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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi reports, "Rationalizing Drone Attacks Hits New Low."

Uri Avnery explains, "The Zuabis."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship say, Obama is, "Sticking It To The SEC."

Joel S. Hirschhorn returns with, "So God Made Republicans."

Jim Hightower tells the president to, "Do More Than The Minimum On Minimum Wage."

Amy Goodman looks at, "Israel, Palestine And The Oscars."

James Donahue examines, "Zeitgeist - The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory."

John Nichols follows, "Sequestration Is Austerity, But Not Enough For Simpson And Bowles."

Frank Scott reveals, "The Story Behind The Label."

Robert Reich is looking for a definition in, "The Minimum Wage, Guns, Healthcare, And The Meaning Of A Decent Society."

Paul Krugman demands we, "Raise That Wage."

Glenn Greenwald gives a, "Pop Quiz On US Politics: Guess The Speaker."

David Swanson considers, "Pseudo-Protests And A Serious Climate Crisis."

Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant wins the coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges explores, "Profiting From Human Misery."

Adam Keller goes, "From Prisoner X To Lord Montagu."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst warns of, "The Red Rebs" but first Uncle Ernie sez, "Sequestration: The Countdown Begins."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Cal Grondahl, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, Derf City, Randy Bish, Andy Singer, Matt Wuerker, Khalil Bendib, Daryl Cagle, Mel Evans, Mike Konopacki, Chip Somodevilla, J. Scott Applewhite, Kino Lorber, Inc., Getty Images, Zeitgeist, 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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Sequestration: The Countdown Begins
By Ernest Stewart

"No amount of planning can mitigate the effect of these cuts. Sequestration is a blunt and indiscriminate instrument. It is not the responsible way for our nation to achieve deficit reduction." ~~ Office of Management and Budget

Read more: "We still have our warheads armed and we told you to expect us for round 5; well, here we go: Ding Ding!" ~~~ Operation Last Resort

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.'s job" ~~~ Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications

"I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy." ~~~ Kahlil Gibran

At this point, one can only speculate about our coming date with disaster, viz., March 1st -- the dreaded day when the poor, sick, elderly, and hungry will have precious resources stolen from them and given to the ultra-rich by Barry and his goons in something called "Sequestration!"

Sequestration is what our masters have come up with to steal some more for themselves. This was caused, to begin with, by them and their companies not paying any taxes, and a bunch of unneeded, uncalled-for, unnecessary, war crimes against humanity and the US Constitution -- all going back to the 1930's, when the 1% lost most all of their power to FDR's peoples' programs. And ever since, they've been scheming and planing how to take it back and re-enslave us all. Trouble is, they're just about there and ready to begin our total enslavement.

I suppose it's only fitting to have a black man overseeing this? Trouble for Barry and the rest of our politicos is they're in the same boat that we are, temporarily better off than we are; but that is certainly subject to change. It's traditional to go after the "Brown Shirts" first -- which is where Martin Niemoller got it all wrong! "First they came for the Brown shirts; and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Brown shirt. Next they came for the Communists..."

Meanwhile, the Rethuglicans have taken another vacation, when they should have been working on resolving this crisis; but they, like Barry, are only playing out their masters' wishes and are just following ze orders; and the Sheeple are buying this lock, stock, and barrel!

Hopefully, by this time next week, when the "Sequestration" is set to begin, we'll have a better handle of what they're attempting to steal and how they'll funnel the money back to the 1% as this has absolutely nothing to with paying down the debt balance. It's all about getting that Social Security, Medicaid, Food Stamp money and decreasing the surplus population by doing so!

It's all but complete. The US Army is ready to come for you. The Happy Camps are ready and standing by -- staffed and ready to go. A fleet of 30,000 drones are being readied for American skies. Barry already has the power to make you disappear; and the Con-gress is ready to make the people rebel and begin the round-ups. Hey, America! "Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do, when they come for you?"

In Other News

Well, hasn't Anonymous been some busy little beavers as of late, eh? They certainly have been hacking into some prized spots. First, they broke into an Israeli network as Haaretz reported on the #OpIsrael campaign targeting Israeli websites:

"Activists associated with the group "Anonymous" claimed on Friday to have hacked some 600,000 email accounts from the Israeli server Walla!, stealing user details and information."

Finished with their Israeli snack, they moved onto bigger fish, viz., The United States' State Department and hacked it, too! SC Magazine reports: Anonymous claims to have hacked the United States' State Department website and captured a database, which has now been published on the Internet.

The data dump by the hacktivists contains the names and email addresses of State Department consular and careers staffers, and, in some cases, their phone numbers and dates of birth.

Usernames are also found in the database dump. Searching and other sites show that several email addresses and other data match State Department staffers in the United States and legations around the world.

This includes a senior officer whose name also features in one of the leaked US State department cables published by Wikileaks.

The hack doesn't appear to have been very hard to accomplish, as the hacktivists said "F.Y.I all of this data is viewable using a few terminal commands, it's just sad that ANY part of the database basically can be publicly viewed by anyone. Information is free, as we always say."

Revenge for the arrests by authorities of several members of the LulzSec group appear to be the motive for the hack, along with the suicide of online activist Aaron Swartz, who faced a lengthy jail term after releasing copyrighted legal texts on the Internet.

To both incidents Anonymous replied:

Our reasons for this attack are very simple. You've imprisoned or either censored our people. We will not tolerate things as such. You don't see us going around censoring everything that is inappropriate or we do not like. Basically, you tried to put an end to us and you got owned, there's nothing more you can say or do. You took away Topiary, Avunit, Neuron, Pwnsauce, lolspoon, Aaron Swartz shall we go on? Heck, you think this makes us weak? We are only growing stronger because of the fact that you are forcing us to revolt. When the lions roar you will hear them. And when it's feeding time you'll be our dinner.

Yes, payback's a bitch; ask Il Duce how that worked out for him, or 10,000 other petty tyrants who faced a similar fate. Trouble is, we're Americans; and Americans hate learning anything from history; hence, our constant repeating of stupid things. Einstein said that was the definition of insanity, i.e., "doing the same thing over and over and again and expecting different results." The truth is out there, Mulder; and Anonymous is setting it free!

And Finally

It happened under Ray-Guns when the Extreme Court ruled that you can copyright nature; and our food supply has suffered ever since! Now back in the court is Monsanto, suing a farmer for growing crops that were a mixture of Monsanto's and a non-poisonous variety. One would think the farmer could grow whatever he liked as long as he didn't steal anything. And judges both in Canada and the US know how to take a bribe and have been ruling in Monsanto's favor, which is, of course, pure bullshit. Apparently, Monsanto has copyrighted soy beans, which to me means I eat nothing with soy beans in it -- unless it's organic. Oh, and did I mention, most corn that's not Indian corn is Monsanto's, as is most all sugar beets -- which is why I only eat cane sugar and organic corn and you should, too.

Speaking of organic food, it's the only thing Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant will eat -- not a drop of his companies' products will ever cross his lips, which should tell you all you need to know about this Franken-food! Oh, it's perfectly all right for poor folks to eat it -- got to get rid of the surplus population anyway they can -- and since only the poor can't afford to eat healthy food that should clean out the ghettos before too long. You may recall that they've said so on many occasions that this is all being grown, not to make money, but to feed the world's poor. That's why America's richest man jumped in, to feed the poor and not poison them -- go ahead and ask Bill Gates that! Can you dig it? So much for a promised happy retirement for our seniors -- that should reduce the "Entitlements" so we can steer that money over into the pockets of the 1%.

Therefore, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award. If there was ANY justice in the just-us system, Hugh would be forced to eat Monsanto food until his belly exploded like the stomachs of bugs do when they eat Roundup-treated food, which is the only thing that Monsanto grows. I wonder if there's one place on Earth that the bosses are saving to grow organic food for themselves -- somewhere that can't be polluted by Monsanto foods blowing on the breeze? Oh, and did I mention, from the Extreme's questions in this case, it looks good for Monsanto, and bad for the rest of us!

Keepin' On

Finally, I was able to get a mail box in the town I'm moving to, hopeful next month; but you can send any donations or letters to my new box starting now. Don't worry if you sent in something to the old po box; it's still good and will remain so for a short while and then anything sent there will be forwarded here.

Here's the new addy:

Ernest Stewart
PO Box 1
Marysville, Michigan 48040

Now in our 13th year of bringing you the truth, and what you need to know for you and your family to survive the coming turmoil. Week after week, year after year, we've been here for you; so please be here for us. Please send us what you can, whenever you can, and we'll keeping fighting to restore the old republic and stop the madness before it's too late!


05-21-1940 ~ 02-16-2013
Thanks for the jams!

11-30-1975 ~ 02-17-2013
Thanks for the jams!

01-14-1934 ~ 02-17-2013
Thanks for the enlightenment!

04-12-1929 ~ 02-18-2013
Thanks for the laughs!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 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.

Rationalizing Drone Attacks Hits New Low
By Matt Taibbi

Read an absolutely amazing article today. Entitled "Droning on about Drones," it was published in the online version of Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper, and written by one Michael Kugelman, identified as the Senior Program Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

In this piece, the author's thesis is that all this fuss about America's drone policy is overdone and perhaps a little hysterical. Yes, he admits, there are some figures that suggest that as many as 900 civilians have been killed in drone strikes between 2004 and 2013. But, he notes, that only averages out to about 100 civilians a year. Apparently, we need to put that number in perspective:

Now let's consider some very different types of statistics. In 2012, measles killed 210 children in Sindh. Karachiites staged numerous anti-drones protests last year, but I don't recall them holding any rallies to highlight a scourge that was twice as deadly for their province's kids than drone strikes were for Pakistani civilians.

Nor do I recall any mass action centered around unsafe water. More people in Karachi die each month from contaminated water than have been killed by India's army since 1947 . . . 630 Pakistani children die from water-borne illness every day (that's more than three times the total number of Pakistani children the BIJ believes have died from drone strikes since 2004).

