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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald concludes, "Obama's NSA 'Reforms' Are Little More Than A PR Attempt To Mollify The Public."

Uri Avnery remembers, "The Imperator."

Glen Ford considers, "Black Madness Under Obama: African Americans More Pro-NSA, Anti-Snowden Than Whites and Hispanics."

Mathew Rothschild returns with, "Obama Sneers At Snowden While Puffing Up His Own Role."

Jim Hightower compares, "The Millionaires' Congress Vs. The People."

David Swanson announces, "Obama Fans Aren't Even Pretending That Was A Good Speech."

James Donahue says, "America Needs A Third And Honest Political Party."

John Nichols quotes, "MLK: 'Our Struggle Is For Genuine Equality, Which Means Economic Equality.'"

Chris Hedges with an absolute must read, "What Obama Really Meant Was ...."

David Sirota warns, "Pentagon & NSA Officials Say They Want Snowden Extrajudicially Assassinated."

Paul Krugman explores, "The Undeserving Rich."

Robert Scheer finds, "No Place To Hide."

Ralph Nader examines, "America's Invisible And Costly Human Rights Crisis."

Scarlett Johansson wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich reveals, "David Brooks' Utter Ignorance About Inequality."

William Pfaff reports, "Postwar Era Has Ended, But Not Appetite For War."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion informs, "Obama Not Ruling Out U.S. Military Action In Congress" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "Two Roads Diverged In A Wood and I."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Lalo Alcaraz, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Kevin Lamarque, Micah Wright, John Cole, Milt Priggee, Catherine Lee, Matt York, Aiyana S. Paschal, WakeUs.Com, Reuters, Parker Brothers, Shutterstock, AP, Black Agenda Report, 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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Two Roads Diverged In A Wood and I
By Ernest Stewart

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken ~~~ Robert Frost

"They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." ~~~ Ben Jammin' Franklin

"Scarlett's mum on Sodastream's complicity w/ the Israeli occupation. But you should join the boycott!" #BDS ~~~ Stephanie Westbrook (@stephinrome)

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends,
Mmmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends.
Ooh, I get high with a little help from my friends.
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,
with a little help from my friends!
With A Little Help From My Friends ~~~ The Beatles

Every year about this time, I remember my first act of resistance when this 14-year-old marched with Martin Luther King, former Governor Swainson, Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh and United Auto Workers President Walter P. Reuther in what was called the Detroit "Walk to Freedom." Our then-current Governor George Romney avoided the march like the plague; but afterwords, pretended he was there, too; he wasn't!

Of course, it wasn't just Martin, John, Jerome, Walter, and I, but another 125,000 other folks who had had enough of Jim Crow's brutal repression of black folks, and other folks, as well! It was a beautiful day -- sunny, in the mid 70s; a perfect day for a perfect cause.

After seeing how the Southern redneck -- both civilians and police -- had treated similar marches, I was looking to get gassed, beaten, hit with firehoses and attack dogs; but there was nary a sign of any of that -- just a peaceful, successful, march for civil rights. I walked along, and for a while, I held hands with a black man and women -- something I had never done before, being raised in one of the most racist places on the planet, i.e., Dearborn, Michigan; so, it was a real eye-opener for this young lad!

The day after the event, The Detroit Free Press labeled it "the largest civil rights demonstration in the nation's history." It was the largest crowd I was ever in -- until the original Woodstock six years later. The walk began at Woodward and Adelaide, and continued down Woodward to Cobo Hall. It lasted about ninety minutes, as marchers carried signs and sang songs (I remember singing 'We Shall Overcome' and 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.').

During his speech at Cobo Hall, Martin used "the phrase" for the first time, "I have a dream." Since Cobo Hall was small, only about 25,000 got in; but I managed to squeeze into the upper rafters to listen as Martin spoke of non-violence and an end to racial segregation. He ended his speech by telling of a dream of whites and blacks "walking together hand in hand, free at last." Something I had just done for the first time; so it really blew me away! You may recall that when Martin addressed a crowd in Washington, D.C. two months later, he kept the refrain from the Detroit speech: "I have a dream." This also started me on my path that led me to become the radical that I am today. For that, and for the many other things that he gave his life for, I must say, "Thank you, Martin, thank you, thank you, thank you!"

In Other News

About Barry's NSA speech last Friday, I have one or two thoughts about his song and dance; all that was missing was a striped jacket, a boater hat and a cane to make that complete, eh, Mr. & Mrs. Interlocutor!

Barry hemmed and hawed and told a bunch of lies, half-truths, and basic political bullshit. He tried to imply there's going to be real reforms of the NSA; but it became painfully obvious that this had nothing to do with reforms, and everything to do with covering his ass, and for his personal destruction of the Fourth Amendment. You may recall, several years ago, he also was the prime mover to destroy the Fifth Amendment too.

His basic message was that the NSA will continue collecting our every phone call, our every key stroke, and every message on Facebook, etc. Because this has somehow stopped 50 terrorist attacks; but, of course, he gave no examples; but the examples that have come out -- and, when examined, show the NSA had nothing to do with it. He alluded that had Edward Snowden followed federal whistleblower rules, he would've been safe -- while failing to mention that those rules weren't in place when Edward brought his info out -- nor would they have applied to him if he had, as he was a contractor and not a federal employee. Nor did he mention that every government employee who under his watch has dared to whistleblow has been either fired from their position, or fired and then thrown in jail.

Fortunately, the Sheeple are finally beginning to wake up and take notice as the NSA's and Barry's ratings have begun to plummet with every new lie! Trouble is, with the current laws on the books, Barry has enough powers to round us all up and put us in Happy Camps at will; and there's absolutely nothing that can be done to stop him from doing it -- no matter what he promises. Not to mention the fact that even if he doesn't use those powers, the same laws apply to the next President, and the next. This includes having the army round up whole cities, taking over local governments like they did in Detroit, and having you or your family's name go on his Tuesday afternoon hit list. In other words, we are soooooo screwed, America; because you did nothing about it for the last 34 years -- until they now have all the power and law they need. Remember, Hitler never broke a single German law doing what he did; nor will Barry break American law when it hits the fan!

And Finally

A spate of dumb blonde jokes came to mind the other day after hearing about Scarlett Johansson's little faux pas. Scarlett has signed on to be the Israeli company Soda Stream's first global ambassador.

Scarlett must have known about the controversy surrounding Soda Stream, who does all of its manufacturing in three factories located in occupied Palestine. Like our own prisons who do a lot of manufacturing using cheap prison labor, Soda Stream saves 2/3s the cost for the land, and only has to pay slave labor wages; and if there are any labor problems, in comes the army to bust a few heads and shoot some examples. Actually, Soda Stream is more like the Nazi Germany death camps than American prisons. At least in our prisons most of the prisoners are guilty of something. Being a breathing Palestinian in Palestine is a capital offense, just like being a black person in the South, where being black while walking or driving, or even chewing gum, is often a capital offense, too.

So you know what I did, right? I sent Scarlett the following little note...
Dear Scarlett,

I see you've gone from an Oxfam Goodwill Ambassador to backing the Zionazis that are murdering Palestinians? So, you really like the taste of those blood bubbles, huh? I'm guessing you were paid the traditional 30 pieces of silver for your endorsement of their crimes against humanity? If you had a drop of honor, Scarlett, you'd do what Judas did when he thought about his crime!

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues and Alibis Magazine
PS. Thanks for writing part of this week's editorial for me; oh, and you've won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award for the biggest traitor in America. You might want to list that in your credits!
If you have some thoughts for Scarlett, too, you may email her through her management company...

Troy Bailey
Bailey Brand Management

Or through her spokesweasel...

Emily Clay
True Public Relations

Tell'em Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

Even though it's late January, we finally got our 2013 bills paid off, thanks to Carl from NYC! Carl, who I'm happy to report, is a newbie and a first-time donator! Thanks, Carl; you got us started in the right direction for 2014! I'm pleasantly surprised as January is always our worst month for raising money, what with all those, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and my personal favorite, the Winter Solstice, bills coming due in January.

While we couldn't go on without the help of the "Usual Suspects" as last year they made up about 70% of all donations, still, it isn't fair to them to pick up most all of our bills, so whenever a newbie pops up with a donation, I don't feel so bad for the "Usual Suspects," without whose help, we would've went the way of the Dodo Bird years ago.

Therefore, if you've been a long time reader, or even a newbie like Carl, shouldn't you, too, pay your fair share? If you're one of the lucky ones with a full-time, good-paying job, shouldn't you not only pay your fair share, but perhaps the share of another reader who is sleeping in his car and reading us at the library? If what we do matters to you, then please send us whatever you can as often as you can; and we, in return, will keep fighting the good fight for you and yours!


05-25-1933 ~ 01-18-2014
Thanks for the film!

01-12-1948 ~ 01-20-2014
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) 2014 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 Facebook. Visit the Magazine's page on Facebook and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency on
17 January 2014 from the Justice Department in Washington.

Obama's NSA 'Reforms' Are Little More Than A PR Attempt To Mollify The Public
Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place
By Glenn Greenwald

In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America's most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama's much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for "reforming" the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.

The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are "serious questions that have been raised." They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic "reforms" so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillance abuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary "safeguards": a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community.

But the new court was designed to ensure that all of the government's requests were approved: it met in secret, only the government's lawyers could attend, it was staffed with the most pro-government judges, and it was even housed in the executive branch. As planned, the court over the next 30 years virtually never said no to the government.

Identically, the most devoted and slavish loyalists of the National Security State were repeatedly installed as the committee's heads, currently in the form of NSA cheerleaders Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Republican Mike Rogers in the House. As the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza put it in a December 2013 article on the joke of Congressional oversight, the committees "more often treat … senior intelligence officials like matinee idols."

As a result, the committees, ostensibly intended to serve an overseer function, have far more often acted as the NSA's in-house PR firm. The heralded mid-1970s reforms did more to make Americans believe there was reform than actually providing any, thus shielding it from real reforms.

