine gun-would disappear."

"We all have the same, basic psychological hard wiring," Wright said. "It makes us quite bad at long-range planning and leads us to cling to irrational delusions when faced with a serious threat. Look at the extreme right's belief that if government got out of the way, the lost paradise of the 1950s would return. Look at the way we are letting oil and gas exploration rip when we know that expanding the carbon economy is suicidal for our children and grandchildren. The results can already be felt. When it gets to the point where large parts of the Earth experience crop failure at the same time then we will have mass starvation and a breakdown in order. That is what lies ahead if we do not deal with climate change."

"If we fail in this great experiment, this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea," Wright said.
(c) 2013 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. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Don't You Dare Conflate MLK And Obama
By Glen Ford

Back in 1964, under prodding from a BBC interviewer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. predicted that a Black person might be elected president "in 25 years or less." Four years later, shortly before his assassination, King confided to actor/activist Harry Belafonte that he had "come to believe we're integrating into a burning house." We now see that the two notions are not at all contradictory. At least some African Americans have achieved deep penetration of the very pinnacles of white power structures - integrating the White House, itself - while conditions of life for masses of Black folks deteriorate and the society as a whole falls into deep decay.

The fires lit by the "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism" that Dr. King identified in his 1967 "Beyond Vietnam: Breaking the Silence" speech are consuming the world, now stoked by a Black arsonist-in-chief. Domestic poverty hovers only a fraction of a percentage below the levels of 1965, with "extreme poverty" the highest on record. Black household wealth has collapsed to one-twentieth that of whites. Today, more Black men are under the control of the criminal justice system than were slaves in the decade before the Civil War, according to Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow.

The intervening years have shown that Dr. King's 1960s visions were not in conflict: the rooms at the top floors of the national house may have been integrated, but the building still burns.

The deepening crisis of capitalism, the triumph of Wall Street finance over industrial capital, the increasing imperial reversion to international lawlessness in a desperate bid to maintain global supremacy - all this was predictable under the laws of political economy. Had the assassin's bullet not found him, Dr. King would have continued his implacable resistance to these unfolding evils, rejecting Barack Obama's invasions, drones and Kill Lists with the same moral fervor and political courage that he broke with Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War. Absolutely nothing in King's life and work indicates otherwise.

One school of thought holds that corporate servants like Obama could not have taken root in Black America if Dr. King, Malcolm X and a whole cadre of slain and imprisoned leaders of the Sixties had not been replaced by opportunistic representatives of a grasping Black acquisitive class. In any event, had King survived, his break with Obama would have come early. Surely, the Dr. King who, in his 1967 "Where Do We Go from Here" speech called for a guaranteed annual income would never have abided Obama's targeting of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the weeks before his 2009 inauguration. Forty-five years ago, King's position was clear: "Our emphasis must be twofold: We must create full employment, or we must create incomes." The very notion of a grand austerity bargain with the Right would have been anathema to MLK.

Were Martin alive, he would skewer the putative leftists and their "lesser evil" rationales for backing the corporatist, warmongering Obama. As both a theologian and a "revolutionary democrat," as Temple University's Prof. Anthony Monteiro has described him, MLK had no problem calling evil by its name - and in explicate triplicate. His militant approach to non-violent direct action required him to confront the underlying contradictions of society through the methodical application of creative tension. He would make Wall Street scream, and attempt to render the nation ungovernable under the dictatorship of the Lords of Capital. And he would deliver a withering condemnation of the base corruption and self-serving that saturates the Black Misleadership Class.

He would spend his birthday preparing a massive, disruptive action at the Inauguration.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Japan Steps Out
By Paul Krugman

For three years economic policy throughout the advanced world has been paralyzed, despite high unemployment, by a dismal orthodoxy. Every suggestion of action to create jobs has been shot down with warnings of dire consequences. If we spend more, the Very Serious People say, the bond markets will punish us. If we print more money, inflation will soar. Nothing should be done because nothing can be done, except ever harsher austerity, which will someday, somehow, be rewarded.

But now it seems that one major nation is breaking ranks - and that nation is, of all places, Japan.

This isn't the maverick we were looking for. In Japan governments come and governments go, but nothing ever seems to change - indeed, Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, has had the job before, and his party's victory was widely seen as the return of the "dinosaurs" who misruled the country for decades. Furthermore, Japan, with its huge government debt and aging population, was supposed to have even less room for maneuver than other advanced countries.