So I'm reading this and thinking, he's not really going to go there, is he? But he does:

I am not minimising the civilian casualties from drone strikes. Nor am I denying that drones deserve rigorous debate in Pakistan (and beyond). Still, it's striking how so much less is said about afflictions that affect - and kill - so many more people than do drones.

The reason, of course, is the allure of anti-Americanism. It's easier - and more politically expedient - to rail en masse against Washington's policies than Pakistan-patented problems (I also acknowledge the deep concerns about drones that go beyond civilian casualties - like radicalization risks and psychological trauma).

So there it is, folks. Welcome to the honor of American citizenship. Should we replace E Pluribus Unum with We Don't Kill as Many Children as Measles? Of course people aren't mad about bombs being dropped on them from space without reason; they're mad because anti-Americanism is alluring!

It's been amazing, watching the histrionics and mental gymnastics some people have resorted to in their efforts to defend this infamous drone program. Extralegal murder is not an easy thing to manufacture consent around, and the signs of strain in the press have been pretty clear all around.

The drone-strike controversy briefly sizzled when it came out last week that even American citizens against whom the government does not have concrete evidence of terrorist complicity may be placed on the president's infamous "kill list."

The news that the executive branch had claimed for itself the power to assassinate Americans managed to very briefly raise the national eyebrow, but for the most part, the body politic barely flinched. I got the sense that most of the major press organizations sort of hoped the story would go away quietly (aided, hopefully, by the felicitous appearance of some distractingly thrilling pop-news/cable sensation, like Chris Dorner's Lost Weekend).

Some politicians, like Maine Senator Angus King and Oregon's Ron Wyden, tried to keep the story alive, but others just shrugged. Senator Lindsey Graham's response, incidentally, was to propose a formal resolution praising the president for using drones to kill American citizens, Graham being concerned that the president was all alone out there, taking criticism from "libertarians and the left." It's an interesting footnote to this controversy, that it's one of the few areas outside of the non-policing of Wall Street where there's solid bipartisan agreement.

Meanwhile, it also recently came out that the New York Times, among other papers, sat on knowledge of the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia for over a year because, get this, the paper was concerned that it might result in the base being closed.

As old friend David Sirota noted, Times ombudsman Dean Baquet blazed a burning new trail in the history of craven journalistic surrender when he admitted the paper's rationale in an interview. "The Saudis might shut [the base] down because the citizenry would be very upset," Baquet said. "We have to balance that concern with reporting the news."

As if to right this wrong, the paper today ran an editorial, "A Court for Targeted Killings," which proposed that the government create a (probably secret) tribunal to which intelligence services would have to present evidence before drone-bombing a suspected enemy combatant.

The paper, which originally proposed the creation of such a court in 2010, suggested that the new court be modeled after the secret court created in the wake of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FISA court was designed to give a fig leaf of judicial review to secret wiretaps of suspected foreign agents without having to make the government's evidence public.

But the paper itself noted the comical record of the FISA court as a check on governmental power - in its entire history of 32,000 wiretap applications between 1979 and 2011, it rejected only 11. Still, the paper said, the creation of such a court would "ensure that the administration's requests are serious."

So the newspaper's bold proposal to right the moral wrong of killing people not only without trial but without charge is to create a secret court that they themselves admit would be little more than a rubber-stamp. Hilariously, the Times editorialists seemed afraid even to propose this much, reassuringly adding, toward the end of their commentary, that the court they propose to create would not actually have any power at all or curtail executive power in any real way:

The court would not be expected to approve individual drone strikes, and the executive branch would still be empowered to take emergency actions to prevent an impending attack.

Thank God for that!

The Times editorial is a kind of moral lunacy that Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, captured in his play, We Bombed in New Haven, which was about an American Air Force commander instructing a squadron to bomb a series of ridiculous targets. There's a great scene where some of the men ask "Captain Starkey" why they've been asked to bomb Istanbul:

Starkey: Because we're a peace-loving people, that's why. And because we're a peace-loving people, we're going to bomb Constantinople right off the map!

Bailey: Why don't we just bomb the map?

What the Times proposes is the same sort of thinking. In their minds, the problem with our drone program isn't that we're murdering masses of people, it's that we're doing it without the appearance of legality. It looks bad on paper - so let's leave the problem, but fix the paper. Bomb the map, in other words.

This whole thing is crazy. In our own country, we don't allow the government to torture criminal suspects and/or kill people without trial - because it's wrong. If it's wrong here, it's wrong in Yemen or Iraq or Afghanistan; if it's wrong to do it to an American citizen, it's wrong to do it to a Pakistani. Our failure to recognize that and our increasingly desperate attempts to rationalize or legitimize this hideous program gives the entire world an automatic show of proof of American bigotry and stupidity.

And cowardice, by the way. What kind of a people kills children by remote control? If you're going to assassinate someone, you'd better be able to look him in the eye first - and not hide behind some rubber-stamp secret court that tells you it's okay.

Editor's Note: I've received some letters about this last "look them in the eye" line, which was written poorly, because people are taking to mean something I didn't intend it to mean.

I'm not trying to be tough and say you should be Clint Eastwood and look 'em in the eye before you blow 'em away. I'm saying you'd better be able, morally, to look him and everyone else in the eye when you do it - or else don't do it. If you're going to pass the ultimate sanction on someone, it had better be a decision you're comfortable making before everybody, including the target, his family, your family, the world in general.

It's too easy to kill people when they're just dots on a screen. It's unpleasantly easier when you're not even looking at the screen, but just giving an order to someone who is - like the officers in Iraq who told Apache pilots to light up a whole street full of civilians just because one of the pilots thought he saw a gun (it turned out to be camera equipment). And it's even easier than that when you're just a politician here at home, taking part by casting a vote in favor of this lunacy, or dreaming up justifications for it.

Would Lindsey Graham be able to look the mother of some dead Pakistani child in the eye and still call for a resolution praising the president for braving the criticism of "libertarians and the left" to kill people by remote control? I doubt it. But that's what the standard should be. You'd better be able to cast that vote with that grieving mother hanging on your shirt, or else don't do it. The farther away you are from the blood and the agony of the actual death, the easier it is to endorse the policy. And it shouldn't be easy, that was all I was trying to say.

I'm not talking about physical bravery, I'm talking about bravery in the sense of being willing to stare directly at the consequences of your decisions, and we're cowards because we do just the opposite, we work hard to avoid looking, and we build machines that help us do that avoiding.
(c) 2013 Matt Taibbi

The Zuabis
By Uri Avnery

THE SOLE contribution of Ya'ir Lapid to Israeli folklore so far is his saying that he would not join a move to block Binyamin Netanyahu, since this would mean joining forces with "the Zuabis."

This needs explanation to a foreign audience. The Zuabi family is a large Hamula (extended Arab family) located in Nazareth and the vicinity. Several members of this family served in the Knesset in the early days of Israel, all as members of Zionist parties or Arab factions attached to Zionist parties.

The present member of the Knesset bearing that distinguished name is Ms. Hanin Zuabi, the 44 year-old representative of the Arab nationalist Balad party. The founder of the party, Azmi Bishara, left Israel after being accused of security offenses. He said that because of his severe diabetes, he could not afford to go to prison.

Hanin. however, is widely hated on her own account. She has a knack of getting under the skin of Jewish Israelis. She is intentionally provocative, abrasive and infuriating. Once she was physically attacked by one of Avigdor Lieberman's female storm troopers while making a speech from the Knesset rostrum. She did not flinch.

But her main claim to glory (or hatred) was the audacious decision to go aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara that tried to run the blockade and take supplies to Gaza. The incident, in which 9 Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos, raised a tsunami of emotions in Israel. Hanin Zuabi was branded as a traitor. Many Arab citizens admire her courage, but that did not prevent her party from losing a seat in the recent elections. However, Zuabi kept her seat in the Knesset.

She is now the pet hatred object. In a recent article, a leading journalist put her picture next to that of Sarah Netanyahu and called them the two most hated women in Israel - one on the left, one on the right.

So if Lapid had refused to cooperate with Hanin, few Jewish Israelis would have criticized him. What aroused a storm of protest was a single letter. Lapid did not refuse to cooperate with Hanin Zuabi but with "the Zuabis" - in the plural. This was understood to mean all members of the three Arab factions in the Knesset.

"Racist!" the cry arose from many sides. "Inexcusable!", "intolerable!", "detestable!"

THESE CRIES might have sounded convincing, except for one fact: in all the present efforts to build a new government coalition, no one even suggested including the "Arab" factions.

There are three "Arab" factions. ("Arab" in quotes, because one of them, the communist "Hadash", has one Jewish MK, the popular Dov Hanin. However, the voters of the party are almost all Arab. The size of its Jewish vote did actually decrease this time.)

The members of these factions live practically in a parliamentary ghetto. They function like other members, have full rights, one them is a deputy speaker and presides over sessions, in theory they can even make their speeches in Arabic, though all of them choose to speak in Hebrew.

Yet there is a glass wall between them and their colleagues. There is a tacit agreement among the Jewish members that they should not be included in coalitions. The closest they ever got was in 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin depended on their support, without including them in his coalition. Without it, the Oslo agreement would never have happened, nor would Rabin have been assassinated. The fiercest denunciation of his policy was that he had no "Jewish majority", that he was giving away our God-given land with the help of Arab factions. One of the most bitter accusers was Binyamin Netanyahu.

ONE MAY well ask how the Arabs got into the Knesset in the first place.

This was by no means a foregone conclusion. After all, in Israel's Declaration of Independence the new state was defined as "Jewish". Why should Arabs be allowed to participate in enacting the laws of the Jewish State? Why should they be citizens at all?

There was a lively debate about this in the secret deliberations at the time of the founding of the state in 1948. It was David Ben-Gurion who made the final decision. He was concerned about world opinion, especially at a time when Israel was fighting for admission to the UN. Since Ben-Gurion was a politician, he was very good at combining the national interest with his own.

The first Knesset was elected in January 1949, while the war was still going on (I remember voting near the army convalescence camp where I was recovering from my wounds). At the time, the Arabs who remained in Israel after the mass flight and expulsion were subject to "military rule", which made the life of every individual Arab, down to the smallest detail, totally dependent on the military governor.