The same thing happened after the New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. The US political class loudly claimed that they would resolve the problems that led to that scandal. Instead, they did the opposite: in 2008, a bipartisan Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, enacted a new Fisa law that legalized the bulk of the once-illegal Bush program, including allowing warrantless eavesdropping on hundreds of millions of foreign nationals and large numbers of Americans as well.

This was also the same tactic used in the wake of the 2008 financial crises. Politicians dutifully read from the script that blamed unregulated Wall Street excesses and angrily vowed to rein them in. They then enacted legislation that left the bankers almost entirely unscathed, and which made the "too-big-to-fail" problem that spawned the crises worse than ever.

And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards. "Individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress," he gushed with an impressively straight face. "One thing I'm certain of, this debate will make us stronger," he pronounced, while still seeking to imprison for decades the whistleblower who enabled that debate. The bottom line, he said, is this: "I believe we need a new approach."

But those pretty rhetorical flourishes were accompanied by a series of plainly cosmetic "reforms". By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.

To be sure, there were several proposals from Obama that are positive steps. A public advocate in the Fisa court, a loosening of "gag orders" for national security letters, removing metadata control from the NSA, stricter standards for accessing metadata, and narrower authorizations for spying on friendly foreign leaders (but not, of course, their populations) can all have some marginal benefits. But even there, Obama's speech was so bereft of specifics - what will the new standards be? who will now control Americans' metadata? - that they are more like slogans than serious proposals.

Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA - a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world - will fully endure even if all of Obama's proposals are adopted. That's because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, "to restore public confidence" in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn't to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.

As the ACLU's executive director Anthony Romero said after the speech:

The president should end - not mend - the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data. When the government collects and stores every American's phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an 'unreasonable search' that violates the constitution.
That, in general, has long been Obama's primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He's not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.

As is always the case, those who want genuine changes should not look to politicians, and certainly not to Barack Obama, to wait for it to be gifted. Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure, increasingly scared US tech giants, and surprisingly strong resistance from the international community to the out-of-control American surveillance state.

Today's speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. 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. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

The Imperator
By Uri Avnery

IN THE middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him - a meeting with Yasser Arafat.

A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.

I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president.

"What about the West Bank?" I asked.

"Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together."

My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that's how it came back to me.

SHARON'S PLAN was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment - including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres - believed in the so-called "Jordanian option": the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.

Five years earlier, when the Palestinians in Jordan were battling the Hashemite regime there, Israel came to the aid of the king at the request of Henry Kissinger. I proposed the opposite in my magazine: to aid the Palestinians. Sharon later told me that he, a general at the time, had asked the General Staff to do the same, though for a different end. My idea was to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, his was to create it in the East Bank.

(The idea of turning Jordan into Palestine has a generally unknown linguistic background. In Hebrew usage, "Eretz Israel" is the land on both sides of the Jordan River, where the ancient Hebrew tribes settled according to the Biblical myth. In Palestinian usage, "Filastin" is only the land on the West side of the river. Therefore is quite natural for ignorant Israelis to ask the Palestinians to set up their state beyond the Jordan. For Palestinians, that means setting up their state abroad.)

AT THE time, Sharon was in political exile.

In 1973 he left the army, after realizing that he had no chance of becoming Chief of Staff. This may seem odd, since he was already recognized as an outstanding battlefield commander. The trouble was that he was also known as an insubordinate officer, who despised his superiors and his peers (as well as everybody else.) Also, his relationship with the truth was problematical. David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that Sharon could be an exemplary military officer, if only he could abstain from lying.

When he left the army, Sharon almost single-handedly created the Likud by unifying all the right-wing parties. That's when I chose him the first time as Haolam Hazeh's Man of the Year and wrote a large biographical article about him. A few days later, the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Sharon was drafted back into the army. His part in it is considered by many as pure genius, by others as a story of insubordination and luck. A photo of him with his head bandaged became his trademark, though it was only a slight wound caused by hitting his head on his command vehicle. (To be fair, he was really wounded in battle, like me, in 1948.)

After the Yom Kippur war, the argument about his part in that war became the center of "the battle of the generals". He started to visit me at my home to explain his moves, and we became quite friendly.

He left the Likud when he realized that he could not become its leader as long as Menachem Begin was around. He started to chart his own course. That's when he asked for the meeting with Arafat.

He was thinking about creating a new party, neither right nor left, but led by him and "outstanding personalities" from all over the political landscape. He invited me to join, and we had long conversations at his home.

I must explain here that for a long time I had been looking for a person with military credentials to lead a large united peace camp. A leader with such a background would make it much easier for us to gain public support for our aims. Sharon fitted the recipe. (As Yitzhak Rabin did later.) Yet during our conversations it became clear to me that he had basically remained a right-winger.

In the end Sharon set up a new party called Shlomtzion ("Peace of Zion"), which was a dismal failure on election day. The next day, he rejoined the Likud.

The Likud had won the elections and Begin became Prime Minister. If Sharon had hoped to be appointed Minister of Defense, he was soon disabused. Begin did not trust him. Sharon looked like a general who might organize a coup. The powerful new Finance Minister said that if Sharon became commander-in-chief, he would "send his tanks to surround the Knesset."

(There was a joke making the rounds at the time: Defense Minister Sharon would call for a meeting of the General Staff and announce: "Comrades, tomorrow morning at 06.00 we take over the government!" For a moment the audience was dumfounded, and then it broke out into riotous laughter.)

However, when Begin's preferred Defense Minister, the former Air Force chief Ezer Weizman, resigned, Begin was compelled to appoint Sharon as his successor. For the second time I chose Sharon as Haolam Hazeh's Man of the Year. He took this very seriously and sat with me for many hours, in several meetings at his home and office, in order to explain his ideas.

One of them, which he expounded at the same time to the US strategic planners, was to conquer Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeini dies, he said, there will begin a race between the Soviet Union and the US to determine who will arrive first on the scene and take over. The US is far away, but Israel can do the job. With the help of heavy arms that the US will store in Israel well before, our army will be in full possession before the Soviets move. He showed me the detailed maps of the advance, hour by hour and day by day.

This was typical Sharon, His vision was wide and all-embracing. His listener was left breathless, comparing him to the ordinary little politicians, devoid of vision and breadth. But his ideas were generally based on abysmal ignorance of the other side, and therefore came to naught.

AT THE same time, nine months before the Lebanon War, he disclosed to me his Grand Plan for a new Middle East of his making. He allowed me to publish it, provided I did not mention him as the source. He trusted me.

Basically it was the same as the one he wanted to propose to Arafat.

The army would invade Lebanon and drive the Palestinians from there to Syria, from whence the Syrians would drive them into Jordan. There the Palestinians would overthrow the king and establish the State of Palestine.

The army would also drive the Syrians out of Lebanon. In Lebanon Sharon would choose a Christian officer and install him as dictator. Lebanon would make official peace with Israel and in effect become a vassal state.

I duly published all this, and nine months later Sharon invaded Lebanon, after lying to Begin and the cabinet about his aims. But the war was a catastrophe, both militarily and politically.

Militarily it was a demonstration of "the Peter principle" - the brilliant battle commander was a miserable strategist. No unit of the Israeli army reached its objective on time, if at all. The Israeli-installed dictator, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated. His brother and successor signed a peace treaty with Israel, which has been completely forgotten by now. The Syrians remained in Lebanon for many years to come. The Israeli army extricated itself after a guerrilla war that lasted 18 full years, during which the despised and downtrodden Shiites in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon became the dominant political force in the country.

And, worst of all, in order to induce the Palestinians to flee, Sharon let the barbarous Christian Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, where they committed a terrible massacre. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, and Sharon was dismissed from the defense ministry.

At the height of the Battle of Beirut I crossed the lines and met with Yasser Arafat, who had become Sharon's Nemesis. Since then, Sharon and I did not exchange a single word, not even greeting each other.

IT LOOKED like the end of Sharon's career. But for Sharon, every end was a new beginning.

One of his media vassals, Uri Dan (who had started his career in Haolam Hazeh) once coined a prophetic phrase: "Those who don't want him as Chief of Staff, will get him as Minister of Defense. Those who don't want him as Minister of Defense, will get him as Prime Minister." Today one could add: "Those who did not want him as Prime Minister, are getting him as a national icon."

An ex-general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, told me yesterday: "He was an Imperator!" I find this a very apt description. Like a Roman imperator, Sharon was a supreme being, admired and feared, generous and cruel, genial and treacherous, hedonistic and corrupt, a victorious general and a war criminal, quick to make decisions and unwavering once he had made them, overcoming all obstacles by sheer force of personality.

One could not meet him without being struck by the sense of power he emanated. Power was his element.

He believed that destiny had chosen him to lead Israel. He did not think so - he knew. For him, his personal career and the fate of Israel were one and the same. Therefore, anyone who tried to block him was a traitor to Israel. He despised everyone around him - from Begin down to the last politician and general.

His character was formed in his early childhood in Kfar Malal, a communal village which belonged to the Labor party. His mother, Vera, managed the family farm with an iron will, quarreling with all the neighbors, the village institutions and the party. When little Arik was injured in a fall on a pitchfork, she did not take him to the village clinic, which she hated, but put him on a donkey and led him for several kilometers to a doctor in Kfar Saba.

When rumor had it that the Arabs in neighboring villages were planning an attack, little Arik was hidden in a haystack.

Later in life, when his mother (who still managed the farm) visited his new ranch and saw a low wall with holes for irrigation, she exclaimed: "Ah, you have embrasures! Very good, you can shoot through them at the Arabs!"

How could a poor army officer acquire the largest ranch in the country? Simple: he got it as a gift from an Israeli-American billionaire, with the help of the finance minister. Several dubious large deals with other billionaires followed.

SHARON WAS the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying (to which I modestly claim authorship): "If force does not work, try more force."

I was therefore very surprised when he came out in favor of the law dispensing with the military service of tens of thousands of orthodox youngsters. "How can you?" I asked him. His answer: "I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!" I told him that for me it was the other way round.

