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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald examines why, "Clapper Reads From the Bush/Cheney/Nixon Playbook To Fear-Monger Over Transparency."

Uri Avnery smokes, "Another Pipe Dream."

Glen Ford concludes the, "Freedom Charter Is Key To New Struggle For South Africa."

Norman Solomon is, "Resisting The Surveillance State Of Mind."

Jim Hightower watches as, "Rick Perry Struts His Stuff In Davos."

David Swanson demands we, "Do More To Prevent War."

James Donahue gives, "Some Thoughts About Valentine's Day."

John Nichols says, "Meet The Happy (Class) Warrior: Joe Biden Tries Out A 2016 Persona."

Chris Hedges with a must read, "Legalizing Oppression."

David Sirota points out the bigotry and stupidity in, "Grotesque NFL Reaction To An Openly Gay Player Proves Why Congress Must Pass Non-Discrimination Law."

Paul Krugman finds America is, "Writing Off The Unemployed."

William Rivers Pitt looks forward to, "The Poisoner's Reckoning."

Amy Goodman warns, "People Of Color Are Losing Their Right To Vote."

"The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food" wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich explains, "Why The Lousy Jobs Report Boosted Wall Street."

John Pilger points out, "The Accessories To War Crimes Are Those Paid To Keep The Record Straight."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Sochi Hotel Guests Complain About Topless Portraits Of Putin In Rooms " but first, Uncle Ernie fears, "Another Tuesday Afternoon."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Nate Beeler, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, E. C. Segar, John Darkow, Michael Justus, Ron Edmonds, Matt Wuerker, Lauren Victoria Burke, Chris Helgren, Louis Lanzano, Marcus Qwertyus, Nicholas Kamm, John Vincent, Appalachian Voices, Flickr, Getty Images, A.P., Reuters, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

The Quotable Quote...
The Dead Letter Office...
The Cartoon Corner...
To End On A Happy Note...
Have You Seen This...
Parting Shots...

Welcome one and all to "Uncle Ernie's Issues & Alibis."

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Another Tuesday Afternoon
By Ernest Stewart

I'm looking at myself, reflections of my mind,
It's just the kind of day to leave myself behind,
So gently swaying thru the fairy-land of love,
If you'll just come with me and see the beauty of
Tuesday Afternoon ~~~ Moody Blues

"I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water." ~~~ Lisa Jackson ~ Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

"American families deserve safe, abundant and affordable food. And America's farmers rely on this proven technology to protect crops from insects, weeds and drought, enabling us to deliver on that promise and to do so through sustainable means. A federal solution on GMO labeling will bolster consumer confidence in the safety of American food by reaffirming the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) role as the nation's foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients." ~~~ Martin Barbre ~ President of the National Corn Growers

"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world... would do this, it would change the earth." ~~~ William Faulkner

I used to think about the Moody Blues brilliant album Days Of Future Passed and their hit song Tuesday Afternoon when ever it was a Tuesday afternoon, but no more. Barry went and f*cked that up for me by getting together with his Junta and deciding who lives and dies this week via an AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile attached to a drone. This is, in itself, a war crime and 1st degree murder. However, when he does it to an American citizen, it's not only 1st degree murder, but also an act of treason. Obama the "Constitutional Scholar" apparently has never read the The Bill of Rights, especially the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments. How can that be? How do you become the president of the Harvard Law Review and not understand the Bill of Rights?

Some say Obama is the follower of Yahweh, either as a Muslim, or as a Christian; but like all politicians, he's a follower of the god Janus, as Barry has no problems at all when it comes to speaking out of both sides of his mouth. I understand that; but when did he decide that he was above the law and had the right to murder us all on a whim without benefit of counsel, habeas corpus, and a jury of our peers -- all of which, is guaranteed by the Constitution!??! Can you imagine what would've happened if Dubya had decided that he, too, could have murder us on a whim? Can't you see the riots that would have happened from New York to LA and every point in between? But since it's Barry doing the murders, nothing is said! America has become what Tweety Bird used to call, "Hypo-twits!"

Perhaps when President Boehner starts doing it here in America we'll get some response from the Sheeple; but if Barry did it, I'm sure he could easily weasel his way out of it with his core intact. Beautiful words always flow out of Barry's mouth, masking his evil intents. It's like the song of the Sirens drawing unwary sailors onto the rocks! Like his song and dance in his news conference with French President Hollande, talking about Syria and Iraq. Those current songs and dances are just there for when we want to attack -- so that we can say we really tried our best, our very best, and gave them every chance to change to our lap dogs like those surrender monkeys in Paris have. My favorite bit was when a French reporter asked if France was our favorite lap dog over England, talk about your hemming and hawing. That's a question our embedded "journalists" would never ask! Have you ever heard an American "journalist" ask Barry what gives him the right to murder us?

For those of you who counsel to just wait him out, he'll be out of office soon and our next President will surely be a man or woman of the people, a true populist, I heard that said about Bush, too, and look what we got, someone worse than Bush and our next President, President Ryan, will have all the same rights as Barry to murder who he likes, as well. We need to make a lesson out of Barry; and we may get our chance if the Senate falls to the tea-baggers next November. If so, you can count on Boehner introducing Articles of Impeachment in the House, if not, that cave in the mountains is beginning to look better and better!

In Other News

It's been a bad week for the Fossil Fuel industry, not to mention all the folks surrounding them. For example, West Virginia officials are reporting that, "a coal slurry line at the Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant, which belongs to 'Patriot' Coal, ruptured and spilled a toxic byproduct from the coal mining and preparation process into a creek that feeds the Kanawha River." More than 100,000 gallons of slurry spilled, and state officials are monitoring potential impacts on public health and the local water supply. Have you ever noticed that companies that have euphemisms in their names like Freedom or Patriot are the exact opposite of what they claim to be. Think how "The Traitors Act" was renamed "The Patriot Act!"

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials say the leak is "significant" and are comparing it to last month's Freedom Industries' coal chemical spill into the Elk River, which contaminated the tapwater of 300,000 West Virginians. I wonder how many will suffer this time around, and for how long?

If you go just a few miles across the border from West Virginia, a natural gas well operated by Chevron, in Dilliner, Pennsylvania exploded and continues to burn, as firefighters cannot get close enough to extinguish it, due to the intense heat. One person was injured and taken to the hospital, and another person remains missing.

And while we're talking about natural gas explosions, one was reported in Tioga, North Dakota. Hiland Partners operates the pipeline that ruptured, leading to an explosion and fire that could be seen for miles.

Add to that the thousands of homes that are now equipped with a built-in water heaters from the fracking well down the block, just turn on the tap, strike a match, and you'll have hot water for your next cup of tea. Yippee, huh?

I could go on and on about how all of this is unnecessary as we have all the energy that we'll ever need from wind, solar and waves; and once you have the equipment set up, the energy is free and none of them poison the air, water, or land! One would imagine that the oil companies and such would see the potential for almost unlimited profits and act accordingly; but the only way they'll move to a renewable source is when they've sucked every nickel's worth of oil, gas and coal from the ground, no matter the disasters they've caused by doing it. Only in America!

And Finally

We've spotlighted a lot of monsters with The Vidkun Quisling Award over the years. For those who have asked " it hard to come up with these losers, week after week?" The answer is NO; it's, unfortunately, too easy, the only problem comes from having to choose one from the many traitors that cross our path every week. This week's won hands down as it's one of the worst of all time, right up there with climate change deniers who've been doing their best to get us all killed for the amusement and profit of their 1% masters.

This week the "Coalition for Safe Affordable Food" (don't you just love American euphemisms, but I repeat myself) wins the award and they're are every bit as bad as the deniers. They've have been formed to lobby i.e., "bribe" members of Con-gress, to keep GMO poisons unlabeled. They're almost the worst of the worst and they won't be satisfied until we are forced to eat their poisons so you know what I did, huh? Let's not see all the same hands, if you said I wrote them a letter you may stay after class and clean the blackboard erasers, with milk and graham crackers to follow!

Dear Poisoners,

Thanks for listing all the traitors in your group, now we know who to blame and who to sue and bring criminal complaints against for trying to murders us with GMO poisons. You don't have to label your poisons for me as I know what they are and avoid them like the plague that they are. No corn, unless it's organic, or Indian. No Canola oil, no sugar beets etc., nor will I shop anywhere that sells these poisons without labeling them. However, I should thank you for writing next week's editorial for me. And congratulations, Coalition for Safe Affordable Food; you've just won The Vidkun Quisling Award for the week of February 14 - 20! This is our weekly award for the biggest group of traitors in America. I'm sure my many readers will appreciate you trying to buy the Con-gress in order to kill their children!

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues and Alibis Magazine

If you'd like to give them a pice of your mind, you may email them at
and tell'em Uncle Ernie sent ya!

Keepin' On

Got dem old mid-winter blues, how about you? So far for 2014 zero ducats in the bucket. What this is beginning to make me see is that I'm a lousy fundraiser. Try as I might; and I do, we're just getting by, by the skin or our teeth, while I guess I should be happy with that, considering we're some of those professional leftists that Barry hates so much, and perhaps therein lies the problem.

It was no secret when we went after Barry with the same enthusiasm that we went after The Crime Family Bush, we lost most of our support. In my mind, it was the same criminal enterprise for the benefit of the same group of one per-centers that Dubya had worked for. I assumed, I know, my bad, that if it were plain as day to me, it would be plain as day to everyone else; and if it wasn't, I could make the people see the truth; but this wasn't really about the truth. The truth is what most people try to avoid at all costs; they'd much rather have a nice, warm, comfortable, fuzzy, slogan to wrap their minds around. I knew this to begin with; but it took a close-up look to see the folly in my thoughts. As I've said time after time, when people ask me what I do, I tell them my job is to piss people off, by daring to tell them the truth; again, I know, my bad.