Ben-Gurion saw to it that the Arab citizens - while enjoying a free vote - voted for his party, Mapai. The heads of the extended families were told that life would be made miserable for them if they did not deliver the prescribed number of votes for the party. Each one was told how his people must vote - for Mapai itself or for one of the Arab factions set up by Mapai precisely for this purpose. Thus it was easy to check how each family had voted.

Without these captive votes, it would have been difficult for Ben-Gurion to set up his coalitions during his 15 years in office.

AFTER THE Naqba of the 1948 war, the remaining 200 thousand or so "Israeli Arabs" were in a state of shock. They neither had the means nor dared to oppose the government in any way.

The only exceptions were the communists. During the 1948 war, the Zionist leadership was closely allied with Stalin, who provided us with almost all our arms. This alliance continued for some years, until Israel's tightening ties with the West and Stalin's mounting anti-Semitic paranoia put an end to it.

By that time, the Israeli communist party had built up a strong position within the Arab community in Israel. It was in practice an Arab party, though Moscow dictated, for reasons of its own, that the General Secretary be Jewish. The relations between the party's leadership and the government were full of contradictions - while the party was tolerated because of Israel's ties with Moscow, from time to time it was persecuted by the Shin Bet as a Fifth Column.

Since no other Arab party (except Mapai's aforementioned Arab Quislings) was tolerated at all, the communist party enjoyed what practically amounted to a monopoly in the Arab street. Its hold on the Arab towns and villages in Israel came close to the stranglehold Mapai had until 1977 on the Jewish population. Woe to the Arab who dared to oppose it!

After Ben-Gurion was kicked out by his own party in 1963, the official attitude towards the Arab citizens gradually became more liberal. Military rule was officially abolished in 1966 (it was one of my first votes in the Knesset). Eventually, new Arab parties were allowed to be set up and entered the Knesset. The relations between the Arabs and the state entered a new phase - a phase very difficult to define.

ISRAEL IS officially defined as a "Jewish and democratic state". Some consider this an oxymoron - if it's Jewish, it cannot be democratic, if it's democratic, it cannot be Jewish. Official doctrine has it that the state is Jewish in its character, but that all citizens enjoy (or should enjoy) equal rights.

As a matter of fact, Israel has never really come to grips with this basic contradiction: what is the status of a national minority in a state that is totally identified with the national majority? To wit, how can Arab citizens really be equal in a state that claims to be "the nation-state of the Jewish people"?

From the Law of Return, which applies only to Jews and their descendents, through the Law of Citizenship, which makes a sharp distinction between Jews and non-Jews, to dozens of minor laws which bestow privileges on people who are defined as "individuals to whom the Law of Return might apply" - there is no real equality. In practice, discrimination, open or hidden, permeates society.

Many Israelis assert that they abhor discrimination, but claim that other democratic countries do not treat their own national minorities any better.

A THIRD generation of "Israeli Arabs" is now growing up. It is no longer cowed by the government, but lives in a mental limbo. They proudly define themselves as Palestinians and support the Palestinian struggle in the occupied territories, but also are becoming more and more Israeli. Another Zuabi, Abd-al-Aziz, a member of the Knesset many years ago, coined the phrase: "My state is at war with my people." The most prominent Arab Knesset member at present, Ahmad Tibi, once a close advisor to Yasser Arafat, is to my mind the most Israeli of all Knesset members, both in character and behavior.

Actually, Arabs are far more integrated in Israeli society than many people realize. Jewish patients in government hospitals are often unaware of the fact that the doctor and the male nurse treating them are Arabs. In football matches between Jewish and Arab teams, Jewish hooligans shout "Death to Arabs" and their Arab equals shout, with equal enthusiasm, "Allah is Great!"

A few years ago, Lieberman proposed that the Arab towns and villages located in Israel near the border with the West Bank should be joined to the future Palestinian state, in return for Jewish settlements in the West Bank on the other side of the border. There was a storm of protest from the Arab population. Not a single Arab spokesman supported the idea.

However, the growing bitterness of the Arab citizens is driving the Arab members to more and more extreme positions and strident utterances, while the Jewish right-wing politicians become more and more extreme in their anti-Arab racism. Thus the gulf between the two camps in the Knesset is getting wider, not narrower.

So Lapid was shrewdly courting the mainstream when he expressed his contempt for the "Zuabis." Hanin Zuabi, of course, was flattered.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Sticking It To The SEC
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

In our last episode of that ongoing Washington soap opera, "As the Door Revolves," we introduced you to former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, pursuer of drug lords and terrorists, who left government to become a hot shot Wall Street lawyer defending such corporate giants as JPMorgan Chase, UBS, General Electric and Microsoft. Oh yes - and former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta, currently appealing his insider trading conviction.

The New York Times reports that White and her husband, who's also a corporate litigator, have a net worth of at least $16 million and investments that might be valued as high as $35 million. Now, courtesy of President Obama, Mary Jo White's been named to head the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission - the very agency that regulates her clients and everyone else doing business in the stock market.

But as they say on late night TV, wait - there's more! Join us for our latest episode of "As the Door Revolves" in which the door spins even faster between the SEC and big business. According to a major new report from the nonpartisan watchdog POGO - the Project on Government Oversight - hundreds of the agency's former employees have done or are doing business with the SEC on behalf of the corporations the agency is supposed to regulate.

Imagine - hundreds with an intimate knowledge of how the place works advocating for their clients with friends at the SEC - colleagues who themselves may be looking for a big payoff when they, too, leave government. From 2001 through 2010, 419 SEC alumni filed nearly 2,000 disclosure forms saying they would be representing companies or individuals coming before the commission. And that's only the "tip of the iceberg," POGO says, "Because former SEC employees are required to file them only during the first two years after they leave the agency." In other words, after that first couple of years there are no official records kept so we can't know how vast the problem is or even how far back it goes.

However, POGO writes, "Former employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission routinely help corporations try to influence S.E.C. rule-making, counter the agency's investigations of suspected wrongdoing, soften the blow of S.E.C. enforcement actions, block shareholder proposals and win exemptions from federal law."

No wonder the SEC has granted special waivers to business on some 350 occasions that, according to the report, "softened the blow of enforcement actions." What's more, a year ago, The New York Times reported that "Close to half of the waivers went to repeat offenders - Wall Street firms that had settled previous fraud charges by agreeing never again to violate the very laws that the SEC was now saying that they had broken." The plot thickens, or in this case, sickens.

POGO also notes that in three instances - from 2008-2012 - when there were cases against UBS, the Swiss investment bank retained ex-SEC attorneys to argue on its behalf and was, in the words of the Times, "granted relief." And when Obama's first SEC chair, Mary Schapiro, pushed for reform of the $2.6 trillion money markets business, it was lobbied against by at least half a dozen former SEC staffers, and opposed by the two Republicans on the commission and one Democrat, Luis Aguilar, who used to be an executive vice president with the money management firm Invesco. The POGO report says that shortly after "Invesco sent a team to meet with Aguilar at the SEC and tell him why tightening rules for money market funds was a bad idea," he came out against Schapiro's plan, Coincidence? Aguilar told POGO there's no connection. Sure.

When George W. Bush was president and named Chris Cox to run the SEC, we screamed like bloody murder, because Cox had been a partner at a huge global law firm whose client list included Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. Now Obama's pushing his choices through that same revolving door. It's called "regulatory capture" - the takeover of government agencies by the very corporations they're supposed to keep an eye on, to protect everyone's investments and pensions against abuses of private power.

What's next? Stay tuned. In the next few weeks, Mary Jo White will sit for her confirmation hearing and doubtless will be asked all about this by a committee stacked with politicians whose big donors include... the financial industry. You can read the complete POGO report here. Forward it to your own Member of Congress, then open your window and scream.
(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.

So God Made Republicans
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Stupid people have the right to vote. Stupid people propel our consumer economy and waste money on myriad things because they are stupid shoppers. Stupid people have the right to own guns, lots of guns. Stupid people have free speech. So, no surprise, in our representative democracy (aka republic) even the most stupid citizens deserve to be represented in government. God has done this by giving them the Republican Party with lots of stupid politicians running and ruining our nation.

Now we see leading Republicans working hard to rebrand, remessage, rebuild and separate themselves from Tea Party extremists. This mighty effort is just another example of how stupid and delusional Republicans are. The pitiful do not deserve our pity, nor respect. They fail at every turn to intelligently recognize the many truths that explain why they are having so many problems with so many segments of the US population. Now they create new lies in a feeble attempt to bury the many stupid statements and boldface lies Republican candidates vomited on the public in the past election cycle. They want us to blame just a few of the most idiotic Republicans that lost important elections and in general Tea Party enthusiasts, while the greater truth is that the Party platform and the endless statements of Mitt The Loser Romney, the presidential primary Republican candidates and the leaders of the Party in Congress were as damaging.

And rather than fess up to all the crap they dumped on the nation, Republicans now are trying to con the public that they have seen the light. They are more than delusional; they are stupid and politically inept. It is as if they have so long worked so hard to appeal to the most stupid Americans that they are brain dead and can only speak stupid.

Sadly, the good news for them is that there are millions of utterly stupid Americans that will continue to vote for Republicans, but not enough, thankfully, to put one in the White House, though through rigged congressional districts they can still win lots of seats in Congress. Stupid deserves stupid, so they deserve Republican politicians and all the destruction of the nation they continue to unload. But not the rest of us.

It is all about winning elections and nothing to do with principles when it comes to Republicans reinventing themselves. It is all about crafting new lies to deceive voters.

Krugman was correct: "One side [Democrats] believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other [Republicans] believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs. ... 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."