Ideologically, he was the pupil and successor of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, leaders who believed in military force and in expanding the territory of Israel without limit. His military career started for real in the 1950s when Moshe Dayan put him in charge of an unofficial outfit called Unit 101, which was sent across the border to kill and destroy, in retaliation for similar actions committed by Arabs. His most famous exploit was the massacre of Qibya village in 1953, when 49 innocent villagers were buried under the houses which he blew up.

Later, when requested to put an end to "terrorism" in Gaza, he killed every Arab who was caught with arms. When I later asked him about killing prisoners, he answered: "I did not kill prisoners. I did not take prisoners!"

At the beginning of his career as commander he was a bad general. But from war to war he improved. Unusual for a general, he learned from his mistakes. In the 1973 war he was already considered the equal of Erwin Rommel and George Patton. It also became known that between the battles he gorged himself on seafood, which is not kosher.

THE MAIN endeavor of his life was the settlement enterprise. As army officer, politician and successively chief of half a dozen different ministries, his central effort was always to plan and set up settlements in the occupied territories.

He did not care whether they were legal or illegal under Israeli law (all of them, of course, are illegal under international law, for which he did not give a damn).

He planned their location, with the aim of cutting the West Bank into ribbons which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Then he rammed it through the cabinet and the ministries. Not for nothing was he nicknamed "the Bulldozer".

The "Israel Defense Army" (its official Hebrew name) turned into the "Settlers Defense Army", sinking slowly in the morass of the occupation.

However, when settlements obstructed his plans, he had no compunction about destroying them. When he was in favor of peace with Egypt, in order to concentrate on the war with the Palestinians, he destroyed the entire town of Yamit in North Sinai and the adjacent settlements. Later he did the same to the settlements in the Gaza Strip, attracting the enduring hatred of the settlers, his erstwhile proteges. He acted like a general who is ready to sacrifice a brigade to improve his overall strategic position.

WHEN HE died last week, after lying in a coma for eight years, he was eulogized by the very people he despised, and turned into a shallow folk hero. The Ministry of Education compared him to Moses.

In real life he was a very complex person, as complex as Israel. His personal history is interwoven with the history of Israel.

His main legacy was catastrophic: the scores of settlements which he implanted all over the West Bank - each of them a landmine which will have to be removed at great risk when the time comes.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Black Madness Under Obama: African Americans More Pro-NSA, Anti-Snowden Than Whites and Hispanics
By Glen Ford

In yet another example of African American moral and political deterioration in the Age of Obama, a new Pew Research poll shows Blacks are more in favor of NSA spying on Americans than are whites or Hispanics. Moreover, the data indicate that Blacks are probably more likely to favor prosecution of Edward Snowden for his NSA spying revelations, than are other ethnic groups.

Back in September, polling history was made when Black Americans were more in favor of air strikes against Syria than whites and Hispanics - the first time, ever, that African Americans were ranked as the most bellicose major ethnicity in the United States.

Something ugly has happened to Black America since 2008, eroding - if not reversing - the progressive Black historical consensus on issues of peace, civil liberties and social justice that has prevailed since pollsters began soliciting Black opinion. One must conclude that, either Black progressivism was a much shallower political current than previously believed, or that the presence of a Black president has been such a shock to Black consciousness, so profoundly disorienting, that it has grievously distorted collective Black perceptions of reality. The African American worldview has been mangled beyond imagining.

Back in June of last year, when MSNBC's Black plantation hands Melissa Harris-Perry and Joy-Ann Reid were calling for Edward Snowden's head on a platter, and Black South Carolina congressman James Clyburn was telling people that Snowden's NSA revelations were nothing more than "an effort to embarrass the president," 60 percent of Blacks and an equal proportion of Hispanics approved of "the government's collection of telephone and Internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts." Only 44 percent of whites wanted the NSA's metadata collections to continue. Pew Research pollsters asked the same questions after President Obama's speech on NSA spying, last Friday. The survey showed that NSA's stock had fallen considerably over the past six months, but Blacks remain more NSA spy-friendly than whites and Hispanics. Forty-three percent of African Americans still approve of the agency's telephone and internet data collection, compared to 39 percent of whites and 40 percent of Hispanics, while majorities of whites (55 percent) and Hispanics (52 percent) opposed Obama on spying. Only 49 percent of Blacks would break with administration policy. In conventional political terms, African Americans - who are subjected to hyper-surveillance like no other group in the U.S. - are most heavily represented on the far Right on this issue, steadfast with "their" president.

Democrats are substantially more likely than Republicans to favor criminal prosecution of Edward Snowden, according to the Pew poll. Sixty-two percent of Democrats, versus 54 percent of Republicans, want to throw the book at Snowden. African Americans make up one quarter of the Democratic Party. The data indicate that Black zeal to protect Obama contributed significantly to the Democrats' lynch-mob mentality.

The polls show that the "Obscene 14" Black lawmakers that voted to shield the NSA's meta-data trolling from congressional defunding, in July, represented the majority of Black opinion at the time (60 percent). Put another way, Black majorities appear prepared to take even the most right-wing positions if they perceive it to be in defense of the First Black President. (The House effort to curtail the NSA's telephone and internet data-gathering failed by only 7 votes.)

Forty percent of Blacks told a Washington Post/ABC poll, in late August and early September, that they supported President Obama's threatened airstrikes on Syria. Although majorities of Blacks (56 percent), whites (58 percent) and Hispanics (63 percent) opposed Obama's air war, African Americans were the most supportive of war - the first time that has ever happened. Given that Blacks were far more pro-peace than either whites or Hispanics in the pre-Obama era, the conclusion is inescapable: substantial proportions of Black Americans are now more concerned with defending Obama than with preventing the death of thousands of innocents abroad, at U.S. hands. In siding with the NSA's spies, Blacks have shown they are prepared to sacrifice their own civil liberties in order to safeguard the prestige of the icon in the White House.

If an individual exhibited such lifelong personality and values reversals, her relatives and friends would immediately suspect an emotional breakdown, and seek professional help. Caregivers would try to identify the cause of the mental collapse, and find ways to avoid further harm.

Actually, a diagnosis of collective African American mental illness, brought on by the sudden and unexpected advent of a nominally Black president, is the kindest analysis available. The alternative diagnosis is that Black folks were always closet reactionaries, who were just waiting for the emergence of a Black chief executive to show their true colors.

I'll go with sudden onslaught of collective mental illness. The second theory is even crazier than the first.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Obama Sneers At Snowden While Puffing Up His Own Role
By Matthew Rothschild

In President Obama's big speech on NSA spying, he made himself the hero of the story—and Edward Snowden the villain.

It's not comforting to all U.S. citizens and everyone living abroad, including foreign leaders, that Obama said: "I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president." Big deal! You kept them up, and may even have expanded them, allowing the government to track all our phone calls and our every key stroke, without any predicate of wrongdoing on our parts.

It's not comforting to any of us that he boasted that "improved rules were proposed by the government and approved."

It's not comforting to any of us that he boasted that "we've sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities."

First of all, there's a lot of fudge room in "sought to."

Secondly, how many members of Congress were actually informed of all these activities? Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon was repeatedly stymied by the Obama Administration when he tried to find out about these programs. And Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress about it, saying last March that it was not "wittingly" collecting information on millions of Americans. Clapper later said that his comment was "the least untruthful thing" he could have said. This isn't informing Congress; this is criminally misinforming Congress.

And thirdly, why didn't Obama allow members of Congress to inform us, the citizens? Don't we have a right to know when the Executive Branch is crushing our Fourth Amendment rights "to be secure" in our "persons, houses, papers, and effects?"

It's also not comforting to any of us that last year Obama said in a speech that "we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty," since his Administration had been gagging members of Congress for years from telling us what they know about some of these programs.

The whole first half of Obama's speech was designed to show how he's been the guardian of our rights, when he's been violating them.

He did acknowledge, however, that critics have been right to point out that the NSA's mass gathering of our phone records "has never been subject to vigorous public debate."

Which brings us to whistleblower Edward Snowden. The undeniable fact of the matter is that we wouldn't be having this "vigorous public debate" right now, and Obama would not have given this speech, were it not for Snowden (and for reporter Glenn Greenwald). Obama mentioned Snowden twice by name. "Given the fact of an open investigation, I'm not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or his motivations." But this pretention of piety didn't stop Obama in the next breadth from saying that "the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out" has revealed "methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come." So Obama said he wouldn't prejudice the case against Snowden, and then he goes ahead and prejudices it.

Yes, it was nice to hear the President admit that after 9/11 "the risk of government overreach" went up, and that "the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security also became more pronounced."

And yes, it was nice that he made some modest changes in the oversight of the NSA.

"The president's speech outlined several developments which we welcome," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "Increased transparency for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, improved checks and balances at the FISA court through the creation of a panel of advocates, and increased privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens abroad - the first such assertion by a U.S. president - are all necessary and welcome reforms."

But Obama did not tell the NSA to stop scooping up all our phone calls. "The president's decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans' data remains highly troubling," Romero said. "The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end - not mend - the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data. When the government collects and stores every American's phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an 'unreasonable search' that violates the Constitution."

No amount of self-aggrandizing rhetoric, and no amount of tinkering on the edges, will alter that fact.
(c) 2014 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

The Millionaires' Congress Vs. The People

The rich truly are different from you and me - they tend to become congress critters.

You don't find many plumbers, mine workers, dirt farmers, Walmart associates, beauty parlor operators, taxi drivers, or other "get-the-job-done" Americans among the 535 members of the US House and Senate. What you do find is an over-supply of lawmakers drawn from a very thin strata of America's population: Millionaires. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that last year - for the first time in history - more than half of our senators and House members are in the Millionaires Club. Indeed, the average net worth (the value of what they own minus what they owe) for all lawmakers now totals more than $7 million.

The world in which our "representatives" live is light years from where the majority of people live, and the divide between the governors and the governees is especially stark for the 40 percent of people whose net worth is zero (or, technically, less than zero, since their income and other assets are far exceeded by their debts). This widening chasm is not just a matter of wealth, but most significantly a literal separation of the privileged few from the experiences, needs, and aspirations of the many who're struggling to make ends meet and worried that opportunities for their children to get ahead are no longer available to them.

