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In This Edition

Phil Rockstroh oversees, "Empire Of Panic And Ephemera."

Uri Avnery hopefully wonders, "Can Two Walk Together?"

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship consider, "The Hubris Of The Drones."

Bernie Sanders offers, "A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands."

Jim Hightower discovers the GOP, "Rigging Elections To Steal The White House."

Glen Ford listens to, "Obama's State Of The Corporate Union."

James Donahue reveals, "The Dark History Of Valentine's Day."

John Nichols says, "Democrats Have A Unique Constitutional Duty To Check, Balance The President."

Frank Scott warns of, "Humanity's Economic Disease: Capitalism."

Robert Reich tells, "Why We Need An Investment Budget."

Paul Krugman explores, "The Ignorance Caucus."

Glenn Greenwald finds, "DOJ Kill List Memo Forces Many Dems Out Of The Closet As Overtly Unprincipled Hacks."

David Swanson explains, "Drones And Our National Religion."

Karl P. Koenigs wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges reviews, "The NDAA And The Death Of The Democratic State."

Adam Keller with a dose of reality, "Night life In The Only Democracy In The Middle East."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reads, "A Letter from Kim Jong-un" but first Uncle Ernie examines, "The Real State, Of The State, Of The Union."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Steve Greenberg, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Brian McFadden, Mr. Fish, B Dog 23, Andy Singer, Tiger Beat, Mohammad Sajjad, Ariel Schalit, Ammar Awad, Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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The Real State, Of The State, Of The Union
By Ernest Stewart

"But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs -- but too many people still can't find full-time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs -- but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged." ~~~ President Barack Obama

"To be made a saint in-a the catholic church, you have to have-a four miracles. That's-a the rules, you know. It's-a always been that-a. Four miracles, and-a to prove it. Well, this-a Mother Seton-now they could only prove-a three miracles. But the Pope-he just waved the fourth one. He just waved it! And do you know why? It's-a because she was American. It's all-a politics. We got-a some Italian-a people, they got-a forty, fifty, sixty miracles to their name. They can't-a get in just cause they say there's already too many Italian saints, and this woman comes along with-a three lousy miracles. I understand that-a two of them was-a card tricks." ~~~ Father Guido Sarducci

"If you understand the Constitution, you throw-up every single time you turn on the TV and hear about another thing or program the U.S. Government is 'going to do for (TO) the American People.' This is a most heinous disease that can only be cured by the constitutional De-Centralized power of our home country of Wisconsin restoring our "supreme Laws" on our Federal public servants within our borders; OR otherwise by a combo Civil/Re-Revolutionary War with the very same goal to restore the Rule of OUR Laws on our elected, non-elected and wannabe elected Republican and Democrat Federal servants through the refreshment of the Tree of Liberty by its natural manure." ~~~ Karl P. Koenigs

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the Cupboard
To give the poor Dog a bone
When she came there
The Cupboard was bare
And so the poor Dog had none.
Mother Hubbard ~~~ Sarah Catharine Martin

As usual, I didn't watch the State of the Union speech; I never do, lest I heave a brick through the screen when the lies and bullshit become to much to take; and after reading the speech on the WhiteWhite House site as I always do, I'm glad I didn't watch as it was only typical of the song and dance we're used to from the our glorious fuhrer, no matter who he is or which side of "the party" he is from. After listening to Barry's speech I wonder why MacBeth's words ring loud and clear? "...a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

In that respect, Barry didn't disappoint! You may remember that we are just a couple of weeks away from the "sequester." You'll also recall that the sequester was Barry's bright idea to begin with. He came up with this bright idea; he hand-picked a bunch of fascist blowhards to draw up the plans for his bright idea. When they did, he liked the plans for his bright idea, and then he signed that same bright idea into law. With two weeks from the financial disaster that this bright idea is sure to bring, he had this to say:

"In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn't agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars' worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness. They'd devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That's why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea."

Yeah, no sh*t; they're a very bad idea! Oh, and did I mention (I know I did at the time), when he signed the temporary bill that kept this from happening on January 1st, he also signed off on giving $12 billion dollars to help companies keep sending jobs overseas!

Which brings us to his song and dance about creating more jobs -- something that was obviously needed from day one, and something he only paid lip service to ever since. Barry said:

"A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again."

Again, job creation hasn't been priority #1. Yippie, half a million new jobs in three years; the trouble with that is we need to create around 262,000 jobs a month, just to break even, just to get back to somewhat full employment and every month you don't create 262,000 new jobs, we lose. The middle class continues to shrink, and when it's gone, all we'll have left are the corpo-rat kings -- with you and I as their serfs!

Then there was his thoughts on climate change. He certainly sounds like he knows the score; but with all things Obama, one need merely look at what he's actually done about it since taking office; and it's there in black and white for all to see. Not only was he not about to sign any worldwide treaty to try and get things under control (even though he's had several occasions to do so), but instead has done everything in his power to see that nothing is or will be done to stop it; and yet, he said on the climate:

"But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. (Applause.) Now, it's true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods -- all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it's too late."

Don't know how to tell you this, Barry, but it's already to late to stop it. If we put all of our resources, as well as the resources of every other country on Earth into fighting global warming, we might slightly affect it and bring it under control in another century or two; but we all know that's not going to happen; don't we?

On gun control, what gun control? As Barry said:

"Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I've outlined tonight."

And it went on and on and on like that throughout his entire speech. I must admit he gives a great speech; but as I'm sure your know, talk is cheap; or, as Jim Steinman wrote, "or just a little cheaper than spit." So what is the state, of the state, of the union? It's that we are sooooo screwed, America!

In Other News

When I heard the news that Joey Ratz was stepping down, I immediately thought of a replacement for der Panzer Pope -- who better than Father Guido Sarducci from those old Saturday Night skits with comedian Don Novello playing the very hip (for a priest) chain-smoking, wearing tinted-eye-glasses, dressed in an Armani suit and cape. So, of course, I immediately made a photo-toon of "Sarducci For Pope 2013!" If for no other reason, it's bound to piss off good Catholic boys like Rick Santorum, John Boehner, and Antonin "Tony Light-Fingers" Scalia!

So der Panzer Pope is stepping down; some say because he wants to go to a quiet, far off, secluded spot, to be with the little children! You know, "...suffer the little children to come unto me!" Joey has a lot of experience, as you may recall, moving men around from one group of little children, to the next group of little children, to the next, and the next and the next, as George Ringos' right-hand hit man and travel guide to the perverted in his role as the "Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Joey is the first to give up the "power and the glory" since Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415, after the two other Popes (there were three Popes at the time, Pope Benedict XIII of Avignon and Pope John XXIII of Pisa) made fun of the way he looked in a dress, which makes Joey the 4th Pope to quit -- if you don't count Benny the 12th and Johnny the 13th as the church no longer does.

The other two Popes who quit were Benedict IX, who sold the papacy to his godfather in 1045 (you see it's an old Catholic tradition, ask George/Ringo I how that worked out for him) and Celestine V, who quit after just five months in 1294 when he found out he'd have to leave his eleven wives back home in Constantinople and would have to make-do with the College of Cardinals!

So join with me and demand that the same College of Cardinals elect Father Guido Sarducci as the next Pope. He may not be a priest; but that might would work to his advantage -- no skeletons in the closet and he's always good for a laugh. When was the last time der Panzer Pope made you giggle, huh? Deep down in your heart, you know, he'd be a better choice than who they'll put in there!

And Finally

I see where the NRA, America's favorite group of looney toon traitors, are backing Karl P. Koenigs' call for revolution, for Wisconsin succeeding from the Union and for new civil and revolutionary wars to be fought. In other words, Karl and the NRA, by backing Karl, are a group of seditious, traitors -- pure and simple! In law, they are guilty by association, and guilty they are; it's not like if your neighbor asks you to give him a ride to the bank and while there he robs the bank and kills the teller, making you as guilty as he is, even though you had no knowledge of what we was about to do; unless you can prove you're innocent, you're guilty. The NRA can not plead to that as they fully knew what they were distributing at one of their "Bund Rallys!"

Of course, since they're both a group of fascists, the FBI is totally ignoring their crimes in order to bring the real criminals to justice -- those 60 million American pot smokers. Nope, until they move, which they won't, as they're all a bunch of cowards, the Feds won't do a thing, no matter how many Rethuglican brain-deads jump on the revolution bandwagon. Karl is calling for liberating "our home country of Wisconsin." If that doesn't work, Koenig advocates "a combo Civil/Re-Revolutionary War to restore the Rule of OUR Laws on our elected, non-elected and wannabe-elected Republican and Democrat Federal servants through the refreshment of the Tree of Liberty by its natural manure."

Karl means refreshed with yours, not his, blood!

When they inspire others to violence, which is exactly where this is headed, they will, of course, start hemming and hawing their way out of it, as they've bought and paid for enough members of Con-gress to get away with it. But Karl hasn't gotten away with it; he's just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! Congratulations, Karl; you deserve it!

You might also want to leave Karl a message on his Facebook page to let him know your feelings about his insurrection! Go to and tell him Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

I think I know how Old Mother Hubbard's dog must've felt when she came back from the cupboard bare-handed. I was hoping to find a bone in the p.o. box; but like Ma Hubbard, I found none! We did have a surprising flourish of support at year's end and then a nice start for the new year; but since then nada!

It's not for myself, you understand; it's for you and yours that we exist. No one, especially yours truly, makes a dime at this; we're all volunteers here, every dime raised goes to paying up our bills so that we may keep on keeping on for you.

If you'd like to help us in our cause, please send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keep up the good fight, until we the people win, or we're whisked off to a Happy Camp. Without your support, we'll end up like old Mother Hubbard's dog in the second verse of the poem, i.e.:

She went to the Baker's
To buy him some bread
But when she came back
The poor Dog was dead!


11-21-1936 ~ 02-08-2013
Thanks for the jams!

08-05-1940 ~ 02-11-2013
Thanks for the jams!


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


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

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

Empire Of Panic And Ephemera
Applying rigorous imagination to America's paranoid style
By Phil Rockstroh

"Handsomely equipped to fail, I went out into the world." - John Fowles, from The Magus

In the consumer paradigm, one is induced to exist by Eric Hoffer's dictum: "You can never get enough of what you really don't need." Wherein: The individual exists in a state of perpetual adolescence, emotionally oscillating between life lived as a bliss ninny and evincing chronic dissatisfaction.

Ever shifting, inchoate compulsions and endless distractions define the days of the denizens of the consumer state. Text messages and tweets gibber like souls stranded in a limbo realm between the worlds of the living and the damned.

Craving and angst are interwoven. Held by the dazzle of light playing over the surface of a deep abyss, the consumer floats along on waxen wings of debt. The landscape does not seem solid.

Constant craving and callous disregard ascend to the throne room of consciousness in this empire of ephemera. The passions of the heart are circumvented by chronic discontent. In this manic mythos of the eternal moment, consumer items are collected, clutched, and discarded, like the idols and talismans of a dying cult. But there is neither the time nor inclination to erect statues to these gods of the limbic system; the gods exist as ever-reconfiguring constellations of pixels...As noxious as nixies, they hold the senses enthralled as the global, capitalist paradigm sinks beneath a drowning tide of self-created illusion.