Whether it is immigration policy, taxes, the budget deficit and national debt, health care, and our key social programs, Republican politicians, especially in Congress, say the stupidest things. What the nation needs is not some phony repackaged Republican Party but national recognition that voting for most Republicans is an act of utter and complete stupidity. If only the various Tea Party groups would drop their stupid thinking about things that have nothing to do with fiscal and economic matters and align with the Libertarian Party. Then we would have the beginnings of a badly needed alternative to the Democrats. The grand strategy of the Tea Party crowd to take over the Republican Party has been fundamentally flawed, mainly because of so much emphasis on social issues. They should have worked to make the Libertarian Party more powerful.

Here is some advice for Republican politicians: Start crafting your policy positions, party platform and messages on the basis you are trying to appeal to intelligent, well informed citizens in all demographic groups who are not addicted to blathering conservative talk radio stars and FOX News. Stop advocating far right positions on abortion and contraception, gay rights, and other issues that clearly only appeal to dumb, white men and racists, and also positions on taxes and spending that benefit corporations and the top few percent on the economic ladder.

Kurtz was correct in noting Republicans "losing hand that constantly made it appear that the party was holding the economy hostage to protect tax breaks for the rich."

Rubio, Christie and Jeb Bush, of course, are good examples of impressive Republicans who clearly do not cater to stupidity. For a successful future, the Republican Party needs to clean its own house and get rid of their stupid politicians if they ever want to appeal to a broad cross section of the American population.

A danger-ahead-sign is that since 2004 young voters have voting for Democrats by larget margins than previous young generations. The nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported in November that under-30 voters are "the only age group in which a majority said the government should do more to fix problems."

Advocating limited government is fine as long as it also means a responsive, kind and truthful government serving the needs of non-rich citizens and not catering to corporate interests, nor depending on big money from the superrich. And it requires the inevitable loss of stupid citizens on the far right. Political power must be earned. Time for Republicans to face reality. Pick your political winners and drop your losers. Shift emphasis from winning elections by any means to intelligently governing the nation.
(c) 2013 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy =Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Do More Than The Minimum On Minimum Wage

"In the wealthiest nation on Earth," President Obama declared in his State of the Union speech, "no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty."

Right! Not only does his call to raise America's minimum wage put some real pop in populism, but it could finally start putting some ethics back in our country's much-celebrated, (but rarely-honored) "work ethic." Kudos to Obama for putting good economics and good morals together - and for putting this long overdue increase on the front burner.

But then came the number: $9 an hour. Excuse me, Mr. President, but that means a person who "works full-time" would nonetheless "have to live in poverty." Yes, nine bucks is a buck-seventy-five better than the current pay, but it's still a poverty wage, and it doesn't even elevate the buying power of our wage floor back to where it was in 1968.

This is not merely about extending a badly needed helping hand to people struggling to work their way out of poverty, but about them giving a jolt of new energy to our economy, which it desperately needs. Ironically, while superrich corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in offshore accounts, refusing to invest in America, minimum-wage workers invest every extra dollar they get in America - spending it right where they live on clothing, food, health care, and other needs. A 2011 Federal Reserve study found that a one-dollar hike in the minimum wage produces an additional $2,800 a year in spending by each of those households - so this is no time to shortchange these workers.

Yes, I know that Congressional Republicans and corporate lobbyists oppose even a $9 wage, but a poll last June found that seven out of 10 Americans (including a majority of Republicans), support raising the wage above $10 an hour. This is a time, Mr. President, think big - and take it to the grassroots.
(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.

Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat with 'five cameras.'

Israel, Palestine And The Oscars
By Amy Goodman

The Academy Awards ceremony will make history this year with the first-ever nomination of a feature documentary made by a Palestinian. "5 Broken Cameras" was filmed and directed by Emad Burnat, a resident of the occupied Palestinian West Bank town of Bil'in, along with his Israeli filmmaking partner Guy Davidi. What does a Palestinian farmer wear on the red carpet in Hollywood? We were almost prevented from knowing, as Burnat, his wife and 8-year-old son were detained at Los Angeles International Airport and threatened with deportation. Despite his formal invitation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, it took the intervention of Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore, who now sits on the Academy Board of Governors, followed by Academy attorneys, for Burnat and his family to gain entry into the country.

"5 Broken Cameras" is in competition at the Oscars with an Israeli documentary, "The Gatekeepers," a film that features interviews with the six surviving former directors of Israel's Shin Bet, the country's secret internal security service, which functions as sort of hybrid of the U.S. FBI and CIA. In the film, all six condemn the current practices of Israeli occupation and settlement expansion.

In a remarkable case of life imitating art, as celebrities gather for the entertainment industry's biggest gala of the year, the Israel/Palestine conflict is being played out on the streets of Tinseltown.

Hours after regaining his freedom, Burnat issued a statement that read: "Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles, CA, my family and I were held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States. Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary '5 Broken Cameras' and they told me that if I couldn't prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day."

He went on: "After 40 minutes of questions and answers, Gibreel asked me why we were still waiting in that small room. I simply told him the truth: 'Maybe we'll have to go back.' I could see his heart sink." Gibreel's birth in 2005 was the motivation for the film. Emad Burnat got his first camera then, to record his fourth son growing up. At that time, the government of Israel began building the separation wall through Bil'in, provoking a campaign of nonviolent resistance from the Palestinian residents and their supporters. As Burnat recorded the protests, his cameras were smashed or shot, one by one, destroyed by the violent response from the Israeli army and the armed Israeli settlers.

Dror Moreh is the Israeli director of "The Gatekeepers." Moreh told me: "The settlements are the biggest obstacle to peace. If there is something that will prevent peace, it's the settlements and the settlers. I think this is the largest and most influential and most powerful group in Israeli politics. They're basically dictating the policy of Israel in the last years. I think that definitely for the Palestinians, the settlements are the worst enemy in their way to the homeland. When they see everywhere, in Judea and Samaria now, the settlements that are built like mushrooms after rain, they see how their country is shrinking."

Both "5 Broken Cameras" and "The Gatekeepers" are up for the Oscar against other very compelling nominees: "How to Survive a Plague," about the AIDS epidemic; "The Invisible War," about rampant, unprosecuted rape in the U.S. military; and "Searching for Sugar Man," about renewal for a musician long thought dead.

Burnat finished his statement on his detention at Los Angeles International Airport: "Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."

Regardless of which documentary wins, the 2013 Oscars mark a historic shift in the public dialogue on Israel/Palestine, a long-overdue shift to which 40 million television viewers will be exposed.
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Zeitgeist - The Ultimate Conspiracy Theory
By James Donahue

Americans that still possess the ability to think and reason are obviously in some agreement that something has gone drastically wrong with their government, their way of life and the insane direction the so-called "leaders" of the country are taking us. Some say this has been the reason so many wild conspiracy theories have weaved their way into the fabric of American mythology.

Now the trilogy of documentaries - Zeitgeist: The Movie, Zeitgeist: Addendum and Zeitgeist: Moving Forward - appears to have connected the dots. Directed by Peter Joseph, an independent filmmaker and social activist, the films give viewers a shocking look at the way monetary institutions, religion, corporations and corrupted governments have enslaved humanity. The films also closely examine the lifelong work of architect and social engineer Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project as an alternative solution to the situation humanity presently endures.

The second and final films promote The Zeitgeist Movement, a nonprofit organization founded by Joseph in 2008, that advocates an abolition of money and private property and promotes a global socioeconomic system, much like the Venus Project, in which all resources are shared. The ideas advanced by Fresco propose a complete restructuring of cities, with robots doing most manual labor on industrial assembly lines. Without money all that people need in life is provided without charge. This, in turn, will give people the freedom to pursue their personal bliss in life, doing creative things, inventing new ideas.

Among the more shocking aspects of the Zeitgeist Trilogy is the accusation that the world monetary system is controlled by a secret organization of people who manipulate the distribution of money, control governments and maintain the current system of forced labor for monetary and materialistic reward.

The world religious systems . . . especially Christianity . . . are attacked as ancient mythological stories designed in an attempt to explain the mysteries of the world but maintained today as a tool to invoke fear and keep humanity in a constant state of enslavement and warfare.

Zeitgeist also argues that the 9-11 attacks were "an inside job" designed to put Americans in a state of shock and allow for the stripping of Constitutional freedoms and give the military a cause to declare wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. It also maintains that the declared terrorist organization al-Qaeda has been a government fabrication based on Afghan freedom fighters the United States secretly financed to help drive the Russians out of that country in the 1980s. Active in that group was Osama bin Laden.

The films suggest that the main interest corporations had in Afghanistan was the fact that the country is one of the world's largest suppliers of opiates used in the production of pain killers and narcotics like heroin. We attacked Afghanistan after the Taliban rose to power and began cutting the production of the poppy plants from which the opium is harvested. Thus our war in Afghanistan has been against the Taliban all along. The belief that el-Qaeda terrorists were the real enemy was a lie.

Both wars also opened the door for big corporations like Halliburton to get involved and profit from cleaning up the mess made by the bombings and disruptions of the infrastructures. In fact, war has become America's primary business since the massive military industrial complex came into existence during World War II.

Fresco, who offers a lot of dialogue in the second film, maintains that warnings about the world running out of natural resources is another lie designed to force the price of these resources up. He says the world is rich in free natural energy and enough resources for everyone to share and live together in peace and comfort.

The second film, Zeitgeis: Addendum, asks watchers to join the Zeitgeis Movement and participate in a general boycott of the most powerful banks in the Federal Reserve System, stop watching television news, avoid participation and support of the military and invest in alternative green energy systems.

Naturally the Zeitgeis documentaries have had their critics. Some of the major publications like the New York Times and Huffington Post attacked the concept they described as "utopianism" and reduced work incentives without monetary reward. They also ridiculed the theory that the 9-11 attacks were a conspiracy.

The publication Journal of Contemporary Religion described the Zeitgeis attack on Christianity as a "synthesis of New Age spirituality."

Writer Michelle Goldberg in a critique published in Tablet Magazine said the film was "steeped in far-right, isolationist and covertly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories" and called the Zeitgeist movement "the world's first Internet-based cult."