The harsh reality is that most Americans are no longer represented in Washington. Chances are that their own members of Congress don't know any struggling and worried people, share nothing in common with them, and can't relate to their real-life needs, Thus, Congress is content to play ideological games with such basics as health care, minimum wage, joblessness, food stamps, and Social Security. America's wealth divide has become a chasm, creating a looming social and political crisis for America that undermines any pretense that ours is a democratic society.
(c) 2014 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.

Obama Fans Aren't Even Pretending That Was A Good Speech
By David Swanson

President Barack Obama gave a eulogy for the Fourth Amendment on Friday, and not even his fans are proclaiming victory. In this moment when Obama is actually doing one thing I agree with (talking to Iran), more and more people seem to be slowly, agonizingly slowly, finally, finally, finally, recognizing what a complete huckster he is when it comes to pretty speeches about his crimes.

Obama's speech and new "policy directive" eliminate the Fourth Amendment. Massive bulk collection of everybody's data will continue unconstitutionally, but Obama has expressed a certain vague desire to end it, sort of, except for the parts that are needed, but not to do so right away. The comparisons to the closure of the Guantanamo death camp began instantly.

Far from halting or apologizing for the abuses of the NSA, Obama defends them as necessitated by the danger of a new 911. While drones over Yemen and troops in Afghanistan and "special" forces in three-quarters of the world are widely understood to endanger us, and while alternatives that upheld the rule of law and made us saferwould not require secrecy or human rights violations, Obama wants to continue the counterproductive and immoral militarism while holding off all blowback through the omniscience of Big Brother.

However, Obama's own panel and every other panel that has looked into it found zero evidence that the new abusive NSA programs have prevented any violent attacks. And it is well-documented that (even given the disastrous policies that produced 911) the attacks of that day could have been stopped at the last minute by sharing existing data or responding to urgent memos to the president with any sort of serious effort.

Obama has not proposed to end abuses. He's proposed to appoint two new bureaucrats plus John Podesta. Out of this speech we get reviews of policies, a commitment to tell the Director of National Intelligence to read court rulings that impact the crimes and abuses he's engaged in, and a promise that the "Intelligence Community" will inspect itself. (Congress, the courts, and the people don't come up in this list of reforms.) Usually this sort of imperial-presidential fluff wins praise from Obama's followers. This time, I'm not hearing it.

True, after EFF created a great pre-speech scorecard, when Obama scored a big fat zero, EFF said it was encouraged that he might score a point some day. But they didn't sound impassioned about their encoragement.

Obama's promises not to abuse unchecked secret powers (and implied promise that none of his successors or subordinates will abuse them either) is not credible, or acceptable, while it just might be impeachable. We're talking here about the same government that listens in on soldiers' phone sex, Congress members' daily lives, and everything it can get its hands on related to the actual, rather than rhetorical, promotion of liberty, justice, or peace. A report today quotes various members of the government with security clearance who want to murder Edward Snowden. We're supposed to just trust them with the right to or persons, houses, papers, and effects without probably cause or warrant? Are we also to trust the corporations they ask to do their dirty work, should the theoretical future reform of this outrage involve paying corporations to own our info?

Obama claims the "debate" -- in which no debate opponent was given a minute at the microphone -- is valuable. But the whistleblowers who create such debates "endanger" us, Obama says. This he claims without evidence.

If the debate was so useful, why not give the man who made you hold it with yourself his passport back?

Obama began Friday's speech with a Sarah Palinesque bit of Paul Revere history. Revere is now an honorary NSA spy. In reality, the British would have hit Revere with a hellfire missile if Obama had been their king. It all depends on which side of a war you imagine someone to be on, and on whether you imagine war itself is an acceptable form of human behavior at this late date. Without the endless war on the world, the need for secrecy would go away, and with it the powers that secrecy bestows, and with them the arrogant speeches by rulers who clearly hold us all in contempt.

Resisters of royalty came up with a cure back in Paul Revere's day. They called it impeachment. Of course it would be highly inappropriate to use. It might get in the way of the Fight for Freedom.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

America Needs A Third And Honest Political Party
By James Donahue

The frustration among the working (and jobless) members of the nation's citizenry is growing as we watch our elected state and national representatives bow down to corporate gangsters and pass laws misdirecting our tax money and erasing our constitutional rights. We see the rich getting richer and the poor and middle class getting desperately poorer.

Some groups are trying to fight back. The Occupy movement gained some traction for a while but it lacked leadership and direction and all but fizzled out. Yet the anger that stimulated the public campouts and demonstrations has not gone away.

As the nation gears up for yet another election there is murmuring among voters . . . they want to throw out the bums that are giving away the nation. But who will we elect in their place? With the power of the corporate dollar, backed by the sold-out high courts, it is a sure bet that the winners will ride into office on false promises, slick campaign advertising, and lots of corporate money stuffed in their pockets. Thus we will likely replace old gangster lawmakers with new ones.

We watch as our hard-earned tax dollars slip through the fingers and into the pockets of Washington politicians and flutter off into the pockets of the wealthy CEOs of companies profiting via the industrial military complex, the quest to find more oil and gas reserves and development of costly and ineffective agricultural products and medicines.

The things we really want are being ignored:

We want something done about our dangerously threatened environment.
We want good-paying productive jobs.
We want inexpensive and quality health care for all.
We want housing for everybody.
We want quality education for all children, not just for those who can afford it.
We want our nation's infrastructure repaired and rebuilt to meet our needs.
We want our propensity for war to cease.
We want an honest Congress to control our money and the Federal Reserve dismantled.
We want news outlets that we can trust; that report real unbiased news, that operate free of the puppet strings of corporate ownership and political motive.
We want real trustworthy and inspirational leadership that works hard for the best interests of the nation and the people of the world.

How to we get these things? We believe a good place to start is the creation of a third political party built on the platform listed above. It would probably look like a socialist system because that is what it is going to take to shake off the shackles of capitalism that has bound us for so long. But after years of warring and hearing propaganda against communism, there is a stigma attached to the name socialism. People have been led by a corrupted media to believe that socialism and communism are the same thing, and consequently both are evil. We have been led to believe that Communism and Socialism are a threat to Capitalism and that Capitalism is needed to keep the wheels of American business turning in a Democratic society.

There is a distinct difference.

Socialism involves a sharing of the wealth of the nation for the equal benefit of all. America already uses socialism in the form of Medicare, Social Security, construction and maintenance of public utilities and postal delivery. It has worked well for years. It is an economic system that is not in conflict with a Democracy.

Communism involves a total takeover of the wealth, property and the people by the state, and then allowing the leadership to decide how the wealth is used. This idea has failed because it opened the door to dictatorial control.

Capitalism puts the control of the economic system in the hands of corporate stockholders and private individuals. Because private individuals own property and business instead of government, the concept has been espoused as an economic freedom inseparable from democracy. This is a lie that has been skillfully used to enslave workers and beat back efforts to make the system work fairly through collective bargaining.

America can take a big step toward solving its problem of political gridlock in Washington and in state governments by creating a third socialistic political system and putting good honest people in office dedicated to adopting its platform.
(c) 2014 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.

MLK: 'Our Struggle Is For Genuine Equality, Which Means Economic Equality'
By John Nichols

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. left many legacies: as a crusader for civil rights, voting rights, religious harmony, peace and economic justice.

As America honors the eighty-fifth anniversary of King's birth, it is right to remember all of those legacies.

But at a moment when the national debate has finally begun to refocus on the issue of income inequality that so motivated Dr. King, it is that economic-justice commitment that merits particular attention.

Fifty years ago, when Dr. King marched on Washington for jobs and freedom, the federal minimum wage was $1.25 an hour. In today's dollars, that guaranteed base wage would be $9.54 an hour.

But the federal minimum wage today is just $7.25 an hour.

So low-wage workers are more than $2 behind where they were when Dr. King declared: "We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we've come to cash this check-a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., well noted last year at a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington that "workers are falling behind."

"Income inequality threatens our democracy as Jim Crow segregation did in 1963," explained Ellison, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. "Families are working harder than ever and are still struggling to put food on the table. A full day's work doesn't mean a full day's pay."

King recognized that wage issues were civil rights issues. "Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality," he told a rally of AFSCME sanitation workers in Memphis on March 18, 1968, barely two weeks before his death. "For we know now that it isn't enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn't have enough money to buy a hamburger?"

And what is the worker who prepares and serves that hamburger being paid?

That's a question that has been asked frequently over the past year, as thousands of fast-food workers and their supporters have struck, marched and rallied to demand better pay, benefits and workplace protections.

Most Americans are aware that, especially in a weak economy, fast-food restaurant jobs are no longer "entry-level" positions. In chain restaurants across the country, most workers are adults. And substantial numbers of them are trying to support families.

But if they are paid the minimum wage, or even a bit more, they live in poverty.

"Almost one-quarter of all jobs in the United States pay wages below the poverty line for a family of four. CEO compensation, meanwhile, continues to climb. It would take a full-time, minimum-wage worker more than 930 years to earn as much as the chief executive officer of Yum! Brands, which operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, made in 2012," explains Christine Owens, the executive director of the National Employment Law Project. "Fast-food workers are in the lowest paid occupational category. The median hourly wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 nationally. Many don't even earn that. A shortage of hours further limits income. Fast-food workers work only 24 hours a week on average-at $8.94 an hour, this adds up to barely $11,000 a year."

But organizing for better pay for fast-food and retail workers does not just benefit those workers and their families. "We can't build a strong economy on jobs that pay so little that families can't live on them," notes Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry. "Raising the wage floor will make the economy stronger for all of us."

Indeed, argues Congressman George Miller, the senior Democratic member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, "Low pay...holds back our recovery from the Great Recession."

With Iowa's Tom Harkin in the Senate, Miller is the House author of the Fair Minimum Wage Act (HR 1010), which would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The rate would then be indexed to inflation, so that pay increases come when prices rise. Additionally, Miller's bill would increase the required cash wage for tipped workers.