But Mr. Abe returned to office pledging to end Japan's long economic stagnation, and he has already taken steps orthodoxy says we mustn't take. And the early indications are that it's going pretty well.

Some background: Long before the 2008 financial crisis plunged America and Europe into a deep and prolonged economic slump, Japan held a dress rehearsal in the economics of stagnation. When a burst stock and real estate bubble pushed Japan into recession, the policy response was too little, too late and too inconsistent.

To be sure, there was a lot of spending on public works, but the government, worried about debt, always pulled back before a solid recovery could get established, and by the late 1990s persistent deflation was already entrenched. In the early 2000s the Bank of Japan, the counterpart of the Federal Reserve, tried to fight deflation by printing a lot of money. But it, too, pulled back at the first hint of improvement, and the deflation never went away.

That said, Japan never had the kind of employment and human disaster we've experienced since 2008. Indeed, our policy response has been so inadequate that I've suggested that American economists who used to be very harsh in their condemnations of Japanese policy, a group that includes Ben Bernanke and, well, me, visit Tokyo to apologize to the emperor. We have, after all, done even worse.

And there's another lesson in Japan's experience: While getting out of a prolonged slump turns out to be very difficult, that's mainly because it's hard getting policy makers to accept the need for bold action. That is, the problem is mainly political and intellectual, rather than strictly economic. For the risks of action are much smaller than the Very Serious People want you to believe.

Consider, in particular, the alleged dangers of debt and deficits. Here in America, we are constantly warned that we must slash spending now now now or we'll turn into Greece, Greece I tell you. But Greece, a country without a currency, doesn't look much like the United States; surely Japan offers a more relevant model. And while doomsayers keep predicting a fiscal crisis in Japan, hyping each uptick in interest rates as a sign of the imminent apocalypse, it keeps not happening: Japan's government can still borrow long term at a rate of less than 1 percent.

Enter Mr. Abe, who has been pressuring the Bank of Japan into seeking higher inflation - in effect, helping to inflate away part of the government's debt - and has also just announced a large new program of fiscal stimulus. How have the market gods responded?

The answer is, it's all good. Market measures of expected inflation, which were negative not long ago - the market was expecting deflation to continue - have now moved well into positive territory. But government borrowing costs have hardly changed at all; given the prospect of moderate inflation, this means that Japan's fiscal outlook has actually improved sharply. True, the foreign-exchange value of the yen has fallen considerably - but that's actually very good news, and Japanese exporters are cheering.

In short, Mr. Abe has thumbed his nose at orthodoxy, with excellent results.

Now, people who know something about Japanese politics warn me not to think of Mr. Abe as a good guy. His foreign policy, they tell me, is very bad, and his support for stimulus may have more to do with old-fashioned pork-barrel (tofu barrel?) politics than with a sophisticated rejection of conventional wisdom.