Beneath the endless obligation of debt servitude and the manic distractions of the consumer state, an amorphous dread gathers. Shunted aside, it is experienced as free floating, low grade paranoia.

As I place these words to pixel, members of the U.S military sit hunched before computer screens, enacting slaughter by means of predator drone strike. These cubicle-bound soldiers of the consumer state (who have spent their lifetimes within the mass media hologram of late capitalism) regard delivering death from across vast distances as a type of instant, consumerist gratification.

But their actions do not instill a sense of safety within the homeland. Incrementally, it increases the gathering dread, thus this war-by-remote-control is self-perpetuating: warfare experienced as consumer craving, the mode of mind of a shopping addict, but instead of possessing closets bloated with unneeded consumer items, the empire collects corpses.

Izzy Stone famously averred, "Governments lie."

It is a given, government and corporate insiders scheme and plot. In the days before they had to create the illusion that government officials were responsive to the dictates of the electorate, rulers, their advisors and counselors created deceptive strategies in pursuit of holding and acquiring greater power, in secret, behind closed doors. Withal, their plots were not termed conspiracies; their machinations and attendant acts were called...a day at work.

"Panic is the sudden realization that everything around you is alive." -- William S. Burroughs, from Ghost of Chance

The U.S. possesses a cheap seats view of reality but skybox level self-deceptions.

A conspiracy-apprehending mode of mind attempts to find connections and detect affinities. In this respect, it is similar to a poetic sense of awareness. Although, this distinction is imperative: a habitually paranoiac perspective must have a tendency toward introspective self-awareness i.e., an ego-leavening element, or it tends to become pathologically self-centered. Thus: An inner conspiracy is locked into place, confining the psyche of the sufferer in a mental realm of self reference - whereby life itself, in its unknowable vastness, threatens to penetrate, causing the fragile ego-construct of the paranoia prone to erect even greater barriers of insularity, thus creating the effect of a psychical room of infinity mirrors.

The U.S. is a paranoid culture. The nation has no foreign enemies posing an existential threat, yet it swoons in collective fear and bristles with the apparatus of the national security state.

The corporate/militarist government of the U.S. is paranoid by nature; therefore, the populace has good reason to be fearful.

It is not a lack of conviction that brings so much suffering to humanity; it is a lack of rigorous imagination.

Rigorous imagination is not the same thing as a desperate need for belief or a tendency to become convinced of the reality of any notion that arrives in your head.

Rigorous imagination allows you to engage in democratic discourse with the disparate beings inhabiting the polis of your psyche, but not be swept away by mob rule or entranced by charismatic, neurotic, or paranoiac characters within you who have a monomaniacal agenda.

These inner characters, gods, animals, and monsters can be helpful to you; it is futile to attempt to repress them. But you must have a grip on them -- or they will have a grip on you.

Ergo, this is the difference between clinging to narrow convictions and a heart-opening, senses-awakening, mind-vivifying embrace of rigorous imagination.

Our convictions, beliefs, and motives have been formed from a mixture of apprehensions (sprung from seeds of bias) and misapprehensions (that contain a tiny measure of truth). Generally, what we term thinking and knowing is, more often than not, an autonomous process -- an unconscious seeking of affinities -- a mating dance of known quantities and recognizable possibilities allowing one to view the world as the unfolding of the plausible -- a trek across recognizable, navigable terrain -- and not a bewildering bog of proliferating novelty, lacking both familiar landmark and the lexicon of a known tongue.

As a people, what is our legacy to future generations? Depressing, isn't it? Ecocide. Debt slavery. War without end. A social milieu in which privileged psychopaths not only thrive but decide the fate of the multitudes.

Let's take a digressive scan of the known landscape of the late capitalist era where there exists a desperate campaign by the economic elite to have the floundering system be accepted as not only viable -- but the only rational option available to all concerned. Yet a predominance of evidence stands to the contrary. Withal, the present economic system can only maintain the illusion of viability -- growing ever tenuous by the hour -- by lurching from market bubble to market bubble, in combination with governmental infusions of trillions upon trillions of dollars, as well as the complicity of the corporate media and government officialdom in the swindle (swindles past and ongoing) by abandoning their roles as advocates for the many and assuming the position of operatives of a moneyed elite.

Whistleblowers, dissidents -- all of those who harbor a proclivity to apprehend the true nature of the circumstances that the forces of self-serving power have wrought and ruthlessly strive to maintain -- innately carry within and speak a language that is both alien and threatening to the status quo.

Opening oneself to one's condition, even when the criteria is depressing, allows one to open a window to the verities of the heart and gaze upon a kind of beauty that is both awful and awe inspiring. Thus: One is called upon, regardless of the degree of success or the extent of failure, to attempt to align these visions as a corrective to culture.

Circumstances do not change unless perceptions change. Accordingly, the big lie promulgated by the elite of our corrupt era is...there is something wrong with an individual who will not or cannot accept their version of events.

On a personal basis, I am deficient in those qualities that would allow me to adapt to the conventions of our age.

Yet, through it all, a mutant seed, nourished by the composting convictions of our culture, dreams within my soul, that contains a blueprint that will allow me to live my way into the unknowable future.

In the final years and the concomitant, violent death throes of the corporate/consumer paradigm, the compulsive pursuit of happiness brings the opposite effect: insatiable craving, chronic dissatisfaction, panic, paranoia, nettling resentment, burnout, and disillusionment. Instead, try this: embrace the inherent sorrow that comes at the end of things: The blank countenance of an indifferent winter sky; the spiraling dance of the ashes of prior convictions in a clashing cross breeze; the manner that trees, buildings, birds rise from the earth like musical notes.

You can attempt to check-out i.e., approach life, as people in the U.S. do, as virtuosos of reality avoidance -- but reality knows your home address: the human psyche. Your psyche is with you for life. You cannot drop off your psyche at an Interstate rest stop, and drive away. Glance in the rear view mirror and it will be lounging in the backseat of your vehicle tapping its foot to the music swelling from the car radio.

You can no more discard the psyche than rid yourself of its organ of expression -- the human heart -- by storing it in a deep freeze. The images of the psyche pulse through your veins.

Neglect of the psyche causes it to become a thief in the night that, by stealth, steals back into consciousness, and is misapprehended as a home invasion...of which, a private arsenal, no matter its degree of firepower, would prove of zero use in warding off.

It is anathema to the human heart for one to imagine oneself as being primarily an economic animal whose fate is yolked to the crackpot pragmatist's bottom line-fetishizing mindset of late capitalist feudalism.

In contrast, by living conversing, collaborating, grappling...being moved, mortified, and transfigured by the images dwelling in the polis and the ecosystem of my heart (also known as the imagination) -- I become myself, by losing myself. The shackles of the first person singular have been lightened, allowing me to wend in the direction of my calling.

By means of rigorous imagination, one must seek collaboration with the figures populating the landscape of the psyche. Because: how is it possible to navigate the bewildering terrain of one's fate alone?
(c) 2013 Phil Rockstroh, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. Visit Phil's website, and at FaceBook.

Can Two Walk Together?
By Uri Avnery

"COMPARED TO the Knesset it could have been, this is a very good Knesset!"

I heard this, in so many words, from at least ten former Knesset members and others, as we were drinking orange juice in the Knesset foyer. I could have said it myself (and probably did).

It was the opening session of the new Knesset, and former members were invited to a reception with the new ones. Then we were seated in the plenum hall.

I did not attend the last few times, but this time I was curious to see the new members - 49 out ["of"] 120, an unprecedented number - some of whom I had never even heard of before.

It was really a good sight. Some of the new people were leaders of the social protest movement of summer 2011, some investigative reporters from the media, some social workers. Some fascists remained, but the worst were gone.

The change was not large enough to make me jump into the air from sheer joy, but enough to be glad. Beggars cannot be choosers.

IT WAS a ceremonious occasion, with trumpets and all. Up to a point.

Unlike the British, Jews have no talent for pomp and circumstance. Real Jewish synagogues - not the Western European copies of Catholic churches - are quite chaotic.

In my ten years in the Knesset, I took part in many "festive" sessions, in honor of this or that historic event or personality, and not one of them was really uplifting. We just haven't got it.

This one was no exception. The President of the State, Shimon Peres, who enjoys much respect abroad but very little in Israel, arrived with an escort of motorcyclists and horse riders, trumpets sounded. He entered the building, made a dull speech full of platitudes. So did the oldest Knesset member (a youngster of a mere 77 years, 12 years younger than I.)

Many members were dressed casually, in shirt sleeves or sweaters. Few wore ties. Very Israeli. During the speeches, members wandered in and out. All the Arab members left immediately after being sworn in, with Hanin Zuabi in the lead, before Hatikvah, the national anthem, was intoned.

FOR THE new members it was, of course, a day of deep emotion. I remember my own first day. It was exciting indeed.

Looking at Ya'ir Lapid, I could not refrain from thinking about the superficial similarity between him and myself at the time. We were both elected as heads of completely new parties we had founded. I was 42, the youngest member at the time, and he is 49. We were both journalists by profession. Neither of us has a matriculation certificate. Our voters came from exactly the same sector of the population: Israeli-born, well educated and well positioned Ashkenazi young people.

Yet there the similarity ends. I represented a tiny faction, his is the second largest. I brought with me a revolutionary new outlook for Israel - peace, a Palestinian state next to Israel, separation of religion and state, equality for Arab and Eastern Jewish citizens. He brings a cocktail of pious slogans.

Nevertheless, the first day in the Knesset is like the first day at school. Exciting. Every new member brought with him his whole family, with the children in their best clothes, to gaze down from the gallery at father or mother sitting below in this proud company.

In this first meeting, members old and new are not allowed to say anything, except the two words "I undertake" (to serve the State of Israel). If I may be permitted to indulge for a moment in memories: I was determined to make my mark and present my message on the very first day. Studying the Knesset statutes, I discovered a loophole. I demanded to move a motion for the election of the new speaker, and had to be called to the rostrum. So I made my first speech right there: a proposal to appoint an Arab speaker in order to symbolize the equality of all citizens. David Ben-Gurion, who, as the oldest member, served as temporary speaker, looked at me with wonderment mixed with distaste, an expression immortalized in a rare photo.

WHEN IT was over and Binyamin Netanyahu stood up, like all of us, a curious thing happened: Ya'ir Lapid jumped from his seat, ran up to him and embraced him. It was more than a casual gesture.

As I have said before, Lapid's future depends on his now making the right decisions regarding his role in the new coalition and his terms of joining. Tension is in the air. The minimum Lapid needs to satisfy his voters is well beyond the maximum Netanyahu can politically afford to give him.

To strengthen his hand, Lapid has ganged up with Naftali Bennett, in order to keep the orthodox factions out. The manifest aim is to compel the orthodox to serve in the army.

This raises the ancient question voiced by the prophet Amos (3:2): "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"

Bennett is an ultra-rightist. Some of his detractors call him fascist-lite. He is totally committed to a Greater Israel, the expansion of the settlements and opposition to any contact with the Palestinians - except, perhaps, an offer for negotiations on terms the Palestinians could not possibly accept.