Ultimately, increases must go higher to achieve a living-wage standard. That's the point made by Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, who was elected on a pledge to fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and who has gotten officials in that city to begin to explore such a move. Seattle could vote on the issue this year, and Los Angeles and other cities nationwide are beginning to talk about going big in the fight against income inequality.

Local and state initiatives are vital, as is the federal fight.

At every level, the struggle for meaningful increases in the minimum wage respects a basic premise that extends from Martin Luther King Jr.'s time to ours: helping those who are disenfranchised, politically and economically, helps all of society.

As Congressman Miller, who carries forward the King legacy of linking jobs and freedom, explains it: "Better pay will put more money into local businesses and spur economic growth. That's why a living wage is not about asking for a handout. Rather, it's about valuing work. And it's about growing the economy from the bottom up by increasing working families' purchasing power. Americans on today's picket lines aren't just standing up for themselves-they are standing up for a stronger America."

Of all the celebrations of Dr. King's legacy, few are more appropriate than the struggle-expanding every day, going from strength to strength at the local, state and federal levels-to address income inequality by raising the basic wage for working Americans.

Dr. King put it best, just weeks before his death, when he declared: "Now the problem isn't only unemployment. Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working everyday? They are making wages so low that they can not begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen. And it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income."
(c) 2014 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.

What Obama Really Meant Was ...
By Chris Hedges

Remarks by the President on Review of Signals Intelligence (if he had told the truth)

Department of Injustice
Washington, D.C.
11:15 a.m. EST

THE PRESIDENT: A small, secret surveillance committee of goons and thugs hiding behind the mask of patriotism was established in 1908 in Washington, D.C. The group was led from 1924 until 1972 by J. Edgar Hoover, and during his reign it became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents spied upon and infiltrated labor unions, political parties, radical groups-especially those led by African-Americans-anti-war groups and the civil rights movement in order to discredit anyone, including politicians such as Henry Wallace, who questioned the power of the state and big business. Agents burglarized homes and offices, illegally opened mail and planted unlawful wiretaps. Bureau leaders created blacklists. They destroyed careers and sometimes lives. They demanded loyalty oaths. By the time they were done, our progressive and radical movements, which had given us the middle class and opened up our political system, were dead. And while the FBI was targeting internal dissidents, our foreign intelligence operatives were overthrowing regimes, bankrolling some of the most vicious dictators on the planet and carrying out assassinations in numerous countries, such as Cuba and the Philippines and later Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Throughout American history, intelligence services often did little more than advance and protect corporate profits and solidify state repression and imperialist expansion. War, for big business, has always been very lucrative and used as an excuse to curtail basic liberties and crush popular movements. "Inter arma silent leges," as Cicero said, or "During war, the laws are silent." In the Civil War, during which the North and the South suspended the writ of habeas corpus and up to 750,000 soldiers died in the slaughter, Union intelligence worked alongside Northern war profiteers who sold cardboard shoes to the Army as the spy services went about the business of ruthlessly hunting down deserters. The First World War, which gave us the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act and saw President Woodrow Wilson throw populists and socialists, including Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs, into prison, produced $28.5 billion in net profits for businesses and created 22,000 new millionaires. Wall Street banks, which lent $2.5 billion to nations allied with the United States, made sure Wilson sent U.S. forces into the senseless trench warfare so they would be repaid. World War II-which consumed more than 60 million lives and saw 110,000 Japanese-Americans hauled away to internment camps and atomic bombs dropped on defenseless civilians-doubled wartime corporate profits from the First World War. Why disarm when there was so much money to be made from stoking fear?

The rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons provided the justification by big business for sustaining a massive arms industry, for a huge expansion of our surveillance capabilities and for more draconian assaults against workers and radicals. The production of weapons was about profits rather than logic. We would go on to produce more than 70,000 nuclear bombs or warheads at a cost of $5.5 trillion, enough weapons to obliterate every Soviet city several times over. And in the early days of the Cold War, with Hoover and Joe McCarthy and his henchmen blacklisting anyone with a conscience in government, the arts, journalism, labor unions or education, President Harry S. Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA.

Throughout this evolution, Americans were steadily shorn of their most basic constitutional rights and their traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were always anchored in a system of secrecy-with little effective oversight from either elected leaders or ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a sterling example of what our corporate masters might achieve with pervasive, unchecked surveillance that turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their homes. Today I would like to thank the architects of this East German system, especially Erich Mielke, once the chief of the communist East German secret police. I want to assure them that the NSA has gone on to perfect what the Stasi began.

In the 1960s, the U.S. government spied on civil rights leaders, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and critics of the Vietnam War, just as today we are spying on Occupy activists, environmentalists, whistle-blowers and other dissidents. And partly in response to these revelations decades ago, especially regarding the FBI's covert dirty tricks program known as COINTELPRO, laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long, twilight struggle against communism, and now in the fight against terrorism, I am happy to report that we have eradicated all of these reforms and laws. The crimes for which Richard Nixon resigned and the abuses of power that prompted the formation of the Church Commission are now legal. The liberties that some patriots, including Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, have sought to preserve have been sacrificed at the altar of national security. To obtain your personal information, the FBI can now freely issue "national security letters" to your bank, doctor, employer or public library or any of your associates without a judicial warrant. And you will never be notified of an investigation. We can collect and store in perpetuity all metadata of your email correspondence and phone records and track your geographical movements. We can assassinate you if I decide you are a terrorist. We can order the military under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act to arrest you, strip you of due process and hold you indefinitely in military detention centers. We can continue to throw into prison those who expose the illegality of what we are doing, or force them into exile, as all totalitarian secret police forces from the SS to the KGB to the East German Stasi have done. And we can torture.

The fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower. This threatened to delegitimize our massive spending on war and state security, now more than 50 percent of our budget. But a group of Islamic radicals who had never posed an existential threat to our country emerged to take the place of the old communist bloc. The politics of fear and the psychosis of permanent war were able to be continued. The war on terror placed new and in some ways more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies. Our illegal and disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and our indiscriminate bombing of other countries, along with the war crimes Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people, are driving people in the Muslim world into the arms of these militant groups. We are the most hated nation on earth. At the same time, globalization-our corporate policy of creating a worldwide neofeudalism of masters and serfs-means we must spy on citizens to prevent agitation and revolt. After all, if you are a worker, things are only going to get worse. To quash competitors of American companies, we spy on corporations in Brazil, including Brazil's biggest oil company, Petrobras, and on corporations in Germany and France. We also steal information from the leaders of many countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose personal cellphone we tapped. However, Ms. Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, should not, as she has done, accuse us of being the Stasi. We are much more efficient than the Stasi was. We spied successfully on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in addition to Pope Francis and the conclave that elected him last March. Senior U.N. officials and Roman Catholic cardinals are highly susceptible to recruitment by al-Qaida. The reasons are classified. I won't share them with you. Believe me.

Threats to the nation raised new legal and policy questions, which fortunately our courts, abject tools of the corporate state, solved by making lawful everything from torture to wholesale surveillance. I would like to take a moment to thank our nation's compliant judges, the spineless deans of most prestigious law schools and most law professors and lawyers for refusing to defend the Constitution. They have been valued partners, along with the press, in our campaign to eradicate your civil liberties.

The horror of September 11th was masterfully manipulated by the security state and our for-profit military-industrial complex. These forces used the attacks as an excuse to increase the massive pilfering of taxpayer dollars, especially by the Department of Homeland Security, which has a public budget of $98.8 billion. The truth, however, is the system of internal security is so vast and so secret no one in the public has any idea how large our programs are or how much we spend. It is true that our 16 intelligence agencies missed the numerous signs and evidence leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In short, they screwed up, just as they did when they failed to anticipate the fall of the Shah of Iran or the collapse of the Soviet Union, or when they told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But we have a rule in Washington: Never reform failed bureaucracies or hold government officials accountable; rather, give them more money. Keep failure secret.

It is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we've taken enormous strides in making the Middle East a caldron of rage. New capabilities and new laws have turned us into the most efficient killers on the planet. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, creating one immense, global corporate system of surveillance and security that obliterates the rights of people at home and abroad. Taken together, these efforts have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. We have terrorized whole countries from the sky and forced millions to become refugees. This will ensure endless war, which ensures endless profits for those who make war-which is the point.

Over the last six months, I created an outside Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to make recommendations for reform. This group is led by the same intelligence chiefs who carry out the abuses. The chancellor of Germany has, like many of our other allies, demanded we stop spying on citizens of that nation. But, unfortunately for the chancellor, as well as for you, my fellow Americans, we will continue to do whatever we want.

The folks at the NSA and other intelligence agencies are our nation's voyeurs and peeping Toms. They read your electronic bank and medical records. They know what you and your kids post on Facebook and Instagram. They have all of your emails and text messages. They track your movements through the GPS on your cellphone. They are not alone. Corporations of all kinds and sizes track your online searches and what you buy, then they analyze and store the data and use it for commercial purposes; that's why those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone so often.

Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say "trust us, we won't abuse the data we collect." History has too many examples of such trust being breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power. And that is why Congress and our courts have rewritten our laws, from the NDAA to the FISA Amendment Act, to strip you of legal protection.

I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Martin Luther King Jr. who were spied upon by their own government. But I, like Bill Clinton, have sold out those true patriots and gutted those government programs that made possible my own education and ascent into systems of elite power. As president I understand, as do Bill and Hillary, that political power is about us, not about you. I know where power in this country lies. It does not lie with the citizen. It lies with Wall Street and corporate boardrooms. And since my vanity demands that I be famous, wealthy and powerful, I work hard for these centers of power. None of these centers of power want to see any curbs on the security and surveillance state. And so I will make sure there are none.

As a senator, I was critical of practices such as warrantless wiretaps. But as president I have carried out a far more extensive assault on civil liberties than my predecessor, George W. Bush. I have used the Espionage Act eight times to charge patriots such as Edward Snowden who exposed crimes of the state. And I have lied to you often, as I did in the original version of this speech, to defend the right of our security and surveillance apparatus to spy on you without judicial warrants.

