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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky details, "The Paranoia Of The Superrich And Superpowerful."

Uri Avnery says, "Woe To The Victor."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship pair up on, "Barack Obama, Drone Ranger."

Norm Solomon returns with, "Ten Years After Colin Powell's U.N. Speech, Old Hands Are Ready For More Blood."

Jim Hightower concludes, "Good Retail Jobs Would Be Good For America."

Naomi Wolf uncovers the, "JSOC: Obama's Secret Assassins."

James Donahue considers, "The Ugly Deforestation Of The World."

John Nichols tells, "What We Will Lose When Tom Harkin Leaves The Senate."

David Sirota enquires, "Martin Luther King Jr., Champion Of Military Defense?"

Robert Reich remembers, "Today, An Anniversary Of America's First Progressive Revolution."

Paul Krugman examines, "Friends Of Fraud."

Glenn Greenwald declares, "NYC Officials Threaten Funding of College Over Israel Event."

David Swanson explains why, "Drones Are A Local Issue."

New York City councilman Lew Fidler wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Matthew Rothschild warns of, "The Dangers Of Obama's Cyber War Power Grab."

Glen Ford answers, "Why Nobody's Paying Attention To Black Folks These Days."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Obama Blanks On What He's Ineffectually Urging Congress To Take Action On Now" but first Uncle Ernie wonders, "How Time Flies When You're Having Fun?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Dave Granlund, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, The Onion, Jacquelyn Martin, Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt, Mario Piperni.Com, Alberto Cesar, John Moore, Gino Domenico, Real Truth Now, UPI, Black Agenda Report, Getty Images, New York Times, 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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How Time Flies When You're Having Fun?
By Ernest Stewart

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana!" ~~~ Groucho Marx

"The parallels to the Bush administration torture memos are chilling. Those were unchecked, legal justifications drawn up to justify torture; these are unchecked justifications drawn up to justify extrajudicial killing. President Obama released the Bush torture memos to be transparent; he must release his own legal memos -- and not just a Cliffs Notes version -- for public consumption, particularly when scores of civilian lives are at stake. Despite this attempt to appear transparent, the program remains opaque. This will rightly raise many questions for John Brennan at his confirmation hearing on Thursday beyond his role in the Bush torture program, since he is among the main architects of the Obama administration targeted killing program." ~~~ Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights

"Shame on the Brooklyn College political science department for falsely invoking academic freedom and freedom of speech to deny equal freedoms to those who disagree with its extremist politics." ~~~ Alan Dershowitz

"The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just." ~~~ Abraham Lincoln

Has it really been 12 years that we've been producing Issues & Alibis? It seems like the blink of an eye on one hand and a never-ending fight for the rights of man on the other. Actually it's both; when compared to the struggle mankind has fought against itself for the last 8,000 years of recorded history, we've been at this but a nano-second; and yet I had no idea when it began that it would take so long and accomplish so little. Are we better off in February 2013 than we were in February 2001 when we first published?

Are we more aware of what actually is going down? It seems we were when Dubya had control; but since Barry took over, the Sheeple who were once awake have been steadily plugging themselves back into the Matrix -- except for those who have lost everything, an ever-growing group of former middle-class folks who now are wondering where their next meal is coming from. Sleeping in a tent city is sure to wake you up and give you a new perspective on reality.

It's been a steady decline in everything that made America great since the murder of JFK -- with the exception of Jimmy Carter's attempt to bring us back on track; however, anything good he did was soon erased by Ray-guns and his would-be assassin George Herbert Walker Bush. Not to mention Slick Willie, Junior, and Barry who've all contributed into making America a police state. From the unleashing of the Banksters under Slick Willie, the destruction of the Constitution under Bush, and the beginning of dozens of new wars, to an America where your every move and every keystroke is being watched online, and the introduction of some 30,000 killer drones, many already flying overhead by Barry.

No, the last 12 years have been a bitch and a horror, unless, of course, you're a 1% goon -- in which case things haven't been this good since Teddy Roosevelt came upon the scene to ruin their good times, and what Teddy didn't fix, his cousin Franklin did. Long gone are the days in which to make $1 million dollars you had to make $10 million dollars as the ultra-rich paid over 90% in taxes and the economy boomed. A time where one job would not only support a family, but cause it to thrive with a house, a car or two in the drive, money for vacations and vacation homes and money to send the kids to school and money for a bank account for retirement! If Mom, too, worked, all she brought home was gravy!

Americans have none of those things today -- with those still working having to work several jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and a little food on the table. With Con-gress kicking out a dozen new laws everyday that just keep making things worse with no end in sight. An economy which was the envy of the world now about to collapse in upon itself, making the 1930's depression look like a "Swiss Picnic" by comparison with the one to come. I wish I could report differently; but I can't!

I rather doubt that we'll be around twelve years from now the way things are going; I'm on too many enemy lists to get by for much longer; but until I'm off to Gitmo to disappear, I'll be right here week after week, bringing you the latest news about their latest acts of treason and crimes against humanity and the Constitution. As long as we have your support, we will continue fighting the good fight for you and yours! This is our first edition of our 13th year of publication; hope it's not the last!

Your Issues and Alibis staff!

In Other News

I see someone in the Junta has released a briefing paper, and not the actual legal memo that explains why Barry can override the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, especially the 5th and 6th Amendments and murder in cold blood any US citizens without trial by a jury of our peers, without an order by a judge, without any charges being filed at all and on the whim of any high bureaucrat or Barry himself. Not since Stalin and Hitler or Pol Pot, have we seen the like of this.

Here's an out take from MSNBC who obtained the original copy and proceeded to stamp it MSNBC NEWS to the point that a lot of it can't be read. Here a bit that's not too bad:

As Jameel Jaffer, ACLU's Deputy Legal Director, writes:

The paper's basic contention is that the government has the authority to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen if "an informed, high-level official" deems him to present a "continuing" threat to the country. This sweeping authority is said to exist even if the threat presented isn't imminent in any ordinary sense of that word, even if the target has never been charged with a crime or informed of the allegations against him, and even if the target is not located anywhere near an actual battlefield. [...]

Even more problematic, the paper contends that the limits on the government's claimed authority are not enforceable in any court. [...] Without saying so explicitly, the government claims the authority to kill American terrorism suspects in secret.

So, with no oversight, done in complete secrecy (so much for the most open government thingie Barry promised), Barry has given the executive the authority without a word allowed by the other two branches of government or the people who are supposed to be in control, but have no powers at all in anything connected to the government. Yep, Hitler and Stalin would be so proud of Barry! You may recall that Barry said,

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

You can clearly see Barry isn't a man of his word!

Don't see a problem with this treason? What about under President Paul Ryan or President Michele Bachmann, or any other fascist dictator that comes along, do see a problem now? Barry and Biden should both be impeached, brought to trial for treason and war crimes. However, if you are looking for justice, I wouldn't hold my breath, if I were you! We're boned, America!

And Finally

You've no doubt heard about the big Brouhaha being drummed up by certain Israeli 5th columnists in the US House and the NYC city council -- all being led by the traitor Alan Dershowitz. They're all bitching about the audacity of Brooklyn College to allow two Palestinians members of the BDS movement to have their say on campus. How dare a university sponsor free speech in Hymietown? How dare they indeed? The school is being threatened with loss of state funds if they don't come to heel! Since Dershowitz long ago won the Vidkun Quisling Award, we're awarding it to New York City councilman Lewis Fidler, a Demoncrat who has been very outspoken on the subject. For much more detail read Glenn Greenwald's excellent column! So, of course, you know what I did, don't you? No, let's not see all the same hands all of the time! Yes, I wrote Lew a quick note that is both direct and to the point!

c/o Lew Fidler. So, tell me Lew, how does it feel to be a Zionazi, 5th columnist, puppet-traitor? I'm guessing you got the traditional 30 pieces of silver for it? As you said Lew,

"Among this City's diversity - and the student body of Brooklyn College - there are a significant number of people who would, and do, find this event to be offensive." . . . And I have no doubt that an even larger number would find this refreshing and about time!

"A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City - many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program - want their tax money to be spent on."... If the shoe fits wear it, if you're a bunch of murdering, thieving, baby killing, assholes, then quit your whining about being called a bunch of, murdering, thieving, baby killing, assholes!

"We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong."... No, you don't believe in academic freedom, Herr Hitler; you believe in stealing, murdering, baby-killing imperialism, you waste of space! I am so happy not to live in New York city, you ignorant, Nazi son-of-a-bitch!

But cheer up, congratulations are in order, Lew; you've just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award for being America's leading traitor. I'll grant you; it was close, what with all the traitors down in Foggy Bottom; but your stupidity, Lew, won the day!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine
If you'd like to give Lew or other city council members a piece of your mind, then go here and leave Lew a message. There is no email addy that I could find.

Keepin' On

As I said before, this edition starts our 13th year; and for at least 8 of those years, without the help of our readership, we couldn't have published. You can surmise that after 615 issues we're in it to stay, no fly-by-night organization are we. We're in it for the long run; and with your help we'll get there.

I haven't a clue if we have anything in our po box as I haven't been there in a couple of weeks, but I'll go this Saturday, weather-permitting. I would've long ago gotten a new one; but I'm only at this address for a little while more; and whether or not we move this month, I'm going to have a new po box in the town we are moving to, even though I still don't know the address -- c'est la vie! The new box will be in operation March 1st; so in the meantime, feel free to send something to the old address.

Therefore, if you believe in the cause, send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll put it to good use and keep looking out for you and yours. If you don't do it, nobody will!


12-12-1924 ~ 02-01-2013
Burn Baby Burn!

04-08-1974 ~ 02-02-2013
Burn Baby Burn!

06-12-1941 ~ 02-04-2013
Thanks for the music!