So is the solution to our problems simply to stop telling the truth, just publish optimistic slogans about hope and change? I rather think not; and if you do, too, how about stepping up and giving us your support? If you think we're on the right path, and should stay there until the end, then please send us whatever you can, as often as you can; and we'll stay the course and keep fighting to bring you the truth. You can always deal with the truth; but to do so, you must know what the truth is!


04-23-1928 ~ 02-10-2014
Thanks for the film!

09-08-1922 ~ 02-12-2014
Thanks for the laughs!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2014 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 13 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.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in
Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Clapper Reads From the Bush/Cheney/Nixon Playbook To Fear-Monger Over Transparency
By Glenn Greenwald

James Clapper, President Obama's top national security official, is probably best known for having been caught lying outright to Congress about NSA activities, behavior which (as some baseball players found out) happens to be a felony under federal law. But - like torturers and Wall Street tycoons before him - Clapper has been not only shielded from prosecution, and not only allowed to keep his job; he has has now been anointed the arbiter of others' criminality, as he parades around the country calling American journalists "accomplices." Yesterday, as Wired's Dave Kravets reports, the "clearly frustrated" Clapper went before a Senate committee (different than the one he got caught lying to) to announce that the Snowden disclosures are helping the terrorists:

We're beginning to see changes in the communications behavior of adversaries: particularly terrorists. A disturbing trend, which I anticipate will continue . . . Terrorists and other adversaries of this country are going to school on U.S. intelligence sources, methods, and tradecraft. And the insights they're gaining are making our job in the intelligence community much, much harder. And this includes putting the lives of members or assets of the intelligence community at risk, as well as those of our armed forces, diplomats, and our citizens.
As Kravets notes, "Clapper is not the most credible source on Snowden and the NSA leaks." Moreover, it's hardly surprising that Clapper is furious at these disclosures given that "Snowden's very first leak last June" - revelation of the domestic surveillance program - "had the side-effect of revealing that Clapper had misled the public and Congress about NSA spying." And, needless to say, Clapper offered no evidence at all to support his assertions yesterday; he knows that, unlike Kravets, most establishment media outlets will uncritically trumpet his claims without demanding evidence or even noting that he has none.

But in general, it's hardly surprising that national security officials claim that unwanted disclosures help terrorists. Fear-mongering comes naturally to those who wield political power. Particularly in post-9/11 America, shouting "terrorists!" has been the favorite tactic of the leadership of both parties to spread fear and thus induce submission.

In a recent New York Times op-ed detailing how exploitation of terrorism fears is the key to sustaining the modern surveillance state, Northwestern University Philosophy Professor Peter Ludlow wrote that "since 9/11 leaders of both political parties in the United States have sought to consolidate power by leaning ... on the danger of a terrorist attack." He recounted that "Machiavelli notoriously argued that a good leader should induce fear in the populace in order to control the rabble" and that "Hobbes in 'The Leviathan' argued that fear effectively motivates the creation of a social contract in which citizens cede their freedoms to the sovereign." It would be surprising if people like Clapper didn't do this.

But what has struck me is how seriously many media figures take this claim. In the vast majority of interviews I've done about NSA reporting, interviewers adopt a grave tone in their voice and trumpet the claims from U.S. officials that our reporting is helping the terrorists. They treat these claims as though they're the by-product of some sort of careful, deliberative, unique assessment rather than what it is: the evidence-free tactics national security state officials reflexively invoke to discredit all national security journalism they dislike. Let's review a bit of history to see how true that is.

Here, for instance, is Dick Cheney, in a June, 2006 speech, condemning The New York Times for its reporting on the NSA warrantless eavesdropping and SWIFT banking programs, sounding exactly like James Clapper yesterday, along with countless Democratic commentators and blogs over the last year:

Some in the press, in particular The New York Times, have made it harder to defend America against attack by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs.

First they reported the terrorist surveillance program, which monitors international communications when one end is outside the United States and one end is connected with or associated with al Qaeda. Now the Times has disclosed the terrorist financial tracking program.

On both occasions, the Times had been asked not to publish those stories by senior administration officials. They went ahead anyway. The leaks to The New York Times and the publishing of those leaks is very damaging to our national security.

The ability to intercept al Qaeda communications and to track their sources of financing are essential if we're going to successfully prosecute the global war on terror. Our capabilities in these areas help explain why we have been so successful in preventing further attacks like 9/11. And putting this information on the front page makes it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks. Publishing this highly classified information about our sources and methods for collecting intelligence will enable the terrorists to look for ways to defeat our efforts. These kinds of stories also adversely affect our relationships with people who work with us against the terrorists. In the future, they will be less likely to cooperate if they think the United States is incapable of keeping secrets.

Cheney was joined by George Bush, who called the NYT's reporting "disgraceful" and said: "The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror." Bush White House spokesman Tony Snow added: "In choosing to expose this program, despite repeated pleas from high-level officials on both sides of the aisle, including myself, the Times undermined a highly successful counterterrorism program and alerted terrorists to the methods and sources used to track their money trail."

Bush made exactly the same accusations in 2005 as Clapper did yesterday after the NYT back then (finally) revealed the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping program. "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy....It is a shameful act by somebody who has got secrets of the United States government and feels like they need to disclose them publicly." A week later, Bush officials announced a criminal investigation of the leaks and said: "Our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, [and] endangers our country."

Meanwhile, the GOP-led House actually passed a formal resolution condemning the NYT and "call[ing] on news organizations to avoid exposing Americans 'to the threat of further terror attacks' by revealing U.S. government methods of tracking terrorists." Then House Majority Leader John Boehner said: "We've just tipped off all of the terrorists around the world that here is another way that we could have caught you, but now you know about it." Rep. Mike Oxley, the GOP Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, called the paper's reporting "treasonous," saying: "We are at war, ladies and gentlemen. Now some of you folks find that an inconvenient fact." GOP Congressman Peter King called for the prosecution of the Times journalists and editors responsible for the stories - "We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous," he said - just as he's done for journalists involved in the current NSA reporting.

These same platitudes have been hauled out by U.S. officials for decades. When Daniel Ellsberg disclosed the Pentagon Papers, Nixon officials repeatedly smeared him - with no evidence - as likely working in conjunction with Russia (sound familiar?), while he and the NYT were repeatedly accused of damaging national security, putting our men and women in uniform in harm's way, and helping America's enemies.

Political officials hate transparency.They would rather be able to hide what they're doing. They therefore try to demonize those who impose transparency with the most extreme and discrediting accusations they can concoct (you're helping terrorists kill Americans!). The more transparency one imposes on them, the more extreme and desperate this accusatory rhetoric becomes. This is not complicated. It's all very basic.

James Clapper is saying exactly what Dick Cheney and George Bush before him said, and those three said what John Ehrlichman and Henry Kissinger said before them about Ellsberg. It's all spouted with no evidence. It's rote and reflexive. It's designed to smear and fear-monger. As Professor Ludlow notes, "Fear is even used to prevent us from questioning the decisions supposedly being made for our safety."

Maybe it's time for journalists to cease being the leading advocates for state secrecy and instead take seriously their claimed role as watchdogs. At the very least, demand evidence before these sorts of highly predictable, cliched attacks are heralded as something to be taken seriously. As it is, they're just cartoons: ones that are played over and over and over.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Another Pipe Dream
By Uri Avnery

WHAT'S WRONG about the demand that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as the "Nation State of the Jewish People"?

Well, practically everything.

States recognize each other. They don't have to recognize each other's ideological character.

A state is a reality. Ideologies belong to the abstract realm.

When the United States recognized the Soviet Union in 1933, it recognized the state. It did not recognize its communist nature.

When the PLO recognized the State of Israel in the Oslo agreement, and in the exchange of letters preceding it, it was not asked to recognize its Zionist ideology. When Israel in return recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people, it did not recognize any particular Palestinian ideology, secular or religious.

Some Israelis (including myself) would like to change the self-definition of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state", omitting the word "Jewish". Some other Israelis would like to omit or demote the word "democratic". Neither of us believe that we need the confirmation of the Palestinians for this.

It's just none of their business.

I DON'T know what the real intention of Netanyahu is when he presents this demand as an ultimatum.

The most flattering explanation for his ego is that it is just another trick to sabotage the "peace process" before it reaches the demand to evacuate the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. The less flattering explanation is that he really believes in it, that he is driven by some deeply rooted national inferiority complex that needs outside assurance of "legitimacy". Recognizing the "National State of the Jewish People" means accepting the entire Zionist narrative, lock, stock and barrel, starting from the divine promise to Abraham to this very day.

When John Kerry considers whether to include this demand in his Framework Agreement, he should think about this twice.

Where would this leave his special emissary, Martin Indyk?

Mr. Indyk is a Jew, bearing a Yiddish Name (Indyk means turkey). If Israel is the state of the entire Jewish nation and/or people, he is included willy-nilly. The state of Israel represents him, too. So how can he function as an honest broker between the two warring sides?

And where does this leave the millions of American Jews, now that the conflict between the governments of the US and Israel is deepening? On what side are they? Are they all Jonathan Pollards?

THE NEWLY found independent American voice vis-a-vis Israel drives Israeli rightists to devise more and more weird solutions.

The latest example is Binyamin Netanyahu's brilliant idea: why not leave the Israeli settlers where they are as Palestinian citizens?

This looks to many sensible people as eminently fair, in the best Anglo-Saxon tradition.