As a presidential candidate in 2008 I promised to "reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime." I promised to close our detention center in Guantanamo Bay. I said I would revisit the Patriot Act. I told you I would overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued by the Bush administration. I said I would shut down our black sites. And I promised an end to extraordinary rendition. I told you as president last summer that the NSA "cannot target your emails" and that all of our surveillance programs were subject to the full control of Congress. I have, along with our Congress and our highest courts, eradicated the Fourth Amendment, which once protected citizens from government intrusion into their persons, homes, papers and effects. And, to be frank, the only reason I am talking to you today about spying is because Edward Snowden has, through his leaked documents, illustrated that everything I and others in government have promised to do or told you about domestic and international surveillance is a lie.

Today I am announcing a series of cosmetic reforms that my administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify through Congress.

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities both at home and abroad that sounds impressive but means nothing.

Second, we will institute a few bureaucratic programs and procedures to give you the illusion of greater transparency while we continue to sweep up and store your personal information, including your telephone metadata.

Third, I propose more amorphous and undefined protections for government activities conducted under Section 702.

Fourth, the FBI's national security letters will not be touched. But we could and should be more transparent in how government uses this authority. We really should. But we won't. To make you feel better, however, I have directed the attorney general to amend how we use national security letters so that this secrecy will not be indefinite, so that it will terminate within a fixed-though unspecified-time unless the government demonstrates a need for further secrecy. That need might last forever.

This brings me to the program that has generated the most controversy these past few months-the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Why is this necessary? It is necessary because in a totalitarian state the secret police must gather information not to solve crimes but, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, "to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population." We need all of your emails, phone conversations, Web searches and geographical movements for "evidence" should we decide to seize you. And my apologies to Sen. Bernie Sanders, but we can't make exemptions for members of Congress, especially when they come from Vermont. If you think you are innocent, or that you have nothing to hide, you do not understand what is happening. Justice, like truth, is no longer relevant. Ask Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, along with whistle-blowers like Thomas Drake, where justice and truth got them. One of the main tasks of any security service is blackmail, a tactic the FBI used to try to get Martin Luther King to commit suicide. So if you have any dirt we want to know about it.

I will propose turning over the storage of all your data to a third party, perhaps a private corporation. This will offer you no protection, but it should provide a good government contract to one of my major campaign donors.

The cosmetic reforms I'm proposing today will, I hope, give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, along with our courts, continue to eviscerate those rights. I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate, such as your constitutional right to halt the wholesale capturing and storing of your personal information and correspondence and evidence of your geographical movements. But don't expect me to help. I sold out long ago.

The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, can be assured that the United States follows everything they do or say. It does not matter if they are ordinary people or foreign leaders. I am not going to apologize for monitoring the communications of friends and allies. We know what we are doing. We know why this is important. The effects of declining incomes for working men and women, the massive debt peonage that keeps people trapped, the slashing of government assistance programs, the chronic, long-term unemployment, and the effects of climate change will eventually trigger volatile unrest. We are ready. The likelihood of totalitarianism no longer comes from fascism or communism. It comes from corporations. Corporations, for which I work, fear those who think and write and speak out and form relationships freely. Individual freedom impedes their profits. And the surveillance system I am protecting today is designed to keep these corporations in power.

Our democracy is a fiction. We seek to maintain this fiction to keep you passive. Should you wake up, we will not shy away from draconian measures. I believe we can meet high expectations. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures your complete subjugation, the iron rule of our corporations and our power elite-at least until we make the planet wholly uninhabitable-while we continue to snuff out the liberties that once made our nation worth fighting for.

Thank you. May God bless you. May God bless Corporate America.
(c) 2014 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."

Pentagon & NSA Officials Say They Want Snowden Extrajudicially Assassinated

By David Sirota

President Obama claims the right to extrajudicially execute American citizens, keeps a so-called "kill list," and has bragged he's "really good at killing people." This isn't bluster. Obama has backed this up with action, having killed U.S. citizens - including a 16-year-old boy - without charging, much less convicting, any of them with a single crime.

The implications are profound (and profoundly disturbing), and raise questions about Americans' constitutional right to due process, the most basic constraints on presidential power, and our treatment of whistleblowers. Indeed, how can anyone expect those who witness executive-branch crimes to blow the whistle when the head of the executive branch asserts the right to instantly execute anyone he pleases at any time?

All of this may sound theoretical, academic, or even fantastical, straight out of a dystopian sci-fi flick. But it isn't. It is very real. After all, only a few months ago, the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee publicly offered to help extrajudicially assassinate NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. And now, according to a harrowing new report that just hit the Internet, top NSA and Pentagon officials are doing much the same, even after court rulings and disclosures have concluded that Snowden is a whistleblower who exposed serious government crimes.

In an article headlined "America's Spies Want Edward Snowden Dead," Buzzfeed's Benny Johnson reports:

'In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American, I personally would go and kill him myself,' a current NSA analyst told BuzzFeed. 'A lot of people share this sentiment.'

'I would love to put a bullet in his head,' one Pentagon official, a former special forces officer, said bluntly...

'His name is cursed every day over here,' a defense contractor told BuzzFeed, speaking from an overseas Intelligence collections base. 'Most everyone I talk to says he needs to be tried and hung, forget the trial and just hang him.'

One Army intelligence officer even offered BuzzFeed a chillingly detailed fantasy.

'I think if we had the chance, we would end it very quickly,' he said. 'Just casually walking on the streets of Moscow, coming back from buying his groceries. Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it's a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower.'

Buzzfeed characterizes this as government officials merely "seeth(ing) in very personal terms." However, with a top legislative branch leader offering to assist in the very extrajudicial assassination now being promoted by NSA and Pentagon officials, and with the executive branch categorically asserting the right to order such an extrajudicial assassination of a U.S. citizen, this is more than mere "seething." These are outright threats.

Think about it: As President Obama would no doubt acknowledge, the NSA and Pentagon are not independent agencies. As president he oversees and runs them. That is, they are overseen and run by the same Obama administration that has asserted the right to execute American citizens without indictment, trial or conviction. While these may just be officials speaking off the cuff, their language ("Most everyone I talk to"/"A lot of people share this sentiment") makes clear that their sentiment represents a pervasive culture throughout the government - again, the same government that not-so-coincidentally asserts the right to kill people in exactly the way they discuss.

It all leads back to that same harrowing question: how can Americans who witness executive-branch crimes feel comfortable or even physically safe blowing the whistle on said crimes?

The answer in the Obama era is: they can't.
(c) 2014 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

The Undeserving Rich
By Paul Krugman

The reality of rising American inequality is stark. Since the late 1970s real wages for the bottom half of the work force have stagnated or fallen, while the incomes of the top 1 percent have nearly quadrupled (and the incomes of the top 0.1 percent have risen even more). While we can and should have a serious debate about what to do about this situation, the simple fact - American capitalism as currently constituted is undermining the foundations of middle-class society - shouldn't be up for argument.

But it is, of course. Partly this reflects Upton Sinclair's famous dictum: It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. But it also, I think, reflects distaste for the implications of the numbers, which seem almost like an open invitation to class warfare - or, if you prefer, a demonstration that class warfare is already underway, with the plutocrats on offense.

The result has been a determined campaign of statistical obfuscation. At its cruder end this campaign comes close to outright falsification; at its more sophisticated end it involves using fancy footwork to propagate what I think of as the myth of the deserving rich.

For an example of de facto falsification, one need look no further than a recent column by Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, which first accused President Obama (wrongly) of making a factual error, then proceeded to assert that rising inequality was no big deal, because everyone has been making big gains. Why, incomes for the bottom fifth of the U.S. population have risen 186 percent since 1979!

If this sounds wrong to you, it should: that's a nominal number, not corrected for inflation. You can find the inflation-corrected number in the same Census Bureau table; it shows incomes for the bottom fifth actually falling. Oh, and for the record, at the time of writing this elementary error had not been corrected on The Journal's website.

O.K., that's what crude obfuscation looks like. What about the fancier version?

I've noted before that conservatives seem fixated on the notion that poverty is basically the result of character problems among the poor. This may once have had a grain of truth to it, but for the past three decades and more the main obstacle facing the poor has been the lack of jobs paying decent wages. But the myth of the undeserving poor persists, and so does a counterpart myth, that of the deserving rich.

The story goes like this: America's affluent are affluent because they made the right lifestyle choices. They got themselves good educations, they got and stayed married, and so on. Basically, affluence is a reward for adhering to the Victorian virtues.

What's wrong with this story? Even on its own terms, it postulates opportunities that don't exist. For example, how are children of the poor, or even the working class, supposed to get a good education in an era of declining support for and sharply rising tuition at public universities? Even social indicators like family stability are, to an important extent, economic phenomena: nothing takes a toll on family values like lack of employment opportunities.

But the main thing about this myth is that it misidentifies the winners from growing inequality. White-collar professionals, even if married to each other, are only doing O.K. The big winners are a much smaller group. The Occupy movement popularized the concept of the "1 percent," which is a good shorthand for the rising elite, but if anything includes too many people: most of the gains of the top 1 percent have in fact gone to an even tinier elite, the top 0.1 percent.

And who are these lucky few? Mainly they're executives of some kind, especially, although not only, in finance. You can argue about whether these people deserve to be paid so well, but one thing is clear: They didn't get where they are simply by being prudent, clean and sober.

So how can the myth of the deserving rich be sustained? Mainly through a strategy of distortion by dilution. You almost never see apologists for inequality willing to talk about the 1 percent, let alone the really big winners. Instead, they talk about the top 20 percent, or at best the top 5 percent. These may sound like innocent choices, but they're not, because they involve lumping in married lawyers with the wolves of Wall Street. The DiCaprio movie of that name, by the way, is wildly popular with finance types, who cheer on the title character - another clue to the realities of our new Gilded Age.