The most severe attack is found in a website called Skeptic Project. An entire section of this site is dedicated to picking apart all of the claims made by the three documentaries piece-by-piece. It's author, an unknown personality who identifies himself as Edward L. Winston, claims that everything in the films are "outrageous and completely unfounded." Winston concludes that "the film is 99.999 percent a complete lie, complete farce, made up garbage."

We believe that Mr. Winston posted his work in a wild attempt to force people to question the theories outlined by Peter Joseph and to turn away from joining the Zeitgeist Movement.

We highly recommend that everybody watch these three films, listen to Joseph's arguments and the propositions offered by others like Jacques Fresco who appear in the films, before deciding for themselves. If you can't rent the films, you can watch them on line without charge.

We guarantee, once you have seen Joseph's work, you will never look at the world in the same way.
(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

Alan Simpson, right, and Erskine Bowles, left, co-chairmen of the National Commission
on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, testify on Capitol Hill, March 8, 2011.

Sequestration Is Austerity, But Not Enough For Simpson And Bowles
By John Nichols


Cue the return of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, frontmen for American austerity.

If sequestration is not averted by the end of the month, America will experience an arbitrary austerity agenda that shifts burdens from the wealthy onto working families. It makes across-the-board cuts to vital services. As President Obama noted Tuesday, sequestration would impose "automatic brutal spending cuts" to job creation, infrastructure and education initiatives. It would, as well, slash funding for air traffic control, federal prosecutions and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants that make it possible for states and local governments to hire needed firefighter and emergency personnel.

Even the parts of the sequester that are appealing-squeezing the bloated Department of Defense budget-will tend to harm low-wage federal employees rather than billionaire defense contractors.

Most troublingly, sequestration will slow, and perhaps stall, the economic recovery. "This is not an abstraction," says President Obama. "People will lose their jobs."

By any measure, the sequester is austerity.

But it's not enough austerity for Simpson and Bowles.

The former Republican senator and defeated Democratic senate candidate who praises Paul Ryan's budget don't particularly like the death-by-slow-cuts of sequestration. They prefer a full frontal assault on the most vulnerable Americans and a redistribution of the wealth upward.

As President Obama has noted, Washington has already reduced the deficit by $2.5 trillion.

But the co-chairs of the failed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform now want another $2.4 trillion.

To wit, in a "rehashed" plan to "Fix the Debt," Simpson and Bowles are busy promoting schemes to "modernize...entitlement programs to account for" an aging population. That's code for schemes to delay the point at which the hardest working Americans can get access to Social Security and Medicare.

Simpson and Bowles are arguing specifically for the adoption of "chained CPI." That's the assault on Social Security cost-of-living increases that Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, correctly identifies as "a benefit cut."

"It's a bad idea and it's a stealth way to give people less," Ellison explained in a recent interview. "It is a benefit cut-and here's the real problem with it being a benefit cut: It would be absolutely horrible if it were a benefit cut but the cut was designed to extend the life of Social Security and to make the program more solvent. But that's not why they're doing it. They're doing it so that they can preserve somebody else to have a tax cut and to not raise taxes on the top 2 percent."

Ellison is right. As is invariably the case with austerity schemes, Simpson and Bowles-and the billionaire-funded "Fix the Debt" group they head-are proposing cuts to the top marginal tax rate for wealthy individuals and corporations.

The United States can and should address debts and deficits. And there are sound plans to do so, including the "Balancing Act" advanced by Ellison and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. That initiative rejects austerity and proposes a growth agenda based on tax fairness and investments in education and job creation.

That's not Simpson-Bowles, which Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman dismisses as "terrible" economics. That's responsible policy that avoids the "brutal cuts" of sequestration and the even more brutal cuts of full-fledged austerity.

"Almost $2 trillion has been cut over the past two years from teachers, firefighters, police officers, loans for college students, and infrastructure investments," the congressman says of the warped federal budget priorities proposed by austerity advocates. "The American people shouldn't continue to pay the price for massive tax breaks for millionaires and billions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies."

Meanwhile, Greg Kaufmann writes, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, languishes.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

The Story Behind The Label
By Frank Scott

The president gave his annual state-of-the-union reading of a speech that could have been written by the Hallmark Cards Political Greetings Division, touching on all the most important aspects of our national condition:

We are the greatest nation in the history of the world and we have some problems but we're working on them and not to worry, we'll continue to be the greatest nation in the history of the world.

That established, the usual chorus of near orgasmic praise from his acolytes was accompanied by carefully worded criticism from neo-liberal progressives who took pains to point out how his sleight of mouth magic this time was much more populist than last time. The neo-conservative regressives took him to task but for all the wrong reasons and the sub-moronic right continue charging him with being born on mars and hating billionaires because he is a communist, but these people require surgery to remove their fingers from their noses. More important was the problem of general consensus among those of the extreme center, the extreme right and the barely discernable left.

At a time when truly radical change is needed we have an extremely mild call for no material change at all, with rhetoric couched in market based packaging and labeling without a thought let alone any action of substance proposed. Thus, a call for more education at a time when tens of thousands of teachers are being laid off and public school budgets are under assault, and a promise of peace by bringing home some troops from Afghanistan while military bases all over the world number more than six hundred and new wars are threatened in Asia and Africa as well as Europe. Especially "populist" was a call for the minimum wage to rise to $9, a royal figure at which a full time worker would still wind up below the family poverty rate. And the same president had opted for a $9.50 wage back in 2008, further proof that not only his rhetoric but the entire economy is sinking.

These are all the usual platitudes employed by any president in these reports to the stockholders that say business is great or will be as soon as a newer product line hits the malls. The lack of material substance and reliance on cheap talk , word games and advertising jargon certainly did not originate with this particular servant of the 1%.

In recent years our consciousness controllers and their Madison Avenue mind managers have verbally transformed the american working class into a middle class, re-labeled workers as associates and convinced many that trillion dollar warfare and the death of hundreds of thousands of people is the experiece of peace. Now the world's most primitive social democratic ploys to maintain private capital domination have become "entitlements", which must be cut in an austerity program to save bankers , billionaires and corporate capital from facing financial ruin or worse, social revolution.

Presidents rank slightly above other members of our entertainer class, performing for very high wages to keep a minority in material comfort while supplying the rest of us with immaterial pleasure that keeps is from noticing we haven't much else to be pleased about. Like the Oscars, the Grammys, the Super Bowl, the World Cup and other prime time shows, these annual speeches draw big crowds and intense coverage by media, though the overwhelming majority of the people pay little attention to them, if any at all. This speaks well for them, but maybe it's time they start focusing more closely on the politicians rather than escaping their reality by watching the singing, dancing, acting, running, jumping and political posturing that seem to help make life bearable.

We are under the domain of a system whose owners bring us closer to ruin every moment we give our attention to their distractions of our minds from critical thought in order to protect their massive bodies of illegitimate wealth. The continued reliance on our economy's private parts to bring us out of a depression caused by that masturbatory focus in the first place amount to an attempt to destroy ourselves in a way that might make sex puritans triumphantly gloat. But the attack on all that is even remotely public and socially oriented in a rush to return to complete and total reliance on the deity of market forces under private control is not funny and is bringing all of us closer to a social and environmental breaking point.

This speech reading by the current CEO of corporate America was a defense of all that is wrong and must be changed. The state of this union, and the world, is distress, and the last thing to get us out of the mess we're in is continued reliance on the fanatic notion of a free market that wildly profits some, at the deadly expense of all.
(c) 2013 Frank Scott writes political commentary and satire which appears in print in The Independent Monitor and online at the blog Legalienate.

The Minimum Wage, Guns, Healthcare, And The Meaning Of A Decent Society
By Robert Reich

Raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 should be a no-brainer. Republicans say it will cause employers to shed jobs, but that's baloney. Employers won't outsource the jobs abroad or substitute machines for them because jobs at this low level of pay are all in the local personal service sector (retail, restaurant, hotel, and so on), where employers pass on any small wage hikes to customers as pennies more on their bills. States that have a minimum wage closer to $9 than the current federal minimum don't have higher rates of unemployment than do states still at the federal minimum.

A mere $9 an hour translates into about $18,000 a year - still under the poverty line. When you add in the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps it's possible to barely rise above poverty at this wage, but even the poverty line of about $23,000 understates the true cost of living in most areas of the country.

Besides, the proposed increase would put more money into the hands of families that desperately need it, allowing them to buy a bit more and thereby keep others working.

A decent society should do no less.

Some conservatives say "decency" has nothing to do with it. Who has the right to decide what's decent? We should let the "market" decide what people are paid.

This is one of the oldest conservative canards in existence, based on the false claim that there's something called a "market" that exists separate from society. But there's no "market" in a state of nature, just survival of the fittest.

A society necessarily determines how the "market" is to be organized. Standards of morality and decency play a large role in those decisions.

We set minimum standards for worker safety and consumer protection. We decide young children shouldn't be in the labor force.

We do our best to prevent certain things from being bought and sold - such as slaves, dangerous narcotics, babies, votes, sex with children, machine guns, nuclear material.

We decide citizens shouldn't have to buy certain things that should instead be available to everyone free of charge (paid in effect by all of us through our taxes) - such as clean drinking water, K-12 schools, safe bridges, protection from violence, public parks.

Opinions may differ about what decency requires, and we hash it out in a democracy. We might decide certain minimum standards are too costly or inefficient, or can't be enforced, or impose unwarranted constraints on our freedoms.

Different societies come up with different answers. Handguns are banned in most other advanced nations, for example. Workers have more protections than they do in the United States. Minimum wages are higher. Taxes on the wealthy are higher. Healthcare is more universally available.

Every society must necessarily decide for itself what decency requires. That's the very meaning of a "society."

Don't fall for the mindless assertion that "markets" know best. Markets are human creations, requiring human beings to decide how they are structured and maintained.

The questions we face - whether to raise the minimum wage, restrict the availability of guns, expand healthcare coverage, and countless other decisions - inevitably require us to define what we mean by a decent society.
(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.

Raise That Wage
By Paul Krugman

President Obama laid out a number of good ideas in his State of the Union address. Unfortunately, almost all of them would require spending money - and given Republican control of the House of Representatives, it's hard to imagine that happening.