The state of Israel now has some 1.6 million Arab Palestinian citizens. Why should the State of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, not include some 0.6 million Jewish Israeli citizens?

The Arabs in Israel enjoy, at least in theory, full legal rights. They vote for the Knesset. They are subject to the law. Why should these Israelis not enjoy full legal rights in Palestine, vote for the Majlis and be subject to the law?

People love symmetry. Symmetry makes life easier. It removes complexities.

(When I was a recruit in the army I was taught to mistrust symmetry. Symmetry is rare in nature. When you see evenly spaced trees, I was told, it is not a forest, but camouflaged enemy soldiers.)

THIS SYMMETRY is false, too.

Israel's Arab citizens live on their land. Their forefathers have been living there for at least 1400 years, and perhaps for 5000 years. Sa'eb Erekat exclaimed this week that his family has been living in Jericho for 10,000 years, while his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni, is the daughter of an immigrant.

The settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are mostly new immigrants, too. They do not sit on the land of their forefathers, but on Palestinian land expropriated by force - either "private" land or "government land". This so-called "government land" was the communal land reserves of the villages that in Ottoman times was registered in the name of the Sultan, and later in the name of the British and Jordanian authorities. When Israel conquered the area, it took over these lands as if it owned them.

BUT THE main point is something different. It concerns the character of the settlers themselves.

The core of the settlers, precisely those who live in the "isolated" small settlements in the areas that will in any case become part of the Palestinian state, are religious and nationalist fanatics.

The very purpose of their leaving comfortable homes in Israel and going to the desolate stony hills of "Judea and Samaria" was idealistic. It was to claim this area for Israel, fulfill their interpretation of God's commandment and make a Palestinian state forever impossible.

The idea that these people would become law-abiding citizens of the very same Palestinian state is preposterous. Most of them hate everything Arab, including the workers who work for them without the benefit of minimum wages or social rights, and say so openly at every opportunity. They support the "Price Tag" thugs who terrorize their Arab neighbors, or at least don't speak out against them. They obey their fanatical rabbis, who discuss among themselves whether it is right to kill non-Jewish children, who, when grown up, may kill Jews. They plan the building of the Third Temple, after blowing up the Muslim shrines.

To think about them as Palestinian citizens is ludicrous.

OF COURSE, not all the settlers are like that. Some of them are quite different.

This week, an Israeli TV station aired a series about the economic situation of the settlers. It was an eye-opener.

Those ideological pioneers, living in tents and wooden huts, are long gone. Many settlements now consist of palatial buildings, each with its swimming pool, horses and orchards - something the Israeli 99% cannot even dream of. Since almost all of them came to the "territories" without a shekel in their pocket, it is clear that all these palaces were built with our tax money - the huge sums transferred every year to this enterprise.

The clusters of urban settlements near the Green Line called "settlement blocs" are another matter. They are likely to be joined to Israel in the context of an "exchange of territories". But at least two of them raise severe questions: Ariel, which lies some 25 km inside the putative Palestinian state, and Maaleh Adumim, which practically cuts the West Bank into two.

Incorporating these two large towns with their inhabitants into the sovereign State of Palestine is a pipe-dream

WHEN NETANYAHU promised this week that he will not remove one single settler nor evacuate one single settlement, he may have been thinking of Charles de Gaulle, who also did not remove settlers or uproot settlements. He just fixed the date when the French army would leave Algeria.

That was enough.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Freedom Charter Is Key To New Struggle For South Africa
By Glen Ford

Nelson Mandela's voice filled the hall at New York City's historic Riverside Church, last Saturday. A film showed Mandela's speech of July 26, 1991, in Matanzas, Cuba, the African National Congress deputy president's first trip abroad since his release from imprisonment, the year before. "Our goals remain achievement of the demands of the Freedom Charter, and we will settle for nothing less than that," said Mandela, with Fidel Castro standing nearby.

Mandela thanked the Cuban people for their heroic sacrifices in defeating the armed forces of the apartheid regime, at Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, in 1988. Twice more in the speech, Mandela mentioned the Freedom Charter, the ANC's 1955 promise to the people. He cited the Charter's rejection of "the racist state" that still ruled South Africa, and quoted the document's declaration that "The people shall govern." But the man who would assume the presidency of South Africa four years later made no mention of the Freedom Charter's core economic demands: the redistribution of land and nationalization of the mines, heavy industry and banking - steps the Cubans had taken soon after the triumph of their revolution.

By the time he took the stage at Matanzas, Mandela and his African National Congress colleagues had already discarded the key elements of the Freedom Charter except those that called for a government elected by a common franchise. Ronnie Kasrils, a veteran of the ANC's armed wing who joined the cabinet of the new ANC government in 1994, described "How the ANC's Faustian pact sold out South Africa's poorest" in an article published in The Guardian, in June of 2013. "From 1991 to 1996," Kasrils wrote, "the battle for the ANC's soul got under way, and was eventually lost to corporate power: we were entrapped by the neoliberal economy - or, as some today cry out, we 'sold our people down the river.'"

While he still breathed, Mandela's symbolic aura shielded the ANC from the harsh verdict of history. Then, in 2012, as "Madiba's" health began to fail, police massacred 34 workers demanding higher wages at a platinum mine in Marikana - the worst state violence since the white regime's slaughter of Black demonstrators at Sharpeville, in 1960. The ANC government was no less rabid than its white predecessor in denouncing the dead as the agents of their own destruction, for having broken away from the giant mineworkers union, a cornerstone of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU), which is the third leg of the nation's ruling triumvirate, along with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Today, the once 300,000-strong mineworkers union has lost at least half its membership to more militant rivals. No wonder, since its founding secretary, Cyril Ramaphosa, went on to become a fabulously wealthy ($675 million, according to Forbes) member of the board of directors of the multinational corporation that the Marikana miners were striking against, and a high ranking official in the ruling African National Congress. Emails sent by Ramaphosa during the Marikana crisis indicate he encouraged the government to make an example of the strikers.

The National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), now the biggest trade union, with 380,000 members, has announced it will not support the ANC in coming elections, and urges COSATU to leave the ruling alliance. Instead, NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim calls for formation of a genuine workers party that will fight to fulfill the demands of the Freedom Charter, and for "a new United Front that will coordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities, in a way similar to United Democratic Front of the 1980s" - the period when the ANC was banned and largely in exile.

The metalworkers, backed by eight of COSATU's 19 unions, are demanding a special congress to battle it out with ANC loyalists. NUMSA's Irvin Jim derided ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who pretended to act as a mediator in the COSATU dispute, as a man who "feigns ignorance of neoliberalism" and "talks about cushioning the working class, but he does not even mention what class force is responsible for the suffering of our class. This is because some of [his] colleagues in [the] top six of the ANC are capitalists."

Capitalists like Cyril Ramaphosa, the most prominent beneficiary of BEE, Black Economic Empowerment, the ANC's alternative to the socialist path set forth in the Freedom Charter. Not only did the ANC and the South African Communist Party choose the neoliberal path, in the critical first half of the 90s, they set the stage for creation of a Black capitalist class to be grafted onto existing corporate structures. The economic ruling class was, to a degree, racially integrated, while the ruling party, the ANC, was converted to capitalism. The revolution was defeated - or, rather, never begun - and everybody knew it, but it took Marikana and Mandela's death to bring contradictions to a head.

In addition to the metalworkers, the nine dissident unions, who probably represent a majority of union members in South Africa, are: the Communication Workers' Union, Democratic Nurses Union of South Africa, the Food and Allied Workers' Union, Public and Allied Workers' Union of South Africa, South African Commercial and Catering Workers' Union, South African Football Players' Union, South African Municipal Workers' Union and the South African State and Allied Workers Union.

COSATU's current leadership, which is all but inseparable from the ANC/SACP, refuses to call a special congress - despite the fact that COSATU's constitution requires such a congress if demanded by two-thirds of affiliated unions. Instead, they threaten to suspend the metalworkers, which would almost surely split COSATU right down the middle. ANC leadership has long treated COSATU as a mere appendage to its rule, and would prefer a paralyzed union confederation to a politically independent one.

However, the arrogance of the new Black capitalists may prove their undoing. For many millions of South Africans, the psychologically break with the ANC has already happened. Marikana was the great shock to the national consciousness, and Mandela's death brought a final end to the pretense of social transformation. South Africa sees itself much more clearly: the most unequal country in the world, in which the struggling poor are said to stage more demonstrations than any other nation on earth - out-protesting the Chinese! - confronting a killer police force that was never weaned from its apartheid mission, to suppress the Black lower classes.

It is also the South Africa where the Freedom Charter is a living memory, the socialist document that legitimized the ANC as the post-apartheid ruling party. Mandela was compelled to cite the Freedom Charter in Cuba, even as he and his colleagues were discarding it, at home.

The Freedom Charter is South Africa's unfinished business. The ANC, having repudiated it, in word and deed, must now be forced to run against the Freedom Charter, through the formation of a workers party opposition. We will then likely see a split in the ANC, itself - which is necessary to allow the honest elements within its ranks to escape the institutional grasp of Black capitalists and opportunists.

The Freedom Charter has been dormant for a quarter century, during which time multinational capital has been reinforced by a Black comprador class, headquartered in the African National Congress. It is now impossible to defeat multinational capital's grip on South Africa, without also confronting the party that claims to have "liberated" the country. Fortunately, the process well underway.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

NSA headquarters in Fort MeadeCivil liberties activists hold a rally against surveillance of US citizens in Washington on Jan. 17, 2014.