But none of that may matter. Whatever his motives, Mr. Abe is breaking with a bad orthodoxy. And if he succeeds, something remarkable may be about to happen: Japan, which pioneered the economics of stagnation, may also end up showing the rest of us the way out.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A man who kills on his own is a murderer. A man who kills at his government's request is a national hero."
~~~ Ramman Kenoun

French troops board a transport plane in N'Djamena, Chad, bound for Mali.

The Bombing Of Mali Highlights All The Lessons Of Western Intervention
The west African nation becomes the eighth country in the last four years alone where Muslims are killed by the west
By Glenn Greenwald

As French war planes bomb Mali, there is one simple statistic that provides the key context: this west African nation of 15 million people is the eighth country in which western powers - over the last four years alone - have bombed and killed Muslims - after Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and the Phillipines (that does not count the numerous lethal tyrannies propped up by the west in that region). For obvious reasons, the rhetoric that the west is not at war with the Islamic world grows increasingly hollow with each new expansion of this militarism. But within this new massive bombing campaign, one finds most of the vital lessons about western intervention that, typically, are steadfastly ignored.

First, as the New York Times' background account from this morning makes clear, much of the instability in Mali is the direct result of Nato's intervention in Libya. Specifically, "heavily armed, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in Libya" and "the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic fighters who came back" played the precipitating role in the collapse of the US-supported central government. As Owen Jones wrote in an excellent column this morning in the Independent:

This intervention is itself the consequence of another. The Libyan war is frequently touted as a success story for liberal interventionism. Yet the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship had consequences that Western intelligence services probably never even bothered to imagine. Tuaregs - who traditionally hailed from northern Mali - made up a large portion of his army. When Gaddafi was ejected from power, they returned to their homeland: sometimes forcibly so as black Africans came under attack in post-Gaddafi Libya, an uncomfortable fact largely ignored by the Western media. . . . [T]he Libyan war was seen as a success . . . and here we are now engaging with its catastrophic blowback.

Over and over, western intervention ends up - whether by ineptitude or design - sowing the seeds of further intervention. Given the massive instability still plaguing Libya as well as enduring anger over the Benghazi attack, how long will it be before we hear that bombing and invasions in that country are - once again - necessary to combat the empowered "Islamist" forces there: forces empowered as a result of the Nato overthrow of that country's government?

Second, the overthrow of the Malian government was enabled by US-trained-and-armed soldiers who defected. From the NYT: "commanders of this nation's elite army units, the fruit of years of careful American training, defected when they were needed most - taking troops, guns, trucks and their newfound skills to the enemy in the heat of battle, according to senior Malian military officials." And then: "an American-trained officer overthrew Mali's elected government, setting the stage for more than half of the country to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists."

In other words, the west is once again at war with the very forces that it trained, funded and armed. Nobody is better at creating its own enemies, and thus ensuring a posture of endless war, than the US and its allies. Where the US cannot find enemies to fight against it, it simply empowers them.

Third, western bombing of Muslims in yet another country will obviously provoke even more anti-western sentiment, the fuel of terrorism. Already, as the Guardian reports, French fighter jets in Mali have killed "at least 11 civilians including three children." France's long history of colonialization in Mali only exacerbates the inevitable anger. Back in December, after the UN Security Council authorized the intervention in Mali, Amnesty International's researcher on West Africa, Salvatore Sagues, warned: "An international armed intervention is likely to increase the scale of human rights violations we are already seeing in this conflict."

As always, western governments are well aware of this consequence and yet proceed anyway. The NYT notes that the French bombing campaign was launched "in the face of longstanding American warnings that a Western assault on the Islamist stronghold could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe." Indeed, at the same time that the French are now killing civilians in Mali, a joint French-US raid in Somalia caused the deaths of "at least eight civilians, including two women and two children."

To believe that the US and its allies can just continue to go around the world, in country after country, and bomb and kill innocent people - Muslims - and not be targeted with "terrorist" attacks is, for obvious reasons, lunacy. As Bradford University professor Paul Rogers told Jones, the bombing of Mali "will be portrayed as 'one more example of an assault on Islam'". Whatever hopes that may exist for an end to the "war on terror" are systematically destroyed by ongoing aggression.

Fourth, for all the self-flattering rhetoric that western democracies love to apply to themselves, it is extraordinary how these wars are waged without any pretense of democratic process. Writing about the participation of the British government in the military assault on Mali, Jones notes that "it is disturbing - to say the least - how Cameron has led Britain into Mali's conflict without even a pretence at consultation." Identically, the Washington Post this morning reports that President Obama has acknowledged after the fact that US fighter jets entered Somali air space as part of the French operation there; the Post called that "a rare public acknowledgment of American combat operations in the Horn of Africa" and described the anti-democratic secrecy that typically surrounds US war actions in the region:

"The US military has based a growing number of armed Predator drones as well as F-15 fighter jets at Camp Lemonnier, which has grown into a key installation for secret counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen. The defense official declined to identify the aircraft used in the rescue attempt but said they were fighter jets, not drones. . . . .

"It was unclear, however, why Obama felt compelled to reveal this particular operation when he has remained silent about other specific US combat missions in Somalia. Spokesmen from the White House and the Pentagon declined to elaborate or answer questions Sunday night."

The Obama administration has, of course, draped its entire drone and global assassination campaign in an impenetrable cloth of secrecy, ensuring it remains beyond the scrutinizing reach of media outlets, courts, and its own citizens. The US and its western allies do not merely wage endless war aimed invariably at Muslims. They do so in virtually complete secrecy, without any transparency or accountability. Meet the western "democracies."

Finally, the propaganda used to justify all of this is depressingly common yet wildly effective. Any western government that wants to bomb Muslims simply slaps the label of "terrorists" on them, and any real debate or critical assessment instantly ends before it can even begin. "The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe," proclaimed French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

As usual, this simplistic cartoon script distorts reality more than it describes it. There is no doubt that the Malian rebels have engaged in all sorts of heinous atrocities ("amputations, flogging, and stoning to death for those who oppose their interpretation of Islam"), but so, too, have Malian government forces - including, as Amnesty chronicled, "arresting, torturing and killing Tuareg people apparently only on ethnic ground." As Jones aptly warns: "don't fall for a narrative so often pushed by the Western media: a perverse oversimplification of good fighting evil, just as we have seen imposed on Syria's brutal civil war."

The French bombing of Mali, perhaps to include some form of US participation, illustrates every lesson of western intervention. The "war on terror" is a self-perpetuating war precisely because it endlessly engenders its own enemies and provides the fuel to ensure that the fire rages without end. But the sloganeering propaganda used to justify this is so cheap and easy - we must kill the Terrorists! - that it's hard to see what will finally cause this to end. The blinding fear - not just of violence, but of Otherness - that has been successfully implanted in the minds of many western citizens is such that this single, empty word (Terrorists), standing alone, is sufficient to generate unquestioning support for whatever their governments do in its name, no matter how secret or unaccompanied by evidence it may be.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy.


A New Jefferson Bible
By David Swanson

Thomas Jefferson created his own Bible, and the Humanist Press has just republished it together with selections from what Jefferson left out, and selections labeled the best and worst from the Old Testament, the Koran, the Bhagavadgita, the Buddhist Sutras, and the Book of Mormon. Jefferson created his Bible using two copies of the King James Bible and a razor blade. He cut what he liked out of the New Testament, and left the rest. What he chose to include was supposed to tell the story of a teacher of morality, stripped of all supernatural pretensions. In Jefferson's Bible, virgins don't give birth, dead people don't walk, and water doesn't turn into wine. But Jesus teaches the love of one's neighbor, of one's enemy, of strangers and children and the old.

It's an admirable effort. Someone raised in Christianity but convinced that death is death and humans are responsible for their fate might want to read the good bits of their religious heritage and not be bothered by the rest. Congress printed 9,000 copies in 1904 and handed them out to new House and Senate members for a half century.

But I find Jefferson's Bible a fairly weak and incoherent concoction. Someone who insists on being treated like a god without actually being a god comes off as an inexplicable egomaniac. Someone who engineers his own death and really dies appears to be nothing more than a suicide. Jesus, stripped of the context of his deity, ends up looking like Socrates without all the cleverness.

Imagine if we told the story of Thomas Jefferson without the Declaration of Independence, without the role of founding father. He'd be transformed into an over-educated self-indulgent slave owner, rapist, and advocate of genocide who began a tradition of U.S. warmaking in the Middle East and bestowed upon us the two-party system.

Jefferson's Bible, ironically, serves a purpose other than what he intended. It ends up revealing that the good moral lessons in Jesus' teaching don't amount to all that much. Yes, of course, we should be kind to each other and learn to forgive and befriend our enemies. There is nothing more important, and nobody says that basic lesson better. Jefferson included the parable of the Good Samaritan.

But should we take polygamy and patriarchy and slavery and cutting off hands and other ancient practices for granted as Jesus does? Should we take currently unquestioned practices like war, meat-eating, and fossil-fuel consumption for granted as many do today? What should we question or change? What should we keep as it is? How should we be good and kind? In what way should we love our neighbors and enemies? Should we also love future generations?

Jefferson is thought to have believed that his Bible would educate Native Americans. His policies, in reality, helped to destroy them. Rather than editing an ancient text and translating it into four languages from another continent, might Jefferson have better spent his time giving native Americans the respect that Jesus -- on one occasion but not others -- recommended giving to Samaritans? Jefferson might have discovered that no people exists without an understanding of kindness, love, and humility. The Indians needed Christian kindness, not Christian arrogance. But the Indians weren't called Samaritans, and Jefferson didn't recognize them.