One major proposal, however, wouldn't involve budget outlays: the president's call for a rise in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9, with subsequent increases in line with inflation. The question we need to ask is: Would this be good policy? And the answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a clear yes.

Why "surprisingly"? Well, Economics 101 tells us to be very cautious about attempts to legislate market outcomes. Every textbook - mine included - lays out the unintended consequences that flow from policies like rent controls or agricultural price supports. And even most liberal economists would, I suspect, agree that setting a minimum wage of, say, $20 an hour would create a lot of problems.

But that's not what's on the table. And there are strong reasons to believe that the kind of minimum wage increase the president is proposing would have overwhelmingly positive effects.

First of all, the current level of the minimum wage is very low by any reasonable standard. For about four decades, increases in the minimum wage have consistently fallen behind inflation, so that in real terms the minimum wage is substantially lower than it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, worker productivity has doubled. Isn't it time for a raise?

Now, you might argue that even if the current minimum wage seems low, raising it would cost jobs. But there's evidence on that question - lots and lots of evidence, because the minimum wage is one of the most studied issues in all of economics. U.S. experience, it turns out, offers many "natural experiments" here, in which one state raises its minimum wage while others do not. And while there are dissenters, as there always are, the great preponderance of the evidence from these natural experiments points to little if any negative effect of minimum wage increases on employment.

Why is this true? That's a subject of continuing research, but one theme in all the explanations is that workers aren't bushels of wheat or even Manhattan apartments; they're human beings, and the human relationships involved in hiring and firing are inevitably more complex than markets for mere commodities. And one byproduct of this human complexity seems to be that modest increases in wages for the least-paid don't necessarily reduce the number of jobs.

What this means, in turn, is that the main effect of a rise in minimum wages is a rise in the incomes of hard-working but low-paid Americans - which is, of course, what we're trying to accomplish.

Finally, it's important to understand how the minimum wage interacts with other policies aimed at helping lower-paid workers, in particular the earned-income tax credit, which helps low-income families who help themselves. The tax credit - which has traditionally had bipartisan support, although that may be ending - is also good policy. But it has a well-known defect: Some of its benefits end up flowing not to workers but to employers, in the form of lower wages. And guess what? An increase in the minimum wage helps correct this defect. It turns out that the tax credit and the minimum wage aren't competing policies, they're complementary policies that work best in tandem.

So Mr. Obama's wage proposal is good economics. It's also good politics: a wage increase is supported by an overwhelming majority of voters, including a strong majority of self-identified Republican women (but not men). Yet G.O.P. leaders in Congress are opposed to any rise. Why? They say that they're concerned about the people who might lose their jobs, never mind the evidence that this won't actually happen. But this isn't credible.

For today's Republican leaders clearly feel disdain for low-wage workers. Bear in mind that such workers, even if they work full time, by and large don't pay income taxes (although they pay plenty in payroll and sales taxes), while they may receive benefits like Medicaid and food stamps. And you know what this makes them, in the eyes of the G.O.P.: "takers," members of the contemptible 47 percent who, as Mitt Romney said to nods of approval, won't take responsibility for their own lives.

Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, offered a perfect illustration of this disdain last Labor Day: He chose to commemorate a holiday dedicated to workers by sending out a message that said nothing at all about workers, but praised the efforts of business owners instead.

