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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald with a must read, "How Covert Agents Infiltrate The Internet To Manipulate, Deceive, And Destroy Reputations."

Uri Avnery gets some satisfaction, "Captain Boycott Rides Again."

Glen Ford scrutinizes, "Obama's War Against Civilization."

Tom Engelhardt remembers, "This Island Earth."

Jim Hightower listens while, "Tom Perkins Speaks, Again."

David Swanson reveals, "Operation Nazification."

James Donahue wonders, "Did We Let Them Poison Our Minds On Purpose?"

John Nichols explores why the, "UAW's Challenge To Republican Political Interference Is About More Than VW Vote."

Chris Hedges lectures on, "Edward Snowden's Moral Courage."

David Sirota uncovers a, "Hollywood Heist."

Paul Krugman examines, "Health Care Horror Hooey."

Ian Millhiser takes us back to, "When 'Religious Liberty' Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia."

Margaret Kimberley sees, "America Vs. The World."

Ted Nugent wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich warns of, "Inequality, Productivity, And WhatsApp."

William Pfaff returns with, "The Obama Method: Combine Threats With Accommodation."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst has those, "Green Rush Munchies" but first, Uncle Ernie sez, "The Empire Shrinks Back."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bill Day, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Brad Jonas, All Hat No Cattle.Com, Pete Souza, Dave Granlund, WhatsApp.Com, Hannes Grobe, True Clothing.Net, Wikimedia Commons, A.P., Universal International Pictures, The White House, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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The Empire Shrinks Back
By Ernest Stewart

"Our recommendations beyond fiscal year 2015 provide a realistic alternative to sequestration-level cuts, sustaining adequate readiness and modernization most relevant to strategic priorities over the long term. But this can only be achieved by the strategic balance of reforms and reductions the president and I will present to the Congress. This will require Congress to partner with the Department of Defense in making politically difficult choices." ~~~ Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

"No VWGOA employee could cast a vote without a well-founded fear that the exercise of the franchise could mean both that their job security at VWGOA and the financial health of their plant could be in serious jeopardy. Such an environment, foisted on VWGOA workers by politicians who have no regard for the workers' rights under federal law, is completely contrary to the environment that the National Labor Relations Act demands for union certification elections." ~~~ UAW to the NLRB on appeal

"If there is one thing I am, it's always right." ~~~ Ted Nugent

"Give, but give until it hurts." ~~~ Mother Teresa

Can you imagine? Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced major cuts to the Pentagon budget. If these plans actually get implemented, they would shrink the Army to its smallest size since World War II. It's about time that the Pentagoons were brought back down to reality. While it's probably to late to help out our current financial crisis, if implemented, and carried on it could bring the deficits down dramatically, if given time.

Chuck has discovered that the military is top heavy; and he's discovered that much like in civilian life, the 1% got huge raises when compared to the bones that were thrown to the enlisted. The budget also targets personnel costs, with cuts to soldiers' housing allowances and commissary subsidies, along with increases in health-care fees for the families of active service members. Makes you want to enlist, huh?

Chuck asked for a new round of base closures, starting in 2017. He also is requesting disposal of the Air Force's entire fleet of A-10 Warthog ground attack jets, mothballing a fleet of Navy cruisers, stoping the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program, and reducing the subsidy for troop commissaries. I recall the PX was the one bright spot on the base; oops, I almost forgot, the nurse's barracks, too, or, as they called it, "The Body Shop!"

The Army would also cancel its Ground Combat Vehicle. The Pentagon would transfer all the Army's AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the active component, away from the National Guard and Reserve, and cut the overall active Army to about 450,000 troops - from its Iraq War peak of 570,000. And the active Army would transfer some of its Black Hawk utility helicopters to the Guard and Reserve. Go ahead and try to follow Chuck Hagel's sleight of hand, if you can, and never mind Barry behind the curtains.