True, Bennett has a knack for hiding his real ideology behind a facade of bonhomie. He pretends to belong to the same social sector as Lapid: White, Ashkenazi and liberal, the Israeli equivalent of the American WASP (White_Anglo-Saxon_Protestant). The small size of his kippah serves the same purpose. (It always reminds me of an admonition a British judge in Palestine gave to aspiring lawyers: "Let your summing-ups be like a lady's skirt: long enough to cover the matter and short enough to be attractive.")

But Bennett really belongs to quite a different sector: the "national-religious" camp of the fanatical settlers. The nationalist part of his ideology is far more important to him than the religious one. With him in the cabinet, any substantive movement towards the two-state solution would be impossible.

If Lapid doesn't care, what does that tell us about him? He chose to start his election campaign in the capital of the settlers, Ariel. He emphasized that Jerusalem, "the eternal capital of Israel", must remain undivided. That already is a non-starter for peace.

When my friends and I first brought up the two-state solution in the aftermath of the 1948 war, we insisted that the borders between Israel and Palestine must be open for the free movement of people and goods. We had in mind a close and friendly relationship between two sister-states. What Lapid preaches is the very opposite: the two-state solution as a final and total "divorce".

WHEN LAPID chooses Bennett as his favored bedfellow, he implicitly declares that the issue of the Orthodox serving in the army is more important to him than peace.

If he preferred peace to the service issue, he would choose the religious Shas party instead of Bennett. That would be very unpopular, but make peace possible.

Shas is a hawkish party, though it started out dovish. But like its Torah-Jewish sister party, it really doesn't care about anything beyond the narrow interests of its community.

On the evening of the Labor Party's victory in the 1999 elections, tens of thousands of delirious voters spontaneously streamed to Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to celebrate what was seen as a liberation from Netanyahu's (first) government. When the victor, Ehud Barak, appeared on the balcony, the shout went up from the thousands: "Anything but Shas! Anything but Shas!"

A few days later, at the opening session of the new Knesset (the last one I attended until this week) I went up to Barak and whispered in his ear: "Take Shas!"

Four years ago, when TzipI Livni could have set up a government instead of going to elections, she needed Shas. Shas, as is its wont, demanded a lot of money for its clientele. Instead of paying up, Tzipi kept her virtue and refused. The result: Netanyahu back in power.

This is the same dilemma we are facing now. Pay the Shas-man and have a go at peace, or take Bennett and talk about "service equality". (It's just talk anyhow. A law to ensure real equality of military service would mean civil war.)

WHAT ABOUT the real boss? No, I don't mean Sara'le Netanyahu, who also starred at the opening session. I mean Barack Obama.

Without warning he announced this week that he is coming to Israel. Immediately after the formation of our new government. He will go to Ramallah, too.

Should we be happy or not?

Depends. If it is a consolation prize for Netanyahu after his election setback, it is a bad sign. The first visit of a US President since George Bush jr. is bound to strengthen Netanyahu and reinforce his image as the only Israeli leader with international stature.

But if Obama is coming with the intention of exerting serious pressure on Netanyahu to start a meaningful peace initiative, welcome.

Netanyahu will try to satisfy Obama with "opening peace talks". Which means nothing plus nothing. Even Bennett can agree to that. Not to mention Lapid and Livni. Yes. Let's talk. "Without preconditions". Which means: without stopping settlement expansion. Talk and go on talking, until everyone is blue in the face and both Obama's and Netanyahu's terms are over.

But if Obama is serious this time, it could be different. An American or international blueprint for the realization of the two-state solution, with a strict timetable. Perhaps an international conference, for starters. A UN resolution without an American veto.

If this happens, the new Knesset with all the fresh, young faces will be called upon to hold a real debate and take fateful decisions. And - perhaps, perhaps, perhaps - make history.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami listen to their
leaders during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks, April 24, 2009.

The Hubris Of The Drones
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it's done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we're trying to eradicate.

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do - a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men - friend and foe - were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, "such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States."

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

"The Obama administration's covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others."

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. "It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard," he told the BBC last year. "Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force... There's sense that your sovereignty is being violated... It's a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe."

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, "Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies," quotes "a former senior military official" saying, "Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America." The report notes that, "The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable... without any meaningful checks - imposed by domestic or international political pressure - or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground."

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama's cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called "collateral damage," grossly referred to by some in the military as "bug splat," and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We're using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there's a whole new generation of the weapons on the way - deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, "Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones... the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots." By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed - a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics - doesn't give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.
(c) 2013 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2013 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

Speaking at a Thursday news conference on a new bill to shut down overseas tax havens,
Sen. Bernie Sanders gestures toward a photo of a Cayman Islands building used by more
than 18,000 companies to avoid paying and other financial assistance came
from the Federal Reserve.

A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands
By Bernie Sanders

When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country - and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest. America. What a great country.

But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.

On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.

Offshore tax abuse is not just limited to Wall Street. Each and every year corporations and the wealthy are avoiding more than $100 billion in U.S. taxes by sheltering their income offshore.

Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Pfizer have fought to make it illegal for the American people to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. But, during tax season, Eli Lilly and Pfizer shift drug patents and profits to the Netherlands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Apple wants all of the advantages of being an American company, but it doesn't want to pay American taxes or American wages. It creates the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod, and iTunes in the United States, but manufactures most of its products in China so it doesn't have to pay American wages. Then it shifts most of its profits to Ireland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Without such maneuvers, Apple's federal tax bill in the United States would have been $2.4 billion higher in 2011.

Offshore tax schemes have become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the "home" to more than 18,000 corporations.

This tax avoidance does not just reduce the revenue that we need to pay for education, healthcare, roads, and environmental protection, it is also costing us millions of American jobs. Today, companies are using these same tax schemes to lower their tax bills by shipping American jobs and factories abroad. These tax breaks have contributed to the loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closure of more than 56,000 factories since 2000. That also has got to change.

At a time when we have a $16.5 trillion national debt; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high; it is past time for Wall Street and corporate America to pay their fair share.

That's what the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250) that I have introduced with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is all about.

This legislation will stop profitable Wall Street banks and corporations from sheltering profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It will also stop rewarding companies that ship jobs and factories overseas with tax breaks. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated in the past that the provisions in this bill will raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As Congress debates deficit reduction, it is clear that we must raise significant new revenue. At 15.8 percent of GDP, federal revenue is at almost the lowest point in 60 years. Our Republican colleagues want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, the veterans and the most vulnerable by making massive cuts. At a time when the middle class already is disappearing, that is not only a grossly immoral position, it is bad economics.

We have a much better idea. Wall Street and the largest corporations in the country must begin to pay their fair share of taxes. They must not be able to continue hiding their profits offshore and shipping American jobs overseas to avoid taxes.

Here's the simple truth. You can't be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don't agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.
(c) 2013 Bernie Sanders (I=Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at=large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

GOP Vote Rigging 2013 Why the Republican Plan to Gerrymander the Electoral College Could Destroy Democracy

Rigging Elections To Steal The White House

Since being thumped hard by voters last November, Republican leaders have gone through a period of reflection, introspection, and contemplation - and they now say they must make fundamental internal changes to become realistic political contenders.

Does this mean they're finally going to quit being a political front for the Koch brothers' plutocratic fantasies, jettison their tea party nuttiness about everything from nullification to "legitimate rape," or stop their destructive fixation on budget slashing? No, no - it's not their own, deeply-flawed fundamentals they intend to change, but the inner workings of America's election mechanics. The problem, they say, is not their unpopular policies or their offensive strategy of attacking whole swaths of the electorate - but that states are not allocating their electoral votes in ways that would throw the election to Republicans.

For some time, we've seen GOP governors and election officials openly rigging rules and voting procedures to shut out students, minorities, seniors, and other likely Democratic voters from casting ballots. But now top Republicans are going all out to "fix" vote allocation rules in selected swing states, enabling their presidential candidates to "win," even though they lose. For example, last fall, Obama won Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. But, with Republicans in control of those state governments, the GOP is scheming to award the electoral votes of those states in the future not to the statewide winner, but to the winner in each congressional district. If it had been fully-implemented for last years election, this arbitrary slicing and dicing would have diverted enough electoral votes to Romney to hand him the presidency.

For more on the GOP's plot to steal the White House, see a full report at
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Obama's State Of The Corporate Union
By Glen Ford

It was an impassioned performance by a cynical politician who offers little but corporate tax incentives and continued austerity. Barack Obama peppered his State of the Union address with up-tempo buzzwords about illusory "progress," but the president's substantive message was that he is determined to complete the austerity bargain he struck with the Republicans in 2011. Thus, it is a sign of "progress" that "we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances" - meaning, he will collaborate with the GOP in cutting almost $2 trillion more.

The big cuts will come from those programs that enjoy overwhelming support among Americans. He claims to be with them in spirit while opposing them in practice. "Those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms - otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations." His reasoning is identical to the Republicans, who say these programs must be bled, or die.

Obama created the model to gut entitlements through his Simpson/Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission, appointed well before the GOP took control of the House. Now he pretends that the cuts have been forced upon him, but that he will acquiesce in the spirit of compromise. "On Medicare, I'm prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission."

He constructs a phony trade-off for children, the poor and the elderly. "Why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair?" he asks, rhetorically. The cuts must come, but in return Obama will revise the tax code "that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America."

This is the double-whammy. Austerity in people's programs is traded for tax breaks for corporations that will, in totally discredited theory, bring back the jobs they had outsourced overseas. But don't complain, says Obama. "None of us will get 100 percent of what we want." And most of us will get the shaft.

Obama's jobs program is almost entirely a corporate tax incentive scheme, to bribe corporations to send home the jobs they sent offshore, where they have also hidden tens of trillions from taxation - a subject not deemed worthy of mention in a national discussion of shared sacrifice and patriotic obligations.

The military-industrial complex will make "America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing," says the president. Fifteen manufacturing "hubs" will be built around businesses that "partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs." You can bet there are huge corporate subsidies involved, through negative taxation.

Obama will repair America's infrastructure through a "Fix-It-First" program that nobody has ever heard of before, and has no price tag - which means it doesn't exist in anything more than rhetorical form. And his "Partnership to Rebuild America" proposal to upgrade private infrastructure - oil and gas pipelines, ports and the power grid - almost certainly involves corporate subsidies, or else why wouldn't the private sector be repairing its own properties, already?

Those business incentives just keep on coming. All one need to qualify is say the word "jobs" - but don't you dare say "public works." The Corporate-Subsidizer-In-Chief says: "Let's offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who've got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let's put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods." Obama says he will "partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet." How will that get done? By offering "new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest." Obama can do a passable Al Green, but when it comes to public policy in 2013, he sings only one song: tax schemes for business. And he stole that tune from the GOP.

Obama's Black boosters will no doubt point to the president's concern for the "hardest hit" to conclude that he is now open to targeted aid to the those communities that have been most devastated. Not so. He is simply open to aiding corporations under any all circumstances. His administration failed to spend almost all of $7.6 billion set aside by Congress for a Hardest Hit Fund, to aid communities hurt worst by the housing collapse. Hard-hit people don't get special attention from this administration; well-off corporations do.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama vowed to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011. He must have thought no one was listening, because he didn't mention the subject for the next four years. Now, in 2013, he promises to fight for a $9.00 minimum - 50 cents an hour less. And he didn't even apologize to the nation, Tuesday night, for reneging during his first term.