Resisting The Surveillance State Of Mind
We must not let the NSA's snooping define a new era in which privacy is a relic
By Norman Solomon

Eight months after whistle-blower Edward Snowden set off a huge uproar by shedding light on the National Security Agency's unscrupulous surveillance practices, we are still learning about the vast extent of the snooping. Such revelations are vital to inform the public and enable a democratic process that could hold the government accountable. But they are accompanied by a very real danger: We may come to see privacy as a thing of the past.

The mind-boggling scope of the NSA's surveillance continues to make front-page news as a political story. But its most pernicious effects are social and psychological. We are getting accustomed to Big Brother. Our daily lives are now accessible to prying eyes and ears no farther away than the nearest computer or cellphone. Unless we directly challenge the system of mass surveillance now, the ruling elites may understand our complacency as consent, with results that extend the reach of surveillance and its damaging consequences. Even as it grows more familiar, this bulk collection of data is corroding civil society.

Mass surveillance amounts to a siege that subtly constrains our freedoms and injures social relations. Freewheeling civic engagement is in the line of fire. The surveillance state generates fearful conformity.

To resist the growing possibility of this mind-set, Feb. 11 was designated The Day We Fight Back, with more than 5,300 nonprofit groups and private companies joining forces to demand an end to the numbing tyranny of mass surveillance.

Where does this resolute anger come from? The widespread public discontent seeks to reject the myriad ways the NSA's spying has undermined and continues to undermine our common humanity.

The effects of mendacity

The NSA's partnership with the cutting-edge tech sector has given immense power to the government and gigantic profits to private firms. It is an ongoing collaboration that makes a digital mockery of the Fourth Amendment commitment to "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects."

By closely monitoring those it claims to respect and protect, the U.S. government is doing enormous and cumulative damage. In realms that stretch from public to intimate, people are growing acutely aware that much of what they say and do is becoming officially retrievable -and might be used against them, someday, somehow.

Whether engaged in a phone discussion, email correspondence, online searches, banter at a party or even a quiet conversation at home, people are losing a sense of activity that is truly private. The omniscience wielded by authorities is crowding into the most human of spaces, casting an ominous shadow over free communication and boosting inclinations to self-censor.

The mistrust and cynicism due to regular surveillance only gets worse as top officials resort to mendacity to defend it. "We don't have a domestic spying program," President Barack Obama declared on "The Tonight Show" in early August, two months after the NSA scandal broke. He insisted, "There is no spying on Americans."

This lying became part of a whole dissembling repertoire. Five months later, in his much ballyhooed Jan. 17 speech about the NSA, Obama was still in deception mode, proclaiming, "The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security."

But NSA documents provided by Snowden make clear that the U.S. government is spying on ordinary people every day -on a humongous scale.

There is nothing inherent in technological progress that requires violations of human rights and civil liberties.

Along the way, surveillance has played a key role in the government's moves against whistle-blowers and journalists. In September the Obama administration proudly announced a long prison sentence for a former FBI agent who was tripped up by the Department of Justice's secret seizure of call records for 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters and editors. To all but the most pliant journalists, this trend is ominous and already destructive.

Even the media establishment is sounding the alarm. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a blue-ribbon press-freedom watchdog, issued an extraordinary report on Oct. 10, "The Obama Administration and the Press," warning that in Washington "government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press." Written by a former executive editor of The Washington Post, Leonard Downie Jr., the report is a damning indictment of the U.S. government's clampdown.

Total Information Awareness

But the maneuvers against the press are just a small part of the U.S. snooping program at home and abroad. The NSA -the world's most powerful and farthest-reaching surveillance agency -spies on public and private realms with tremendous capabilities that encourage other countries to follow suit.

"The U.S. government has gone further than any previous government ... in setting up machinery that satisfies certain tendencies that are in the genetic code of totalitarianism," Jonathan Schell wrote last fall in The Nation. "One is the ambition to invade personal privacy without check or possibility of individual protection." That ambition, he noted, "was impossible in the era of mere phone wiretapping, before the recent explosion of electronic communications -before the cellphones that disclose the whereabouts of their owners, the personal computers with their masses of personal data and easily penetrated defenses, the e-mails that flow through readily tapped cables and servers, the biometrics, the street-corner surveillance cameras. But now, to borrow the name of an intelligence program from the (George W.) Bush years, Total Information Awareness is technologically within reach."

Bush set those efforts in motion, and his successor has extended them. No wonder Obama received such a chilly reception when he visited Germany last summer, a few weeks after the first revelations about NSA spying.

In June, Wolfgang Schmidt, once a lieutenant colonel in the former East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, commented on the NSA's domestic surveillance program, making the disbanded Stasi's work during the 1980s seem tiny and crude in comparison. "For us, this would have been a dream come true," Schmidt told a reporter.

Whatever the reach of government surveillance might be, the standard claims of incorruptibility are nonsense. "It is the height of naivete to think that once collected, this information won't be used," said Schmidt. "The only way to protect the people's privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place."

Today a popular myth is that rapid digital advances make more surveillance inevitable. Technology is a convenient scapegoat for escalating invasions of privacy. But there is nothing inherent in technological progress that requires such violations of human rights and civil liberties.

The overarching problems are not technological; they are political -and they have to do with who has power, how they got it and what they are doing with it. Democracy is at stake, and, as the Feb. 11 protests indicate, democracy is the potential solution.
(c) 2014 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."

Rick gives the corpo-rat salute in Davos

Rick Perry Struts His Stuff In Davos

Were you invited to the big doing's in Davos? You know, the annual, powwow of power elites held in that posh resort town in the Swiss Alps. The World Economic Forum, as it's formally called, brings together a bunch of corporate chieftains, the heads of state from various countries, an A-list of entertainment sparklies, and a horde of economists, consultants, and lesser politicos trying to get noticed.

The theme of this year's wine, dine & shine show was: "The Reshaping of the World." How modest is that? But you can't expect modesty from an event that's been dubbed "a velvet rope club for the 1 percent of the 1 percent" - or, as the Mayor of London once put it: "A constellation of egos involved in massive mutual orgies of adulation."

Maybe that's why the big news from Davos this year was not who attended, but the Platinum-Level Biggies who spurned the invite, such as Warren Buffett, along with the head honchos of Apple, Facebook, and Google. It seems that many are put off by the declining level of speakers and panelists.

As if to emphasize that decline, the Forum organizers even brought in Gov. Rick "Oops" Perry of Texas to be on a health care panel. Now that's industrial-strength chutzpah! After 14 years as governor, Perry's state still has a fourth of its people with no health insurance, the ugliest performance of all 50 states. Indeed, if Davos attendees need an example of how a public official who enjoys government-paid health care can so crassly deny any coverage to millions of the less fortunate, Perry's their man.

Adding to the Forum's unintended satire of elites-without-a-clue, a major sub-theme this year was how to address economic inequality. One way would be to invite at least one person who's on the receiving end of inequality - maybe one of Rick Perry's uninsured constituents.
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Do More To Prevent War
By David Swanson

Polls showed a large percentage of us in this country supporting the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and even -- though somewhat reduced -- the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But not long after, and ever since, a majority of us have said those were mistakes.

We've opposed attacking Iran whenever that idea has entered the news. We opposed bombing Libya in 2011 and were ignored, as was Congress. And, by the way, advocates of that happy little war are rather quiet about the chaos it created.

But last September, the word on our televisions was that missiles must be sent to strike Syria. President Barack Obama and the leaders of both big political parties said they favored it. Wall Street believed it would happen, judging by Raytheon's stock. When U.S. intelligence agencies declined to make the president's case, he released a "government" assessment without them.

Remarkably, we didn't accept that choice. A majority of us favored humanitarian aid, but no missiles, and no arming of one side in the war. We had the benefit of many people within the government and the military agreeing with us. And when Congress was pressured to demand approval power, Obama granted it.

It helped more that members of Congress were in their districts with people getting in their faces. It was with Congress indicating its refusal to support a war that Obama and Kerry accepted the pre-existing Russian offer to negotiate. In fact, the day before they made that decision, the State Department had stressed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would never ever give up his chemical weapons, and Kerry's remarks on that solution had been "rhetorical."

The war in Syria goes on. Washington sent guns, but refrained from air strikes. Major humanitarian aid would cost far less than missiles and guns, but hasn't materialized. The children we were supposed to care about enough to bomb their country are still suffering, and most of us still care.

But a U.S. war was prevented.

We're seeing the same thing play out in Washington right now on the question of whether to impose yet more sanctions on Iran, shred a negotiated agreement with Iran, and commit the United States to joining in any war between Israel and Iran.

In January, a bill to do all of that looked likely to pass through the Senate. Public pressure has been one factor in, thus far, slowing it down.

Are we moving away from war?

The ongoing war in Afghanistan, and White House efforts to extend it beyond this year, might suggest otherwise. The military budget that still eats up, across various departments, roughly half of federal discretionary spending, and which is roughly the size of all other countries' military spending combined, might suggest otherwise. The failure to repeal the authorizations for war from 2001 and 2003, and the establishment of permanent practices of surveillance and detention and secrecy justified by a permanent state of war, might suggest otherwise. As might the ongoing missile strikes from drones over a number of nations.

But you'll notice that they don't ask us before launching drone strikes, and that their assurances that no innocent people are harmed have proven highly misleading.

War may be becoming acceptable only as what its advocates have long claimed it was: a last resort. Of course if we can really make that true, we'll never have a war again.

DAVID SWANSON will be speaking at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Some Thoughts About Valentine's Day
By James Donahue

I remember the teachers in the elementary school I attended made a big thing out of Valentine's Day. We were given a list of the names of all of the children in our class and instructed to go home and prepare valentine cards for everyone.

While the teachers meant well, the annual practice of passing valentines to our classmates eventually brought out the cruelty that gangs of children can generate.