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


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

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

The Paranoia Of The Superrich And Superpowerful
Washington's Dilemma on a "Lost" Planet
By Noam Chomsky

[This piece is adapted from "Uprisings," a chapter in Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, Noam Chomsky's new interview book with David Barsamian (with thanks to the publisher, Metropolitan Books). The questions are Barsamian's, the answers Chomsky's.]

Does the United States still have the same level of control over the energy resources of the Middle East as it once had?

The major energy-producing countries are still firmly under the control of the Western-backed dictatorships. So, actually, the progress made by the Arab Spring is limited, but it's not insignificant. The Western-controlled dictatorial system is eroding. In fact, it's been eroding for some time. So, for example, if you go back 50 years, the energy resources -- the main concern of U.S. planners -- have been mostly nationalized. There are constantly attempts to reverse that, but they have not succeeded.

Take the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it's maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You're not supposed to say this. It's considered a conspiracy theory.

The United States was seriously defeated in Iraq by Iraqi nationalism -- mostly by nonviolent resistance. The United States could kill the insurgents, but they couldn't deal with half a million people demonstrating in the streets. Step by step, Iraq was able to dismantle the controls put in place by the occupying forces. By November 2007, it was becoming pretty clear that it was going to be very hard to reach U.S. goals. And at that point, interestingly, those goals were explicitly stated. So in November 2007 the Bush II administration came out with an official declaration about what any future arrangement with Iraq would have to be. It had two major requirements: one, that the United States must be free to carry out combat operations from its military bases, which it will retain; and two, "encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments." In January 2008, Bush made this clear in one of his signing statements. A couple of months later, in the face of Iraqi resistance, the United States had to give that up. Control of Iraq is now disappearing before their eyes.

Iraq was an attempt to reinstitute by force something like the old system of control, but it was beaten back. In general, I think, U.S. policies remain constant, going back to the Second World War. But the capacity to implement them is declining.

Declining because of economic weakness?

Partly because the world is just becoming more diverse. It has more diverse power centers. At the end of the Second World War, the United States was absolutely at the peak of its power. It had half the world's wealth and every one of its competitors was seriously damaged or destroyed. It had a position of unimaginable security and developed plans to essentially run the world -- not unrealistically at the time.

This was called "Grand Area" planning?

Yes. Right after the Second World War, George Kennan, head of the U.S. State Department policy planning staff, and others sketched out the details, and then they were implemented. What's happening now in the Middle East and North Africa, to an extent, and in South America substantially goes all the way back to the late 1940s. The first major successful resistance to U.S. hegemony was in 1949. That's when an event took place, which, interestingly, is called "the loss of China." It's a very interesting phrase, never challenged. There was a lot of discussion about who is responsible for the loss of China. It became a huge domestic issue. But it's a very interesting phrase. You can only lose something if you own it. It was just taken for granted: we possess China -- and if they move toward independence, we've lost China. Later came concerns about "the loss of Latin America," "the loss of the Middle East," "the loss of" certain countries, all based on the premise that we own the world and anything that weakens our control is a loss to us and we wonder how to recover it.

Today, if you read, say, foreign policy journals or, in a farcical form, listen to the Republican debates, they're asking, "How do we prevent further losses?"

On the other hand, the capacity to preserve control has sharply declined. By 1970, the world was already what was called tripolar economically, with a U.S.-based North American industrial center, a German-based European center, roughly comparable in size, and a Japan-based East Asian center, which was then the most dynamic growth region in the world. Since then, the global economic order has become much more diverse. So it's harder to carry out our policies, but the underlying principles have not changed much.

Take the Clinton doctrine. The Clinton doctrine was that the United States is entitled to resort to unilateral force to ensure "uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources." That goes beyond anything that George W. Bush said. But it was quiet and it wasn't arrogant and abrasive, so it didn't cause much of an uproar. The belief in that entitlement continues right to the present. It's also part of the intellectual culture.

Right after the assassination of Osama bin Laden, amid all the cheers and applause, there were a few critical comments questioning the legality of the act. Centuries ago, there used to be something called presumption of innocence. If you apprehend a suspect, he's a suspect until proven guilty. He should be brought to trial. It's a core part of American law. You can trace it back to Magna Carta. So there were a couple of voices saying maybe we shouldn't throw out the whole basis of Anglo-American law. That led to a lot of very angry and infuriated reactions, but the most interesting ones were, as usual, on the left liberal end of the spectrum. Matthew Yglesias, a well-known and highly respected left liberal commentator, wrote an article in which he ridiculed these views. He said they're "amazingly naive," silly. Then he expressed the reason. He said that "one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers." Of course, he didn't mean Norway. He meant the United States. So the principle on which the international system is based is that the United States is entitled to use force at will. To talk about the United States violating international law or something like that is amazingly naive, completely silly. Incidentally, I was the target of those remarks, and I'm happy to confess my guilt. I do think that Magna Carta and international law are worth paying some attention to.

I merely mention that to illustrate that in the intellectual culture, even at what's called the left liberal end of the political spectrum, the core principles haven't changed very much. But the capacity to implement them has been sharply reduced. That's why you get all this talk about American decline. Take a look at the year-end issue of Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal. Its big front-page cover asks, in bold face, "Is America Over?" It's a standard complaint of those who believe they should have everything. If you believe you should have everything and anything gets away from you, it's a tragedy, the world is collapsing. So is America over? A long time ago we "lost" China, we've lost Southeast Asia, we've lost South America. Maybe we'll lose the Middle East and North African countries. Is America over? It's a kind of paranoia, but it's the paranoia of the superrich and the superpowerful. If you don't have everything, it's a disaster.

The New York Times describes the "defining policy quandary of the Arab Spring: how to square contradictory American impulses that include support for democratic change, a desire for stability, and wariness of Islamists who have become a potent political force." The Times identifies three U.S. goals. What do you make of them?

Two of them are accurate. The United States is in favor of stability. But you have to remember what stability means. Stability means conformity to U.S. orders. So, for example, one of the charges against Iran, the big foreign policy threat, is that it is destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. How? By trying to expand its influence into neighboring countries. On the other hand, we "stabilize" countries when we invade them and destroy them.

I've occasionally quoted one of my favorite illustrations of this, which is from a well-known, very good liberal foreign policy analyst, James Chace, a former editor of Foreign Affairs. Writing about the overthrow of the Salvador Allende regime and the imposition of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in 1973, he said that we had to "destabilize" Chile in the interests of "stability." That's not perceived to be a contradiction -- and it isn't. We had to destroy the parliamentary system in order to gain stability, meaning that they do what we say. So yes, we are in favor of stability in this technical sense.

Concern about political Islam is just like concern about any independent development. Anything that's independent you have to have concern about because it might undermine you. In fact, it's a little ironic, because traditionally the United States and Britain have by and large strongly supported radical Islamic fundamentalism, not political Islam, as a force to block secular nationalism, the real concern. So, for example, Saudi Arabia is the most extreme fundamentalist state in the world, a radical Islamic state. It has a missionary zeal, is spreading radical Islam to Pakistan, funding terror. But it's the bastion of U.S. and British policy. They've consistently supported it against the threat of secular nationalism from Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt and Abd al-Karim Qasim's Iraq, among many others. But they don't like political Islam because it might become independent.

The first of the three points, our yearning for democracy, that's about on the level of Joseph Stalin talking about the Russian commitment to freedom, democracy, and liberty for the world. It's the kind of statement you laugh about when you hear it from commissars or Iranian clerics, but you nod politely and maybe even with awe when you hear it from their Western counterparts.

If you look at the record, the yearning for democracy is a bad joke. That's even recognized by leading scholars, though they don't put it this way. One of the major scholars on so-called democracy promotion is Thomas Carothers, who is pretty conservative and highly regarded -- a neo-Reaganite, not a flaming liberal. He worked in Reagan's State Department and has several books reviewing the course of democracy promotion, which he takes very seriously. He says, yes, this is a deep-seated American ideal, but it has a funny history. The history is that every U.S. administration is "schizophrenic." They support democracy only if it conforms to certain strategic and economic interests. He describes this as a strange pathology, as if the United States needed psychiatric treatment or something. Of course, there's another interpretation, but one that can't come to mind if you're a well-educated, properly behaved intellectual.

Within several months of the toppling of [President Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, he was in the dock facing criminal charges and prosecution. It's inconceivable that U.S. leaders will ever be held to account for their crimes in Iraq or beyond. Is that going to change anytime soon?

That's basically the Yglesias principle: the very foundation of the international order is that the United States has the right to use violence at will. So how can you charge anybody?

And no one else has that right.

Of course not. Well, maybe our clients do. If Israel invades Lebanon and kills a thousand people and destroys half the country, okay, that's all right. It's interesting. Barack Obama was a senator before he was president. He didn't do much as a senator, but he did a couple of things, including one he was particularly proud of. In fact, if you looked at his website before the primaries, he highlighted the fact that, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, he cosponsored a Senate resolution demanding that the United States do nothing to impede Israel's military actions until they had achieved their objectives and censuring Iran and Syria because they were supporting resistance to Israel's destruction of southern Lebanon, incidentally, for the fifth time in 25 years. So they inherit the right. Other clients do, too.

But the rights really reside in Washington. That's what it means to own the world. It's like the air you breathe. You can't question it. The main founder of contemporary IR [international relations] theory, Hans Morgenthau, was really quite a decent person, one of the very few political scientists and international affairs specialists to criticize the Vietnam War on moral, not tactical, grounds. Very rare. He wrote a book called The Purpose of American Politics. You already know what's coming. Other countries don't have purposes. The purpose of America, on the other hand, is "transcendent": to bring freedom and justice to the rest of the world. But he's a good scholar, like Carothers. So he went through the record. He said, when you study the record, it looks as if the United States hasn't lived up to its transcendent purpose. But then he says, to criticize our transcendent purpose "is to fall into the error of atheism, which denies the validity of religion on similar grounds" -- which is a good comparison. It's a deeply entrenched religious belief. It's so deep that it's going to be hard to disentangle it. And if anyone questions that, it leads to near hysteria and often to charges of anti-Americanism or "hating America" -- interesting concepts that don't exist in democratic societies, only in totalitarian societies and here, where they're just taken for granted.