"Race to the Top," Obama's signature program to privatize education through withholding of funds to states that fail to establish an alternative charter system and transform teachers into temporary workers, is set for a great corporate leap forward. States that craft their curriculums to suit corporate priorities will get additional funding; those that do not, will be punished. "We'll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math - the skills today's employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future." Obama is an education gangster, hired muscle for the corporate class.

It is fitting that Obama, who has made it possible for all of us to experience the First Black U.S. Presidency, will enhance the experience of choosing between corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans: "I'm announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I'm asking two long-time experts in the field, who've recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney's campaign, to lead it."

We discovered during the presidential debates that there was very little that separated the two contenders. The Republican and Democratic experts should have no problem finding a mutual electoral comfort zone.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The Dark History Of Valentine's Day
By James Donahue

Valentine's Day is another one of those ancient holidays dating so far back in history that no one knows for sure just how it had its start. Today it is a special day of reaching out to our loved ones with flowers, cards and perhaps gifts of candy wrapped in heart-shaped boxes. It is a day to express love . . . something the world needs more of. The ancient documented history of this special day, however, isn't quite as bright and full of good will as we might have thought.

The Roman Catholic Church established February 14 as a date to honor Valentinus, a declared saint who was beheaded on this date in the year 280 for refusing to deny Christ before the Roman Emperor Claudius. Before he died, Valentinus was said to have performed two miracles. He restored the sight and hearing to the daughter of his jailer.

Pope Gelasius I established February 14 as the Feast of St. Valentine in the year 496, thus marking that date for all Christendom. The concept of "Valentine's Day," however, wasn't propelled to its contemporary appearance until English author Geoffrey Chaucer described it as an old tradition in his work Parliament of Foules and Shakespeare helped romanticize the day in his writings.

Historians believe Gelasius mixed the Christian holiday with a more ancient Roman celebration called the Feast of Lupercalia. This is something the Catholic Church was fond of doing as a way of drawing the natives of various parts of the world into its web. During Lupercalia, which occurred from February 13 to 15, the men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then used the animal hides to whip women. During this wild drunken orgy, the men were said to run naked in the street while young women actually lined up waiting for the men to hit them. The women shared a belief that the act made them fertile.

Lupercalia also included a matchmaking lottery. The men drew the names of the young girls from a jar and the couples pared off for sexual orgy that lasted the duration of the festival. It was a time of fertility; a much different expression of "love" than exists today.

Another ancient mid-winter celebration was Galatin's Day, held in February by the Normans. The word Galatin meant "lover of women" and was obviously another form of fertility celebration. Some believe this holiday also got mixed in the pudding that evolved into contemporary Valentine's Day.

The St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago, in 1929, marred the holiday with the most notorious gangster killing of the Prohibition era. Seven members of the Bugsy Moran gang were gunned down by members of Al Capone's gang, dressed in police uniforms, in a Chicago garage.

Thus this holiday has had some bloody roots.

When the tradition made its way into America, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo. invented the mass production of valentine cards. And that set the stage for the vast commercialization of yet another American holiday.

It doesn't take flowers, cards or boxes of candy to express our personal love for our spouses or friends. Acts of love and kindness should be happening every day. It is amazing what this can do to a neighborhood on a dreary February day.

But then, the flowers are always appreciated.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

Democrats Have A Unique Constitutional Duty To Check, Balance The President
By John Nichols

When Lyndon Johnson was president, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman William Fulbright held his fellow Democrat to account with hearings that challenged Johnson's escalation of the undeclared war in Vietnam. It was the right thing to do.

When Richard Nixon maintained that war, he was challenged by fellow Republicans such as Charles Goodell in the Senate and Pete McCloskey in the House.

When Ronald Reagan was conducting a lawless dirty war in Central America, Republicans such as Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and Charles Mathias of Maryland raised objections to the policies and actions of their party's president.

When Bill Clinton steered the United States into the conflict in Yugoslavia, Senator Russ Feingold and Congressman Dennis Kucinich rejected partisanship to demand that the Democratic president respect the constitutional requirement that wars be declared.

Even when George Bush and Dick Cheney were enforcing the strictest party discipline, Iowa Congressman Jim Leach co-sponsored a resolution of inquiry into whether his fellow Republicans had conspired to lie about the supposed "threat" posed by Iraq.

In every case, the members of the Congress rejected the party line in order to defend the rule of law, which requires in our system of separated powers that the legislative branch check and balance the executive. It wasn't personal. It was a matter of principle. In this, they accepted an understanding of the separation of powers articulated by then-Senator Barack Obama, who said in 2007: "The notion...that the president can continue down a failed path without any constraints from Congress whatsoever is not warranted by our Constitution."

Checking and balancing the Obama administration on its use of drones is also a matter of principle. That is why it is not just appropriate but necessary for Democrats to ask the right questions, raise the right concerns and mount the appropriate constitutional challenges to administration policies.

Give Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, high marks for making the same demands for transparency from Democrat Barack Obama that he would make of a Republican president. "Every American has the right to know when their government believes it's allowed to kill them...," says Wyden. "[This] idea that security and liberty are mutually exclusive, that you can only have one or the other, is something I reject. So we're now going to have to begin the heavy lifting of the congressional oversight process by examining the legal underpinnings of this program and to make very clear I am going to push for more declassification of these key kinds of programs. And I think we can do that consistent with national security."

Wyden should not stand alone in a moment when Democrats have a unique constitiutional duty. There needs to be much broader recognition within the president's party that it is possible to respect Obama while at the same time respecting the demands of a system where powers are appropriately separated.

With the credibility of Republican senators diminished by their grumbling about any and every action of Barack Obama, they are ineffectual when it comes to checking and balancing this president. So the task of asserting essential constitutional premises, along with the very American principle that Americans have a right to know what is being done in their name but without their informed consent, falls to responsible Democrats. A few have stepped up. Last year, Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced an amendment to the House version of the 2013 defense budget bill that sought to roll back the White House decision to expand drone strikes against terrorist targets around the world.

Conyers and Kucinich-who finished his House service in January-were not suggesting that the United States ought not defend itself, but they were demanding transparency, accountability and respect for the rule of law.

In a letter to the White House, they wrote,

A recent article published in The Washington Post revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have been given new authority that allows them "to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence 'signatures'-patterns of behavior that are detected through signals intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance, and that indicated a presence of an important operative or plot against U.S. interests." Allowing the CIA and JSOC to conduct drone strikes without having to know the identity of the person they're targeting is in stark contrast to what the administration has previously claimed regarding its drone campaign: that they are targeted strikes against suspected terrorists on lists maintained by the CIA and JSOC.

The implications of our use of drones for our national security are profound. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment. Such "signature" strikes raise the risk of innocent civilians or individuals who have no relationship to attacks on the U.S. of being killed. The government has the right and the obligation to protect the citizens of this country. Yet Congress must be given the opportunity to weigh in and demand that there be a minimum of transparency and accountability for our U.S. drone program abroad.

Ultimately, two dozen House members joined Conyers and Kucinich in asking the White House to provide more information to Congress regarding drone strikes. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) were among the signers. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the Constitution subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, was a signer. So, too, were two of the few House Republicans who have been serious about checking and balancing the war-making powers of Republican and Democratic presidents, Texan Ron Paul (who has since retired) and North Carolina's Walter Jones, Jr.

Paul and Jones had credibility because they had opposed President Bush's lawless actions. They weren't acting as mere partisan automatons. They were acting as members of Congress whose oath of office requires them to check and balance the executive. Democrats such as Wyden and the House members who have stepped up are similarly motivated. They are not disrespecting the president. They are respecting the Constitution.

This is a principle well understood by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the California Democrat who cast the only vote against the overly broad 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force act that continues to be read as justifiction for an ill-defined and apparently endless "war on terror."

Congresswoman Lee, one of the first backers of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and a key player in writing the 2012 Democratic Party platform, is very loyal to the president. But she is also loyal to the Constitution.

"The recently leaked Justice Department memo that outlined the overly broad and vague legal boundaries used to justify drone strikes should shake the American people to the core. While I applaud President Obama for releasing more information to the Senate and House intelligence committees, the root of the problem remains: The administration is using the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by the House on Sept. 14, 2001, as one of the justifications for the lethal use of drones. As the only member of Congress who voted against this blank check, I believe now more than ever that we must repeal it," argues Lee in a letter published Sunday in the Los Angeles Times.

"We need a full debate of the consequences of the September 2001 action, and meaningful oversight by Congress is vital. As commander in chief, it is Obama's duty to keep our country safe, but Congress must not retreat from its constitutional obligation of oversight. These checks and balances are the foundation of our democracy, and they must stay intact."

Along with Ron Wyden and John Conyers, Barbara Lee is striking the proper balance for all members of Congress, but especially for Democrats.

Read Greg Mitchell's take on the Brennan hearings.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Humanity's Economic Disease: Capitalism
By Frank Scott

"Our situation may not only be stranger than we suppose; it may be stranger than we can suppose." ~~~ J.B.Haldane

People demanding governmental change are not united in focusing on the political economics at the root of most global problems but they are moving in that direction. This shows that many can understand the situation, however strange it may seem. But that understanding does not transmit to much of what passes for global leadership. Leadership's inability to cope with, or its desire to maintain "our situation," even with the potential for planetary disaster, reinforces the egotistical greed of private profit and perpetuates the anti-social problem of public loss. That problem has reached a point at which it threatens all humanity and not just divided and conquered national, religious, racial or other falsely labeled identity groups.

Many people understand that we have reached a critical turning point that demands radical change in how and why we produce the means of supporting life to the advantages of a shrinking minority which amasses incredible wealth while the vast majority are living in or fast approaching a status close to poverty. But that reality is more often completely denied by global leadership, especially in the western world. Since this is where the problem originates and is sustained, it becomes more important that the west play a greater role in the movement to radically change global policies, starting by transforming national leadership. That has begun in some parts of the world like Latin America but here in the USA, it might as well still be the 20th century for all the "change" in the power of tiny minorities to run a supposed democracy by buying and occasionally selling its leadership the way all commodities are traded in the profit and loss marketplace. That is the serious situation in which humanity finds itself, and Americans, despite a taught notion of positive exceptionalism, play the most negatively exceptional role in the creation of waste where there was plenty, and war where there was peace.

Current policies to maintain empire at all costs are misread by many who accept affirmative action for capitalism as the substance of social change. When people of diverse cultural, ethnic, racial or sexual sectors preside over as well as participate in the mass murders of foreigners in wars to perpetuate minority domination, many imagine that the dead smile happily at having been slaughtered by such a wonderful collection of minority groups exercising democratic power. More important, redistributing tokens in a system threatening disaster for humanity hardly changes anything but for a few who will - very briefly - be most comfortable while their societies are flooded, destroyed by wars or disintegrated in some other form by an angry nature taking its measure of a species that draws closer to outliving its sustainability.