In Other News

The Sheeple are easily fooled. especially by authority figures; and once you cross that Manson/Nixon line, it becomes doubly so. Are the Sheeple down south any dumber than the Sheeple up north? Probably not; but they do have to wade through ten times the bullshit, half truths, and outright lies -- which goes a long way in explaining the union vote at that Tennessee VW plant.

Every fascist reactionary from a US Sinator to the Governor, to the local mayor and heaps of con-gressmen, and the like, came out of the woodwork and from under various rocks to do the thing that the Rethuglicans do best, i.e., scare the Sheeple. Even though to do so was in violation of various federal laws they all swore to follow and protect, that didn't really enter into the equation. And by a hair's margin, they kept the workers from getting a union.

Well, at least they thought that they had, until the union filed an appeal for all the various acts of treason that these clowns did. UAW president Bob King put it this way...
"It's an outrage that politically-motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee. It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product."
I must confess, back in my college daze, I worked for a Ford Motor Company parts supplier, and was elected union steward for local 169 of the UAW. So, call me biased if you like; but you can trace almost every good thing we have in this country when it comes to work rules and such to the unions. You know, things like 40 hour work weeks, paid vacations, overtime, child labor laws, etc., which had the effect of creating a middle class! Even VW was in favor of the unions as it allowed them to create a worker council like they have in all their union plants. And for you non-union VW workers down in Tennessee who heeded the Rethuglican paranoia, did Sinator Corker mention the VW workers who are in an union in Germany are currently earning $67 an hour? He didn't? A funny coincidence that, huh?

And Finally

Last week I raked Tedly over the coals for his more recent racist, bigoted rants. He would've been last week's Vidkun Quisling Award winner; but Tedly Cruz, the Canadian/Texas maniac already had it locked up. I won't repeat all those various recent gaffs that Ted has made; but you can read them here in the archives if you like.

I think this following quote says all one needs to know about Ted. Like most Rethuglicans, Ted is a chicken-hawk; he talks big; but when it came down to actually serving his country Ted chickened out. Ergo, Ted wins this week's Vidkun Quisling Award! Here's an excerpt from an interview with Ted that was in the Oct. '77 issue of High Times magazine, the one with the Johnny Rotten cover. Here's the real Mr. Macho and what he did to get out of serving his country!
Thirty days of debris build. I stopped shavin' and I was 18, had a little scraggly beard, really looked like a hippie. I had long hair, and it started gettin' kinky -- matted up. Two weeks before, I'd stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer-stuff; I never touched-buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I'd drink the syrup; I was this side of death. A week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants -- poop, piss: the whole shot. My pants got crusted up. See, I approached the whole thing like Ted Nugent -- cool hard-workin' dude -- is gonna wreak havoc on these imbeciles in the armed forces. I'm gonna play their own game; and I'm gonna destroy 'em. Now my whole body is crusted in poop and piss. I was ill. And three or four days before, I started stayin' awake. I was close to death; but I was in control. I was extremely antidrug, as I've always been; but I snorted some crystal methedrine. Talk about one wounded motherfucker. A guy put up four lines; and it was for all four of us; but I didn't know; and I'm vacuuming that poop right up. I was a walking, talking hunk of human poop. I was six-foot-three of sin. So the guys took me down to the physical; and my nerves, my emotions were distraught. I was not a good person. I was wounded. But as painful and nauseous as it was -- 'cause I was really into bein' clean and on the ball -- I made gutter swine hippies look like football players. I was deviano.

So I went in, and those guys in uniform couldn't believe the smell. They were ridiculin' me and pushin' me around; and I was cryin'; but all the time I was laughin' to myself. When they stuck the needle in my arm for the blood test, I passed out; and when I came to, they were kicking me into the wall. Then they made everybody take off their pants; and I did; and this sergeant says, "Oh my God, put those back on! You fuckin' swine you!" Then they had a urine test and I couldn't piss. My poop was just like ooze, man; so I poop in the cup and put it on the counter. I had poop on my hand and my arm. The guy almost puked. I was so proud. I knew I had these chumps beat. The last thing I remember was wakin' up in the ear test booth and they were sweepin' up. So I went home and cleaned up.