(c) 2013 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co=author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire.

Woe To The Victor
By Uri Avnery

"VAE VICTIS!" was the Roman cry. Woe to the vanquished.

I would alter it slightly: "Vae Victori", Woe to the victor!

The outstanding example is the astounding victory Israel won in June, 1967. After weeks of approaching doom, the Israeli army beat three Arab armies in six days and conquered huge stretches of Egyptian, Syrian and Palestinian territory.

As it turned out, this was the greatest disaster in our history. Intoxicated by the very size of the victory, Israel started down a road of political megalomania, which led to the dire consequences from which we are unable to free ourselves to this very day. History is full of such examples.

Now we have witnessed the totally unexpected election success of Ya'ir Lapid. It may turn out to be the same story in miniature.

LAPID WON 19 seats. His is the second largest faction in the 120=seat Knesset, after Likud=Beitenu, which has 31 seats. The composition of the House is such that it is almost impossible for Binyamin Netanyahu to form a coalition without him.

The former TV star is in the position of a child in a candy store, who can take whatever he desires. He can pick and choose any government post he fancies for himself and his minions. He can impose on the Prime Minister almost any policy.

That's where his troubles start.

Put yourself in his place, and see what that must mean.

FIRST OF ALL, what job should you choose?

As the major partner in the coalition, you have the right to choose one of the three major ministries: defense, foreign affairs or treasury.

Seems easy? Well, think again.

You can take defense. But you have no defense experience whatsoever. You have not even served in a combat unit, since your father got you a job on the army's weekly paper (a lousy paper, by the way.)

As defense minister, you would in practice be the superior of the Chief of Staff, almost a Commander in Chief. (Under Israeli law, the entire government is the Commander in Chief, but the Minister of Defense represents the government vis=a=vis the armed services.)

So defense is not for you.

YOU CAN take foreign affairs. It's really the ideal job for you.

Since you want to become Prime Minister next time, you need public exposure, and the Foreign Minister gets plenty of that. You will appear in photos alongside President Obama, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and a host of other world celebrities. The public will get used to seeing you in this distinguished international circle. Your telegenic good looks will enhance this advantage. Israelis will take pride in you.

Moreover, this is the only job in which you cannot fail. Since foreign policy is largely determined and conducted by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister is not blamed for anything, unless he is a perfect fool - and you certainly are not that.

After four years, everybody will be convinced that you are prime ministerial material.

Even better: you can dictate the immediate opening of peace talks with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is in no position to refuse, particularly as Barak Obama will demand the same. The opening ceremony of the negotiations will be a triumph for you. Actual progress will be neither demanded nor expected.

SO WHY not take it?

Because you see a big warning sign.

The 543,289 citizens who voted for you did not vote for a foreign minister. They voted for making the Orthodox serve in the army, providing affordable housing, getting food prices down, lowering taxes on the Middle Class. They don't give a damn about foreign relations, the occupation, peace and such trivia.

If you evade these domestic problems and go to the foreign office, a deafening cry will be taken up: Traitor! Deserter! Cheat!

Half of your followers will leave you at once. For them, your name will be mud.

Moreover, in order to follow a peace agenda, even pro forma, you must discard the idea of having Naftali Bennett's ultra=rightist party in the coalition, and take in the Orthodox parties instead. If so, how to compel the Orthodox to serve in the army, akin to feeding them pork?

THE LOGICAL conclusion: you must choose the treasury.

God forbid!!!

I would not wish this fate on the worst of my enemies, and I feel no enmity towards the son of Tommy Lapid.

The next Finance Minister will be compelled to do exactly the opposite of Ya'ir's election promises.

His first task concerns the state budget for 2013, already overdue. According to official figures, there is a hole of 39 billion Shekels, something like 10 billion dollars. Where will they come from?

The real alternatives are few, and all are painful. There must be heavy new taxes, especially on the glorified Middle Class and the poor. Lapid, a neo=liberal like Netanyahu, will not tax the rich.

Then there will be sweeping cuts in government services, such as education, health and the welfare state. At the moment, hospitals are working at 140% capacity, endangering the lives of patients. Many schools are falling apart. Lower pensions will spell misery for the old, the disabled and the unemployed. Everybody will curse the Finance Minister. Is this how you want to launch your political career?

There is, of course, the huge military budget, but dare you touch it? When the Iranian nuclear bomb is dangling above our heads (at least in our imagination)? When Netanyahu is promoting his latest scare - the Syrian chemical weapons, which may fall into the hands of radical Islamists?

You can, of course, reduce the pensions of army officers who retire - as is the custom in Israel - at the age of 45. Dare you?

You could drastically slash the immense sums invested in the settlements. Are you that kind of a hero?

As if this were not enough, the high echelon of economic officials is in disarray. The much respected Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, an import from the US, has just resigned in mid=term. The highest officials in the budget department are at each other's throats.

You would be very brave or very foolish (or both) to accept the post.

YOU COULD, of course, be satisfied with something less elevated.

Education, for example. True, the education ministry is considered a second=grade ministerial job, though it has many thousand employees and the second largest budget, after defense. But there is one big drawback: any success would take years to show.

The outgoing minister, Gideon Sa'ar, a Likud member (and a former employee of mine) has a knack for attracting public attention. At least once a week he had a new project, which attracted lavish publicity on TV. But serious achievements were rare.

From my late wife's experience as a teacher I know that the frequent "reforms" ordered by the ministry hardly ever reach the classrooms. Anyhow, to achieve anything real you would need enormous new sums of money, and where would you get them from?

And will a second=grade ministry satisfy your ego after such a glorious election triumph? You could, of course, enlarge the ministry and demand the return of Culture and Sport, which were split off in order to create a job for another minister. Since one of your basic election promises was to reduce the number of ministers from 30 to 18, that may be possible.

But will your voters be satisfied with your concentrating on education, instead of working for the economic reforms you promised?

ALL THESE unenviable dilemmas boil down to a basic one: who do you prefer as your main coalition partner?

The first choice is between Bennett's 12 seats and the 11 of Shas (which, if they were combined with the Torah Jewry faction, would become 18.)

Lapid prefers Bennett, his far right mirror image, with whom he hopes to enforce his "service equality" program - canceling the exemption of thousands of Torah students from military service. But Sarah Netanyahu, who rules the Prime Minister's office, has put a veto on Bennett. Nobody knows why, but she clearly hates his guts.

With Bennett as a coalition member, any real move towards peace would, of course, be unthinkable.

With the religious, on the other hand, movement towards peace would be possible, but no real progress towards getting the Orthodox to serve in the army. The rabbis are afraid that if they mix with ordinary Israelis, especially females ones, their souls will be lost forever.

(As for me, I am ready to join a movement Against Service Equality. The last thing we need is a kippah=wearing army. We have quite enough kippahs in the army as it is.)

THESE ARE some of the questions facing poor Lapid because of the scale of his electoral success. His voters expect the impossible.

He has to make his decisions right now, and his whole future depends on making the right ones - if there are any right ones.

As George Bernard Shaw put it: "There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it."
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Barack Obama, Drone Ranger
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

If you've seen the movie Zero Dark Thirty, you know why it has triggered a new debate over our government's use of torture after 9/11.

The movie's up for an Oscar as best motion picture. We'll know later this month if it wins. Some people leave the theater claiming the film endorses and even glorifies the use of torture to obtain information that finally led to finding and killing Osama bin Laden. Not true, say the filmmakers, but others argue the world is better off without bin Laden in it, no matter how we had to get him. What's more, they say, there hasn't been a major terrorist attack on American soil since 9/1 - if we have to use an otherwise immoral practice to defend ourselves against such atrocities, we're okay with it. Or so the argument goes.

The story of bin Laden's death is just one aspect of the international manhunt the United States has pursued, a worldwide dragnet of detention and death that has raised troubling questions and fervent debate over the fight against terrorism. What about the undermining of civil liberties here at home? The rights of suspects? The secret surveillance of American citizens? The swollen executive powers first claimed by George W. Bush and now by Barack Obama?

Soon after he succeeded Bush, President Obama announced he would not permit torture and would close down the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. He also said:

"The orders that I sign today should send an unmistakable signal that our actions in defense of liberty will be just as our cause. And that we the people will uphold our fundamental values as vigilantly as we protect our security. Once again, America's moral example must be the bedrock and the beacon of our global leadership"

Four years later, Guantanamo remains open. In fact, just a few days ago, the State Department announced it was eliminating the office assigned to close the prison and move its detainees.

Because of logjams in the process of military justice, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others have yet to come to trial. And there's continuing controversy about the lack of oversight and transparency surrounding the detention and interrogation of suspects both here and abroad.

Meanwhile, President Obama has stepped up the use of unmanned drones against suspected terrorists abroad, not only in Afghanistan but in countries where we're not at war, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. As the Brookings Institution's Peter Singer wrote in The New York Times a year ago, "... A new technology is short-circuiting the decision-making process for what used to be the most important choice a democracy could make. Something that would have previously been viewed as a war is simply not being treated like a war."

Just last week, as reports came of more deaths by drone - including three attacks in Yemen, with 13 dead - the United Nations announced an investigation into the legality of drones and their deadly toll on the innocent. According to UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson:

"The central objective of the investigation... is to look at the evidence that drone strikes and other forms of remote targeted killing have caused disproportionate civilian casualties in some instances... It's both right as a matter of principle, and inevitable as a matter of political reality, that the international community should now be focusing attention on the standards applicable to this technological development."

Since Barack Obama took office, the aerial assaults also have killed three U.S. citizens, raising additional arguments as to whether the president has the right to order the death of Americans suspected of terrorism without due process of law. One of those controversial drone attacks involved the killing of Anwar al-Awalki, an American citizen and radical Muslim cleric who had moved to Yemen with his family. He was said to be the brains behind repeated attempts to attack the U.S., including the Christmas day underwear bomber plot in 2009 that would have blown up a passenger jet over Detroit. Also dead was American citizen Samir Khan, editor of "Inspire," al Qaeda ‘s online propaganda magazine, and two weeks later, in a separate drone attack, al-Awalki's 16-year-old son, born in Denver.