When the Valentine's Day card passing worked the way it was intended, every child received an equal volume of love notes from all of the other children.

But as we passed from grade to grade, and the personalities of various students became known, we stopped following the rules. Some children were "accidentally" missed when we wrote out the cards. The less popular students sometimes didn't receive many, if any cards at all. I began to dislike Valentine's Day because it became a time of subtle bullying. It became a reverse form of expressing love for those around us. The students collectively used their refusal to send valentine cards to certain students as a way of letting them know that they were misfits and thus separated from the herd.

I remember a distinct feeling of sadness when I saw what was happening. I found myself sensing the extreme disappointment expressed by the few that received almost no valentines. I began to fear that one year, I would be the subject of this same brutal attack by my classmates. Consequently I stopped enjoying the celebration of Valentine's Day.

That experience may have been the beginning of my lifelong dislike of all card sharing. I determined that even the sending of birthday, Christmas, Easter and even get-well cards was always a poor substitute for expressing sincere well-wishes in person.

The rising cost of buying these cards and the cost of postage has only supported my disdain for card mailings.

After years of being married to the same wonderful woman, and experiencing our love for our children, who are grown and now live in all corners of the United States, the concept of expressing our love for one another as often as possible has become even more important. We still don't buy cards, but we have been known to draw a heart on a piece of plain white paper and scribble messages of love when sending mail. We do it at any time of the year. To heck with waiting for Valentine's Day to roll around.

When we think about it, however, the whole concept of Valentine's Day is a nice one. It never hurts for us to express our love for one another. And valentines are exactly that. They are an expression of love.

But all of the holidays, including Valentine's Day, have become so commercialized that the fun has been stripped. Men now are expected to buy flowers for their wives or girlfriends. We see television advertisements suggesting materialistic gifts like jewelry, perfume, new clothes, or perhaps even a new car might be the correct way of expressing our love.

Some guys get enamored enough to write poems and send them to that special someone. Not all of us are clever enough to write a poem that is worthy of being taken seriously.

Valentine's Day had its origins almost 2,000 years ago, during the time of the Roman Empire. The story was that St. Valentine, a Roman who died because he refused to give up Christianity, left a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend. He signed it "From Your Valentine." He reportedly died on February 14, 269 A.D.

The Roman Catholic Church later declared Valentine the patron saint of lovers.

People in the United States didn't start observing Valentine's Day until sometime in the 1800s. The commercialization of the "holiday" quickly followed, first with the passing of cards, then flowers. It has since become so ridiculous that the sentiment of the expression of our love and admiration for the people in our lives has faded into obscurity. Most of us would prefer to forget the holiday altogether.
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Then-vice presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden smiles after arriving
at the Pepsi Center for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Meet The Happy (Class) Warrior: Joe Biden Tries Out A 2016 Persona
By John Nichols

There are not enough prominent political figures, in either of this country's two major parties, who are willing to call rich guys out.

And there are even fewer who do so with delight.

But Vice President Joe Biden would like Democrats to know that he is up to the task.

Biden earned the predictable headlines last week when he flipped the "on" switch with regard to a possible 2016 presidential run, telling CNN "There's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run."

Never mind the polling that gives former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a sixty-one-point lead in the race among the as-yet-unannounced contenders for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Biden's laying down his marker. That doesn't mean he will run. But Biden has read the polls that show the Democratic base is ready, very ready, for an economic populist appeal.

And he is providing it-with a bow to Pope Francis.

Speaking Wednesday at the United Auto Workers legislative conference in Washington, Biden noted that billionaire Ken Langone has been griping about Pope Francis. Fretting about the general difficulty of getting his fellow billionaires to make charitable donations, the business mogul complains that the pontiff's talk about income inequality is "one more hurdle I hope we don't have to deal with."

"A couple weeks ago Ken Langone, who I don't know, a billionaire founder of Home Depot, predicted that the pope-Pope Francis's critique of income inequity-will be, quote, 'a hurdle' for very wealthy Catholic donors, who seem to think hurt feelings trump the teachings of the Bible," the vice president recalled. "As a practicing Catholic, bless me, Father, for he has sinned."

The UAW members reacted with wild applause.

It wasn't just that Biden's observation was spot on.

It was also that too few politicians-and even fewer prospective 2016 presidential contenders-are so willing as the vice president to "go there." That is, to make an old-fashioned populist appeal that is all but certain to be decried by the right-wing punditocracy as "class warfare."

Biden did not stop with his defense of Pope Francis, who the vice president says "shares a vision that all of us share, to reach out to the poor and the dispossessed."

He absolutely, unapologetically and energetically embraced the trade union movement.

"You guys are the only guys keeping the barbarians at the gates, man," declared Biden.

"The truth of the matter is, you built the middle class. Labor built the middle class," the vice president continued. "You never leave anybody behind-even when it costs you politically and when it doesn't benefit you directly."

Labor's commitment to economic justice, Biden said, explains why corporate-funded conservative groups, and their legislative minions, are attacking collective-bargaining rights. "These guys on the right-they know without you there-they call every shot," he said. For that reason, he said, they have launched "a concerted, full-throated, well-organized, well-financed, well-thought-out effort waging war on labor's house."

The vice president did not deny that the right has had its successes, in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states. That, he said, is why it is necessary to "be vigilant and unrelenting in our fight to protect and expand collective bargaining."

There is no subtlety with Biden.

But there is a subtext.

In a Democratic Party that is sick with compromisers and concessionists, the vice president is savvy enough to present himself as a happy class warrior. That doesn't mean he's better on the issues than Senator Elizabeth Warren or Senator Bernie Sanders or any other "dream" candidate. But if no prominent progressive populist runs, Biden is suggesting that he would be willing, make that delighted, to fill the void.
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

In this photo from Oct. 16, 2006, lawyer Lynne Stewart enters Manhattan federal court for her sentencing.

Legalizing Oppression
By Chris Hedges

The lynching and disbarring of civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, who because she has terminal cancer was recently released from prison after serving four years of a 10-year sentence, is a window into the collapse of the American legal system. Stewart-who has stood up to state power for more than three decades in order to give a voice to those whom authorities seek to crush, who has spent her life defending the poor and the marginalized, who wept in court when one of her clients was barred from presenting a credible defense-is everything a lawyer should be in an open society. But we no longer live in an open society. The persecution of Stewart is the persecution of us all.

Stewart, 74, is living with her husband in her son's house in New York City after being released from a Texas prison a month ago. Because she is disbarred she cannot perform any legal work. "Can't even work in a law office," she said softly last week when I interviewed her at the Brooklyn home. "I miss it so terribly. I liked it. I liked the work."

Her career as one of the country's most renowned civil rights lawyers coincided with the fall of our legal system. She said that when she started practicing law in the 1970s it was a "golden era" in which a series of legal decisions-including rulings affecting police lineups and what information and evidence the government had to turn over to defendants on trial-created a chance for a fair defense. But these legal advances were reversed in a string of court decisions that, especially after 9/11, made the state omnipotent. As citizens were stripped of power, she said, "a death of the spirit of the bar" occurred. Lawyers gave up, she said. They no longer saw defending people accused of crime as "a calling, something that you did because you were answering a higher voice."

"I don't want to make anything a kind of religious thing, it wasn't that, but you know, you defended people because they were up against the mightiest organism in the universe: the government of United States, whether they were state or federal," she said Thursday evening as we sat with her husband, Ralph Poynter, at her son's dining room table.

Stewart, working with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and lawyer Abdeen Jabara in 1995, was the lead trial counsel for Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian Muslim known as "the Blind Sheikh," who was convicted in October of that year for alleged involvement in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He received life in prison plus 65 years, a sentence Stewart called "outlandish." She said Abdel Rahman was put on trial not for any crimes he committed but because the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak, as well as Washington, was frightened of his influence over the Egyptian masses. The United States, along with Egypt, wanted to "take him off the scene" and "get him put away where he would no longer exert the influence he had." The cleric, now 75 and in poor health, is imprisoned in the medical wing of the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

The court, through numerous rulings, refused to let Stewart mount her defense, ensuring that the government prosecutors would not be challenged. The proceedings were a tawdry show trial, a harbinger of the many judicial assaults against Muslims in the United States after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. I was based in Egypt at the time of the trial as the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I remember being stunned at the repeated mendacity of the government prosecutors, who blamed Abdel Rahman for terrorist attacks he had, in fact, publicly denounced. The prosecutors, for example, accused him of orchestrating the killing of 62 people in 1997 in Luxor, Egypt, although the sheikh at the time condemned the attack and had no connection with the Egyptian group that carried out the massacre. When the guilty verdict was read, Stewart burst into tears, "the only time I ever cried in the courtroom."

Stewart continued to visit the sheikh after the sentencing. Three years after the trial the government severely curtailed his ability to communicate with the outside world, even through his lawyers, under special administrative measures known as SAMs.

Abdel Rahman asked Stewart during a prison visit in 2000 to release a statement from him to the press concerning a negotiated cease-fire between the Egyptian government and militants. The Clinton administration did not prosecute Stewart for conveying the press release, although she was admonished and prohibited from seeing her client for several months. The Bush administration, however, in April 2002, with the country baying for blood after the attacks of 9/11, decided to prosecute her for the two-year-old press release. Stewart says she never expected to be charged for releasing the press statement.

Minutes before her arrest on April 9, 2002, her husband, who later would organize the successful fight to win her a compassionate release from prison after she diagnosed with breast cancer, was outside on the stoop of their house, which, she said, "in New York is where you go sit on the steps in the summertime when you can't afford to go to East Hampton." She heard him in a heated conversation.