We need to follow at least some of the advice offered by groups like the Royal Society of London and Another World Is Possible. Despite their differences in funding and outlook, one being establishment and the other seeking alternatives to that establishment, in confronting our problems they come to many of the same conclusions. Both clearly call for a reorganizing of social priorities and an end to the wasteful commodity culture of the west as the only way to end the poverty suffered by billions and begin making a better life possible for all humanity. Both highlight the dangers posed by climate change and clearly identify political economics at the root of our treatment of the planet and its people. They use slightly different language and propose slightly different programs, but they are united in saying that another world is necessary if humanity is to survive and progress. That will call for a totally different economic and political foundation even if these groups do not state that fact in the same words.

The warfare culture that treats human welfare as a secondary consideration should not only be obvious from the perspective of those killing and being killed by the massive military organizations supporting an equally massive market force of comfort for some at the expense of deprivation for most. People far removed from the military battlefields and who sincerely profess reverence for deities, preach humanitarian unity and practice sincere if primitive forms of democratic politics still tolerate tens of thousands of humans living in the streets, sleeping under bridges and in doorways , while tens of millions of pets live in comfort in the homes of the same good people. Social and humanitarian priorities are skewed under the domain of profit and loss capital which forces all good people into situations that provoke bad things.

The domestic priorities of a market system which finds animals more valuable than people is the same one making foreign wars that find some humans even less valuable than those same animals. This has little to do with any individual acting in bad faith and much more to do with a system of political economics which cannot help but benefit some by treating others as a lower life form than our pets. We would do well to stop seeking individual villains, though there certainly are many, and pay much closer attention to the system in which wonderful people - and they are far more in number - cannot help but perpetuate growing disaster simply by following the teachings of business as usual and accepting that profits on one side that create loss on the other are some form of decency and humanity when the evidence is, and becoming more so with frightening speed, quite the contrary.

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it." ~~~ John Lennon
(c) 2013 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears in print in The Independent Monitor and online at the blog Legalienate.

Why We Need An Investment Budget
By Robert Reich

Part of the President's State of the Union message and of his second term agenda apparently will focus on public investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D.

That's good news. But how do we fund these investments when discretionary spending is being cut to the bone in order to reduce the budget deficit?

Answer: By treating public investments differently from current spending.

No rational family would borrow to pay for a vacation but not borrow to send a kid to college. No rational business would borrow to finance current salaries but not to pay for critical new machinery.

Yet that's, in effect, what the federal government does now. The federal budget doesn't distinguish between borrowing for current expenditures that keep things going, and future investments that build future productivity. All borrowing is treated the same.

A rational federal budget would treat them differently. It would allow additional borrowing for public investments whenever the expected return on those investments is higher than the cost of the borrowing. And it wouldn't borrow a dime if the return on the investment is less than the borrowing costs.

Granted, such public returns can be hard to measure. But well-developed tools exist for doing so.

Consider infrastructure. Too many roads are potholed, bridges unsafe, public transport systems outdated, pipelines bursting, and schools literally falling apart. Studies show a public return on infrastructure investment to average $1.92 for every public dollar invested.

Obviously these investments must be done well and carefully. No bridges to nowhere. But our infrastructure is crumbling. Our future standard of living depends on it being repaired and upgraded.

To take another example, studies show the return on early childhood education to be between 10 and 16 percent, with 80 percent of the benefits going to the general public. At-risk children with access to intensive pre-education are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, and have full and productive lives.

But only a handful of our children have access to it. If we treated such investments as they should be treated, we'd make substantial investments in early childhood education.

Public investments in basic research and development are also dropping, both in absolute terms and as a percent of GDP - even though the returns have been substantial.

The idea that gave birth to Internet search engines came from the National Science Foundation. The lithium-ion battery that powers iPhones and electric cars was developed by federally-sponsored materials science research.

Some say we don't need to worry about public investments because private investments will fill any shortfall.

That's simply wrong.

Capital markets are now global. Money sloshes across borders in search of the highest return anywhere.

That means, increasingly, private investments follow public investment.

The only way to ensure private investors will continue to invest America, and support the high living standards we want, is for Americans to be highly productive. This requires public investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D to keep us productive and make us even more productive in the future.

The federal budget doesn't reveal any of this, and the current debate over budget deficits further obscures it.

We need a public investment budget - separate from the current expenditure budget - that clarifies what we're investing in, and allows us to keep borrowing for such investments whenever the return justifies it.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

The Ignorance Caucus
By Paul Krugman

Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speech's majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.

To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didn't succeed -and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that's not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach "critical thinking skills," because, it said, such efforts "have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

And such is the influence of what we might call the ignorance caucus that even when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end to federal funding of social science research. Because it's surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we're trying to change.

Want other examples of the ignorance caucus at work? Start with health care, an area in which Mr. Cantor tried not to sound anti-intellectual; he lavished praise on medical research just before attacking federal support for social science. (By the way, how much money are we talking about? Well, the entire National Science Foundation budget for social and economic sciences amounts to a whopping 0.01 percent of the budget deficit.)

But Mr. Cantor's support for medical research is curiously limited. He's all for developing new treatments, but he and his colleagues have adamantly opposed "comparative effectiveness research," which seeks to determine how well such treatments work.

What they fear, of course, is that the people running Medicare and other government programs might use the results of such research to determine what they're willing to pay for. Instead, they want to turn Medicare into a voucher system and let individuals make decisions about treatment. But even if you think that's a good idea (it isn't), how are individuals supposed to make good medical choices if we ensure that they have no idea what health benefits, if any, to expect from their choices?

Still, the desire to perpetuate ignorance on matters medical is nothing compared with the desire to kill climate research, where Mr. Cantor's colleagues -particularly, as it happens, in his home state of Virginia -have engaged in furious witch hunts against scientists who find evidence they don't like. True, the state has finally agreed to study the growing risk of coastal flooding; Norfolk is among the American cities most vulnerable to climate change. But Republicans in the State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words "sea-level rise."

And there are many other examples, like the way House Republicans tried to suppress a Congressional Research Service report casting doubt on claims about the magical growth effects of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Do actions like this have important effects? Well, consider the agonized discussions of gun policy that followed the Newtown massacre. It would be helpful to these discussions if we had a good grasp of the facts about firearms and violence. But we don't, because back in the 1990s conservative politicians, acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, bullied federal agencies into ceasing just about all research into the issue. Willful ignorance matters.

O.K., at this point the conventions of punditry call for saying something to demonstrate my evenhandedness, something along the lines of "Democrats do it too." But while Democrats, being human, often read evidence selectively and choose to believe things that make them comfortable, there really isn't anything equivalent to Republicans' active hostility to collecting evidence in the first place.

The truth is that America's partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren't just divided on values and policy views, they're divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.