A key player in our government's current drone program is John Brennan, who during the Bush presidency was a senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency and head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Reportedly, Barack Obama considered offering him the top job at the CIA in 2008, but public opposition - in reaction to the charges that the Bush White House had approved torture - caused Brennan to withdraw his name from consideration. Nonetheless, Obama kept him on as an adviser, and now, despite Brennan's past notoriety, Obama officially has chosen him to head the CIA. This time, there's been little criticism of the decision.

We hope Brennan's upcoming confirmation hearings on February 7 will offer Congressional critics the chance to press him on drone attacks and whether the Obama administration in its fight against terror is functioning within the rule of law - or abusing presidential power when there has been no formal declaration of war.
(c) 2012 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2012 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

Colin Powell speaking at the U.N. Security Council, Feb. 5, 2003

Ten Years After Colin Powell's U.N. Speech, Old Hands Are Ready For More Blood
By Norman Solomon

When Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003, countless journalists in the United States extolled him for a masterful performance -- making the case that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The fact that the speech later became notorious should not obscure how easily truth becomes irrelevant in the process of going to war.

Ten years later -- with Powell's speech a historic testament of shameless deception leading to vast carnage -- we may not remember the extent of the fervent accolades. At the time, fawning praise was profuse across the USA's mainline media spectrum, including the nation's reputedly great newspapers.

The New York Times editorialized that Powell "was all the more convincing because he dispensed with apocalyptic invocations of a struggle of good and evil and focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr. Hussein's regime." The Washington Post was more war-crazed, headlining its editorial "Irrefutable" and declaring that after Powell's U.N. presentation "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

Yet basic flaws in Powell's U.N. speech were abundant. Slanted translations of phone intercepts rendered them sinister. Interpretations of unclear surveillance photos stretched to concoct the worst. Summaries of cherry-picked intelligence detoured around evidence that Iraq no longer had WMDs. Ballyhooed documents about an Iraqi quest for uranium were forgeries.

Assumptions about U.S. prerogatives also went largely unquestioned. In response to Powell's warning that the U.N. Security Council would place itself "in danger of irrelevance" by failing to endorse a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the adulation from U.S. media embraced the notion that the United Nations could only be "relevant" by bending to Washington's wishes. A combination of cooked intelligence and geopolitical arrogance, served up to rapturous reviews at home, set the stage for what was to come.

The invasion began six weeks after Powell's tour de force at the United Nations. Soon, a search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was in full swing. None turned up. In January 2004 -- 11 months after Powell's U.N. speech -- the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a report concluding that top officials in the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missile programs."

Left twisting in the wind was Powell's speech to the U.N. Security Council, where he'd issued a <"conservative estimate" that Iraq "has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent." The secretary of state had declared: "There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more."

Nineteen months after the speech, in mid-September 2004, Powell made a terse public acknowledgment. "I think it's unlikely that we will find any stockpiles," he said. But no gingerly climb-down could mitigate the bloodshed that continued in Iraq.

A decade ago, Colin Powell played a starring role in a recurring type of political dramaturgy. Scripts vary, while similar dramas play out on a variety of scales. Behind a gauzy curtain, top officials engage in decision-making on war that gives democracy short shrift. For the public, crucial information that bears on the wisdom of warfare remains opaque or out of sight.

Among the powerful and not-so-powerful, in mass media and on Capitol Hill, the default position is still to defer to presidential momentum for war. Public candor and policy introspection remain in short supply.

The new secretary of state, John Kerry -- like the one he just replaced, Hillary Clinton -- voted for the Iraq war resolution in the Senate, nearly four months before Powell went to the U.N. Security Council. During the crucial lead-up months, Senator Kerry was at pains to show his avid support for an invasion. In early October 2002, appearing for an hour on MSNBC's "Hardball" program live from The Citadel as an audience of young cadets filled the screen, Kerry said: "I'm prepared to go. I think people understand that Saddam Hussein is a danger."

Since then, Kerry has publicly said that he would have voted for the war resolution even if he'd known that Iraq actually had no weapons of mass destruction. But on the Senate floor, Kerry prefaced his vote for war by rhetorically demanding to know why Saddam Hussein was "attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don't even try." The senator emphasized that "according to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons."

Months later, when Powell trumpeted that theme at the United Nations, the landslide of testimonials included this one from a future U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice: "I think he has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don't think many informed people doubted that."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post edition with the editorial headlined "Irrefutable" also included unanimous agreement from each of the opinion columns on the facing page.

Longtime Post columnist Richard Cohen attested to Powell's unquestionable veracity with these words: "The evidence he presented to the United Nations -- some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail -- had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise."

Inches away, another venerable pundit held forth. Powell managed to "present the world with a convincing and detailed X-ray of Iraq's secret weapons and terrorism programs yesterday," wrote Jim Hoagland, a Post foreign-policy specialist. He concluded: "To continue to say that the Bush administration has not made its case, you must now believe that Colin Powell lied in the most serious statement he will ever make, or was taken in by manufactured evidence. I don't believe that. Today, neither should you."

Fast forward to the current era. What are Richard Cohen and Jim Hoagland writing -- about Iran?

On February 6, 2012, exactly nine years after proclaiming that "only a fool" could doubt Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Cohen's column declared flatly: "The ultimate remedy is Iranian regime change." Four months ago, Cohen wrapped up a column by observing "there is still time for Iran to back down before President Obama's red line -- no nuclear weapon -- is crossed. This is a war whose time has not yet come." Not yet.

Hoagland -- a decade after telling readers they should put their trust in Colin Powell's "convincing and detailed X-ray of Iraq's secret weapons" -- is now making clear that his patience with Iran is wearing thin. "Until recently," Hoagland wrote five weeks ago, "I had been relatively comfortable with Obama's assertions that there is time to reach a peaceful resolution with Iran." Hoagland's column went on to say that military strikes on Iran "threaten disastrous political and economic consequences for the world," so diplomatic efforts should try to avert the need for such strikes -- before they become necessary.

So goes the dominant spectrum of opinionating and policymaking for war, from eagerness to reluctance. Propaganda lead-ups to warfare are as varied as wars themselves; and yet every style of such propaganda relies on deception, and every war is unspeakable horror.

After jumping onto ghastly bandwagons for one war after another, the nation's media establishment is available to do it again. So is the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. So is the new secretary of state. They're old hands, dripping with blood. They have not had enough.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Good Retail Jobs Would Be Good For America

The Powers That Be say that the bulk of America's middle-class manufacturing jobs are gone and won't be coming back. High tech jobs are being outsourced, too, as are accountants, lawyers, and some other professional positions. So, where does that leave us? Grasping at straws, the most abundant of which are retail jobs.

But wait, those aren't jobs, they're "jobettes" - part-time, poverty pay, no benefits, lousy schedules, little training, and no advancement opportunity. Most big retail chains treat their employees as nothing but a drain on profits, not an asset to invest in. Sales people are typically paid only $10 an hour, clerks get only $9.70, and cashiers just $9 - worse, 94 percent of retailers define full-time work as only 30 hours a week. People can't make ends meet on that, and America can't have a healthy economy without a solid middle class - yet 15 million people are in retail work now, and it's to be our second biggest source of new jobs for the next decade.

Well, shrug the Powers That Be, the retail giants must compete on low prices, so they have no choice but to keep cutting corners on their workforce.

As we say in Texas: Bovine excrement!

Look at Trader Joe's (where full-time jobs start at $40,000), or at Costco (where employee retainment is a priority and 98 percent of managers are promoted from within). Low-price chains that invest directly in workers are reaping industry highs in performance, morale, customer satisfaction, and profits. Bad jobs are not a retail necessity - just a corporate choice.

This week, a Retail Justice Alliance has been launched to push America's employers and policymakers to turn retail jobs into good jobs that spread a middle-class standard of living and rebuild our grassroots economy. To learn more and join in, go to
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

US Navy Seals on a night mission in the Middle East. Seal Team 6, which killed
Osama bin Laden, is a secret elite unit that works closely with the CIA.

JSOC: Obama's Secret Assassins
The president has a clandestine network targeting a US 'kill list' justified by secret laws. How is that different than a death squad?
By Naomi Wolf

The film Secret Wars, which premiered at Sundance, can be viewed, as Amy Goodman sees it, as an important narrative of excesses in the global "war on terror". It is also a record of something scary for those of us at home - and uncovers the biggest story, I would say, in our nation's contemporary history.

Though they wisely refrain from drawing inferences, Scahill and Rowley have uncovered the facts of a new unaccountable power in America and the world that has the potential to shape domestic and international events in an unprecedented way. The film tracks the Joint Special Operations Command (JSoc), a network of highly-trained, completely unaccountable US assassins, armed with ever-expanding "kill lists". It was JSoc that ran the operation behind the Navy Seal team six that killed bin Laden.

Scahill and Rowley track this new model of US warfare that strikes at civilians and insurgents alike - in 70 countries. They interview former JSoc assassins, who are shell-shocked at how the "kill lists" they are given keep expanding, even as they eliminate more and more people.

Our conventional forces are subject to international laws of war: they are accountable for crimes in courts martial; and they run according to a clear chain of command. As much as the US military may fall short of these standards at times, it is a model of lawfulness compared with JSoc, which has far greater scope to undertake the commission of extra-legal operations - and unimaginable crimes.

JSoc morphs the secretive, unaccountable mercenary model of private military contracting, which Scahill identified in Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, into a hybrid with the firepower and intelligence backup of our full state resources. The Hill reports that JSoc is now seeking more "flexibility" to expand its operations globally.