"I go to the door and I hear him saying 'I don't see any badge, I don't see any warrant, what are you doing here, anyway?'" she said.

Assuming Ralph was being arrested, she told him to take it easy, she would have him home by lunchtime.

"I come around the door and the guy looks and says-and he was clearly a cop, you know, the cheap shoes-and he says, 'We're not here for you. We're here for her,' pointing to me," she said. "I was flabbergasted."

FBI agents took her from her home, and she was released later on a $500,000 bond signed by her three children.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft came to New York in April 2002 to announce that the Justice Department had indicted Stewart, along with a paralegal and an interpreter, on grounds of materially aiding a terrorist organization. Ashcroft that night went on "Late Show With David Letterman" to tell the nation of the indictment as part of the Bush administration's "war on terror."

In Stewart's trial the government again endlessly spewed myths about Islamic terrorism. It demanded a staggering 30-year sentence. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl instructed the jury more than 750 times that the photos of Osama bin Laden and the 2001 World Trade Center attacks shown to the jury by the government on a 10-by-12-foot screen were not relevant to the case. Stewart was sentenced, to most people's astonishment, to 28 months.

After the sentencing, Stewart publicly declared that passing along the information from Abdel Rahman had been "based on my understanding of what the client needed, what a lawyer was expected to do" and "was necessary" and that, in the same circumstances, she would "do it again." Subsequently, a federal appeals court under the Barack Obama administration demanded that the district judge reconsider her sentence. She was handed a new sentence by Koeltl-10 years.

The federal government's orchestration of fear, Stewart said, has made the country increasingly deferential to authority-especially white, male authority. In the Carswell maximum-security prison, the women's facility where she was incarcerated, she heard numerous accounts of gross injustices endured by poor women. She frequently asked some of these women why they had not demanded a trial rather than submit to a plea deal, or why they had not stood up and proclaimed their innocence. The answer, she said, was always the same: "I was afraid. I was afraid."

She blames the wrecking of the legal system, in part, on the skyrocketing costs of law school. Law graduates, she said, have to "mortgage their souls in order to go to law school." When she applied to Rutgers Law School in 1971 the school's commitment to making sure half the class was women allowed her to get a scholarship. The financial aid, along with the low state tuition, made it possible for her to attend.

In later years she operated a law practice in Greenwich Village for poor clients. Her office was above her husband's motorcycle shop on the ground floor. "I could take whatever pay stub I wanted," she said.

The rise of corporate-backed organizations and think tanks designed to veer every public institution away from traditional liberal democratic values has dismantled our civil society, she said. The right-wing Federalist Society, after its founding in 1982, mounted a frontal assault on the legal system. Stewart, after Stanford University asked her to speak there in 2002, arrived on campus to find that the Federalist Society had pressured the university to rescind the invitation. Sympathetic students found her a place to talk, and Federalist Society members peppered her with hostile questions at the event. She was able to knock back their verbal harassment because, she said, she was "a trained trial attorney who had been in the business for almost 30 years" at that time.

The federal government by the 1980s, she said, was "mopping up" the remnants of radical activists, many of whom had been underground for years. She and other civil rights attorneys were able to battle on behalf of these political radicals, but by the end of the 1980s the state had finished its hunts for underground activists. And lawyers, Stewart said, "were no longer part of the game."

Stewart, who spent a decade in the Harlem school system as a librarian before going to law school, said working with those considered by society to be "throwaway kids" meant that she knew the injustices of the system. The system, she said, has "failed them [poor children] from beginning to end." This failure to provide elemental justice, spawned by the so-called war on drugs and massive rates of incarceration, especially for poor people of color, was soon replicated within the courts in the name of the war on terror. And this corrosion has spread. Basic legal protections, stripped first from the poor and then from Muslims, have been stripped from us all.

I asked Stewart if there had been a specific moment when she lost hope in the judicial system.

"I always believed, Chris, that I could do it," she said. "You know, it's like, you're the last man. You're like the kicker [when the opposing team is] running the ball back. You're the only one between the goal post and everything. But I was there. They had to get by me. If they couldn't get by me, then they couldn't win. I have enough ego and belief in myself to say I didn't believe they could do that every time, that I could win, that I could make a difference. I think I did make a difference for a lot of people, even people who got convicted."

The climate in the nation's courtrooms charged irrevocably after 9/11, she said. The occasional victories she and other civil rights lawyers were able to win before then became nearly impossible to replicate.

"The playing field suddenly changed and everything favored the prosecution, certainly in federal cases," she said. "There was no level playing field anymore. It was like if you were the last guy standing and you had to keep them from making the goal you were at the six-inch line trying to do it. It was impossible to stop them. They controlled it. They controlled what the charges were. They controlled whether an adjournment would be given. They determined whether the cooperation is worthy, and everybody must cooperate, and it changed into a very different system, certainly on the federal level."

In her own trial the government presented audio recordings of her meetings with Abdel Rahman in the prison in Rochester, Minn. The taping of her conversations, which before the federal Patriot Act would have violated attorney-client privilege, is now legal.

She said of the 9/11 attacks, "We've never explored why. Why does this happen? Why, what compelled 21 young men to give up their lives to do this thing? No, we've never, we don't want to look at that. We don't want to know why."

"We continue the facade that we are fair," she said, "that we have this Constitution we respect, and we can rely on, and that we can embrace. You can't do that, that's my constitutional rights, etc. When really they're [our constitutional rights] a puff of smoke. They don't really exist."

I asked her what she had learned from being incarcerated.

"I don't think I ever appreciated the unrelenting stress" of being in prison, she said. "That you're always waiting for something to come down. That there's such arbitrary authority. Guard A says, 'Go down those stairs, use the stairs.' Guard B says, 'You can't use the stairs, you're not permitted on the stairs.' And you say, 'But Guard A just said. ...' 'I don't care what he said, this is my rule!' That kind of arbitrary thing, you're always guessing. What does this guy, what does this woman, want me to do? Where am I? Where is this? And that's 24/7."

"You're always on the cusp of doing the wrong thing, or getting in trouble for something," she said. "I wrote a letter for a woman, and in order to make a copy I emailed it to Ralph." She went on: "It was basically asking a judge to stay any decision because they were going to take all of her pension as payment for what she had done. And she wanted to get this letter in right away. So I emailed it to [Ralph] and for that I lost, I think, about three months of commissary, and email."

She said, "It's almost impossible to organize prisoners in this day and age to stand up, to become a unit, to say no to certain things."

"I found it virtually impossible to convince the women at Carswell that they should not be always thinking that what happened to them was personal," she said. "They should be looking at political answers, that where they ended up was not because of some personal lack or weakness but because the political system has designated them to be there as one of the kick-arounds, as one of the not-for-consumption."

"Why do you think that is?" I asked.

"I think ... television has a lot to do with it," she said. "There's a certain idealized life. People that are in trouble get there because they have done it to themselves." She said that many of the women incarcerated with her lacked self-esteem.

"The women I've left behind" are "the one real shadow on my tremendous joy at being home," she said. "I can no longer even communicate with [them] because the conditions of my probation are that I may not associate with any felons. So I can't even write to dear Mara, what happened with your case? Someone who got 20 years because she sold some heroin and then a guy died a week later, and they used that murder to enhance her sentence, completely contrary to everything we ever learned."

One of the saddest moments in prison, she said, was mail call. The names of those who had letters would be read. Some women "waited for their name to be called and it never happened." Those who did not get mail or visits, she said, "become more and more institutionalized."

"The world of the prison is the only world; the outside world does not exist for them anymore," she said.

"I'm not waiting for the working class to make the revolution," she said. "I think that's a day long gone by. That might have happened in the '30s. It didn't. We have to look at a new way, some new force."

She said that although she is disbarred she will continue to be a catalyst for change. She quoted Rosa Luxemburg, who said that radicals should at once alleviate human misery and do political work. Stewart said she will continue to fight for the some 150 political prisoners, mostly African-Americans, who have been in prison for decades because they belonged to radical groups such as the Black Panthers or the Black Liberation Army.

"My other goal is not to turn my back on the women in prison," she said.

She stressed the importance of community.

"The most important thing is don't let yourself get isolated," she said. "Don't feel that you're the only one in the room that thinks this way and you must be crazy or something, and they're going to get you because you're the only one. Find the other people who think like you. They're out there. There are people out there. There are groups. There's everyone from the raging grannies right up to the very serious lefties, but there's somebody out there, make sure you're not all alone. That's the worst part of what we face these days. As long as you're with other people you have a fighting chance, and you can organize more people."
"This is a pretty loveless world we live in," she concluded. "We have lots of romantic love. We have lots of 'Sex and the City.' But real love, love that is the kind that saves people, and makes the world better, and makes you go to bed with a smile on your face, that love is lacking greatly. You have to search for that."
(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."


Grotesque NFL Reaction To An Openly Gay Player Proves Why Congress Must Pass Non-Discrimination Law
By David Sirota

If ever there was a perfect example of how discrimination against gay people operates in the 21st century American economy, and why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is so necessary, the National Football League just provided it.

In a Sports Illustrated story about SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam's decision to publicly say he is gay, NFL officials declared that Sam will now face retribution from employers (read: teams) in the professional football industry:

"I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," said an NFL player personnel assistant. "In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."...

"I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down," said a veteran NFL scout. "There's no question about it. It's human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote 'break that barrier?'"...

An NFL assistant coach called Sam's decision "not a smart move," as he said it "legitimately affects [his] potential earnings."...

"There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that," the assistant coach said. "There's nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It's going to be a big distraction. That's the reality. It shouldn't be, but it will be."