In her parting shot on leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton said of her Republican critics, "They just will not live in an evidence-based world." She was referring specifically to the Benghazi controversy, but her point applies much more generally. And for all the talk of reforming and reinventing the G.O.P., the ignorance caucus retains a firm grip on the party's heart and mind.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."
~~~ Somerset Maugham

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm speaks at the 2012 Democratic convention. About
the DOJ white paper, she admitted this week: "if this was Bush, I think that we would
all be more up in arms" because "we trust the president."

DOJ Kill List Memo Forces Many Dems Out Of The Closet As Overtly Unprincipled Hacks
Last week's controversy over Obama's assassination program forced into light many ignored truths that were long obvious.

By Glenn Greenwald

This past week has been a strangely clarifying political moment. It was caused by two related events: the leak of the Justice Department's "white paper" justifying Obama's claimed power to execute Americans without charges, followed by John Brennan's alarming confirmation hearing (as Charles Pierce wrote: "the man whom the administration has put up to head the CIA would not say whether or not the president of the United States has the power to order the extrajudicial killing of a United States citizen within the borders of the United States"). I describe last week's political as "strange" because, for some reason, those events caused large numbers of people for the first time to recognize, accept and begin to confront truths that have long been readily apparent.

Illustrating this odd phenomenon was a much-discussed New York Times article on Sunday by Peter Baker which explained that these events "underscored the degree to which Mr. Obama has embraced some of Mr. Bush's approach to counterterrorism, right down to a secret legal memo authorizing presidential action unfettered by outside forces." It began this way:

"If President Obama tuned in to the past week's bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.

"Four years into his tenure, the onetime critic of President George W. Bush finds himself cast as a present-day Mr. Bush, justifying the muscular application of force in the defense of the nation while detractors complain that he has sacrificed the country's core values in the name of security."

Baker also noticed this: "Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama's hands, not Mr. Bush's." As but one example, the article quoted Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor and fervent Obama supporter, as admitting without any apparent shame that "if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms" because, she said "we trust the president." Thus did we have - while some media liberals objected - scores of progressives and conservatives uniting to overtly embrace the once-controversial Bush/Cheney premises of the War on Terror (it's a global war! the whole world is a battlefield! the president has authority to do whatever he wants to The Terrorists without interference from courts!) in order to defend the war's most radical power yet (the president's power to assassinate even his own citizens in secret, without charges, and without checks).

Last week's "revelations" long known

Although you wouldn't know it from the shock and outrage expressed over the last few days, that Barack Obama claims the power to order US citizens assassinated without charges has been known for three full years. It was first reported more or less in passing in January, 2010 by the Washington Post's Dana Priest, and then confirmed and elaborated on by both the New York Times and the Washington Post in April, 2010. Obama first tried to kill US citizen Anwar Awlaki in December 2009 (apparently before these justifying legal memoranda were concocted) using cruise missiles and cluster bombs; they missed Awlaki but killed 52 people, more than half of whom were women and children. Obama finally succeeded in killing Awlaki and another American, Samir Khan, in October 2011, and then killed his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman in a drone strike two weeks later.

That Obama is systematically embracing the same premises that shaped the once-controversial Bush/Cheney terrorism approach has been known for even longer. All the way back in February, 2009 - one month after Obama's inauguration - the New York Times' Charlie Savage reported that "the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor's approach to fighting Al Qaeda" and that this continuity is "prompting growing worry among civil liberties groups and a sense of vindication among supporters of Bush-era policies" (I actually wrote at the time that Savage's alarmist conclusions were premature and overly pessimistic, but subsequently told him to him how right, even prescient, he turned out to be). In April, 2009, the Obama-friendly TPM site announced that "Obama mimics Bush" when it comes to assertions of extremist secrecy powers. In June, 2010, Obama's embrace - and expansion - of many of Bush's most radical policies had become so glaring that ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero gave a speech to a progressive conference and began by proclaiming himself to be "disgusted with this president," while Bush's most hawkish officials began praising Obama for his "continuity" with Bush/Cheney policy.

That many Democratic partisans and fervent Obama admirers are vapid, unprincipled hacks willing to justify anything and everything when embraced by Obama - including exactly that which they pretended to oppose under George W Bush - has also been clear for many years. Back in February, 2008, Paul Krugman warned that Obama supporters are "dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality." In May, 2009, a once-fervent Obama supporter, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, wrote a column warning that Obama was embracing many of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses and felt compelled - in the very first sentence - to explain what should be self-evident: "Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House." The same month, former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith - who provided the legal authorization for the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program - went to the New Republic to celebrate that Obama was not only continuing the core Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism, but even better (from his perspective), was strengthening those policies far beyond what Bush could achieve by transforming Democrats from opponents of those policies into supporters.

And exactly as Goldsmith happily predicted, polls now show that Democrats and even self-identified progressives support policies that they once pretend to loathe now that it is Obama rather than Bush embracing them. On MSNBC, Obama aides and pundit-supporters now do their best Sarah Palin impression by mocking as weaklings and losers those who think the President should be constrained in his militarism and demonizing as anti-American anyone who questions the military (in between debating whether Obama should be elevated onto Mount Rushmore or given his own monument). A whole slew of policies that would have triggered the shrillest of progressive condemnations under Bush - waging war after Congress votes against authorizing it, the unprecedented persecution and even torturing of whistleblowers, literally re-writing FOIA to conceal evidence of torture, codifying indefinite detention on US soil - are justified or, at best, ignored.

So none of this - Obama's assassination program, his general embrace of Bush/Cheney radicalism, the grotesque eagerness of many Democrats to justify whatever he does - is at all new. But for some reasons, the events of last week made all of this so glaring that it could no longer be denied, and it's worth thinking about why that is.

What made last week's revelations so powerful?

What this DOJ "white paper" did was to force people to confront Obama's assassination program without emotionally manipulative appeal to some cartoon Bad Guy Terrorist (Awlaki). That document never once mentioned Awlaki. Instead - using the same creepily clinical, sanitized, legalistic language used by the Bush DOJ to justify torture, renditions and warrantless eavesdropping - it set forth the theoretical framework for empowering not just Obama, but any and all presidents, to assassinate not just Anwar Awlaki, but any citizens declared in secret by the president to be worthy of execution. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee wrote that the DOJ memo "should shake the American people to the core", while Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman explained "the revolutionary and shocking transformation of the meaning of due process" ushered in by this memo and said it constituted a repudiation of the Magna Carta.

In doing so, this document helpfully underscored the critical point that is otherwise difficult to convey: when you endorse the application of a radical state power because the specific target happens to be someone you dislike and think deserves it, you're necessarily institutionalizing that power in general. That's why political leaders, when they want to seize extremist powers or abridge core liberties, always choose in the first instance to target the most marginalized figures: because they know many people will acquiesce not because they support that power in theory but because they hate the person targeted. But if you cheer when that power is first invoked based on that mentality - I'm glad Obama assassinated Awlaki without charges because he was a Bad Man! - then you lose the ability to object when the power is used in the future in ways you dislike (or by leaders you distrust), because you've let it become institutionalized.

This DOJ document underscored that Obama's claimed due-process-free and secretly exercised assassinations powers aren't confined to cartoon super-villain Anwar Awlaki but are now an embedded, institutionalized part of the American political system going forward. That's why it provided such a wake-up call for many even though these dangers have long been obvious.

What also made this last week unique was the reaction of the American Right. Progressives love to recite the conceit that Republicans will never praise Obama no matter what he does. This is a complete sham: conservatives, including even Cheney himself, have repeatedly lavished praise on Obama for his embrace of Bush/Cheney policies in these areas. But this past week, they did so with such effusive enthusiasm that the cognitive dissonance could not be ignored.

Supreme GOP warmonger Lindsey Graham announced his intention to introduce a Senate resolution praising Obama for his assassination program. RedState's Erick Erickson wrote a Fox News column denouncing civil libertarians and defending Obama: "we must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of al-Qaida from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe." Michelle Malkin criticized her own staff for attacking Obama and wrote: "On this, I will come to Obama's defense." Others vocally defending Obama included John Bolton, Peter King, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

These are not just Republicans. They are the most extreme, far-right, warmongering conservatives in the country. And they are all offering unqualified and enthusiastic praise for Obama and his assassination program. In our political culture, where everything is viewed through the lens of partisan conflict and left-right dichotomies, this lineup of right-wing supporters is powerful evidence of just far Obama has gone in pursuit of this worldview. That, too, made the significance of last week's events impossible to ignore.

But the most significant factor was the behavior of many Democratic pundits and self-proclaimed progressives. Given how glaring all the assembled evidence was of Obama's dangerous radicalism, they faced a serious dilemma: how to fulfill their core purpose - defending Obama no matter what he does - while maintaining a modicum of dignity and intellectual coherence?

Some of them, like MSNBC host Toure Neblett, invoked the language of John Yoo to outright defend Obama's assassination powers on the ground of presidential omnipotence: "he's the Commander in Chief," he intoned. But the explicit submission to presidential authority necessary to justify this was so uncomfortably similar to Bush-era theories, and the very suggestion that MSNBC commentators would be saying any of that if it had been Bush's program rather than Obama's was so laughable, that this approach provoked little beyond widespread ridicule.

A slightly different approach was chosen by the Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky, a supremely loyal Obama acolyte. He wrote a whole column devoted to pronouncing himself "suspicious of high-horse denunciations" because the question here is such "a complicated one". It's so "complicated", he says, because he's "always written about politics with part of [his] brain focused on the question of what [he] would do if [he] were in Politician X's position."

As Reason quickly documented, Tomasky's tone on such matters was radically different during the Bush years. But the most important point is that the excuse Tomasky offers for his leader - it must be very difficult to be in the Oval Office and get these reports about Terror threats and not take action - is exactly what Bush followers said for years would happen once Obama or any other Democratic president got into power. Indeed, every debate in which I ever participated on Bush/Cheney terrorism policies involved their supporters making exactly the same argument Tomasky makes in defense of Obama: if you knew what Bush knew, and faced the hard choices he faced, you would do the same thing to protect the country: it's easy to condemn these things when you're not in power.

That is why, as I have written many times before, Democratic partisans owe a public, sincere, and abject apology to George Bush and Dick Cheney. It's certainly true that Obama has not continued many of the policies progressives found so heinous: he hasn't invaded Iraq or legally authorized waterboarding. But Obama has completely reversed himself on so many of the core criticisms he and other Democrats made about Bush and Cheney regarding the need for due process for accused Terrorists, the dangers of radical secrecy, the treatment of Terrorism as a war on a global battlefield rather than a crime to be prosecuted. And if Tomasky's excuse is correct - empathy with the leader's need to Keep Us Safe shows that these are much more complicated issues than civil libertarians claim - then he and his fellow partisan soldiers should apologize, since that's exactly what Bush/Cheney defenders said for years would happen once a Democratic president was empowered.

The most honest approach to this quandary has come from those, like Granholm, who simply admit that they would vehemently object to all of this if it were done by Bush (or some other GOP President), but don't do so because it's Barack Obama doing it. This same astonishing confession was heard from MSNBC host Krystal Ball: "So yeah, I feel a whole lot better about the program when the decider, so to speak, is President Obama"; as Digby wrote about Ball's confession:

"Glenn Greenwald's been calling this out for years, but I defy him to find a better example of the hypocrisy that drives him so crazy. Obviously, this is a fairly common belief among those who believe the President they voted for is 'good' and the one they don't like is 'bad' but it's rare that you see anyone boldly say that they think the standard should be different for their own because well . . . he's a better person. It takes a certain courage (or blindness) to come right out and admit it."

Indeed. MSNBC's Chris Matthews decided the program was justifiable because Leon Panetta goes to church often and thus can be trusted.

On Sunday morning, MSNBC host Chris Hayes devoted a full hour to Obama's assassination program, and before doing so, he delivered an excellent monologue addressing the many progressives who complain any time he critically covers Obama's actions in this area. He cited an amazing post by an Obama supporter who wrote: "I support President Obama's drone attacks. And I admit that I'm a hypocrite. If a republican administration were executing these practices, I'd probably join the chorus to condemn them as unconstitutional, authoritarian or worse." About that, Hayes said:

"I think this is probably the most honest defense of the program you'll hear from liberals. They trust President Obama to wield broad, lethal executive authority with care and prudence. And besides: it's war; would you rather, I am often asked by supporters of the kill list, that we have boots on the ground, big expensive, destructive deadly disastrous land invasions of countries like the Iraq war? . . . .

"This narrow choice between big violence and smaller violence shows, I think, just how fully we have all implicitly adopted the conceptual framework of the War on Terror, how much George W. Bush's advisers continue to set the terms of our thinking years after they'd been dispatched from office. Because that argument presupposes that we are at war and must continue to be at war until an ill-defined enemy is vanquished. . . .