The Humanist Press edition of Jefferson's Bible does help broaden our understanding, as it includes similarly nice and horrific excerpts from a variety of the world's ancient religions (plus Mormonism, the text of which largely mimics ancient cultural norms).

Jefferson was not aiming for the "historical Jesus" but for a naturalist one. The Humanist Press, in its selections of the worst of each religion, is not aiming for simply the most immoral bits but also the most supernatural. The immoral is there in abundance however:

Matthew 10:34-37 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword. . . ."

Luke 14:26 "If a man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."

John 6:43-55 "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life. . . ."

The Old Testament includes the same good lessons and the same out of date barbarism, or very similar, as the New Testament. The lessons are deeper and more expansive, the barbarity more horrific -- including numerous instances of advocating genocide, slavery, sex-slavery, war, the mutilation of corpses, torture, the mass-slaughter of children, and the celebration of revenge.

The Koran and the other texts, too, contain basic fundamental moral precepts, but few specific recommendations of much use to us right now. I don't mind being advised not to bury female infants alive, but I had no plans to do so. I want to know how to balance duty to family with duty to humanity. I want to know how to integrate charity and respect. I want to learn how to oppose militarism, corruption, oligarchy, greed, consumption, environmental abuse, and all forms of bigotry. I want to know how to be kind to real people in real ways.

Religion doesn't seem to help much. Neither does atheism, of course, except by clearing the deck. The lessons of Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions are packaged in arguments from authority and promises of imaginary rewards and punishments. When that packaging is stripped away, something is lacking. We now need to be told the actual benefits to ourselves of being kind to others: the sense of satisfaction and joy, the love of oneself that is facilitated, the widening of one's knowledge and understanding that comes from accepting the viewpoints and experiences of those unlike oneself.

We do not, of course, need a new Bible. We need novels, memoirs, autobiographies, essays, histories, and poetry. And we need to feel as free as Jefferson did to slice out the parts we find most valuable, piece them together, and expand our understanding from there.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Vice Fuhrer LaPierre,

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 plans of turning our school systems into gulags, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Republican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2013. We salute you Herr LaPierre, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Banning Semi-Automatic Weapons Is Not Enough
By Matthew Rothschild

I'm all for Pres. Obama's and Gov. Cuomo's efforts to ban semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, but we shouldn't kid ourselves that this is going to make much of a dent in the gruesome gun death toll in America.

Every year, about 31,000 people in the United States die from gun violence.

When you examine that shocking figure, a few surprising facts pop up.

First, almost two-thirds of those killed by guns are people who commit suicide. About 19,000 in total.

Then, of the 11,000 homicides, the vast majority of these are with handguns, not semi-automatic rifles.

And of the 600 fatal accidents with guns, semi-automatic rifles are not responsible for many of those, either.

As a result, much of the effort, following the horror at Sandy Hook and Aurora, won't really get at the underlying problems of gun violence in America.

One of those problems is the illegal drug trade. If we legalized drugs, the gun violence in our cities would go way down.

Another problem is the lack of awareness of the warning signs about suicide. As the saying goes, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should do a public education campaign to make us all more attuned to those warning signs.

And finally there's the violence-soaked culture we live in-and I'm not taking the easy way out by blaming Hollywood or video games.

No, I'm talking about our blood-soaked history: the extermination of Native Americans, the imposing of slavery on African Americans, and the running of an empire that lives war to war and inures us to violence.

Starting with the war against the Philippines in 1898, when Pres. McKinley vowed to Christianize the Filipino people and killed 500,000 civilians in the process, the U.S. empire has stacked the corpses high. The multiple U.S. invasions of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the U.S. support for dictators there, cost hundreds of thousands of lives over the last century. The atomic bombing of Japan was a muscle-flex of empire, most recently demonstrated by Oliver Stone in his epic “Untold History of the United States.” During the Vietnam war, the United States killed between two and three million people in IndoChina. U.S. support for the dictatorship in Indonesia in the 1960s and 1970s cost close to a million lives. George W. Bush's war on Iraq also killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And Barack Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan-and his all-out use of drones-has caused many innocent people to die, even as he bemoans gun violence.

Knowing somewhere deep down of the atrocities we are responsible for has corroded our collective conscience and helped make violence the American pastime.

So yes, by all means, let's ban semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition.

But let's get to the bottom of America the violent, while we're at it.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

God Loves Us And We Will Bomb You
By William Pfaff

Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Philip Gordon visited London to give Prime Minister David Cameron his instructions: Washington wants Britain inside the EU, so it can blunt Europe's anti-American impulses and the idea of an independent European quasi-state.

Cameron is set to speak later this month on renegotiating the terms of U.K. membership in the EU. He is under heavy pressure to call a referendum on continued British membership, which he could lose. Whatever Washington thinks or wants, Cameron is wrestling with powerful popular resistance to Europe in Britain, which is capable of bringing down his Conservative-Liberal coalition government.