There's an image you'll recall the next time Ted starts spouting off! As you can clearly see, truth is far stranger than fiction!

Keepin' On

When you're hot, you're hot; and for the last two weeks, we've been hot. This week, thanks to, Ken from Chattanooga, we are hot. Ken is a newbie, and is just the type of reader that we need more of! Hopefully, before the year is out, Ken will join the "Usual Suspects," whose ranks we need to swell, as well. Thank so much for the nice check, Ken!

Trouble is, we're nine weeks into the new year; and we've managed to raise about one week's need. We need to raise a little over $6,000 every year to pay our bills -- a little less than $150 a week -- which puts us about 8 weeks behind where we should be at this time.

Ergo, we need your help more than ever, if we're going to keep bringing you the truth. Truth, you may have noticed, is very hard to find. It's easy to find it within the pages of Issues & Alibis -- but not so much anywhere else. Beyond the truth lies the importance of news. You can find the truth elsewhere; but is it the truth you need to know? That's what we specialize in -- the news you must know to understand what's going down all around you. We don't tell you what to think; we just lay out the facts and let you make up your own mind. You can deal with most anything; but you have to know what you are dealing with to make the right choice. If you think, like Ken, that this is important, then please send us whatever you can, as often as you can, and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours!


11-21-1944 ~ 02-24-2014
Thanks for the film!

09-29-1921 ~ 02-24-2014
Thanks for the music!

08-05-1961 ~ 02-26-2014
Thanks for the laughs!


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


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

Until the next time, Peace!
(c) 2014 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for the last 13 years managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Visit the Magazine's page on Facebook and like us when you do. Follow me on Twitter.

A page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit

How Covert Agents Infiltrate The Internet To Manipulate, Deceive, And Destroy Reputations
By Glenn Greenwald

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It's time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about "dirty trick" tactics used by GCHQ's previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking "Five Eyes" alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled "The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations."

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse "hacktivists" of using, the use of "honey traps" (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: "false flag operations" (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting "negative information" on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we're publishing today:

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title "discredit a target":

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: "using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world," including "information ops (influence or disruption)."

Critically, the "targets" for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of "traditional law enforcement" against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, "hacktivism", meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency's own awareness that it is "pushing the boundaries" by using "cyber offensive" techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

No matter your views on Anonymous, "hacktivists" or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want - who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes - with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the "denial of service" tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people's reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they've been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, "targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent." Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that "there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions."

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House's former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups" which spread what he views as false and damaging "conspiracy theories" about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that - while disputing key NSA claims - proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency's powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls "false flag operations" and emails to people's families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today's newly published document touts the work of GCHQ's "Human Science Operations Cell", devoted to "online human intelligence" and "strategic influence and disruption:"

Under the title "Online Covert Action", the document details a variety of means to engage in "influence and info ops" as well as "disruption and computer net attack", while dissecting how human being can be manipulated using "leaders", "trust, "obedience" and "compliance":

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes - or "game" it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in "false flag operations" where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ's mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: "It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position."

These agencies' refusal to "comment on intelligence matters" - meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do - is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in "false flag operations" to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people - who have been charged with no crime - for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth book, No Place to Hide, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world, will be released in April 2014. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn's column was featured at Guardian US and Salon. 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.

Captain Boycott Rides Again
By Uri Avnery

IT HAS always been a secret ambition of mine to have a bagatz ruling bearing my name.

Bagatz is the Hebrew acronym for "High Court of Justice," the Israeli equivalent of a constitutional court. It plays a very important role in Israeli public life.

Having a ground-breaking Supreme Court decision named after you confers a kind of immortality. Long after you are gone, lawyers quote your case and refer to the judgment.

Take Roe v. Wade, for example. Whenever abortion is debated in the US, Roe v. Wade (1973) comes up, though few remember who Jane Roe and Henry Wade actually were. Now there is "Uri Avnery and Others v. the Knesset and the State of Israel", which came up this week before the Israeli Supreme Court. It concerns the anti-boycott law enacted by the Knesset.