The good news is that not many Americans share that disdain; just about everyone except Republican men believes that the lowest-paid workers deserve a raise. And they're right. We should raise the minimum wage, now.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holders lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately."
~~~ Bertrand Russell

The politician in question, at a press conference in Washington DC.

Pop Quiz On US Politics: Guess The Speaker
By Glenn Greenwald

A prominent US politicians makes some familiar statements about secrecy, the War on Terror, and Muslim enemies: who is it?

A prominent US politician late last week was asked several questions by the Huffington Post about Obama's due-process-free assassinations of US citizens. Who was it who gave the following answers? Cheating via Google will be harshly punished.

First, when asked whether the US public should be told when the Obama administration has targeted a US citizen for due-process-free execution - re-read again what was asked - this prominent politician replied:

"Maybe. It just depends."

Yes, that was actually the answer. As the Huffington Post put it, this politician "appeared conflicted over whether it was acceptable for the administration to simply disappear American citizens, a term that had previously been used as a verb only outside the United States." This politician elaborated this way: "It depends on the situation. Maybe it depends on the timing, because that's right - it's all about timing, imminence. What is it that could be in jeopardy if people know that happened at this time? I just don't know." Regarding the Obama drone wars generally, this politician explained the rationale for these extrajudicial killings by making claims about the unique, death-loving attributes of the Muslim targets and the need to Keep Us Safe:

"I don't know the American people want [the administration] to say, when in doubt, we decided that it wasn't that imminent, and boom, we get hit again. It's hard. It's not an easy thing, especially when you see that the values on the other side are not there. This is their life's work to go to heaven - not to put down their beliefs, but the fact is, we don't have a shared respect for life."

Don't let any "doubt" get in the way. Err on the side of killing. Otherwise, "we get hit again" - by "the other side" who, unlike us, doesn't "have a shared respect for life" because they want to get to heaven and get their virgins.

In the spirit of generosity, I'll give a few hints. The conservative site Hot Air, which has good analysis of all this, noted about these comments: "you might guess that they came from Dick Cheney or Condi Rice. Actually, scratch that - Condi sounds a bit more dovish about drones than this person does." So it's not Cheney or Rice. Nor was it Gen. William Westmoreland, who justified the mass death caused by the US during the Vietnam War by explaining: "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient."

Nor is it George Bush, who told the nation in his 2002 State of the Union address that Our Enemies in the War on Terror "embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice, made long ago, on the day of our founding. We affirm it again today. We choose freedom and the dignity of every life." Just to be extra helpful, I'll add that the quotes about how "their life's work is to go to heaven" and they "don't have a shared respect for life" are also neither from Robert Spencer, Pam Geller nor Melanie "Londonistan" Phillips, who routinely depict Them - "the other side" - as being a death cult eager to die and get to heaven in contrast to the superior western love for the sanctity of life. The answer, which is here as well as in the photograph at the end of this column, reveals so much about the US political class and American political culture.

Public opinion and right-wing support

While claiming ambivalence, this politician implicitly justified Obama's assassination program and drone war by referencing public opinion ("It's interesting how popular it is in the public. People just want to be protected"). Here one finds the standard public opinion fallacy used to justify US militarism, which I described here two weeks ago: namely, the public will virtually always overwhelmingly support policies that both political parties agree are the right one. In such cases, this "public opinion" excuse reverses causation: politicians do not embrace a policy because public opinion supports it; the opposite is true: public opinion supports it because politicians from both parties embrace it (aside from the fact that polls on these issues are far more conflicted than is suggested by this excuse).

Along those lines, the media's leading neoconservative, Charles Krauthammer, last week defended what the Washington Post called Obama's "drone wars" and did so, from start to finish, with reasoning precisely identical to that which I routinely hear from most Obama supporters justifying these policies. In particular, the central premise one must embrace in order to justify all of this is George Bush's once-controversial 2002 formulation about the War on Terror:

"These enemies view the entire world as a battlefield, and we must pursue them wherever they are."

As Krauthammer correctly notes, once you accept that Bush-defining "this-is-war-and-the-battlefield-is-the-whole-world" premise, as he and all other neocons do, then support for Obama's policies is virtually compelled, but if you reject that premise, then opposition will naturally follow. Said Krauthammer: "Now, for those who believe that the war on terror is not war but law enforcement, (a) I concede that they will find the foregoing analysis to be useless and (b) I assert that they are living on a different and distant planet. For us earthlings, on the other hand, the case for Obama's drone war is strong." That the Global War paradigm was the proper one was, prior to 2009, a highly controversial proposition.

Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi at a press conference in Washington DC.

(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.


Pseudo-Protests And A Serious Climate Crisis
By David Swanson

"You elected this president. You reelected this president. . . Stop being chumps!" ~~~ Van Jones

Going in, I was of mixed views regarding Sunday's rally in Washington, D.C., to save the earth's climate from the tar sands pipeline. I still am.

Why on a Sunday when there's no government around to protest, shut down, or interfere with?

And why all the pro-Obama rhetoric? Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical. Obama won't allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has "a strong moral core" and doesn't do really evil things.

As a belief, that's of course delusional. This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it. This is the guy who's derailed international climate protection efforts for years. This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year's election. If he had been compelled to take a stand as a candidate there would be no need for this effort to bring him around as a lame duck.

As a tactic, rather than a belief, the approach of the organizers of Sunday's rally is at least worth questioning. For one thing, people are going to hear such comments and take them for beliefs. People are going to believe that the president would never do anything really evil. In which case, why bother to turn out and rally in protest of what he's doing? Or if we do turn out, why communicate any serious threat of inconvenience to the president? On the contrary, why not make the protest into a campaign rally for the president through which we try, post-election, to alter the platform on which the actual candidate campaigned?

The advantage to the expect-the-best-and-the-facts-be-damned approach is clear. Lots of people like it. You can't have a mass rally without lots of people. The organizers of this event are not primarily to blame for how the U.S. public thinks and behaves. But, then again, if you're trying to maximize your crowd at all costs, hadn't you better really truly maximize it? Sunday's rally probably suffered from being held on a bitterly cold day, but I suspect that most people who planned to come did come; and I've seen more people on the Mall in the summer for no reason at all, and many times more people on the Mall in the winter for an inauguration (which, in terms of policy based activism, is also nothing at all).

What if the celebrities generating the news with arrests at the White House were to speak the truth? What if they committed to nonviolently interfering with the operations of a government destroying the climate? What if they committed to opposing the Democratic and Republican parties as long as this is their agenda? What if they said honestly and accurately that the personality of a president matters less than the pressures applied to him, that this president can do good or evil, and that it is our job to compel him to do good?

Sunday's rally, MC'd by former anti-Republican-war activist Lennox Yearwood, looked like an Obama rally. The posters and banners displayed a modified Obama campaign logo, modified to read "Forward on Climate." One of the speakers on the stage, Van Jones, declared, "I had the honor of working for this president." He addressed his remarks to the president and appealed to his morality and supposed good works: "President Obama, all the good that you have done . . . will be wiped out" if you allow the tar sands pipeline.

The pretense in these speeches, including one by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, was consistently that Obama has not already approved part of the pipeline, that he is guilty of inaction, that the government is failing to act, that what's needed is action -- as if our government were not actively promoting the use of, and using vast quantities of fossil fuels, not to mention fighting wars to control the stuff.

Van Jones ended his remarks by addressing himself to "the next generation." And this is what he had to say: "Stop being chumps! You elected this president. You reelected this president. You gave him the chance to make history. He needs to give you the chance to have a future. Stop being chumps! Stop being chumps and fight for your future, thank you very much." Reading these words, one would imagine that the obvious meaning they carry is "Stop electing people like this who work for parties like this and serve financial interests like these." What could be a more obvious interpretation? You elected this guy twice. He's a lame duck now. You've lost your leverage. Stop being such chumps!

Nothing could be further, I think, from what Van Jones meant or what that crowd on Sunday believed he meant. This was a speaker who had, just moments before, expressed his pride in having worked in Obama's White House. The fact that this crowd of Obama-branded "activists" had elected him twice was not mentioned in relation to their chumpiness but as grounds for establishing their right to insist that he not destroy the planet's atmosphere. They would be chumps if they didn't hold more rallies like this one.

Wait, you might ask, doesn't everyone have the right to insist that powerful governments not destroy the earth's atmosphere?

Well, maybe, but in Van Jones' thinking, those who committed to voting for Obama twice, no matter what he did, and who have committed to voting for another Democrat no matter what he or she will do, deserve particular attention when they make demands. Paradoxically, those who can be counted on regardless, who demand nothing and therefore offer nothing, should be the ones who especially get to make demands and have them heard and honored.

Needless to say, it doesn't actually work that way.

Our celebrity emperors attract a great deal of personal affection or hatred, so when I suggest an alternative to packaging a rally for the climate as a belated campaign event, it may be heard as a suggestion to burn Obama in effigy. What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate?

We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family. But would we really lose that many? If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same busses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday's unimpressive rally have really been?

(And couldn't such a crowd be enlarged enough to more than compensate for any loss, by the simple tactic of promising ahead of time to keep the speeches to a half-hour total and to begin the march on time? I'd pay money to go to that rally.)

The problem, of course, is that the celebrities and organizers themselves tend to think like Obama campaign workers. It's not an act. It's not a tactic aimed at maximizing turnout. And it's not their fault that they, and so many others, think that way.

But imagine a realistic, policy-based approach that began to build an independent movement around principled demands. It would have the potential to grow. It would have the potential to threaten massive non-cooperation with evil. It would have the energy of Occupy. It would have the potential to make a glorious declaration out of what now appears to be self-mockery when oversmall crowds of hungover campaign workers shout "This is what democracy looks like!" as they plod along a permitted parade route.

No. It really isn't.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Vorstandsvorsitzende Grant,

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 your cornering the food market and then poisoning it to help us get rid of the excess population, 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 "Corpo-rat 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 Grant, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

A row of beds inside the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Profiting From Human Misery
By Chris Hedges

Marela, an undocumented immigrant in her 40s, stood outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J., on a chilly afternoon last week. She was there with a group of protesters who appear at the facility's gates every year on Ash Wednesday to decry the nation's immigration policy and conditions inside the center. She was there, she said, because of her friend Evelyn Obey.

Obey, 40, a Guatemalan and the single mother of a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old, was picked up in an immigration raid as she and nine other undocumented workers walked out of an office building they cleaned in Newark, N.J. Her two children instantly lost their only parent. She languished in detention. Another family took in the children, who never saw their mother again. Obey died in jail in 2010 from, according to the sign Villar had hung on her neck, "pulmonary thromboembolism, chronic bronchiolitis and emphysema and remote cardiac Ischemic Damage.' "

"She called me two days after she was seized," Marela told me in Spanish. "She was hysterical. She was crying. She was worried about her children. We could not visit her because we do not have legal documents. We helped her get a lawyer. Then we heard she was sick. Then we heard she died. She was buried in an unmarked grave. We did not go to her burial. We were too scared of being seized and detained."

The rally-about four dozen people, most from immigrant rights groups and local churches-was a flicker of consciousness in a nation that has yet to fully confront the totalitarian corporate forces arrayed against it. Several protesters in orange jumpsuits like those worn by inmates held signs reading: "I Want My Family Together," "No Human Being is Illegal," and "Education not Deportation."

"The people who run that prison make money off of human misery," said Diana Mejia, 47, an immigrant from Colombia who now has legal status, gesturing toward the old warehouse that now serves as the detention facility. As she spoke, a Catholic Worker band called the Filthy Rotten System belted out a protest song. A low-flying passenger jet, its red, green and white underbelly lights blinking in the night sky, rumbled overhead. Clergy walking amid the crowd marked the foreheads of participants with ashes to commemorate Ash Wednesday.

"Repentance is more than merely being sorry," the Rev. Joyce Antila Phipps, the executive director of Casa de Esperanza, a community organization working with immigrants, told the gathering. "It is an act of turning around and then moving forward to make change."

The majority of those we incarcerate in this country-and we incarcerate a quarter of the world's prison population-have never committed a violent crime. Eleven million undocumented immigrants face the possibility of imprisonment and deportation. President Barack Obama, outpacing George W. Bush, has deported more than 400,000 people since he took office. Families, once someone is seized, detained and deported, are thrown into crisis. Children come home from school and find they have lost their mothers or fathers. The small incomes that once sustained them are snuffed out. Those who remain behind often become destitute.

But human beings matter little in the corporate state. We myopically serve the rapacious appetites of those dedicated to exploitation and maximizing profit. And our corporate masters view prisons-as they do education, health care and war-as a business. The 320-bed Elizabeth Detention Center, which houses only men, is run by one of the largest operators and owners of for-profit prisons in the country, Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has annual revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. An average of 81,384 inmates are in its facilities on any one day. This is a greater number, the American Civil Liberties Union points out in a 2011 report, "Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration," than that held by the states of New York and New Jersey combined.

The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry's profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible.