"The Obama administration quite ostentatiously jettisoned the phrase war on terror from its rhetoric, but it's preserved and further expanded its fundamental logic and legal architecture."

In other words, Obama has embraced and expanded the core premises of the Bush/Cheney global war on terror that Democrats so vehemently claimed to find offensive, radical, a "shredding of the Constitution". And they are now supportive for one reason and one reason only: it's a Democratic president whom they trust - Barack Obama specifically doing it - rather than a Republican president they distrust. That is the very definition of vapid, unprincipled partisan hackdom, and it matters for several reasons.

Why progressive partisan hackdom matters so much

The behavior and mindset of Democrats (and self-identified "progressives") is significant in its own right because they are now the most powerful political faction in the US. By the time Obama leaves office, they will have controlled the White House for 16 out of 24 years. When the current term of Congress ends, they will have controlled the Senate for the last eight years and the House for the last four out of eight. They exercise far more power and influence than the GOP and conservatives, and their attributes are therefore worthy of discussion in their own right.

During the right-wing dominance of the Bush era, progressives had little trouble understanding why right-wing hypocrisy and leader worship were so dangerous. In early 2006, just a few months after I began writing about politics, I wrote about pervasive blind trust and leader-worship among Bush followers and it was widely cited and cheered by progressives. Just marvel at how perfectly applicable it is to many Obama-era progressives:

"'Conservatism' is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as 'liberal' is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government. . . .

"Indeed, as many Bush followers themselves admit, the central belief of the Bush follower's 'conservatism' is no longer one that [subscribes] to a limited federal government - but is precisely that there ought to be no limits on the powers claimed by Bush precisely because we trust him, and we trust in him absolutely. He wants to protect us and do good. He is not our enemy but our protector. And there is no reason to entertain suspicions or distrust of him or his motives because he is Good.

"We need no oversight of the Federal Government's eavesdropping powers because we trust Bush to eavesdrop in secret for the Good. We need no judicial review of Bush's decrees regarding who is an 'enemy combatant' and who can be detained indefinitely with no due process because we trust Bush to know who is bad and who deserves this. We need no restraints from Congress on Bush's ability to exercise war powers, even against American citizens on US soil, because we trust Bush to exercise these powers for our own good . . . .

"And in that regard, [Bush followers] are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader."

To many conservatives, Bush could and should be trusted to exercise extreme powers in the dark because he was a Good evangelical Christian family man with heartland cowboy values. To many progressives, Obama can and should be trusted because he's a Good sophisticated East Coast progressive and family man with urbane constitutional scholar values. It's lowly reality TV viewing and rank cultural tribalism masquerading as political ideology.

Beyond the inherent dangers of fealty to political leaders for partisan gain, this behavior has a substantial effect on the ability to fight radical government policies. Progressives often excuse Obama's embrace of these extremist Bush/Cheney terror policies on the ground that Americans support these policies and therefore he's constrained. But that claim reverses causation: it is true that politicians sometimes follow public opinion, but it's also true that public opinion often follows politicians.

In particular, whenever the two political parties agree on a policy, it is almost certain that public opinion will overwhelmingly support it. When Obama was first inaugurated in 2009, numerous polls showed pluralities or even majorities in support of investigations into Bush-era criminal policies of torture and warrantless eavesdroppping.That was because many Democrats believed Obama would pursue such investigations (because he led them to believe he would), but once he made clear he opposed those investigations, huge numbers of loyal Democrats followed their leader and joined Republicans in opposing them, thus creating majorities against them.

Obama didn't refrain from investigating Bush-era crimes because public opinion opposed that. The reverse was true: public opinion supported those investigations, and turned against them only once Obama announced he opposed them. We see this over and over: when Obama was in favor of closing Guantanamo and ending Bush-era terrorism policies, large percentages supported him (and even elected him as he advocated that), but then once he embraced those policies as his own, large majorities switched and began supporting them.

Progressive willingness to acquiesce to or even outright support Obama's radical policies - in the name of partisan loyalty - is precisely what ensures the continuation of those policies. Obama gets away with all of this because so many progressives venerate leader loyalty and partisan gain above all else.

What's most remarkable about this willingness to endorse extremist policies because you "trust" the current leader exercising them is how painfully illogical it is, and how violently contrary it is to everything Americans are taught from childhood about their country. It should not be difficult to comprehend that there is no such thing as vesting a Democratic President with Power X but not vesting a GOP President with the same power. To endorse a power in the hands of a leader you like is, necessarily, to endorse the power in the hands of a leader you dislike.

Like Bob Herbert's statement - "policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House" - this is so obvious it should not need to be argued. As former Bush and Obama aide Douglas Ollivant told the NYT yesterday about the "trust" argument coming from some progressives: "That's not how we make policy. We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish."

It is not hyperbole to say that the overarching principle of the American founding was that no political leaders - no matter how kind and magnanimous they seem - could or should be trusted to exercise power in the dark, without checks. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798: "In questions of power . . . let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." Six years earlier, John Adams warned: "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." James Madison, in Federalist 51, explained: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

This is not just basic American political history. It's basic human nature. And the greater the power is - and there is no greater power than targeting citizens for execution - the more urgent those principles are. Watching progressive media figures outright admit that trust in Barack Obama as Leader guides their unprincipled political arguments is only slightly more jarring than watching them embrace that mentality while pretending they're not. Whatever else is true, watching the political movement that spent years marching behind the banner of "due process" and "restraints on presidential power" and "our Constitutional values" now explicitly defend the most radical policy yet justified by the "war on terror" - all because it's their leader doing it - is as nauseating as it is dangerous.

[My Guardian colleague, Gary Younge, has a provocative column from Sunday headlined: "Barack Obama is pushing gun control at home, but he's a killer abroad"]
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.


Drones And Our National Religion
By David Swanson

The national religion of the United States of America is nationalism. Its god is the flag. Its prayer is the pledge of allegiance.

The flag's powers include those of life and death, powers formerly possessed by traditional religions. Its myths are built around the sacrifice of lives to protect against the evils outside the nation. Its heroes are soldiers who make such sacrifices based on unquestioning faith. A "Dream Act" that would give citizenship to those immigrants who kill or die for the flag embodies the deepest dreams of flag worship. Its high priest is the Commander in Chief. Its slaughter of infidels is not protection of a nation otherwise engaged, but an act that in itself completely constitutes the nation as it is understood by its devotees. If the nation stopped killing it would cease to be.

What happens to myths like these when we discover that flying killer robots make better soldiers than soldiers do? Or when we learn that the president is using those flying robots to kill U.S. citizens? Which beliefs do we jettison to reduce the dissonance in our troubled brains?

Some 85% of U.S.ians, and shrinking rapidly, are theists. Flag worship may be on the decline as well, but its numbers are still high. A majority supports a ban on flag burning. A majority supports the power of the president to kill non-U.S.ians with drones, while a significantly smaller percentage supports the president's power to kill U.S. citizens with drones abroad. That is to say, if the high priest declares someone an enemy of god, many people believe he should have the power to kill that enemy . . . unless that enemy is a U.S. citizen. In secular terms, which make this reality seem all the crazier, many of us support acts of murder based on the citizenship of the victim.

Of course, the Commander in Chief kills U.S. citizens all the time by sending them into wars. Drones don't change that. Drone pilots have committed suicide. Drone pilots have been targeted and killed by retaliatory suicide bombings. Drones have killed U.S. citizens through accidental "friendly" fire. The hostility that drones are generating abroad has motivated terrorist attacks and attempted attacks abroad and within the national borders of the United States.

But feeding corpses to our holy flag looks different when we're feeding them directly to the president's flying robots without a foreign intermediary. And yet to approximately a quarter of the U.S. public it doesn't look different after all. The president, in their own view, should have the power to kill them, or at least the power to kill anyone (including U.S. citizens) so contaminated as to be standing outside the United States of America -- a frightening and primitive realm that many U.S.ians have never visited and feel no need to ever visit.

Popular support for murder-by-president drops off significantly if "innocent civilians may also be killed." But a religious belief system perpetuates itself not through the positions it takes on existing facts so much as through its ability to select which facts one becomes aware of and which facts remain unknown. Many U.S.ians have avoided knowing that U.S. citizens, including minors, have been targeted and killed, that women and children are on the list of those to be killed, that hundreds of civilian deaths have been documented by serious journalists including victims' names and identities, that U.S. peace activists went to Pakistan and met with victims' families, that the U.S. ambassador in Pakistan said there was a U.S. government count of how many civilians had been killed but he wouldn't say what it was, that the vast majority of those killed are not important leaders in any organization, that people are targeted and killed without knowing their name, that people are targeted and killed merely for the act of trying to rescue victims of previous strikes, that the wounded outnumber the dead, that the traumatized outnumber the wounded, that the refugees who have fled the drone strikes are over a million, that the drone wars did not replace ground wars but began war making in new nations so destabilized now by the drone strikes that ground wars may develop, that some top U.S. military officials have said the drones are creating more new enemies than they kill, or that what drones are doing to our reputation abroad makes Abu Ghraib look like the fun and games our media pundits said it was.

If our courts killed without trials there would be by definition a risk of killing the innocent. The same should be understood when a president and his flying robots, or missiles, or night raids, kill without trial.

If we were being bombed we would not deem it any more acceptable to kill those who resisted than those who did not. Therefore, the category of "innocent civilian" (as distinct from guilty non-civilian) is suspect at best.

The vast majority of the "worst of the worst" locked away in Guantanamo have been exonerated and freed, something that cannot be done with drone victims. Yet John Brennan, once deemed unacceptable for his role in detention and torture, is now deemed acceptable. The goodness of his murdering evil beings outweighs the badness of his detaining and torturing people who were sometimes misidentified. The dead cannot be misidentified. The president has declared that any unidentified dead male of fighting age was, by definition, a militant. After all, he was killed.

Yet, this we know for certain: He was someone's child. He was someone's loved one. He was someone's friend.

We have a responsibility right now to grow up very, very quickly. Our government is breaking down the rule of law and stripping away our rights in the name of protecting us from an enemy it generates through the same process. Drones are not inevitable. Drones are not in charge of us. We don't have to fill our local skies with "surveillance" drones and "crowd control" drones. That's a choice that is up to us to make. We don't have to transfer to mindless hunks of metal the heroism heretofore bestowed just as nonsensically on soldiers. There is no excuse for supporting the murder of foreigners in cases in which we would not support the murder of U.S. citizens. There is no excuse for supporting a policy of murdering anyone at all.

There is no excuse for allowing your government to take your son or daughter and give you back a flag. There is no excuse for allowing your government to take someone else's son or daughter. Ever. Anywhere. No matter how scared you are. No matter what oath of loyalty you've robotically pledged to a colored piece of fabric since Kindergarten. Actual robots can perform the pledge of allegiance as well as any human. They do not, however, have any heart to place their hand over. We should reserve our hearts for actions robots cannot do.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Ansager Koenigs,

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 calling for another civil war, revolutionary war and succession of Wisconsin from the Union, 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 "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The NDAA And The Death Of The Democratic State
By Chris Hedges

On Wednesday a few hundred activists crowded into the courtroom of the Second Circuit, the spillover room with its faulty audio feed and dearth of chairs, and Foley Square outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan where many huddled in the cold. The fate of the nation, we understood, could be decided by the three judges who will rule on our lawsuit against President Barack Obama for signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who "substantially support"-an undefined legal term-al-Qaida, the Taliban or "associated forces," again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until "the end of hostilities." In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent, according to Section (c)(4), to any "foreign country or entity." This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.

Section 1021(b)(2) was declared invalid in September after our first trial, in the Southern District Court of New York. The Obama administration appealed the Southern District Court ruling. The appeal was heard Wednesday in the Second Circuit Court with Judges Raymond J. Lohier, Lewis A. Kaplan and Amalya L. Kearse presiding. The judges might not make a decision until the spring when the Supreme Court rules in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, another case in which I am a plaintiff. The Supreme Court case challenges the government's use of electronic surveillance. If we are successful in the Clapper case, it will strengthen all the plaintiffs' standing in Hedges v. Obama. The Supreme Court, if it rules against the government, will affirm that we as plaintiffs have a reasonable fear of being detained.