A few hours after the law was passed, Gush Shalom and I personally submitted to the court our application to annul it. We had prepared our legal arguments well in advance. That's why it bears my name. The applicants rather disrespectfully called "Others" are about a dozen human rights organizations, both Jewish and Arab, who joined us.

After this ego-trip, let's get to the point.

THE COURT session was rather unusual. Instead of the three justices who normally deal with such applications, this time nine judges - almost the full complement of the court - were seated at the table. Almost a dozen lawyers argued for the two sides. Among them was our own Gabi Lasky, who opened the case for the applicants.

The judges were no passive listeners fighting boredom, as they usually are. All nine judges intervened constantly, asking questions, interjecting provocative remarks. They were clearly very interested.

The law does not outlaw boycotts as such. The original Captain Charles Boycott would not have been involved.

Boycott was an agent of an absentee landlord in Ireland who evicted tenants unable to pay their rent during the Irish famine of 1880. Instead of resorting to violence against him, Irish leaders called on their people to ostracize him. He was "boycotted" - no one spoke with him, worked for him, traded with him or even delivered his mail. Pro-British volunteers were brought in to work for him, protected by a thousand British soldiers. But soon "boycotting" became widespread and entered the English language.

By now, of course, a boycott means a lot more than ostracizing an individual. It is a major instrument of protest, intended to hurt the object both morally and economically, much like an industrial strike.

In Israel, a number of boycotts are going on all the time. The rabbis call on pious Jews to boycott shops which sell non-kosher food or hotels which serve hot meals on the holy Sabbath. Consumers upset by the cost of food boycotted cottage cheese, an act that grew into the mass social protest in the summer of 2011. No one was indignant.

Until it reached the settlements.

IN 1997 Gush Shalom, the movement to which I belong, declared the first boycott of the settlements. We called upon Israelis to abstain from buying goods produced by settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories.

This caused hardly a stir. When we called a press conference, not a single Israeli journalist attended - something I have never experienced before or since.

To facilitate the action, we published a list of the enterprises located in the settlements. Much to our surprise, tens of thousands of consumers asked for the list. That's how the ball started rolling.

We did not call for a boycott of Israel. Quite the contrary, our main aim was to emphasize the difference between Israel proper and the settlements. One of our stickers said: "I Buy Only Products of Israel - Not the Products of the Settlements!" While the government did everything possible to erase the Green Line, we aimed at restoring it in the consciousness of the Israeli public.

We also aimed at hurting the settlements economically. The government was working full-time to attract people to the settlements by offering private villas to young couple who could not afford an apartment in Israel proper, and lure local and foreign investors with huge subsidies and tax reductions. The boycott was intended to counteract these inducements.

We were also attracted by the very nature of a boycott: it is democratic and non-violent. Anyone can implement it quietly in their private life, without having to identify himself or herself.

THE GOVERNMENT decided that the best way to minimize the damage was to ignore us. But when our initiative started to find followers abroad, they became alarmed. Especially when the EU decided to implement the provisions of its trade agreement with Israel. This confers large benefits on Israeli exports, but excludes the settlements which are manifestly illegal under international law.

The Knesset reacted furiously and devoted a whole day to the matter. (If I may be allowed another ego-trip: I decided to attend the session. As a former member, I was seated with Rachel in the gallery of honored guests. When a rightist speaker noticed us, he turned around and, in a flagrant breach of parliamentary etiquette, pointed at us and snarled: "There is the Royal Couple of the Left!")

Abroad, too, the boycott was initially aimed at the settlements. But, drawing on the experience of the anti-apartheid struggle, it soon turned into a general boycott of Israel. I do not support this. To my mind, it is counter-productive, since it pushes the general population into the arms of the settlers, under the tired old slogan: "All the world is against us".

The growing dimensions of the various boycotts could no longer be ignored. The Israeli Right decided to act - and it did so in a very clever way.

It exploited the call to boycott Israel in order to outlaw the call to boycott the settlements, which was the part which really upset it. That is the essence of the law enacted two years ago.