JSoc operates outside the traditional chain of command; it reports directly to the president of the United States. In the words of Wired magazine:

"JSoc operates with practically no accountability."

Scahill calls JSoc the president's "paramilitary". Its budget, which may be in the billions, is secret.

What does it means for the president to have an unaccountable paramilitary force, which can assassinate anyone anywhere in the world? JSoc has already been sent to kill at least one US citizen - one who had been indicted for no crime, but was condemned for propagandizing for al-Qaida. Anwar al-Awlaki, on JSoc's "kill list" since 2010, was killed by CIA-controlled drone attack in September 2011; his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki - also a US citizen - was killed by a US drone two weeks later.

This arrangement - where death squads roam under the sole control of the executive - is one definition of dictatorship. It now has the potential to threaten critics of the US anywhere in the world.

The film reveals some of these dangers: Scahill, writing in the Nation, reported that President Obama called Yemen's President Saleh in 2011 to express "concern" about jailed reporter Abdulelah Haider Shaye. US spokespeople have confirmed the US interest in keeping him in prison.

Shaye, a Yemeni journalist based in Sana'a, had a reputation for independent journalism through his neutral interviewing of al-Qaida operatives, and of critics of US policy such as Anwar al-Awlaki. Journalist colleagues in Yemen dismiss the notion of any terrorist affiliation: Shaye had worked for the Washington Post, ABC news, al-Jazeera, and other major media outlets.

Shaye went to al-Majala in Yemen, where a missile strike had killed a group that the US had called "al-Qaida". "What he discovered," reports Scahill, "were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs ... some of them bearing the label 'Made in the USA', and distributed the photos to international media outlets."

Fourteen women and 21 children were killed. "Whether anyone actually active in al-Qaida was killed remains hotly contested." Shortly afterwards, Shaye was kidnapped and beaten by Yemeni security forces. In a trial that was criticized internationally by reporters' groups and human rights organizations, he was accused of terrorism. Shaye is currently serving a five-year sentence.

Scahill and Rowley got to the bars of Shaye's cell to interview him, before the camera goes dark (in almost every scene, they put their lives at risk). This might also bring to mind the fates of Sami al-Haj of al-Jazeera, also kidnapped, and sent to Guantanamo, and of Julian Assange, trapped in asylum in Ecuador's London embassy.

President Obama thus helped put a respected reporter in prison for reporting critically on JSoc's activities. The most disturbing issue of all, however, is the documentation of the "secret laws" now facilitating these abuses of American power: Scahill succeeds in getting Senator Ron Wyden, who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, to confirm the fact that there are secret legal opinions governing the use of drones in targeted assassinations that, he says, Americans would be "very surprised" to know about. This is not the first time Wyden has issued this warning.

In 2011, Wyden sought an amendment to the USA Patriot Act titled requiring the US government "to end practice of secretly interpreting law." Wyden warns that there is now a system of law beneath or behind the law that we can see and debate:

"It is impossible for Congress to hold an informed public debate on the Patriot Act when there is a significant gap between what most Americans believe the law says and what the government is using the law to do. In fact, I believe many members of Congress who have voted on this issue would be stunned to know how the Patriot Act is being interpreted and applied.

"Even secret operations need to be conducted within the bounds of established, publicly understood law. Any time there is a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the government secretly thinks the law says, I believe you have a serious problem."

I have often wondered, since I first wrote about America's slide toward fascism, what was driving it. I saw the symptoms but not the cause. Scahill's and Rowley's brave, transformational film reveals the prime movers at work. The US executive now has a network of secret laws, secret budgets, secret kill lists, and a well-funded, globally deployed army of secret teams of assassins. That is precisely the driving force working behind what we can see. Is fascism really too strong a word to describe it?
(c) 2013 Naomi Wolf author, social critic, and political activist is the author of The New York Times bestseller "The End of America" (Chelsea Green) and, more recently, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf's landmark international bestseller, The Beauty Myth, challenged the cosmetics industry and the marketing of unrealistic standards of beauty, launching a new wave of feminism in the early 1990s.

The Ugly Deforestation Of The World
By James Donahue

The tree is a natural complement to man. The environment we share is so designed that man needs trees and trees need man. With every breath we take oxygen into our lungs then exhale carbon dioxide as a byproduct of respiration. The trees around us, in turn, use photosynthesis to absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale.

During photosynthesis, the tree combines carbon dioxide and water with chlorophyll to form a simple sugar which is food for the tree. The by-product of this process is oxygen. Thus trees generate the oxygen we need to live, just as we generate the carbon dioxide the trees need to live.

Humans and trees are somewhat alike in their design. We have red blood flowing through our veins. The blood carries the oxygen and metabolized foods that we consume through our bodies. Trees have sap flowing through their veins located just under the bark, or skin. The sap, like our blood, carries nutrients produced by photosynthesis and drawn from the soil through the plant.

While humans are free to move from place to place on the planet, we are somewhat like the tree in that we are rooted to the Earth. Attempts to travel into space have proven this. We cannot exist very long away from the planet because we need the air, the food and even the gravitational pull of the Mother Earth to stay alive and healthy.

People who live close to the soil, the aborigines, Gnostics and I think many family farmers, understand the sacredness of the ecology provided by the Mother Earth. When we lived among the Native Americans in the Southwest my wife and I were surprised to see how the people respected the Mother as a living, breathing entity.

When we once offered a visiting Hopi priest a meal at our table, he did not eat until he took a portion of the food from his plate outside, and returned it with reverence to the planet. It was consumed by the birds, animals and crawling things of the soil.

It was said that the aboriginal people never cut a tree without first asking permission of the Mother and explaining why that tree was needed. Nothing in their world is ever wasted.

This perfect balance between man and nature remained relatively intact until very recently in human history. Something changed about three hundred years ago at about the time we invented steam engines, learned to smelt steel, and launched what has been known as the industrial age. At this time we shifted into a capitalistic and materialistic mindset that is counter to the natural lifestyle we were meant to live.

Since then we have gone through two world wars, started mass producing automobiles, houses and plastics. We left the farm to work in the cities. Instead of the simple life we now live in a hectic, speeded up existence. Everybody is in a hurry. We have turned into consumers. We have stopped tending the garden. And we have overpopulated our planet.

We no longer think of trees as a part of our world. They are now either a lawn ornament, or a source of wood with which to build homes, produce paper or just burn in our fireplaces. Most people don't even want to burn the wood to keep warm. To them, the fireplace fire is just another pretty ornament.

Factory farms, those massive industrial food manufacturing facilities that have developed to provide food for the masses of stuffed, overweight farting humans that crowd every free space on our planet, regard trees as obstacles. Thus trees are bulldozed into piles and burned to clear more land on which to grow more genetically modified food.

We have so crowded the planet that people are building homes in forested areas. For them, it is an effort to get away from the overcrowded cities. But in so doing, they have encroached on the forest homes of the wild animals of the Earth. Not only this, but they have put themselves at great risk of being caught up by, and starting forest fires that now rage freely through millions of acres of prime timber.

Our carelessness at tending the garden also is showing up in strange new diseases that are ravaging our trees. Beetles and other crawly things that feed on trees are being imported into the United States from all over the world. Entire species of trees like the Elm, Horse Chestnut and Ash, are being wiped out within a few years as these pests gnaw their way across the land. Something now is attacking the oak trees and the ancient redwoods of California.

The worse event has been the careless destruction of our great rain forests all over the world, as land is cleared for homes and farmland, and greedy lumber barons seek what wood they can still find to sell for building construction. But wood is getting to be in such short supply now that lumber mills are starting to find ways to turn sawdust and glue into boards and two-by-fours. Unfortunately, the glue is full of lethal formaldehyde. The fumes leach into the air of the homes and buildings we erect, making people sick.

As the forests disappear, the oxygen production is reduced. Also the smoke, ash and other noxious gasses from industrial waste are filling the already oxygen thinned air. People are developing more and more lung problems. Asthma, emphysema and other illnesses are now too common.

Here is a brief review of the deforestation that has occurred in the world:

In the Himalayas, too many people are trying to live on too little land. About 40 percent of the forests were destroyed since 1955, mostly for fuel and to make room for agriculture.

India once boasted more than 1.6 million square kilometers of primary forest. Of that, about 95 percent has been destroyed.

North Africa one was known for its great forests. The region now is desert. Ethiopia's forests have declined from 40 percent to just three percent of the land.

In Indonesia, an estimated 16 million hectares of forest have been turned into sterile wasteland.

Canada has lost 60 percent of its old-growth forests to logging.

The United States has destroyed 85 percent of its forests.

The primary rainforests are completely destroyed in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Haiti. Most also are gone from the Ivory Coast. The forests in the Philippines and Thailand are about 50 percent destroyed.

The only rain forests still standing relatively intact are in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and New Guinea. But the loggers are at work here as well. It is estimated that these prime forests will be gone within the next decade.

The human race is in the process of self-strangulation. We are cutting off the natural oxygen supply to our planet and our lungs.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Tom Harkin

What We Will Lose When Tom Harkin Leaves The Senate
By John Nichols

Tom Harkin's decision to retire from the Senate at the end of his current term will create an immeasurable void in the chamber where he has served for more than a quarter-century. A progressive populist with a history of defending organized labor, working farmers, public education and public services, the Iowan arrived in the Senate as a fighting FDR Democrat and he will leave as one.

As The Des Moines Register well recognized in its editorial on the Iowa Democrat's decision to retire:

A variety of terms have been used to describe Harkin's politics. He has been called a progressive or a populist from the prairie school. He is that but more: He was a close friend of the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone who used to say he belonged to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, meaning he was not ashamed to be called a liberal. That's the same wing of the party Harkin has represented without apology.

Actually, Harkin's politics and his philosophy of government are rooted in the age of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which swept in a historic change in the role of government in the affairs of the nation.

On a national political landscape that could use a good deal more of FDR's ideological and political determination-especially in the updated and extended form that Harkin employed it-this is a retirement that will be felt by every American who recognizes that formation of a more perfect union requires the forging of a truly national, urban and rural progressive politics.