Again, I know that these realities make some people, not all of them hired guns for the plutocracy, uncomfortable, and they'd prefer to paint a different picture. But even if the facts have a well-known populist bias, they're still the facts - and they must be faced.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
~~~ Harriet Tubman

No Place To Hide
We're All Suspects in Barack Obama's America
By Robert Scheer

Barack Obama's speech Friday on surveillance was his worst performance, not as a matter of theatrical skill, though he clearly did not embrace his lines, but in its stark betrayal of his oft proclaimed respect for constitutional safeguards and civil liberty.

His unbridled defense of the surveillance state opened the door to the new McCarthyism of Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein, the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, who on Sunday talk shows were branding Edward Snowden as a possible Russian spy.

Instead of crediting Snowden for forcing what the president concedes is a much-needed debate, Obama bizarrely cited the example of Paul Revere and the other early American rebels in the Sons of Liberty to denounce their modern equivalent. But the "secret surveillance committee" Obama referenced that Revere and his fellow underground conspirators established was intended to subvert rather than celebrate the crimes of the British controlled government in power.

Somewhere in law school, Obama must have learned that the whole point of our Bill of Rights, inspired by American revolutionaries like Sam Adams, a Sons of Liberty co-conspirator, was to curtail government power as the main threat to freedom. Thus was Adams' insistence on the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment, banning the warrantless searches that Obama now seeks to justify.

Obama had certainly acted as if he understood that when as a senator he railed against the surveillance power of the government. But now that he occupies the imperial presidency, dissenters like Snowden are the enemy to be hounded.

While modern town crier Snowden is judged guilty of a crime without trial, the folks in the NSA who have been spying on us are all depicted as honorable people to be presumed innocent, no matter evidence to the contrary. That includes James Clapper, the president's appointed director of national intelligence who blatantly perjured himself in testimony to Congress.

When asked in March by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, whether the NSA collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans," Clapper lied and said, "No sir." Then he added, "Not wittingly."

Wyden, like Feinstein and others on the committee, knew instantly that Clapper had perjured himself, that the spying was quite witting, but he felt duty bound not to let the public in on it. Wyden has the grace to thank the Snowden revelations for initiating a public debate while Feinstein has from the beginning condemned the whistle-blower as a traitor.

It is a debate that Feinstein wants us to have in the dark, and she was critical of the very limited reforms that the president offered, sounding the national security alarm: "New bombs are being devised, new terrorists are emerging, new groups. Actually a new level of viciousness. And I think we need to be prepared. I think we need to do it in a way that respects people's privacy rights."

Well, she got that last part correct but privacy rights were never a concern of hers until Snowden came along, and even now she resists the president's very limited moves in the direction of increased transparency.

Some will read my criticism of Obama and Feinstein and say trust these good liberal Democrats, who would never condone misusing government power to undermine individual freedom. It is a rationalization difficult to accept on a day when we celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., a man blackmailed with information collected by the FBI and the NSA when Democrat Lyndon Johnson was president.

"In the 1960s, the government spied on civil rights leaders and the critics of the Vietnam War," Obama noted in his speech, before quickly abandoning that caution and falling back on the lame "trust us" refrain of every overreaching government.

The FBI's intrusive surveillance of MLK, constantly bugging his hotel rooms, was designed to smear him as a Communist and a philanderer to end his career as a civil rights leader, and, as is quite clear from the blackmail letters planted by the FBI, even drive him to suicide. But it wasn't until last year that we learned that the NSA's "Minaret" program under the direction of President Johnson had spied on the communications of King, fellow civil rights leader Whitney Young, boxer Muhammad Ali, and journalists Tom Wicker of The New York Times and Art Buchwald of The Washington Post.

The NSA even spied on Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church, who in 1975 had led the Senate investigation into the government's illegal counterintelligence program, and his Republican counterpart from Tennessee, Howard Baker, who could never figure out how he got caught in the NSA's dragnet. Someday Obama and Feinstein might be asking themselves that question.

Back in 1975, Church warned: "The [National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the NSA] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."

That was before the Internet and supercomputers, biometrics and all the devilish means of data mining that can convert even one's turned-off cellphone into an instrument of surveillance. We continue to ignore Church's warning at our peril.
(c) 2014 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in=depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

America's Invisible And Costly Human Rights Crisis
by Ralph Nader

When the news broke years ago that U.S. forces were using torture on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, many politicians and the public expressed appropriate horror. There was shock and disappointment that our country would resort to such inhumane, abusive actions against our fellow human beings, most of whom then were innocent victims of bounty hunters in Afghanistan.

With this frame of reverence in mind, it is unfortunate that many Americans do not contemplate-or are simply unaware of-blatant torture occurring in prisons every day right here in the United States. This form of physical and psychological violence is called many things: "isolation", "administrative segregation", "control units", "secure housing" and by its most well-known designation, solitary confinement. This practice of imprisonment is widely used across our nation with disturbingly little oversight and restriction. The full extent of the use of solitary confinement is truly alarming-it is most certainly a human rights abuse and a blight on our national character.

Imagine yourself being locked in a small windowless room for days, weeks, or years...perhaps even for the majority of your life. You receive food and water through a small slot and have little-to-no human contact-you might go days or weeks without speaking to another person. You are allowed out for perhaps an hour a day for some exercise. This is the living reality for tens of thousands of Americans in our prison system. Self-mutilation and suicide attempts among those in solitary confinement are far too common. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that the majority of prison suicides are inmates who were being held in solitary.

Many more studies have shown that solitary confinement has a severe psychologically damaging effect on human beings. For prisoners already suffering from mental illness, it exacerbates their problems. Senator John McCain wrote of his experience in solitary confinement as a P.O.W. in Vietnam: "It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment."

Many might dismiss and even justify punishment by solitary confinement by convincing themselves that those subjected to it are "bad people." But this is a gross misunderstanding of its common use in our prisons. Many prisoners held in solitary are mentally ill, mentally handicapped, or illiterate. Some are placed in solitary purportedly for their "safety" to protect them from themselves or from other prisoners.

Some put in solitary are children as young as 14 or 15. What type of prison infraction would result in a 15 year old being locked up in solitary?-"15 days for not making the bed; 15 days for not keeping the cell door open; 20 or 25 days for being in someone else's cell" are some, according to a report on the issue by Human Rights Watch.

Journalist James Ridgeway calls the use of solitary confinement "a second sentence." The first sentence is, of course, being sent to prison. The second sentence is totally decided by the warden and guards without appealable criteria. As such, the act of disobeying instructions or vaguely interpreted prison rules or the whim of the warden can warrant a lengthy stay in solitary. The lack of accountability in this area is notorious and critical. For many prisoners, a stay in solitary is a death sentence.

Ridgeway, along with Jean Cassella, founded Solitary Watch in 2009. Their goal is to bring attention to what really goes on in America's prisons, which are subjected to so little public exposure of their daily operations.

The United States is the world leader in locking people up. There are currently about 2.3 million imprisoned people in the United States. About 25 percent of them are there for nonviolent drug offenses, victims of the insatiable "prison-industrial complex" which costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year. Of these millions of inmates, it is estimated that as many as 80,000 are being held in solitary confinement according to Solitary Watch. Prisons are not required to provide data on how and when they use this highly questionable method of incarceration. Over 40 prisons are considered "supermax" facilities where the majority of cells are solitary units. These prisons alone account for about 30,000 people.

For-profit corporate-owned prisons like solitary confinement because it extends a prisoners' sentence. It is also far more expensive to keep prisoners in solitary confinement-one study estimates that the average cost of housing an inmate in a supermax prison is $75,000, as opposed to $25,000 per cell in a regular state prison. This cost is passed along to taxpayers.

Imagine how things might change if more ordinary Americans had access to inspect the prisons their tax dollars pay for. A precedent for this exists. In Great Britain, "Independent Monitoring Boards" offer a unique civic perspective on regulating what happens inside prison walls. Ordinary citizens are able to volunteer to be these independent monitors. Volunteers are allowed unannounced access to prison facilities anytime, day or night. The volunteers are free to tour the prison, speak with the inmates, sample the food, and inspect the clothing and the state of medical care.

(Read Solitary Watch's article on British Prisons here.)

Such an idea of citizen responsibility might seem highly unusual to most Americans to whom prisons are largely out of sight and out of mind. The first step in addressing this crisis of abuse is raising awareness.

Reporters are rarely given full access to prisons so they can report on what is going on inside. Let the press in! The best source of information about the state of our prisons is the prisoners themselves-but press access to them is restricted and the Department of Justice is not listening to their appeals. With this barrier in place, prisons are virtually shut off from any accountability or independent oversight. Wardens and guards are the only ones making decisions about the treatment of many prisoners.

And where are the judges? All judges-federal, state, and local should have firsthand knowledge of the conditions in prisons so that they can make better informed decisions when sentencing those who come before them. Here's a bold suggestion that might move the needle. All nine members of the United States Supreme Court should spend 48 hours in solitary confinement. Imagine how quickly the treatment of our incarcerated population would change if those at forefront of our judicial system had a small taste of what it is like to be locked in a tiny cell, alone, with no human contact for such an amount of time. Just 48 hours! There is precedent for some state judges actually spending time in prison years ago.

Some prisoners, such as Herman Wallace, have spent the majority of their lives suffering under these conditions. Wallace spent 41 years in solitary confinement while maintaining his innocence. The warden of the Louisiana prison where he was held ascribed his "Black Pantherism" as the reason. Wallace was released in October of last year and died three days later at the age of 71. These acts of astonishing cruelty should not happen in a country governed by the rule of law.

Too many people overlook the plight of prisoners, deeming them criminals and not concerning themselves with the plights of people they feel have no place or say in our society. There is little recognition of wrongful convictions and the role of rehabilitation that has worked in other western countries with far less recidivist rates then in the U.S. This mindset is a major obstacle in drawing attention to the inhumane treatment inmates often receive in our justice system.

The legendary investigator Jim Ridgeway says of the Solitary Watch project: "We're not trying to let criminals out. We're just trying to let people know what is going on."

For those who want to do something now, consider donating to Solitary Watch's campaign "Lifeline to Solitary." This lean and efficient campaign means to establish contact with prisoners held in long-term solitary. This connection serves two purposes-it allows Solitary Watch to correspond with prisoners and report on their conditions. Secondly, it provides those in isolation a key connection to the outside world and a reminder that they do matter.