THE LAW does not punish individual boycotters. It punishes everyone who publicly calls for a boycott.

And what punishment! No prison terms, which would have turned us into martyrs. The law says that any individual who feels that they have been hurt by the boycott call can sue the boycott-callers for unlimited damages, without having to prove any damage at all. So can hundreds of others. This way the initiators of a boycott can be condemned to pay millions of shekels.

Not just any boycott. No pork or cottage cheese is involved. Only boycotts aimed against institutions or people connected with the State of Israel or - here come the three fateful Hebrew words: "a territory ruled by Israel".

Clearly, the whole legal edifice was constructed for these three words. The law does not protect Israel. It protects the settlements. That is its sole purpose.

The dozens of questions rained down on our lawyers concerned mainly this point.

Would we be satisfied with striking out these three words? (Good question. Of course we would. But we could not say so, because our main argument was that the law restricts freedom of speech. That applies to the law as a whole.)

Would we have opposed a law directed against the Arab Boycott maintained against Israel during its early years? (The circumstances were completely different.)

Do we oppose the freedom of speech of rabbis who prohibit the leasing of apartments to Arab citizens? (That is not a boycott, but crass discrimination.)

After hours of debate, the court adjourned. Judgment will be given at some undefined date. Probably there will be a majority and several minority decisions.

Will the court dare to strike out a law of the Knesset? That would demand real courage. I would not be surprised if the majority decide to leave the law as it is, but strike out the words concerning the settlements.

Otherwise, it will be another step towards turning Israel into a state of the settlers, by the settlers and for the settlers.

There are examples for this in history. The eminent British historian Arnold Toynbee - a favorite of mine - once composed a list of countries which were taken over by the inhabitants of their border regions, who as a rule are hardier and more fanatical than the spoiled inhabitants of the center. For example, the Prussians, then the inhabitants of a remote border region, took over half of Germany, and then the rest. Savoy, a borderland, created modern Italy.

WHATEVER THE outcome, the decision in the case of "Uri Avnery and Others v. the State of Israel" will be quoted for a long time.

Some satisfaction, at least.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Obama's War Against Civilization
By Glen Ford

The world is learning what U.S. senatorial candidate Barack Obama meant on October 2, 2002, when he told a Chicago crowd that he did not oppose all wars. "What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war." We now know that President Obama is committed to full spectrum, no-holds-barred, war-without-boundaries against all potential resistance to U.S. imperial rule, anywhere on the planet - a project he considers neither rash nor dumb. At stake is survival - not of the people and government of the United States, which face no existential threat from any quarter, but of an empire whose self-defined strategic interests encompass the entire globe. There is a terrifying logic to Washington's frenzy: when the systemic structure is collapsing, it must be propped up everywhere.

President Obama's contribution to the disintegration of the global order is awesome; he is a great innovator. Whereas other U.S. leaders were content to simply violate international law with regularity, Obama has rewritten the statutes. The very concept of national sovereignty has been discarded in favor of a kind of universal parole status overseen by a pyramidal "international community" with the United States at the top. National self-determination, the bedrock of international law - is now treated as a franchise, to be issued or withdrawn at the whim of any coalition the U.S. is able to assemble. For Haiti, a simple troika of the U.S., Canada and France constituted a quorum empowered to erase 200 years of independence. For Libya, the recognized government's capital crime was its threat to quell a jihadist revolt in one of its cities. The Syria state has been condemned for resisting tens of thousands of foreign-financed killers who recognize no earthly law whatsoever. The U.S. backs a coup against the lawfully elected government of Ukraine by the direct descendants of Nazis. Simultaneously, Obama threatens the democratically elected government of Venezuela with dire consequences if it harms a hair on the head of rioters bankrolled and directed by Washington.

It is almost moot to accuse the Obama administration of interfering with the internal affairs of other nations, since this president does not recognize the elementary rights of nation states. National sovereignty has been replaced, in the Age of Obama, by an arbitrary "humanitarian" interventionist imperative that can only be exercised by the most powerful. This is not law, but its opposite: "anti-law," promulgated by a decaying, outlaw empire.