Harkin has for almost forty years, first as a member of the House and then as a senator, represented a swing state with a Republican governor, a Republican senator and a competitive streak in presidential politics. Yet, he has won, again and again, and by ever-expanding margins. Elected to the Senate in the same year that Ronald Reagan won his second term by a landslide both nationally and in Iowa, Harkin has repeatedly bucked Republican tides and prevailed when more moderate Democrats have been defeated. His electoral success confirms the progressive premise that voters are more likely to back a determined Democrat than a compromising centrist.

But there has always been more to Harkin than populist rhetoric and ideological clarity. He came to Congress to get things done: to end secret wars in Latin America, to keep family farmers on the land, to make workplaces safer and to enact the groundbreaking civil rights protections contained in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Many of his greatest legislative victories came when Republicans sat in the White House, most were enacted with Republican co-sponsorship. Harkin has always understood something that only a few other progressives-Wellstone, Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders-have ever really "got": that it is not necessary to sacrifice principles when organizing coalitions of conscience across lines of party and ideology.

For Harkin, the key word has been "conscience."

Harkin has consistently clung to an old faith in what politics could and should be. He speaks of morality, of right and wrong. And his colleagues know he is serious; so serious that they often put aside cynicism and cooperate to accomplish that which-and the ADA is a classic example of this-few thought possible.

Harkin could compromise. He was proud if those compromises advanced the common good. If they went awry, he was usually the first talk about it. When Harkin cast a wrong vote-and he did sometimes-it tore at him. But he has rarely suffered in silence. He voted for the 2002 resolution that became President Bush's excuse for a war of whim in Iraq, but by 2003 he was declaring: "I made a mistake, and I wouldn't do it again." He bluntly said that Bush "misled Congress and got his war...a pre-emptive war that has ended in disaster."

By 2004, Harkin was an enthusiastic, and because of his Iowa prominence, essential backer of Howard Dean's anti-war campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Harkin would eventually become one of the loudest congressional critics of the war, and of the Bush administration's abuses of power, joining with Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold in a lonely effort to censure the president. When Bush nominated the noxious John Negroponte to serve as US ambassador to Iraq, the Iowan broke not just with the administration but with fellow Democrats to vote against a man who had been linked to human rights abuses in Honduras two decades earlier. Harkin battled, essentially alone, to hold Negroponte to account.

The senator came full circle in the 2004 debate over Negroponte's nomination.

Harkin's first big fight on Capitol Hill, as a young congressman from a competitive district representing rural Iowa, was to demand that the entire thrust of US foreign policy be altered.

As a young congressional aide in 1970, Harkin had played a critical role in exposing South Vietnam's abusive treatment of prisoners, who were held in so-called "tiger cages." Horrified by mounting evidence of US support for right-wing coups, murderous dictators and torture states in southern Asia and Latin America, Harkin in 1975 proposed an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act that prohibited the United States from providing economic aid to any country determined to be engaged gross human rights violations unless. The only exception was a provision that permitted allocation of US funds if could be proved that the money who directly benefit the most impoverished citizens.

The amendment, which passed with relative ease, became Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act, which declared: "No assistance may be provided under this part to the government of any country which engages in consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country."

Presidents and their congressional allies invariably circumvented human rights responsibilities, to Harkin's great frustration. As a new US senator in the mid-1980s, he joined another new senator, John Kerry of Massachusetts, in seeking to expose and end the Reagan administration's support for right-wing dictators and death squads in Latin America. Others softened in their stances, but not Harkin. When Bush nominated Negroponte for the Iraqi ambassadorship, the senator from Iowa took to the floor of the chamber and recounted the dark history of the nominee's "service" as Ronald Reagan's administration gave lawless support to death squads and paramilitary murderers. Harkin accused the nominee of lying to Congress and the American people about circumstances on the ground in Honduras in the early 1980s-where 184 people, including an American priest, "disappeared" while Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras.

"Ambassador Negroponte turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the human rights abuses in Honduras," Harkin thundered. "To send Mr. Negroponte to Iraq would send entirely the wrong message at this time."

For Tom Harkin, it was not enough to amend the laws of the land to defend human rights. It was necessary to hold to account those who circumvented those laws.

It was a conscience call. A moral duty. And for Tom Harkin, this has always been the point of being a senator.

For those of us who know Harkin, and his record, this is our source of regret at the news of his decision to retire. He has surely given a full measure of service. But his kind is rare, too rare, in a Congress that will be deeply diminished by his departure.

Chuck Hagel is also no favorite of foreign policy hawks, John Nichols writes.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial
for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

Martin Luther King Jr., Champion Of Military Defense?
The United States Air Force is the latest group to willfully misinterpret the legacy of the civil rights activist
By David Sirota

Every year, right around the time between Martin Luther King Day and the beginning of Black History Month, the effort to distort Dr. King's life and legacy seems to intensify. Some years, we see conservatives preposterously assert that if Dr. King were alive today, he would join today's neo-confederate Republican Party. Other years, it is deception via omission - we see replays of Dr. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech, but do not see any of his speeches about war and poverty.

Princeton professor Cornel West accurately labels all this the "Santa Clausification" of Dr. King, and if you have ever heard or read a snippet of King's 1967 Riverside Church speech, you will understand how apt the label is. You will also understand why this year's most grotesque attempt to Santa Claus-ify Dr. King's life is at once abhorrent and yet somewhat encouraging.

As The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald first reported, the United States Air Force's Global Strike Command last week posted an online essay saying that Dr. King would cheer on soldiers "ensuring the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense." Further, claimed the Air Force, "maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team ... is a fitting tribute to Dr. King."

At the same time, the U.S. Marines commemorated Martin Luther King Day by tweeting out a famous King line - "a man who won't die for something is not fit to live" - in a not-so-subtle attempt to depict him as a war supporter. That was a follow-up to a 2011 article posted on the Defense Department's website with the headline: "King Might Understand Today's Wars, Pentagon Lawyer Says."

That gets us to the special relevance of the Riverside Church speech - the one that the Santa Claus-ifying Pentagon so obviously wants suppressed.

In that oratory, America's most famous preacher of nonviolence deplored "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." He argued that militarism is not the way to protect America and decried "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government." And he insisted that "there is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war."

Comparing the Pentagon's historical revisionism with King's words, Greenwald says: "The U.S. military is actually publicly claiming that the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner and steadfast critic of U.S. imperialism would be an admirer of its massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, its global assassination programs and its covert use of violence in multiple countries around the world, including where no wars are declared. Merely to describe this agitprop is to illustrate its repulsiveness."

He's absolutely right, but in that repulsiveness there is a promising revelation from a political system in which lies reflect desperation.

In this particular case, the Pentagon's willingness to so boldly lie about Dr. King betrays its desperation to reverse accelerating public opinion trends. Specifically, Pentagon spinmeisters seem to realize that, according to polls, more Americans are raising King-like questions about our government's profligate defense spending and its attempts to preference militarism over other priorities.

This suggests that for all the propaganda attempting to Santa Claus-ify Dr. King and make us forget what he was all about, we may, in fact, be starting to honor Dr. King's legacy.

That's no excuse for the propaganda, of course - but it is a promising sign that we may actually be closer than ever to realizing Dr. King's dream.
(c) 2013 David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "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 .

Today, An Anniversary Of America's First Progressive Revolution
By Robert Reich

Exactly a century ago, on February 3, 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, authorizing a federal income tax. Congress turned it into a graduated tax, based on "capacity to pay."

It was among the signal victories of the progressive movement - the first constitutional amendment in 40 years (the first 10 had been included in the Bill of Rights, the 11th and 12th in 1789 and 1804, and three others in consequence of the Civil War), reflecting a great political transformation in America.

The 1880s and 1890s had been the Gilded Age, the time of robber barons, when a small number controlled almost all the nation's wealth as well as our democracy, when poverty had risen to record levels, and when it looked as though the country was destined to become a moneyed aristocracy.

But almost without warning, progressives reversed the tide. Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901, pledging to break up the giant trusts and end the reign of the "malefactors of great wealth." Laws were enacted protecting the public from impure foods and drugs, and from corrupt legislators.

By 1909 Democrats and progressive Republicans had swept many state elections, subsequently establishing the 40-hour work week and other reforms that would later be the foundation stones for the New Deal. Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 presidential election.

A progressive backlash against concentrated wealth and power occurred a century ago in America. In the 1880s and 1890s such a movement seemed improbable if not impossible. Only idealists and dreamers thought the nation had the political will to reform itself, let alone enact a constitutional amendment of such importance - analogous, today, to an amendment reversing "Citizens United v. FEC" and limiting the flow of big money into politics.

But it did happen. And it will happen again.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Friends Of Fraud
By Paul Krugman

Like many advocates of financial reform, I was a bit disappointed in the bill that finally emerged. Dodd-Frank gave regulators the power to rein in many financial excesses; but it was and is less clear that future regulators will use that power. As history shows, the financial industry's wealth and influence can all too easily turn those who are supposed to serve as watchdogs into lap dogs instead.

There was, however, one piece of the reform that was a shining example of how to do it right: the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a stand-alone agency with its own funding, charged with protecting consumers against financial fraud and abuse. And sure enough, Senate Republicans are going all out in an attempt to kill that bureau.

Why is consumer financial protection necessary? Because fraud and abuse happen.

Don't say that educated and informed consumers can take care of themselves. For one thing, not all consumers are educated and informed. Edward Gramlich, the Federal Reserve official who warned in vain about the dangers of subprime, famously asked, "Why are the most risky loan products sold to the least sophisticated borrowers?" He went on, "The question answers itself - the least sophisticated borrowers are probably duped into taking these products."

And even well-educated adults can have a hard time understanding the risks and payoffs associated with financial deals - a fact of which shady operators are all too aware. To take an area in which the bureau has already done excellent work, how many of us know what's actually in our credit-card contracts?