History is probably the most powerful force against him. It is extremely difficult for a people to pry open the grip that history has upon their nation-any nation. In Britain, the history of relations with continental Europe is one of threat. Putting aside its earliest history of occupation by migrant peoples from the north, and the Roman conquest, the most powerful influence on England culturally since 1066 has been that of continental Europe and the Normans, who made England their colony in the 11th century, pushing aside the native rulers and imposing a French-speaking aristocracy.

Today, the perceived threat is that of Franco-German European domination and rule by a "Frenchified" EU bureaucracy, which consults intellectualized Roman/Napoleonic law rather than Anglo-Saxon Common Law (which simply follows precedent), meddles in affairs the British prefer to settle at home and represents a continent that in the past harbored dynasties. (Hapsburg, Bourbon, Carolingian, Hohenzollern) that always made trouble for Britain.

When the British Empire faltered at the end of World War II, Winston Churchill told his people they were part of a new dynasty of the English-Speaking Peoples, destined to dominate international society, with the British as wise counselors to the brash but powerful Americans.

Churchill's belief recognized the rise of an American foreign policy that since the World Wars has sought an international capitalist and democratic system with Washington at its head. Why is the United States in Afghanistan? And Iraq? Or Vietnam?

"It is America's job to change the world, and in its own image," as then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008.

Since the NATO intervention in Kosovo, American policy has also tended to assimilate the European humanitarian interventionist movement so as to create a common policy (as the commentator David Rieff has written in The National Interest) that ignores the revolutionary character of this effort to remake societies across the world into liberal democracies. Western liberalism, Rieff says, is "the only major modern ideology that denies it is an ideology at all."

By the time of the second Obama administration, it has become axiomatic that despite defeat in Vietnam, withdrawal from Iraq and an impending ignominious departure from Afghanistan, the U.S. intends to remain the "global security provider." As this now includes destroying with drones individuals targeted by American intelligence, in disregard of the laws of war and national sovereignties, critics say the U.S. is the provider of global insecurity as well as hatred of the United States and the West.

The belief that the U.S. could and should assume such a global role and expect positive results derives from what may be called invincible political ignorance and a credulous (and empirically unverifiable) faith in an historical process leading ever upwards towards democracy. This continues to prevail in Washington despite the material evidence that history does not progress (nor come to a triumphant "end," as recently proposed); history simply occurs.

The utopian and missionary qualities of American political belief began in the Puritans' Calvinist theology of "the Elect," the chosen people. The Pilgrims were followers of the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) who taught that Predestination was not absolute (as Calvin had held) but conditional, subject to test and proof in the new metaphysical as well as geographical territory the Puritans were entering. They were themselves among "the Elect," and many Americans since have sought and found spiritual reassurance in material success and wealth, something impossible in a Catholic culture that ties sanctity to poverty and humility.

American dissident Protestantism first produced defensive isolation from continental Europe, in order to avoid cultural and political contamination (a fear that persists today, as was evident in the 2012 presidential campaign, when one of the telling charges against Barack Obama was that he was somehow "European"). This defensiveness reflected the Americans' belief that they possessed a Biblical covenant to make new conquests for God, today meaning American-style democracy in the Middle East and Central Asia (now pivoting towards East Asia!).

The original Puritanical isolationist convictions held by Americans were abandoned in the 1898 Cuban intervention and Spanish-American War, during the William McKinley and subsequent Woodrow Wilson administrations, when national policy became to extend American values and institutions throughout the world, in the belief that to do so is not only America's own destiny but that of international civilization itself.
(c) 2013 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Randall Enos ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...


Silvio Berlusconi Swears Dancer Was Of Legal Age When He Paid Her For Sex Using State Money

ROME - Facing widespread criticism over his alleged sexual relationship with an underaged exotic dancer during his tenure as prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday assured the people of Italy that the woman in question was of legal age when he paid her for sex using the nation's money. "Let me swear to you that these brazenly misappropriated state funds went toward financing my long-running sexual liaison with a call girl who was of full legal age throughout our affair," the career politician and media tycoon told reporters, adding that the exotic dancer with whom he had intercourse dozens of times during his time in office was "at least" 18 years old when she received thousands of euros in jewelry and air travel courtesy of Italy's depleted treasury. "Despite what my critics say, this sexual relationship made possible through considerable taxpayer financing was something that occurred between two consenting adults. This has been the case with every single one of my government-subsidized affairs, and the people of Italy know that." Berlusconi, who was forced out of office in 2011 over concerns about his ability to resuscitate Italy's stagnant economy amid a litany of embarrassing sex scandals, is expected to be fully forgiven by the Italian citizenry.
(c) 2013 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 03 (c) 01/18/2013

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