If nations have no sovereign rights, then their inhabitants have no right to self-determination - which is the point of Obama's imperial project. Washington's bid to render all the world's peoples subject to its "humanitarian" veto of their self-determinationist rights represents a devolution of civilization.

In liquidating the fundamental tenets of international law, Obama normalizes the most diabolical crimes: crimes against peace. He has redefined war, for U.S. purposes, as limited to conflicts in which Americans are killed in action. Thus, he told Congress in 2011, the massive bombing of Libya did not constitute a war, or even "hostilities," since no Americans were killed.

No rules of sovereignty, no rules of war, no individual or national rights that a superpower is bound to respect. The United States, under Obama's leadership, is building an infrastructure for fascism on a planetary scale.

Now you know why the U.S. is spying on all the peoples of the Earth: it's trying to put our species on lockdown. That's Obama's mode of war.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

This Island Earth
By Tom Engelhardt

For those of us of a certain age, it seems as if the world has always been ending. It's easy now to forget just how deep fears and fantasies about a nuclear apocalypse went in the "golden" 1950s. And I'm not just thinking about kids like me "ducking and covering" at the advice of Bert the Turtle, while sirens screamed in the big city and the emergency warning system Conelrad blared from a radio on our teacher's desk. Here, from Spencer Weart's book Nuclear Fear, is a typical enough description of everyday life in that nuclearized America. "Operation Alert" was a set of exercises that started in 1954 and were meant to prepare the populace for imminent attack. As Russian nuclear-armed bombers "supposedly approached," writes Weart, "citizens in scores of cities obeyed the howl of sirens and sought shelter, leaving the streets deserted. Afterward, photographs of the empty streets offered an eerie vision of a world without people. The press reported with ghoulish precision how many millions of Americans 'died' in each mock attack."

No one was immune from such experiences and fears. In June 1953, for instance, President Dwight Eisenhower screened Operation IVY, a top-secret film about the first successful full-scale test of an H-bomb at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. That bomb was not just a city-killer, but also a potential civilization destroyer. The screening took place at the White House with the full cabinet and the Joint Chiefs in attendance. The president was evidently deeply disturbed by the image of an "entire atoll" vanishing "into a crater" and, adds Weart, by "the fireball with a dwarfed New York City skyline printed across it in black silhouette." In 1956, Democratic presidential candidate Estes Kefauver announced that H-bombs could "right now blow the earth off its axis by 16 degrees." Talk about waking nightmares.

In the same years, if you happened to be young and at the movies, nuclearized America was taking vivid shape. In the Arctic, the first radioactivated monster, Ray Bradbury's Rhedosaurus, awakened in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to begin its long slouch toward New York City; in the Southwestern desert, near the Trinity testing grounds for the first atomic bomb, a giant mutated queen ant in Them! prepared for her long flight to the sewers of Los Angeles to spawn; in space, the planet Metaluna displayed "the consequences of a weak defense system" by being incinerated in This Island Earth. And don't forget the return of the irrepressible, the A-bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1954, Godzilla, that reptilian nightmare "awakened" by atomic tests, stomped out of Japan's Toho studios to barnstorm through American theaters.

No wonder that, of all my thousands of dreams from those years, no matter how vivid or fantastic, the only ones I remember are those in which I seemed to experience "the Bomb" going off, saw the mushroom cloud rising, or found myself crawling through the rubble of atomically obliterated cities. In this, I suspect, I'm not alone in my generation. In fact, I've always had the desire to conduct a little informal survey, collecting the atomic dreamscapes of my peers from that era. If I had another life, I undoubtedly would.