If we lose in Hedges v. Obama-and it seems certain that no matter the outcome of the appeal this case will reach the Supreme Court-electoral politics and our rights as citizens will be as empty as those of Nero's Rome. If we lose, the power of the military to detain citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military prisons will become a terrifying reality. Democrat or Republican. Occupy activist or libertarian. Socialist or tea party stalwart. It does not matter. This is not a partisan fight. Once the state seizes this unchecked power, it will inevitably create a secret, lawless world of indiscriminate violence, terror and gulags. I lived under several military dictatorships during the two decades I was a foreign correspondent. I know the beast.

"The stakes are very high," said attorney Carl Mayer, who with attorney Bruce Afran brought our case to trial, in addressing a Culture Project audience in Manhattan on Wednesday after the hearing. "What our case comes down to is: Are we going to have a civil justice system in the United States or a military justice system? The civil justice system is something that is ingrained in the Constitution. It was always very important in combating tyranny and building a democratic society. What the NDAA is trying to impose is a system of military justice that allows the military to police the streets of America to detain U.S. citizens, to detain residents in the United States in military prisons. Probably the most frightening aspect of the NDAA is that it allows for detention until 'the end of hostilities.' " [To see videos of Mayer, Afran, Hedges and other participating in the Culture Project panel discussion, click here.]

Five thousand years of human civilization has left behind innumerable ruins to remind us that the grand structures and complex societies we build, and foolishly venerate as immortal, crumble into dust. It is the descent that matters now. If the corporate state is handed the tools, as under Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, to use deadly force and military power to criminalize dissent, then our decline will be one of repression, blood and suffering. No one, not least our corporate overlords, believes that our material conditions will improve with the impending collapse of globalization, the steady deterioration of the global economy, the decline of natural resources and the looming catastrophes of climate change.

But the global corporatists-who have created a new species of totalitarianism-demand, during our decay, total power to extract the last vestiges of profit from a degraded ecosystem and disempowered citizenry. The looming dystopia is visible in the skies of blighted postindustrial cities such as Flint, Mich., where drones circle like mechanical vultures. And in an era where the executive branch can draw up secret kill lists that include U.S. citizens, it would be naive to believe these domestic drones will remain unarmed.

Robert M. Loeb, the lead attorney for the government in Wednesday's proceedings, took a tack very different from that of the government in the Southern District Court of New York before Judge Katherine B. Forrest. Forrest repeatedly asked the government attorneys if they could guarantee that the other plaintiffs and I would not be subject to detention under Section 1021(b)(2). The government attorneys in the first trial granted no such immunity. The government also claimed in the first trial that under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act (AUMF), it already had the power to detain U.S. citizens. Section 1021(b)(2), the attorneys said, did not constitute a significant change in government power. Judge Forrest in September rejected the government's arguments and ruled Section 1021(b)(2) invalid.

The government, however, argued Wednesday that as "independent journalists" we were exempt from the law and had no cause for concern. Loeb stated that if journalists used journalism as a cover to aid the enemy, they would be seized and treated as enemy combatants. But he assured the court that I would be untouched by the new law as long as "Mr. Hedges did not start driving black vans for people we don't like."

Loeb did not explain to the court who defines an "independent journalist." I have interviewed members of al-Qaida as well as 16 other individuals or members of groups on the State Department's terrorism list. When I convey these viewpoints, deeply hostile to the United States, am I considered by the government to be "independent"? Could I be seen by the security and surveillance state, because I challenge the official narrative, as a collaborator with the enemy? And although I do not drive black vans for people Loeb does not like, I have spent days, part of the time in vehicles, with armed units that are hostile to the United States. These include Hamas in Gaza and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey.

I traveled frequently with armed members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador and the Sandinista army in Nicaragua during the five years I spent in Central America. Senior officials in the Reagan administration regularly denounced many of us in the press as fifth columnists and collaborators with terrorists. These officials did not view us as "independent." They viewed us as propagandists for the enemy. Section 1021(b)(2) turns this linguistic condemnation into legal condemnation.

Alexa O'Brien, another plaintiff and a co-founder of the US Day of Rage, learned after WikiLeaks released 5 million emails from Stratfor, a private security firm that does work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency, that Stratfor operatives were trying to link her and her organization to Islamic radicals, including al-Qaida, and sympathetic websites as well as jihadist ideology. If that link were made, she and those in her organization would not be immune from detention.

Afran said at the Culture Project discussion that he once gave a donation at a fundraising dinner to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic organization. A few months later, to his surprise, he received a note of thanks from Sinn Fein. "I didn't expect to be giving money to a group that maintains a paramilitary terrorist organization, as some people say," Afran said. "This is the danger. You can easily find yourself in a setting that the government deems worthy of incarceration. This is why people cease to speak out."

The government attempted in court last week to smear Sami Al-Hajj, a journalist for the Al-Jazeera news network who was picked up by the U.S. military and imprisoned for nearly seven years in Guantanamo. This, for me, was one of the most chilling moments in the hearing.

"Just calling yourself a journalist doesn't make you a journalist, like Al-Hajj," Loeb told the court. "He used journalism as a cover. He was a member of al-Qaida and provided Stinger missiles to al-Qaida."

Al-Hajj, despite Loeb's assertions, was never charged with any crimes. And the slander by Loeb only highlighted the potential for misuse of this provision of the NDAA if it is not struck down.

The second central argument by the government was even more specious. Loeb claimed that Subsection 1021(e) of the NDAA exempts citizens from detention. Section 1021(e) states: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States."

Afran countered Loeb by saying that Subsection 1021(e) illustrated that the NDAA assumed that U.S. citizens would be detained by the military, overturning two centuries of domestic law that forbids the military to carry out domestic policing. And military detention of citizens, Afran noted, is not permitted under the Constitution.

Afran quoted the NDAA bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said on the floor of the Senate: "In the case where somebody is worried about being picked up by a rogue executive branch because they went to the wrong political rally, they don't have to worry very long, because our federal courts have the right and the obligation to make sure the government proves their case that you are a member of al-Qaida and didn't [just] go to a political rally."

Afran told the court that Graham's statement implicitly acknowledged that U.S. citizens could be detained by the military under 1021(b)(2). "There is no reason for the sponsor to make that statement if he does not realize that the statute causes that chilling fear," Afran told the judges.

After the hearing Afran explained: "If the senator who sponsored and managed the bill believed people would be afraid of the law, then the plaintiffs obviously have a reasonably objective basis to fear the statute."

In speaking to the court Afran said of 1021(e): "It says it is applied to people in the United States. It presumes that they are going to be detained under some law. The only law we know of is this law. What other laws, before this one, allowed the military to detain people in this country?"

This was a question Judge Lohier, at Afran's urging, asked Loeb during the argument. Loeb concurred that the NDAA was the only law he knew of that permitted the military to detain and hold U.S. citizens.
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Night life In The Only Democracy In The Middle East
By Adam Keller

It happens every night, summer and winter, on weekdays and Saturdays and also during the Jewish holidays. A quiet street in a town or village or refugee camp somewhere on the West Bank. Suddenly, the calm of the late night hour is disturbed by the arrival of a large force of Israeli soldiers. They surround a house which was marked out in advance. Agents of the Shabak Security Service go in and after a few minutes they come out with the tenant handcuffed and blindfolded. They enter an armored car and drive away quickly.

Sometimes the detainee's neighbors manage to wake up in time and go out into the street and try to block the soldiers' way. The soldiers sent on such missions are briefed and trained in advance for such contingencies, and they immediately open up with tear gas - sometimes with live ammunition as well - make their way through the crowd, and rush to get the fresh detainee directly to interrogation under "moderate physical pressure" at a basement somewhere.

That is repeated every night, sometimes at five homes in five different locations, sometimes in ten, sometimes more. The Oslo Accords established a division of the West Bank into three zones: "C" is under full Israeli control, "B" under partial control of the Palestinian Authority, and "A" under its full control. At least, in the agreements signed once upon a time by the Government of Israel and never officially repealed it is written "Full control by the Palestinian Authority." So, it is written. The Shabak agents and the soldiers accompanying and guarding them take little notice. They carry out detentions at any location they choose - sometimes also in the heart of Ramallah, the city which is supposed to be the capital of the Palestinian Authority, sometimes just around the corner from the government compound of Mahmoud Abbas and his ministers.

Usually, such arrests do not get published in the Israel media. To keep track of them, one needs to follow the Palestinian news websites, where there appears every morning an accurate tally of the places where the soldiers arrived on the previous night and the number of Palestinians kidnapped there (Palestinians sites do not use in this context the verb "arrest"...)

This week there was an exception. For once, the nightly detentions of Palestinians got published in the Israeli media (though they did not make the headlines). On Tuesday morning the army reported "a widespread arrest operation against wanted Palestinians," carried out as part of what the Shabak and IDF call "The Lawn Mowing Policy". As published, "25 wanted Palestinians were arrested, mostly Hamas activists." Why exactly were they arrested? Why were they wanted? What are they accused of? As usual, army and security do not provide information. These people are 'wanted', and that is that. It was only stated that the decision to make the arrests at this time stems from "concern at Hamas's efforts to rebuild infrastructure in the West Bank, in the aftermath of Operation Cloud Pillar in the Gaza Strip.".

What infrastructure? To judge by the identity of the detainees - who were involved in open political activity and in charity organizations - it does not seem to be an attempt to organize armed activity. Rather, they appear to have embarked on resuming the activities of Hamas as a political party, towards a possible reconciliation between the Palestinian factions and perhaps also new elections for the Palestinian Legislature. In recent months we have heard, for the first time in quite a long while, of open activity by Fatah in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and a mass rally held by its supporters in downtown Gaza. Reciprocally, at the same time there are manifestations of political activity by the Hamas movement in the cities and villages of the West Bank, rallies and demonstrations and a growing presence in the streets. It seems that someone here in Israel does not care for this celebration of Palestinian democracy.

Among others, those arrested on the "Lawn Mowing Night" include three Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council,. As in the Israeli Knesset and most other parliaments around the world, Palestinian parliamentarians have parliamentary immunity - but the IDF and Shabak care little about that. Many members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, entrusted with representing their constituents at the elections held in 2006, have spent most of their term behind bars in Israeli prisons. This week, three more detained parliamentarians were added: Hatem Qafisha in Hebron, Mohammed al-Tal in Dhahiriyya, and Ahmed Attoun in al-Bireh. In all, fifteen of the Legislative Council's eighty-eight members are currently in detention.

I met Ahmed Attoun a few years ago, at the East Jerusalem home of Muhammad Abu-Tir, who along with Attoun got elected in the Palestinian elections of 2006. At that meeting, the two Parliamentarians told us that "Yasser Arafat had signed all the papers with Israel, but did not get anything in return," and added "we will only talk with Israel when it becomes clear that the Israeli government means to hold serious negotiations, negotiations which will bear results within a short time." They then declared that Hamas is ready to stop all violent acts, in a truce to last twenty to thirty years - provided that for its own part, Israel also stops all acts of violence.

With the consent of the two of them, we sent immediately after the meeting an urgent letter to then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, stating that in our humble opinion what they said may serve as a basis for starting negotiations. A short time later Attoun and Abu-Tir were arrested, as were many other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and since then they are constantly going in and out of the prisons and detention facilities of the State of Israel.

On Tuesday morning this week - the same morning when Attoun, Qafisha and al-Tal had their first breakfast in jail - newly elected members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, gathered for festive inauguration following the recent Israeli elections. A celebration of democracy, at the only democratic state in the Middle East. Israel's President Shimon Peres arrived and was greeted with trumpets. One by one, dozens of new Members affirmed their oath of office in front of their admiring family members. They talked about the complicated negotiations to form a new government coalition and gossiped a bit the scandalous new dress of the Prime Minister's wife, and finally went blithely to their homes.

None of the Members of our Knesset had the slightest apprehension that in the wee hours of the night their homes might be surrounded by the Palestinian Security Forces, whose agents would rush in and lead them handcuffed and blindfolded to detention and interrogation. What a crazy idea!
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Steve Greenberg ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...


A Letter from Kim Jong-un
By Andy Borowitz

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report)-Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, has issued the following letter to the citizens of the world:

Dear World People:

For decades, North Korea was threatened by hostile foes with nuclear weapons. With our safety constantly at risk from violent intruders, we asked: How can we possibly defend ourselves? In the immortal words of my dad, the glorious Kim Jong-il: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke."

I sleep safely at night knowing that a loaded nuclear silo is as close as the launch button on my nightstand. And now I understand what Dad, in his genius, instinctively knew: that the world will not be truly safe until every nation has nuclear weapons.

Perhaps because these weapons are so necessary to our defense, the U.S. government, with its lapdogs at the United Nations, is plotting to take them away from us. But as Dad used to say, "When they come for our nukes...."

That is why today I am founding the Nuclear Retaliation Association to defend the sovereign right of every nation on the planet to engulf that planet in a hellish inferno. If you join today, we will waive the initiation fee and send you this bumper sticker: "Nuclear weapons don't kill people. People kill people who don't have nuclear weapons."

Peace out,

Kim Jong-un
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 07 (c) 02/15/2013

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