Now, you might be tempted to say that while we need protection against financial fraud, there's no need to create another bureaucracy. Why not leave it up to the regulators we already have? The answer is that existing regulatory agencies are basically concerned with bolstering the banks; as a practical, cultural matter they will always put consumer protection on the back burner - just as they did when they ignored Mr. Gramlich's warnings about subprime.

So the consumer protection bureau serves a vital function. But as I said, Senate Republicans are trying to kill it.

How can they do that, when the reform is already law and Democrats hold a Senate majority? Here as elsewhere, they're turning to extortion - threatening to filibuster the appointment of Richard Cordray, the bureau's acting head, and thereby leave the bureau unable to function. Mr. Cordray, whose work has drawn praise even from the bankers, is clearly not the issue. Instead, it's an open attempt to use raw obstructionism to overturn the law.

What Republicans are demanding, basically, is that the protection bureau lose its independence. They want its actions subjected to a veto by other, bank-centered financial regulators, ensuring that consumers will once again be neglected, and they also want to take away its guaranteed funding, opening it to interest-group pressure. These changes would make the agency more or less worthless - but that, of course, is the point.

How can the G.O.P. be so determined to make America safe for financial fraud, with the 2008 crisis still so fresh in our memory? In part it's because Republicans are deep in denial about what actually happened to our financial system and economy. On the right, it's now complete orthodoxy that do-gooder liberals, especially former Representative Barney Frank, somehow caused the financial disaster by forcing helpless bankers to lend to "Those People."

In reality, this is a nonsense story that has been extensively refuted; I've always been struck in particular by the notion that a Congressional Democrat, holding office at a time when Republicans ruled the House with an iron first, somehow had the mystical power to distort our whole banking system. But it's a story conservatives much prefer to the awkward reality that their faith in the perfection of free markets was proved false.

And as always, you should follow the money. Historically, the financial sector has given a lot of money to both parties, with only a modest Republican lean. In the last election, however, it went all in for Republicans, giving them more than twice as much as it gave to Democrats (and favoring Mitt Romney over the president almost three to one). All this money wasn't enough to buy an election - but it was, arguably, enough to buy a major political party.