From the actual nuclear destruction of 1945 to the prospective nuclear destruction that, in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, seemed briefly to reach the edge of a world-ending boil, to the possibility today of a global "nuclear winter" set off by a regional war between India and Pakistan, who knows just how the fear of a nuclear apocalypse has embedded itself in consciousness. All we can know is that it has, and that a climate-change version of the same, perhaps even harder to grasp and absorb, has been creeping into our imaginations and dreamscapes in recent years. Religious scholar and historian Ira Chernus catches the essence of this moment, taking the deep plunge into the modern version of the apocalyptic imagination in his "What Ever Happened to Plain Old Apocalypse." He wonders whether the crater the first H-bomb left in Eniwetok Atoll is where hope lies buried.
(c) 2014 Tom Engelhardt is co- founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Tom Perkins Speaks, Again

The uberrich are full of ideas. Not, unfortunately, ideas to help humanity, but to help themselves grab more money and power at our expense.

Take Tom Perkins. He's one of a growing number of the "put-upon" rich - billionaires who've grabbed a fabulous fortune by hook or crook, but now complain that they are victims of a "rising tide of hatred." Excuse me, Tom, but the words "billionaire" and "victim" are not a natural pairing. Yet, even though he candidly concedes that he lives a life of vulgar excess, Perkins wrote a sob-story letter in January to the Wall Street Journal pleading for relief from the "war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich.'"

He was roundly ridiculed for that, but he's since come back with a pragmatic idea for redressing the grievous plight of the put-upon one-percenters. What's needed, he explained, is a slight tweaking of America's democratic election system. "The Tom Perkins system," he lectured, is "you don't get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes. But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How's that?"

Gosh, so much vanity and ignorance crammed into only three sentences! Apparently, no one has informed Tom that poor people pay a larger percentage of their income in various taxes than do privileged tax evaders like him. Nor does he seem aware that a democratic government can not be anything like a corporation, for government must serve the whole public, while a corporation is an autocratic hierarchy that serves only a few. And golly, Tom, why should you and all of your billionaire buddies get anything special - like extra votes - just for paying taxes? What you get in return for taxes is what we all get: Civilization.

I thought I would write to Tom about his plan, but then I realized, I don't know how to spell "Thhhbbbbbllllltttttttt."
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Operation Nazification
By David Swanson

Annie Jacobsen's new book is called Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America. It isn't terribly secret anymore, of course, and it was never very intelligent. Jacobsen has added some details, and the U.S. government is still hiding many more. But the basic facts have been available; they're just left out of most U.S. history books, movies, and television programs.

After World War II, the U.S. military hired sixteen hundred former Nazi scientists and doctors, including some of Adolf Hitler's closest collaborators, including men responsible for murder, slavery, and human experimentation, including men convicted of war crimes, men acquitted of war crimes, and men who never stood trial. Some of the Nazis tried at Nuremberg had already been working for the U.S. in either Germany or the U.S. prior to the trials. Some were protected from their past by the U.S. government for years, as they lived and worked in Boston Harbor, Long Island, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere, or were flown by the U.S. government to Argentina to protect them from prosecution. Some trial transcripts were classified in their entirety to avoid exposing the pasts of important U.S. scientists. Some of the Nazis brought over were frauds who had passed themselves off as scientists, some of whom subsequently learned their fields while working for the U.S. military.

The U.S. occupiers of Germany after World War II declared that all military research in Germany was to cease, as part of the process of denazification. Yet that research went on and expanded in secret, under U.S. authority, both in Germany and in the United States, as part of a process that it's possible to view as nazification. Not only scientists were hired. Former Nazi spies, most of them former S.S., were hired by the U.S. in post-war Germany to spy on -- and torture -- Soviets.

The U.S. military shifted in numerous ways when former Nazis were put into prominent positions. It was Nazi rocket scientists who proposed placing nuclear bombs on rockets and began developing the intercontinental ballistic missile. It was Nazi engineers who had designed Hitler's bunker beneath Berlin, who now designed underground fortresses for the U.S. government in the Catoctin and Blue Ridge Mountains. Known Nazi liars were employed by the U.S. military to draft classified intelligence briefs falsely hyping the Soviet menace. Nazi scientists developed U.S. chemical and biological weapons programs, bringing over their knowledge of tabun and sarin, not to mention thalidomide -- and their eagerness for human experimentation, which the U.S. military and the newly created CIA readily engaged in on a major scale. Every bizarre and gruesome notion of how a person might be assassinated or an army immobilized was of interest to their research. New weapons were developed, including VX and Agent Orange. A new drive to visit and weaponize outerspace was created, and former Nazis were put in charge of a new agency called NASA.