Prisons are a grim and unpleasant part of our system of justice. That said, we can do much, much better about how to humanely treat people who are serving their time often under grotesquely long sentences for non-violent crimes.
(c) 2014 Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non- fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

The Dead Letter Office...

Scarlett enjoys some blood bubbles

Heil Obama,

Dear Propaganda Ansager Johansson,

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 endorsement of the slave gulags in occupied Palestine, 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 Spokes 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 Iron Cross First Class presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2014. We salute you Frau Johansson, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

David gives the corpo-rat salute

David Brooks' Utter Ignorance About Inequality
By Robert Reich

Occasionally David Brooks, who personifies the oxymoron "conservative thinker" better than anyone I know, displays such profound ignorance that a rejoinder is necessary lest his illogic permanently pollute public debate. Such is the case with his New York Times column last Friday, arguing that we should be focusing on the "interrelated social problems of the poor" rather than on inequality, and that the two are fundamentally distinct. Baloney.

First, when almost all the gains from growth go to the top, as they have for the last thirty years, the middle class doesn't have the purchasing power necessary for buoyant growth.

Once the middle class has exhausted all its coping mechanisms - wives and mothers surging into paid work (as they did in the 1970s and 1980s), longer working hours (which characterized the 1990s), and deep indebtedness (2002 to 2008) - the inevitable result is fewer jobs and slow growth, as we continue to experience.

Few jobs and slow growth hit the poor especially hard because they're the first to be fired, last to be hired, and most likely to bear the brunt of declining wages and benefits.

Second, when the middle class is stressed, it has a harder time being generous to those in need. The "interrelated social problems" of the poor presumably will require some money, but the fiscal cupboard is bare. And because the middle class is so financially insecure, it doesn't want to, nor does it feel it can afford to, pay more in taxes.

Third, America's shrinking middle class also hobbles upward mobility. Not only is there less money for good schools, job training, and social services, but the poor face a more difficult challenge moving upward because the income ladder is far longer than it used to be, and its middle rungs have disappeared.

Brooks also argues that we should not be talking about unequal political power, because such utterances cause divisiveness and make it harder to reach political consensus over what to do for the poor.

Hogwash. The concentration of power at the top - which flows largely from the concentration of income and wealth there - has prevented Washington from dealing with the problems of the poor and the middle class.

To the contrary, as wealth has accumulated at the top, Washington has reduced taxes on the wealthy, expanded tax loopholes that disproportionately benefit the rich, deregulated Wall Street, and provided ever larger subsidies, bailouts, and tax breaks for large corporations. The only things that have trickled down to the middle and poor besides fewer jobs and smaller paychecks are public services that are increasingly inadequate because they're starved for money.

Unequal political power is the endgame of widening inequality - its most noxious and nefarious consequence, and the most fundamental threat to our democracy. Big money has now all but engulfed Washington and many state capitals - drowning out the voices of average Americans, filling the campaign chests of candidates who will do their bidding, financing attacks on organized labor, and bankrolling a vast empire of right-wing think-tanks and publicists that fill the airwaves with half-truths and distortions.

That David Brooks, among the most thoughtful of all conservative pundits, doesn't see or acknowledge any of this is a sign of how far the right has moved away from the reality most Americans live in every day.
(c) 2014 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, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

Postwar Era Has Ended, But Not Appetite For War
By William Pfaff

The supposed decline of the United States. The impending crisis of the European Union this year when it becomes 30 states, while Britain contemplates leaving and making it 29. It confronts promised referenda on continuing EU membership and Scottish independence. The collapse of the postwar Mediterranean order-in 1945, a colonial order. All bears witness today to the end of the post-second-world-war Western system, built in 1947-1949.

It was Britain, not the United States, which took the initiative in creating a new political order and a new security system after the Second World War. It was not the United States, which was preoccupied with demobilization and bringing the troops home, and where on the right, isolationist attitudes survived, and in the center and the left, sentiments of fraternity with the U.S.S.R. because of its immense role in the war.

It was Britain that proposed, in 1948, what became the Brussels Treaty Organization of collaboration in economic, social and cultural matters, and for collective self-defense, later known as West European Union. It was made up of the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. These were the core states of Western Europe-lacking Germany and Italy, for obvious reasons. The predominant security concern for the Europeans at the time, as well as for the United States, was an eventual "resurgent" Germany-held responsible for the two world wars, then under British, American, Russian and French military occupation.

Italy, the source of modern West European civilization, was still in the anomalous situation having been a Fascist state and ally of Nazi Germany at the start of the war, and then, its government having dismissed and arrested Benito Mussolini in 1943, becoming an ally of the Western powers.

The unification of Europe had been central to Winston Churchill's vision of the postwar future, although when he made his first appeal for unification he already had decided that Britain must permanently ally itself with the United States. He was acting in continuation of the unique and vital political role Britain had played in Europe and the world since the modern state era began in the seventeenth century.

As Hans Morgenthau, the most eminent (refugee) political scholar in the postwar United States put it, Britain subsequently had the power and the detachment from Europe to be able to stabilize it: "The only interest Great Britain pursued consistently in Europe throughout the centuries was the maintenance of the balance of power itself." However, the two world wars robbed Britain of this role. Moreover, the wars had destroyed Europe's power predominance in the world, lost to the United States, so that the Soviet Union was able to consolidate its military occupation of Eastern Europe into the Warsaw Pact political and military system. The world now seemed bipolar, a radical change, if true. (It actually was untrue; Russia was exhausted, and was rapidly outstripped industrially by Western Europe).

The Cold War can be said to have started with the Communist coup d'etat in Czechoslovakia in 1948, consolidating the Communist bloc. That was also the year when Canada's Secretary of State for External Affairs broached the idea of a "security league" of the democratic nation as an extension of the Brussels Treaty. This became NATO.

The NATO Treaty was passed by the U.S. Senate, despite Republican Party opposition. The most important member of the party at that time, the leading isolationist, Senator Robert A. Taft, contested it because it involved unforeseeable commitments. He said international peace would depend on "international law defining the duties and obligations of nations" enforced by "international courts...and joint armed forces." He added that the United Nations charter as drafted "did not yet reach this ideal...but it goes a long way in that direction."

Forty years later, the Warsaw Pact has peacefully collapsed. The Soviet Union was dissolved; leading (and larcenous) functionaries found new careers and rewards as predatory oligarchs. The European Union and NATO swallowed up the former Warsaw Pact states, with generous intentions but the result of bloating the EU itself, now staggering in an economic crisis born on Wall Street. The EU, which once saw itself as a potential great power rival to the United States, now is unable or unwilling to find more than 500 soldiers to reinforce the two thousand France has sent to the Central African Republic to prevent, if possible, sectarian genocide on the order of the genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994-both results of the well-intentioned decolonization of Africa.

There is no longer a British Empire and perhaps soon there will no longer be a Britain-only England, Ulster and Scotland. The American effort to follow in Britain's steps and sustain Europe while creating a new, balanced, Israel-friendly greater Middle East has failed. The postwar era has ended; but not the appetite for war and conquest.

Darwin was wrong. On the final page of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the author declares:

"As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards Perfection."
(c) 2014 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

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President Obama says peacekeeping efforts have failed and a military option in Congress may be the only option.

Obama Not Ruling Out U.S. Military Action In Congress

WASHINGTON-Following years of continued fighting and disorder in the troubled region, President Barack Obama revealed today that he has not ruled out taking immediate and decisive military action in the United States Congress.

Admitting that diplomatic outreach efforts in the area have so far proven unsuccessful, the president claimed that his administration is weighing the feasibility of committing combat troops to both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives in order to bring lasting peace and stability to the chaos-afflicted legislature.

"We have not yet made a decision as to how we are going to address this rapidly deteriorating situation, but at this point I can tell you that military action is indeed on the table," Obama told reporters at a morning press conference, emphasizing that he is "deeply troubled" by the escalating hostilities and diminishing prospects for unity on the Congressional floor. "Clearly, sending our young men and women into this tumultuous war zone is not ideal, and I still hope to resolve the situation through peaceful means. But as the conflict continues to worsen, it becomes increasingly evident that the deployment of our armed forces may be our only real option."

Military officials say an intervention in Congress would likely involve a three-pronged attack.

"We cannot stand idly by and allow this senseless mayhem to continue," the president continued.

According to international observers, the United States Capitol ranks as among the most turbulent and unstable regions in the world, dominated by warring factions of rogue lawmakers who have shown neither the ability nor the willingness to peacefully resolve their differences.

As conditions worsen by the day, the president confirmed to reporters that he and his military advisors are currently evaluating the merits of a military option, suggesting that his administration has left open the possibility of toppling the hostile, unpredictable leadership currently reigning over the legislative assembly and restoring order to the Capitol building.

"Our efforts at resolving this conflict through conventional, non-military means have not only failed but seemingly emboldened extremists in the region," said Obama, noting that while the United States does have some allies on the ground within the Senate, the administration has been almost completely cut off from the House for some time. "Right now there are millions of people who are hopelessly trapped under Congress' corrupt rule, and it's doubtful we'll see any kind of progress in the area without either military intervention or a full-scale revolution, which is unlikely."

The nation's armed forces are currently awaiting order for a possible invasion of the rogue U.S. legislature.

While the White House continues to explore the use of armed forces in Congress, some military experts have expressed doubts as to the prospects of such an operation, saying that a full-scale invasion of the Capitol building represents a costly and uncertain venture that could hamstring the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

"We may have to accept the fact that the deep fissures afflicting Congress are, at present, unfixable, and that we'll just have to wait the half-century or so it could take for the legislative body to achieve some kind of stability naturally from within," said retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Harley, adding that the deep divisions affecting Congress may in fact be endemic to the entire Washington region. "We are seeing similar levels of chaos and infighting in the Supreme Court and in many of the smaller cities and towns where extremists loyal to members of Congress have gained significant ground. Are we really prepared to risk American lives for what could be a lost cause?"

"Besides, the majority of the American people are barely even aware of what's going on over there," Harley added.
(c) 2014 The Onion

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 03 (c) 01/24/2014

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