Right now, all the media focus is on the obvious hot issues - immigration, guns, the sequester, and so on. But let's try not to let this one fall through the cracks: just four years after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees, Senate Republicans are using every means at their disposal, violating all the usual norms of politics in the process, in an attempt to give the bankers a chance to do it all over again.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"History is a set of lies agreed upon."
~~~ Napoleon Bonaparte

In 1999, then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off funds
for the Brooklyn Museum unless it withdrew art exhibits he found "offensive".

NYC Officials Threaten Funding of College Over Israel Event
In defense of Israel, liberal officials are copying Giuliani's 1999 termination of funding for a museum exhibiting "offensive" art
By Glenn Greenwald

On Saturday, I wrote about the numerous New York City officials (including multiple members of the US House of Representatives) who have predictably signed onto the Alan-Derwshowitz-led attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College. This group of Israel advocates and elected officials is demanding that the college's Political Science department rescind its sponsorship of an event featuring two advocates of the BDS movement aimed at stopping Israeli occupation and settlements.

The threat to academic freedom posed by this growing lynch mob is obvious: if universities are permitted to hold only those events which do not offend state officials and "pro-Israel" fanatics such as Alan Dershowitz, then "academic freedom" is illusory. But on Sunday, that threat significantly intensified, as a ranking member of the New York City Council explicitly threatened to cut off funding for the college if his extortionate demands regarding this event are not met. From a letter to BC President Karen Gould, issued by Council Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler and signed by nine other members of the City Council (the full letter is embedded here):

"Among this City's diversity - and the student body of Brooklyn College - there are a significant number of people who would, and do, find this event to be offensive. . . .

"A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City - many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program - want their tax money to be spent on.

"We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong."

These officials are expressly stating that no college or university is permitted to hold events that contain views that are "offensive" or which these officials "find to be odious and wrong" without having their funding terminated. How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be.

Few people in New York had trouble understanding this threat when it was posed by a loathed GOP Mayor. Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike. In particular, New York City liberals and others vehemently objected when conservative Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off city funding for art museums that exhibited works of art which Giuliani found offensive.

Here is what then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said back in 1999 when he threatened, as the New York Times put it, "to cut off all city subsidies to the Brooklyn Museum of Art unless it cancels next week's opening of a British art exhibition that features, among other works, a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, a bust of a man made from his own frozen blood and a portrait of the Virgin Mary stained with a clump of elephant dung":

"You don't have a right to government subsidy for desecrating somebody else's religion. And therefore we will do everything that we can to remove funding for the Brooklyn Museum until the director comes to his senses and realizes that if you are a government-subsidized enterprise, then you can't do things that desecrate the most personal and deeply held views of people in society. I mean, this is an outrageous thing to do."

The modern-day successors to Giuliani are the New York City officials now threatening the funding of Brooklyn College for exactly the same reasons and based on exactly the same rationale. Back then, liberals were furious at the GOP Mayor's bullying tactics, correctly arguing that his threat to terminate funding was a serious threat to basic freedoms; as First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams put it at the time:

"Punishing the Brooklyn Museum by seeking to remove its funding because the Mayor disapproves of what he perceives is the message of its art is at war with the First Amendment. The Mayor has every right to denounce the exhibition. He should understand, however, that the First Amendment limits what he can do to retaliate against art of which he disapproves."

After the Museum refused to withdraw the "offensive" exhibits and Giuliani made good on his threats, a federal judge ultimately ruled that the New York mayor "violated the First Amendment when he cut city financing and began eviction proceedings against the Brooklyn Museum of Art for mounting an exhibition that the mayor deemed offensive and sacrilegious." The judge, Nina Gershon of the US District Court in Brooklyn, wrote in her ruling ordering Giuliani to end his official attacks on the museum [emphasis added]:

"There is no federal constitutional issue more grave than the effort by government officials to censor works of expression and to threaten the vitality of a major cultural institution as punishment for failing to abide by governmental demands for orthodoxy."

The applicability of that rationale to the current controversy is obvious. Regardless of your views of BDS or Israel, the last thing anyone should want is for state officials to be able to dictate what academic events can and cannot be held on campuses. It's odious and threatening for exactly the same reason Giuliani's bullying tactics were. Some academics, such as Scott Lemieux and Kieran Healy have spoken out in defense of BC's academic freedom, but nowhere near as many as should given the threats this campaign poses to their own academic freedom. As is so often the case, when the issue is Israel, many advocates fall strangely mute.

At least back then, Giuliani was honest: he wanted to cut off funds to museums exhibiting art that he personally found offensive to his religion. By contrast, what's so noxious about the campaign aimed at BC is the glaring pretense of it all. As corrupted and dangerous as the stated "principle" is - that colleges should have their public funding terminated if they sponsor events with offensive ideas - this would never be applied consistently. Indeed, it's inconceivable to imagine this level of official mobilization on any issue other than Israel. This is about using the power of the state to suppress criticisms of and activism against the Israeli government in academia - and nothing else.

To see how true that is, just imagine if the BC Political Science department had sponsored an equally one-sided event on the BDS movement, but invited only BDS opponents and hard-core Israel defenders. Does anyone think that even a single one of these cowardly, dishonest political officials would have uttered a peep of protest on the ground that colleges shouldn't sponsor one-sided events concerning controversial issues or which air views that people in the City and the student body find "offensive"? Please. To ask the question is to mock it.

Indeed, as I noted on Saturday, Alan Dershowitz himself - who offends large numbers of people - has spoken without opposition at this very same Brooklyn College at the invitation of the Political Science department and not one of these city officials spoke out against that or threatened the college's funding over it. Beyond that, when a controversy erupted last year at the University of Pennsylvania over a pro-BDS event sponsored by students, that university's Political Science department (which had pointedly refused to sponsor the pro-BDS event) formally sponsored an event for Dershowitz to speak without any opposition, and nobody raised these fabricated, disingenuous concerns over the need to only hold "balanced" events and for academic departments to avoid "controversial" stances. That includes Dershowitz, who claimed to me on Friday that he "would oppose a pro Israel event being sponsored by a department" but - needless to say - never objected, at least not publicly, when the UPenn Political Science department did exactly that by inviting him to speak about Israel without opposition.

Plainly, this entire controversy has only one "principle" and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel. The claim that this is driven by the belief that colleges should avoid taking positions on controversial issues is a ridiculous joke. Yesterday, the besieged BC College President Gould wrote a letter to the school's Hillel organization about the controversy, and in it, she stated: "You have asked that I state unequivocally the college's position on the BDS movement, and I have no hesitation in doing so. As president of Brooklyn College, I can assure you that our college does not endorse the BDS movement nor support its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, nor do I personally." Do you think a single New York City official or Dershowitz or anyone else will object to her official opposition to BDS on behalf of herself and the college, by claiming that this makes BC students who support BDS feel unwelcome and that university officials shouldn't take sides in controversial political disputes? Of course not, because those "principles" are pure pretext. Nobody believes or cares about the notion that colleges and professors, in general, should avoid controversial issues or refrain from sponsoring one-sided academic events (which they do constantly: here's an article on a speech I gave last year at UPenn, speaking alone, expressing many controversial views, at an event formally sponsored by the school's Religious Studies Department; here's an article where I did the same at an event sponsored by the University of Missouri Law School last year). As Political Science Professor Scott Lemieux put it, this campaign poses "threats to academic freedom, based on 'principles' nobody believes."

This is about only one controversial issue (Israel) and about suppressing only one side of that issue (criticisms of and activism against Israeli occupation and settlements). Just as it is extraordinary that a nominated Defense Secretary in the US has to take repeated vows of fealty to Israel and spend most of his confirmation hearing discussing not the US but that foreign country, it is truly extraordinary to watch "liberal" officials in the largest city in the US expressly threaten the funding of a college for the crime of holding an event that is critical of Israel (MSNBC's Chris Hayes, who admires - and has previously had on his show - several of the New York members of Congress who have joined this Dershowitz-led campaign, yesterday lambasted their conduct aimed at BC as "outrageous and genuinely chilling"). BC students and groups are (and should be) free to host as many anti-BDS events as they want and invite all the speakers in the world who support Israeli occupations and settlement expansions, despite how uncomfortable that might make Palestinian and Muslim students (and the BC PoliSci Department has made clear they would likely sponsor such events if asked). That's what free speech and academic freedom are about: the right to freely air and advocate for any and all viewpoints, even ones that "offend" people. Few things threaten those critical values more than elected officials threatening to punish colleges for hosting such events. But that's exactly what is taking place right now in New York.
(c) 2013 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.


Drones Are A Local Issue
By David Swanson

No city is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.

I write from Charlottesville, Va., but am hopeful that this message applies to your city, town, or county as well.

In the absence of state or federal laws, localities around the United States are proceeding to put unmanned aerial vehicles in our skies as they see fit. The federal government has authorized the flight of 30,000 drones, and the use of drones up to 400 feet by police departments, at least 300 of which already have surveillance drones in operation.

States and localities can ban or regulate such actions. Or they can proceed to endanger our health and our civil rights.

In Montgomery County, Texas, the Sheriff showed off a drone to the media but crashed it into his armored vehicle (thereby, I guess, proving that he needed an armored vehicle).

When the Dept. of Homeland Security challenged the University of Texas-Austin to hack into a drone and take control of it, the response was "No problem," and it was quickly done.

Drones are not safe. Surveillance by drones cannot comply with the Fourth Amendment. And the arming of drones with tear gas and rubber bullets, already underway in many U.S. localities, is an outrageous threat to our First Amendment right to assemble and petition our governments for a redress of grievances.

If Charlottesville were to remain silent while (how shall I put this delicately?) "crack-pot" cities continue setting de facto law, we would all be worse off.

Charlottesville City Council routinely informs the state general assembly of its wishes. That state assembly has already been considering legislation on drones. Charlottesville has a responsibility to speak up, as well as to act locally on its own behalf.

Moreover, Charlottesville's influence spreads. Its past resolutions on Iraq, military spending, uranium, and other matters have inspired other localities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise their voices as well. Some of these resolutions have been directed to the federal government, to which the residents of Charlottesville pay taxes and whose laws the residents of Charlottesville are subject to.

This is how our republic is supposed to work. City council members in Virginia take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cities and towns routinely send petitions to Congress for all kinds of requests. This is allowed under Clause 3, Rule XII, Section 819, of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This clause is routinely used to accept petitions from cities, and memorials from states, all across America. The same is established in the Jefferson Manual, the rule book for the House originally written by Thomas Jefferson for the Senate.

In 1967 a court in California ruled (Farley v. Healey , 67 Cal.2d 325) that "one of the purposes of local government is to represent its citizens before the Congress, the Legislature, and administrative agencies in matters over which the local government has no power. Even in matters of foreign policy it is not uncommon for local legislative bodies to make their positions known."

Abolitionists passed local resolutions against U.S. policies on slavery. The anti-apartheid movement did the same, as did the nuclear freeze movement, the movement against the PATRIOT Act, the movement in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, etc.

We are not an island. If we become environmentally sustainable, others will ruin our climate. If we ban assault weapons, they'll arrive at our borders. And if the skies of the United States are filled with drones, it will become ever more difficult for Charlottesville to keep them out.

Just over a year ago, the Charlottesville City Council passed a resolution calling for an end to "foreign ground and drone wars." U.S. drone wars are now under investigation by the United Nations as possible crimes. We now know that individuals are targeted without so much as identifying their names. We now know that hundreds of children have been killed. We now know that at least three Americans have been targeted and killed. The view of our city should be restated in the context of local and state actions on drones. This is an action desired by local people, affecting local people, and costing the local budget exactly nothing.

Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know, for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Fidler,

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 war against academic freedom if it dares to criticize Israel and it's mass murder of the Palestinians, 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 "Democratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Dangers Of Obama's Cyber War Power Grab
By Matthew Rothschild

When our founders were drafting the Constitution, they went out of their way to give warmaking powers to Congress, not the President.

They understood that if the President could make war on his own, he'd be no different than a king.

And they also understood, as James Madison said, that such power "would be too much temptation" for one man.

And so they vested that power in Congress.

But since World War II, one President after another has usurped that power.

The latest usurper is President Obama, who did so in Libya, and with drones, and now is prepared to do so in cyberspace.

According to The New York Times, the Obama Administration has concluded that the President has the authority to launch preemptive cyberattacks.

This is a very dangerous, and very undemocratic power grab.

There are no checks or balances when the President, alone, decides when to engage in an act of war.

And this new aggressive stance will lead to a cyber arms race. The United States has evidently already used cyber weapons against Iran, and so many other countries will assume that cyber warfare is an acceptable tool and will try to use it themselves.

Most troubling, U.S. cybersupremacy-and that is Pentagon doctrine-will also raise fears among nuclear powers like Russia, China, and North Korea that the United States may use a cyberattack as the opening move in a nuclear attack.

For if the United States can knock out the command and control structure of an enemy's nuclear arsenal, it can then launch an all-out nuclear attack on that enemy with impunity. This would make such nuclear powers more ready to launch their nuclear weapons preemptively for fear that they would be rendered useless. So we've just moved a little closer to midnight.

Now, I don't think Obama would use cyberwafare as a first strike in a nuclear war. But our adversaries may not be so sure, either about Obama or his successors.

They, too, worry about the temptations of a President.
(c) 2013 Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

Why Nobody's Paying Attention To Black Folks These Days
By Glen Ford

While the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met at the White House to press for immigration reform, on January 25 [17], traditional Black organizations gathered at Washington's Mayflower Hotel to further refine their so-called "Black Agenda," for presentation to President Obama at some future date. The five broad goals are really more like a set of suggestions for Obama's consideration, talking points on economic parity, educational opportunity, voting rights, healthcare disparities, and criminal justice reform - nothing remotely resembling demands. Obama need never worry about any drama from this crowd.

Malcolm X would have derisively called them the Big Four-Plus: the National Urban League's Marc Morial; Ben Jealous, of the NAACP; National Coalition of Black Civic Participation president Melanie Campbell; Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network and Obama's Black political pit bull; plus an assortment of 50 or so other notables. It has taken them four years and a history-wrenching Black economic catastrophe to come to the conclusion that African Americans ought to have something to say to the First Black President besides "we love you and your beautiful family so much." Finally, with Obama's second and last term secure, the Black Misleadership Class pretends to have a political existence and agenda beyond organized sycophancy in the face of Power. But it's all a charade.

A Black formation that was serious about pressuring a sitting president would seek to have an influence on next Tuesday's State of the Union Address. Demands would be put forward, against which the president's speech would be publicly measured. That's politics 101. But, despite their recent posturing, the Black Misleadership Class has no intention of taking any position that might discomfort this president or reveal their own impotence. For them, the State of the Union address is yet another occasion to bask in Obama's glow, to feel, vicariously, at the center of the world stage, to rally once more around the Icon-in-Chief. It is the antithesis of independent Black politics - of serious politics of any kind - and renders the Big Four-Plus useless at every crucial juncture and all points in between. For all other groups, the State of the Union address is a barometer of a president's commitment to the interests of their constituency - stated for the world to hear and see. But, for the Black Misleadership Class, it is just another chance to swell with pride at the sight of all those white folks summoned to sit in rapt attention to a Black man's voice. The Big Four-Plus would never consider ruining the event with demands that Black interests be addressed in the State of the Union content.

Unless, of course, these Black interests have already been defined by the White House. The January 25 session of the Black Agenda-makers endorsed the American Jobs Act, Obama's reworked 2011 bill that focuses mainly on tax incentives to encourage corporations to increase hiring. The Big Four-Plus also support the Obama administration's voting rights efforts (as does the entirety of the Democratic Party, the overwhelming recipients of the Black vote). No points of conflict, there. However, the Morial-Jealous-Sharpton-Campbell version of the Black Agenda includes one item that is not in sync with the White House: the Urban Jobs Act. Introduced in February of 2011, the measure got no push from the Obama administration and has languished in a committee of the Republican-controlled House ever since.

It's really the Congressional Black Caucus jobs bill; all but 7 of the measure's 25 sponsors are members of the CBC. More to the point, the Urban Jobs Act is a National Urban League bill. It would spend $200 million over five years "to provide a comprehensive set of services and activities for eligible young adults, to be implemented by local National Urban League affiliates." The legislation's "Findings and Purpose" section is a veritable executive summary of the need for a targeted response to the Black and Hispanic youth employment-education-incarceration crisis.

It's a worthy piece of legislation. Of course, Obama's not going to use up an ounce of political capital in support of the Urban Jobs Act - and why should he? After all, unlike immigration reform, its not part of a set of actual demands put forward by a well organized and determined constituency that the White House is eager to please. It's only backed by Black folks and their Misleadership Class, and they won't make a fuss. Nobody's afraid of them.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

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Obama Blanks On What He's Ineffectually Urging Congress To Take Action On Now

WASHINGTON-While speaking to the White House press corps Wednesday, President Barack Obama is reported to have completely blanked on which issue he was ineffectually urging Congress to act on at the moment. "It is vitally important that our nation's lawmakers do the job that they were elected to do, and make it a top priority to, uh, to...well, hmm," said Obama, nervously tapping his fingers on the lectern as he frantically tried to recall whether he was making a wholly unproductive and effectively meaningless call for legislative action on global warming, gun control, immigration reform, budget compromise, or green energy. "It's a, um, very important issue, I know that. Uh. Jeez." After standing silently in front of the audience for several uncomfortable moments, Obama reportedly reprimanded Congress for its lack of cooperation and then walked out of the room.
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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 06 (c) 02/08/2013

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