Whether or not Sam was ultimately going to end up a top draft pick based purely on his skill is not the point. What's important here is that NFL executives are openly admitting that regardless of his skill, Sam will suffer consequences specifically because he's gay and because he publicly says he is gay (for context, it is important to note that NFL's comments to this effect follow earlier accusations by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe that he was fired for supporting marriage equality).

At a moral level, it is obviously sad to see NFL officials so openly rationalizing, justifying or otherwise tacitly condoning discrimination against someone on the basis of his sexual orientation.

At a legal level, it is downright infuriating because if the quality cited as reason to discriminate was something else - say, race - such comments would likely open the NFL up to a serious lawsuit. After all, current civil rights law (thankfully!) bars employment discrimination on the basis of race. However, until Congress finally passes ENDA, federal law doesn't explicitly bar such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

But wait, you're saying. How do these quotes in the Sports Illustrated piece represent not just ugly homophobia, but also employment discrimination?

Go back and re-read the NFL's comments, but remove all the stuff about football and simply remember that the NFL is an employer, meaning that these quotes are potential employers talking about a potential employee.

Now ask yourself: should it be OK for an official at a $9-billion-a-year company to say that a potential future employee will be paid less (it "legitimately affects [his] potential earnings") because he is gay? Should it be OK for an official at that company to say the future employee will not get a particular position within the company ("it's going to drop him down") because he is gay?

If your answer is "no," then you should probably call your congressperson and ask them to support ENDA.
(c) 2014 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

Writing Off The Unemployed
By Paul Krugman

Back in 1987 my Princeton colleague Alan Blinder published a very good book titled "Hard Heads, Soft Hearts." It was, as you might guess, a call for tough-minded but compassionate economic policy. Unfortunately, what we actually got - especially, although not only, from Republicans - was the opposite. And it's difficult to find a better example of the hardhearted, softheaded nature of today's G.O.P. than what happened last week, as Senate Republicans once again used the filibuster to block aid to the long-term unemployed.

What do we know about long-term unemployment in America?

First, it's still at near-record levels. Historically, the long-term unemployed - those out of work for 27 weeks or more - have usually been between 10 and 20 percent of total unemployment. Today the number is 35.8 percent. Yet extended unemployment benefits, which went into effect in 2008, have now been allowed to lapse. As a result, few of the long-term unemployed are receiving any kind of support.

Second, if you think the typical long-term unemployed American is one of Those People - nonwhite, poorly educated, etc. - you're wrong, according to research by the Urban Institute's Josh Mitchell. Half of the long-term unemployed are non-Hispanic whites. College graduates are less likely to lose their jobs than workers with less education, but once they do they are actually a bit more likely than others to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed. And workers over 45 are especially likely to spend a long time unemployed.

Third, in a weak job market long-term unemployment tends to be self-perpetuating, because employers in effect discriminate against the jobless. Many people have suspected that this was the case, and last year Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University provided a dramatic confirmation. He sent out thousands of fictitious resumes in response to job ads, and found that potential employers were drastically less likely to respond if the fictitious applicant had been out of work more than six months, even if he or she was better qualified than other applicants.

What all of this suggests is that the long-term unemployed are mainly victims of circumstances - ordinary American workers who had the bad luck to lose their jobs (which can happen to anyone) at a time of extraordinary labor market weakness, with three times as many people seeking jobs as there are job openings. Once that happened, the very fact of their unemployment made it very hard to find a new job.

So how can politicians justify cutting off modest financial aid to their unlucky fellow citizens?

Some Republicans justified last week's filibuster with the tired old argument that we can't afford to increase the deficit. Actually, Democrats paired the benefits extension with measures to increase tax receipts. But in any case this is a bizarre objection at a time when federal deficits are not just falling, but clearly falling too fast, holding back economic recovery.

For the most part, however, Republicans justify refusal to help the unemployed by asserting that we have so much long-term unemployment because people aren't trying hard enough to find jobs, and that extended benefits are part of the reason for that lack of effort.

People who say things like this - people like, for example, Senator Rand Paul - probably imagine that they're being tough-minded and realistic. In fact, however, they're peddling a fantasy at odds with all the evidence. For example: if unemployment is high because people are unwilling to work, reducing the supply of labor, why aren't wages going up?

But evidence has a well-known liberal bias. The more their economic doctrine fails - remember how the Fed's actions were supposed to produce runaway inflation? - the more fiercely conservatives cling to that doctrine. More than five years after a financial crisis plunged the Western world into what looks increasingly like a quasi-permanent slump, making nonsense of free-market orthodoxy, it's hard to find a leading Republican who has changed his or her mind on, well, anything.

And this imperviousness to evidence goes along with a stunning lack of compassion.

If you follow debates over unemployment, it's striking how hard it is to find anyone on the Republican side even hinting at sympathy for the long-term jobless. Being unemployed is always presented as a choice, as something that only happens to losers who don't really want to work. Indeed, one often gets the sense that contempt for the unemployed comes first, that the supposed justifications for tough policies are after-the-fact rationalizations.