The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report notes, says that for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private prisons account for nearly all of the new prisons built between 2000 and 2005. And nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped to for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which imprisons about 400,000 undocumented people a year, has an annual budget of more than $5 billion. ICE is planning to expand its operations by establishing several mega-detention centers, most run by private corporations, in states such as New Jersey, Texas, Florida, California and Illinois. Many of these private contractors are, not surprisingly, large campaign donors to "law and order" politicians including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In CCA's annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission for 2011, cited by the ACLU, the prison company bluntly states its opposition to prison reform. "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws," it declares. CCA goes on to warn that "any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration" could "potentially [reduce] demand for correctional facilities," as would "mak[ing] more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior," the adoption of "sentencing alternatives [that] ... could put some offenders on probation" and "reductions in crime rates."

CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the ACLU reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials along with undisclosed funds to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU. CCA, through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070.

A March 2012 CCA investor presentation prospectus, quoted by the ACLU, tells potential investors that incarceration "creates predictable revenue streams." The document cites demographic trends that the company says will continue to expand profits. These positive investment trends include, the prospectus reads, "high recidivism"-"about 45 percent of individuals released from prison in 1999 and more than 43 percent released from prison in 2004 were returned to prison within three years." The prospectus invites investments by noting that one in every 100 U.S. adults is currently in prison or jail. And because the U.S. population is projected to grow by approximately 18.6 million from 2012 to 2017, "prison populations would grow by about 80,400 between 2012 and 2017, or by more than 13,000 additional per year, on average," the CCA document says.

The two largest private prison companies in 2010 received nearly $3 billion in revenue. The senior executives, according to the ACLU report, each received annual compensation packages worth well over $3 million. The for-profit prisons can charge the government up to $200 a day to house an inmate; they pay detention officers as little as $10 an hour.

"Within 30 miles of this place, there are at least four other facilities where immigrants are detained: Essex, Monmouth, Delaney Hall and Hudson, which has the distinction of being named one of the 10 worst detention facilities in the country," Phipps, who is an immigration attorney as well as a minister, told the gathering in front of the Elizabeth Detention Center. "The terrible secret is that immigration detention has become a very profitable business for companies and county governments."

"More than two-thirds of immigrants are detained in so-called contract facilities owned by private companies, such as this one and Delaney Hall," she went on. "The rise of the prison industrial complex has gone hand in hand with the aggrandizing forces of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which, by the way, has filed suit against the very government it is supposed to be working for because they were told to exercise prosecutorial discretion in their detention practices." [Click here to see more about the lawsuit, in which 10 ICE agents attack the administration's easing of government policy on those who illegally entered the United States as children.]

There is an immigration court inside the Elizabeth facility, although the roar of the planes lifting off from the nearby Newark Airport forces those in the court to remain silent every three or four minutes until the sound subsides. Most of those brought before the court have no legal representation and are railroaded through the system and deported. Detainees, although most have no criminal record beyond illegal entry into the United States, wear orange jumpsuits and frequently are handcuffed. They do not have adequate health care. There are now some 5,000 children in foster care because their parents have been detained or deported, according to the Applied Research Center's report "Shattered Families." The report estimates that this number will rise to 15,000 within five years.

"I am in family court once every six to eight weeks representing some mother who is surrendering custody of her child to somebody else because she does not want to take that child back to the poverty of Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador," Phipps said when we spoke after the rally. "She has no option. She does not want her child to live in the same poverty she grew up in. It is heartbreaking."

We have abandoned the common good. We have been stripped of our rights and voice. Corporations write our laws and determine how we structure our society. We have all become victims. There are no politicians or institutions, no political parties or courts, that are independent enough or strong enough to resist the corporate onslaught. Greater and greater numbers of human beings will be consumed. The poor, the vulnerable, the undocumented, the weak, the elderly, the sick, the children will go first. And those of us watching helplessly outside the gates will go next.
(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."

From Prisoner X To Lord Montagu
By Adam Keller

No court issued a gag order on the detention of Samer Al Issawi. The information was freely available, and anyone who wanted to could have published all the facts: Samer al-Issawi, a resident of Isawiya in East Jerusalem, was placed last July in Administrative Detention without trial and imprisoned at the Ramla Prison (yes, the same Ramla Prison which this week got to the headlines for other reasons). He began a hunger strike which already passed the 200 days' mark, lost thirty five kilograms and suffered severe damage to his kidneys. A few days ago he stopped drinking the vitamins and few nutritional supplements which kept him alive until now. All this information was completely open to publication - everything except the charges against Issawi, which were contained only in "secret evidence" presented to the judge who extended his detention and of which Issawi himself was not told.

There was no problem in publishing it - but reporters and editors in Israel's newspapers and electronic media just did not think it was of interest to their readers and listeners. Only when this weekend the deteriorating condition of Samer al Issawi precipitated a series of demonstrations across the West Bank and clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers, a few references cropped up in the media - and even then, in a very minimal way.

Had Ben Zygier been a Palestinian, still now nobody would have heard of him.


So what did really happen, in this affair of which only a select few knew four days ago and which now captured the headlines in Israel and Australia and around the world?

How it started is well known: a young Jew raised in a distinguished Melbourne family, taking his Zionism seriously makes Aliya and goes to live in Israel and getting married here; entering the country's spy service, Mossad, and taking on a series of mysterious tasks, and certainly not giving up his Australian citizenship. Much of his value to the Mossad consisted of his ability to carry (or lend to others) a genuine Australian passport, which would pass the closest scrutiny, and enter freely countries barred to carriers of an Israeli passport. And indeed, he did not cut his ties with Australia, where his family lived, and where he has gone to visit and study at university.

The middle of the story is still mostly hidden. In early 2010 unknown agents assassinated a senior Palestinian at the Emirate of Dubai. The assassins failed to disappear without a trace. Indeed, they left behind a spectacular trail - abundant photos taken by security cameras, names in forged Australian passports, and a series of clues pointing to the State of Israel and the Mossad. But what exactly was the connection to Ben Zygier, the Australian Jew who went to Israel and made his Australian passport available for Israel's daring espionage operations?

And the end - most of it is by now clear. A secret trial and a secret detention at a well-guarded isolation cell in the Ramla Prison and gag orders to hide every scrap of information from the public. Serious charges that could have kept him in that secret cell for very many years, and a plea bargain offered which was a bit more lenient but which also involved quite a few years in prison, a difficult choice between two harsh options. And then suicide in custody, in a cell with four surveillance cameras. If it was a suicide.

But what exactly did happen in the middle? What did he do or plan to do? Shalom Yerushalmi in Ma'ariv published what seems to be a message sent directly from within the Mossad: "Zygier, it is said, was holding a smoking gun. Had he not been stopped, he would have caused great damage. No one in the Mossad wanted him to kill himself in prison, but after he hanged himself none of them went into mourning" . And on TV the veteran Ron Ben-Yishai pointed an accusing finger at the Australian security service: "They are the ones who got Zygier into trouble." How, exactly?

A hypothesis, not based on any first hand information: At some time in late January or early February 2010, the security services of Australia turned to Zygier, an Australian citizen who traveled a lot with an Australian passport, and demanded that he tell them what he knew about the use which the State of Israel made of Australian passports, in ways which were liable to damage the national interests of Australia. Australian tourists and business people arriving in various countries were increasingly suspected of being Israeli spies.

If this is what happened, Ben Zygier could not have gotten out of it well, do what he would do. Had he provided the information, he could have come to be considered under the laws of the State of Israel a traitor failing in his loyalty to Israel. Had he refused to provide it, he might have been considered under the laws of Australia a traitor failing in his loyalty to Australia. In short - the nightmare of Jews in Australia, as in the U.S. and many other countries - the charge of "double loyalty."

Did Israel have the moral right to place an Australian Jew is such an impossible situation? Did Israel, thirty years ago, have the moral right to appeal to an American Jew named Jonathan Pollard and convince him that as a Jew he owed to Israel a loyalty surpassing that he owed to the United States?

How many Jews in how many countries have paid a direct or indirect price for the acts and policies of Israel?

In July 1994 an explosive charge exploded in the Jewish community building at Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, and eighty-five people got killed. Although not definitely solved, this is considered to have been an act of revenge for Israel's assassination of Hezbollah leader Abbas Musawi. The Argentinian Jews, certainly not sharing in Israel's wars in South Lebanon, were selected as the available targets for revenge against the "Jewish State".

This affair continues to resound in Argentine's politics and comes up again and again. A few weeks ago the Argentine government chose to initiate an international investigation of the bombing involving also the Iranian government - against which the Israeli government lodged a strong protest with the Argentinians. The Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman - who, perhaps not coincidentally, is himself Jewish - summoned the Ambassador of Israel to lodge a protest at the Israeli protest and the Israeli government's interference in the way that the government of Argentine chose to deal with the murder of Argentinian citizens at the heart of the capital of Argentine.

As reported at the time, "The Argentinian Foreign Minister was so upset that he almost hardly gave the Israeli Ambassador a chance to utter a word, cut her off again and again: 'Israel has no right to ask for explanations, we are a sovereign state' said Timerman to Ambassador Shavit. 'Israel doesn't represent or speak for all Jews. Those Jews who wanted Israel to represent them went to Israel and became Israeli citizens. Jews who live in Argentine are Argentinian citizens. The bombing was against Argentine and Israel's desire to be involved in the matter only gives ammunition to anti-Semites who accuse Jews of double loyalty.'"


In 1917 the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, promising to view with favour "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." In the prolonged deliberations held by the British cabinet before this declaration was issued, Edwin Montagu - the only Jewish minister in the British government at the time - expressed his reservations and strong opposition to the planned declaration. "...I assume that it means that Mahommedans and Christians are to make way for the Jews and that the Jews should be put in all positions of preference and should be peculiarly associated with Palestine in the same way that England is with the English or France with the French, that Turks and other Mahommedans in Palestine will be regarded as foreigners, just in the same way as Jews will hereafter be treated as foreigners in every country but Palestine." He expressed his concerned that a "dual loyalty" would be created among the Jews of the world - loyalty to the governments in their countries of residence vs. loyalty to their national home in Israel - and it would finally give anti-Semites a pretext to undermine the position of the Jews in Britain and other countries and expel them, also against their will, to their "National Home."

To appease Lord Montagu and other opponents, there were added to the text of the Balfour Declaration as finally issued a clear reservation. Establishment of the "National Home" was on condition of "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

Ninety-six years later, the National Home has become a fact, and established the most powerful army in the Middle East as well as an intelligence service spreading a worldwide net. In light of this experience, it would be very difficult to argue that what was "clearly understood" in 1917 had been indeed complied with, or that there was no bases to the apprehensions of Lord Edwin Montagu.
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

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~~~ Cal Grondahl ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

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Parting Shots...


The Red Rebs
By Will Durst

Relax. It's not necessarily the flu making you confused and feverish. Could be spatter from that big, thick, juicy, new, improved Civil War infecting the Republican Party. Yes, again. The Rebs inside the Reds are rebooting themselves for the umpteenth time over the past few election cycles. Have to assume these self-proclaimed frugal guys purchased their huge caches of defibrillators and CPR paddles in bulk. "CLEAR!"

Change may emanate from the top, but in a blast from nearer the rump of the totem, Karl Rove announced the formation of a brand new Super PAC. It's the first of what might be called the Super Duper PACs. And a mere foreshadow of the Holey Moley The Hell is That Super Duper PAC to be unveiled immediately following the midterms. Initial reports have the man known affectionately as Turd Blossom and Bush's Brain calling his Frankenstein fund-raising monster the "Conservative Victory Party."

Sounds like a natural response coming from the guy who famously threw an Election Night Hissy Fit on Fox News because Mitt Romney wasn't being properly victorious enough. "Wait, wait, wait. No, I'm telling you, it's not over. There's a cul-de-sac in a suburb on the outskirts of Shaker Heights that hasn't checked in yet. Hey, oww. Let go. My arm doesn't bend that way."

Rove plans to siphon big money from donors and use it to support moderates in primary elections so Republicans no longer have to enter the generals defending some bat guano crazy candidate like Christine "I am Not a Witch" O'Donnell or Todd "Magic Fallopian Tube" Akin. Of course the Tea Party has taken great offense to this move, seeing it as incredibly counter productive to the chances of their bat guano crazy candidates.

So, you got those two blocs going at it. And with looming demographic flips in mind (Texas turning blue because rich white folks are not having enough babies while other folks are having plenty) there's a move afoot to make the party more attractive to Hispanics. This undertaking has fallen into two camps: those arguing to temper policies opposing immigration reform and those favoring more cosmetic solutions like wearing sombreros.

Another rift surfaced when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul insisted on giving a blood thirsty unofficial response to the official State of the Union Response by the agua thirsty Florida Senator Marco Rubio. This, right after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave a speech pleading for the GOP to stop being the "stupid party." And the fact that he said it out loud was... well, stupid.

The GOP remains so obstinate and unwilling to give the White House even the tiniest of victories they filibustered a Cabinet appointment... from their own party. Causing Democrats, usually known for eating their own, to salivate like perched vultures watching a field of hyenas tear each other apart for the last antelope thigh.

The situation sort of resembles those old Cage Battles Royale put on by the World Wrestling Federation back in the early '80s. Where 15 guys got into the ring with a chair, beat each other up and last one standing wins. Maybe that's what the GOP needs: a Hulk Hogan to pummel everyone back into place. Although that said, Karl Rove has always seemed more like the Rowdy Roddy Piper type. "CLEAR!"
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, e-book "Elect to Laugh!" published by Hyperink, is now available at, Amazon and many other fine virtual book retailers near you. Go to for more info.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 08 (c) 02/22/2013

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