The result is that millions of Americans have in effect been written off - rejected by potential employers, abandoned by politicians whose fuzzy-mindedness is matched only by the hardness of their hearts.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
~~~ Patrick Henry

The Dan River

The Poisoner's Reckoning
By William Rivers Pitt

"Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked." ~~~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

What you may already know: Freedom Industries, a coal-industry surrogate in West Virginia, dumped poison into the water supply known as the Elk River, waited 24 hours to tell anyone about it, waited even longer to mention that they had also dumped a second poison into the water supply, and then declared bankruptcy so as to make themselves judgment-proof in civil court against the hundreds of thousands of people who couldn't eat or work or bathe or cook for weeks...and this was all before the stuff they dumped into the river evaporated into formaldehyde, which it does, so everyone who couldn't eat or bathe or cook for weeks was suddenly eating and cooking and bathing in a whole different poison, this one being a known carcinogen...but they're bankrupt now, so screw you and your tumors.

What you may not yet know, but need to: Gary Southern, President of Freedom Industries, gave a press conference the day after the spill was announced, and did yeoman's work to ensure himself a first-ballot nomination into the Bastard's Hall Of Fame. Described afterward in various publications as "rude," "arrogant" and "dismissive," Southern tried several times to call the whole thing off - at one point complaining that he'd "had a long day" - before capping off his performance by taking a deep swig of bottled water right on camera, the very thing residents of the community were desperate for at that moment. Call it the 21st century version of "Let them eat cake."

That was the last we saw of Mr. Southern and his refreshingly unpolluted beverage. When members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee traveled to West Virginia on Monday to try and ascertain just what the hell is going on down there, Gary Southern and Freedom Industries blew them off completely. Representatives from the US Chemical Safety Board went to the meeting, as did members of the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Even people from West Virginia American Water, the organization highly criticized for its handling of the situation, showed up.

The actual people who actually put poison into the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people?


A month after the spill, tests revealed the chemical was still showing up in 40% of homes in the affected region.

Last week, Duke Energy in North Carolina dumped tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River, turning it slate grey. According to Truthout's Mike Ludwig, "Coal ash can contain mercury, selenium, arsenic, chromium and other toxic and heavy metals, and at least 207 spills and contamination events have occurred in 37 states, according to data compiled by environmental groups."

On Tuesday, Patriot Coal dumped 100,000 gallons of coal slurry into yet another West Virginia waterway. The water turned black. According to Think Progress, "Coal slurry contains a range of toxic substances, including chemicals used to wash the coal and heavy metals, like iron, manganese, aluminum and selenium."

Also on Tuesday, some 2,000 gallons of oil-suffused bilge water was dumped into Puget Sound in Washington State at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base. It spread all the way to Hood Canal ten miles to the north. The Department of Health issued an advisory against eating shellfish from the affected area.

Patriot Coal...Freedom Industries...I am sensing a pattern here.

Are you?

A generation of industry deregulation, of government-is-the-problem, and of industries that quite simply and completely don't give a damn, have delivered us here. Of late, reports of poisons massively entering our water supply have been occurring with the same dreary regularity as reports of shootings at schools. It was happening before, but now it is happening all the time. It is entirely unsustainable, and must be stopped.

Ours are not the only communities being poisoned by runaway industry unfettered by even the most meager regulations. The village of Baha, in the Yunnan province of southwest China, was choking on factory smokestack filth and drinking factory polluted water for fourteen years, until they finally had enough. They called a meeting with the factory boss, but the boss blew them off. The residents of Baha responded by destroying the factory's offices, cars and dormitories, and wrecked the factory's equipment.

A meeting was called, the poisoners did not deign to show up, and all hell broke loose. Sounds a lot like Freedom Industries' absence on Monday, except, of course, for the hell breaking loose.

"We have been living with the factory for 14 years," said resident Huang Liangzheng in a UK Guardian report on the incident, "and we live in dust almost every day and can't sell our rice and other farm products. We need to live."

We need to live.

Think about that, you captains of industry.

Kick a dog enough times, and he will turn on you, tear out the seat of your pants, and come growling for more. "Enlightened self-interest" are your watchwords for this brave new century.

Quickly, now. Before it's too late.

For you.
(c) 2014 William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence." His newest book, "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.

People Of Color Are Losing Their Right To Vote
By Amy Goodman

"I found myself standing in front of railroad tracks in South Florida. I was waiting on the train to come so I could jump in front of it and end my life." So recounted Desmond Meade, describing his life nine years ago. He was homeless, unemployed, recently released from prison and addicted to drugs and alcohol. The train never came. He crossed the tracks and checked himself into a substance-abuse program. He went on to college, and now is just months away from receiving his law degree.

Meade, however, will not be able to practice law in Florida. As a former felon, he cannot join the bar. That is one of his rights that has been stripped, permanently, by Florida's draconian laws. In a democracy, if one wants to change a law, you vote for lawmakers who will represent your views. Yet, as an ex-felon in Florida, Meade also has lost the right to vote for the rest of his life.

It's called "felony disenfranchisement," and is permanent in 11 states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming. It's enforced in differing degrees, like a patchwork, across the U.S. In 13 states and the District of Columbia, you get your rights back upon release from prison. In others, you have to get through your probation or parole. In Maine and Vermont, prisoners retain the right to vote, even while incarcerated.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the issue this week at a legal symposium at Georgetown University:

"Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans-5.8 million of our fellow citizens-are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions. That's more than the individual populations of 31 U.S. states." Close to 6 million Americans, denied the basic right to vote. Because of the racial disparities in our penal system, African-American and Latino men are vastly disproportionately denied the right to vote. Holder continued, "The current scope of these policies is not only too significant to ignore-it is also too unjust to tolerate."

The Georgetown event was co-sponsored by The Leadership Conference, a coalition of civil-rights, legal and human-rights groups. Last September, the group released a report titled "Democracy Imprisoned." In it, the group writes, "Florida's disenfranchisement rate remains the highest and most racially disparate in the United States." It is no coincidence that this key swing state is home to more than 1 million of the nation's nearly 6 million disenfranchised.

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist eased the laws, making the application for the reinstatement of rights automatic. But in 2011, his successor, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, imposed a waiting period of at least five years for anyone to apply to the clemency board. Meade told us on the "Democracy Now!" news hour: "Even after applying, the processing time for the application takes upwards of six years. So, in reality, an individual will have to wait anywhere between 11 to 13 years just to see if they have a chance, a shot, at getting their rights restored." Crist has switched parties to run for governor as a Democrat against Scott.

Law professor Michelle Alexander opens her groundbreaking book, "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," with the story of Jarvious Cotton: "Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. ... His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."

At a national level, bills are being proposed that would guarantee voting rights for ex-felons, with both Democrat and Republican support. After Holder, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky spoke at Georgetown, advocating for full voting rights. But it is still an issue over which states exert enormous control.

Desmond Meade is not sitting around waiting for his rights to be handed back to him. He is organizing. He currently serves as the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, with close to 70 groups pushing for reforms of the state's disenfranchisement laws:

"It's about humanity. It's an all-American issue. It's not about Democrat or Republican. It's about the common decency of letting an individual or helping an individual to reintegrate back into their community so they can become productive citizens and enjoy life."
We can all be thankful that the train he was waiting for that fateful day never came.
(c) 2014 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Coalition for Safe Affordable Food,

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 attempts to make the Con-gress allow you to poison us by keeping the GMOs in food a secret, 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 "Agra 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 03-15-2014. We salute you Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Why The Lousy Jobs Report Boosted Wall Street
By Robert Reich

The stock market surged yesterday after the lousy jobs report. The Dow soared 160 points Friday, while the S&P 500, and Nasdaq also rose.

How can bad news on Main Street (only 113,000 jobs were created in January, on top of a meager 74,000 in December) cause good news on Wall Street?

Because investors assume:

(1) The Fed will now continue to keep interest rates low. Yes, it has announced its intention of tapering off its so-called "quantitative easing" by buying fewer long-term bonds in the months ahead. But it will likely slow down the tapering. Instead of going down to $55 billion a month of bond-buying by April, it will stay at around $60 billion to $70 billion.

(2) The slowdown in the Fed's tapering will continue to make buying shares of stock a better deal than buying bonds - thereby pushing investors toward the stock market.

(3) Continued low interest rates will also continue to make it profitable for big investors (including corporations) to borrow money to buy back their own shares of stock, thereby pushing up their values. Apple and other companies that used to spend their spare cash and whatever they could borrow on new inventions are now focusing on short-term stock performance.

(4) With the job situation so poor, most workers will be so desperate to keep their jobs, or land one, that they will work for even less. This will keep profits high, make balance sheets look good, fuel higher stock prices.

But what's bad for Main Street and good for Wall Street in the short term is bad for both in the long term. The American economy is at a crawl. Median household incomes are dropping. The American middle class doesn't have the purchasing power to keep the economy going. And as companies focus ever more on short-term share prices at the expense of long-term growth, we're in for years of sluggish performance.

When, if ever, will Wall Street learn?
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

BBC London News studio, New Broadcasting House.

The Accessories To War Crimes Are Those Paid To Keep The Record Straight
By John Pilger

The BBC's "Today" program is enjoying high ratings, and the Mail and Telegraph are, as usual, attacking the corporation as left-wing. Last month, a single edition of "Today" was edited by the artist and musician P.J. Harvey. What happened was illuminating.

Polly Harvey's guests caused panic from the moment she proposed the likes of Mark Curtis, an historian rarely heard on the BBC, who chronicles the crimes of the British state; and the lawyer Phil Shiner and journalist Ian Cobain, who reveal how the British kidnap and torture; and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and myself.

There were weeks of absurd negotiation at Broadcasting House about ways of "countering" us and whether or not we could be allowed to speak without interruption from "Today's" establishment choristers. What this brief insurrection demonstrated was the fear of a reckoning. The crimes of Western states like Britain have made accessories of those in the media who suppress or minimize the carnage.

The Faustian pacts that contrived a world war a century ago resonate today across the Middle East and Asia: from Syria to Japan. Then, as now, cover-up was the principal weapon. In 1917, Prime Minister David Lloyd George declared: "If people knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know and can't know."

On Polly Harvey's "Today" program I referred to a poll conducted by Comres last year that asked people in Britain how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the 2003 invasion. A majority said that fewer than 10,000 had been killed: a figure so shockingly low it was a profanity.

I compared this with scientific estimates of "up to a million men, women and children (who) had died in the inferno lit by Britain and the US." In fact, the range is from less than half a million to over a million. John Tirman, principal research scientist at the MIT Centre for International Studies, who has examined all the credible estimates, told me that an average figure "suggests roughly 700,000." He pointed out that this excluded deaths among the millions of displaced Iraqis, up to 20 percent of the population.

The day after the Harvey program, "Today" "countered" with Toby Dodge from the LSE, a former adviser to General David Petraeus, one of the architects of the disasters in both Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a former Iraqi "national security adviser" in the occupation regime, the man who led Saddam Hussein to his lynching.

These BBC-accredited "experts" rubbished, without evidence, the studies and reduced the number of dead by hundreds of thousands. The interviewer, Mishal Husain, offered no challenge to their propaganda. They then "debated" who was responsible. Lloyd George's dictim held; culpability was diverted.

But for how long? There is no question that the epic crime committed in Iraq has burrowed into public consciousness. Many recall that Shock and Awe was the extension of a murderous blockade imposed for 12 years by Britain and the US and suppressed by much of the "mainstream" media, including the BBC. Half a million Iraqi infants died as a result, according to Unicef. I watched children dying in hospitals denied basic pain-killers.

Ten years later, in New York, I met the senior British official responsible for these "sanctions." He is Carne Ross, once known in the UN as "Mr. Iraq." He is now a truth-teller. I read to him a statement he had made to a parliamentary selection committee in 2007: "The weight of evidence clearly indicates that sanctions caused massive human suffering among ordinary Iraqis, particularly children. We, the US and UK governments, were the primary engineers and offenders of sanctions and were well aware of the evidence at the time, but we largely ignore it and blamed it on the Saddam government. [We] effectively denied the entire population a means to live."

I said to him: "That's a shocking admission."

"Yes, I agree," he replied. "I feel ashamed about it ..." He described how the Foreign Office manipulated a willing media. "We would control access to the foreign secretary as a form of reward to journalists. If they were critical, we would not give them the goodies of trips around the world. We would feed them factoids of sanitized intelligence, or we'd freeze them out."

In the buildup to the 2003 invasion, according to studies by Cardiff University and Media Tenor, the BBC followed the Blair government's line and lies and restricted airtime to those opposing the invasion. When Andrew Gilligan famously presented a dissenting report on "Today," he and a director-general were crushed.

The truth about the criminal bloodbath in Iraq cannot be "countered" indefinitely. Neither can "our" support for the medievalists in Saudi Arabia, the nuclear-armed predators in Israel, the new military fascists in Egypt and the jihadist "liberators" of Syria, whose propaganda is now BBC news. There will be a reckoning - not just for the Blairs, Straws and Campbells, but for those paid to keep the record straight.
(c) 2014 John Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been a war correspondent, film- maker and playwright. Based in London, he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism's highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his work in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Nate Beeler ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Putin still refuses to come out of the closet

Sochi Hotel Guests Complain About Topless Portraits Of Putin In Rooms
By Andy Borowitz

SOCHI (The Borowitz Report)-With the Olympics underway, hundreds of visitors to Sochi are complaining that they checked into expensive hotel rooms only to find them decorated with seminude portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The portraits, showing Mr. Putin shirtless and riding a variety of mammals, adorn the walls of virtually every hotel room constructed especially for the Olympics and were created at a cost of over two million dollars, Olympic officials said.

Tracy Klugian, who travelled from Ohio with his wife to attend the Sochi Games, said that he was appalled to find his hotel room dominated by a gigantic portrait of a shirtless Putin riding what appears to be a bear.

Said Mr. Klugian, "I did not travel thousands of miles just to be grossed out."

For his part, President Putin has been dismissive of the complaints, today calling the hotel guests "babies who cry."

"These people who are complaining about what is on their walls should be grateful," he said. "At least they got one of the hotel rooms with walls."
(c) 2014 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 06 (c) 02/14/2014

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