Permanent war thinking, limitless war thinking, and creative war thinking in which science and technology overshadowed death and suffering, all went mainstream. When a former Nazi spoke to a women's luncheon at the Rochester Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1953, the event's headline was "Buzz Bomb Mastermind to Address Jaycees Today." That doesn't sound terribly odd to us, but might have shocked anyone living in the United States anytime prior to World War II. Watch this Walt Disney television program featuring a former Nazi who worked slaves to death in a cave building rockets. Before long, President Dwight Eisenhower would be lamenting that "the total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government." Eisenhower was not referring to Nazism but to the power of the military-industrial complex. Yet, when asked whom he had in mind in remarking in the same speech that "public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite," Eisenhower named two scientists, one of them the former Nazi in the Disney video linked above.

The decision to inject 1,600 of Hitler's scientific-technological elite into the U.S. military was driven by fears of the USSR, both reasonable and the result of fraudulent fear mongering. The decision evolved over time and was the product of many misguided minds. But the buck stopped with President Harry S Truman. Henry Wallace, Truman's predecessor as vice-president who we like to imagine would have guided the world in a better direction than Truman did as president, actually pushed Truman to hire the Nazis as a jobs program. It would be good for American industry, said our progressive hero. Truman's subordinates debated, but Truman decided. As bits of Operation Paperclip became known, the American Federation of Scientists, Albert Einstein, and others urged Truman to end it. Nuclear physicist Hans Bethe and his colleague Henri Sack asked Truman:

"Did the fact that the Germans might save the nation millions of dollars imply that permanent residence and citizenship could be bought? Could the United States count on [the German scientists] to work for peace when their indoctrinated hatred against the Russians might contribute to increase the divergence between the great powers? Had the war been fought to allow Nazi ideology to creep into our educational and scientific institutions by the back door? Do we want science at any price?"
In 1947 Operation Paperclip, still rather small, was in danger of being terminated. Instead, Truman transformed the U.S. military with the National Security Act, and created the best ally that Operation Paperclip could want: the CIA. Now the program took off, intentionally and willfully, with the full knowledge and understanding of the same U.S. President who had declared as a senator that if the Russians were winning the U.S. should help the Germans, and vice versa, to ensure that the most people possible died, the same president who viciously and pointlessly dropped two nuclear bombs on Japanese cities, the same president who brought us the war on Korea, the war without declaration, the secret wars, the permanent expanded empire of bases, the military secrecy in all matters, the imperial presidency, and the military-industrial complex. The U.S. Chemical Warfare Service took up the study of German chemical weapons at the end of the war as a means to continue in existence. George Merck both diagnosed biological weapons threats for the military and sold the military vaccines to handle them. War was business and business was going to be good for a long time to come.

But how big a change did the United States go through after World War II, and how much of it can be credited to Operation Paperclip? Isn't a government that would give immunity to both Nazi and Japanese war criminals in order to learn their criminal ways already in a bad place? As one of the defendants argued in trial at Nuremberg, the U.S. had already engaged in its own experiments on humans using almost identical justifications to those offered by the Nazis. If that defendant had been aware, he could have pointed out that the U.S. was in that very moment engaged in such experiments in Guatemala. The Nazis had learned some of their eugenics and other nasty inclinations from Americans. Some of the Paperclip scientists had worked in the U.S. before the war, as many Americans had worked in Germany. These were not isolated worlds.

Looking beyond the secondary, scandalous, and sadistic crimes of war, what about the crime of war itself? We picture the United States as less guilty because it maneuvered the Japanese into the first attack, and because it did prosecute some of the war's losers. But an impartial trial would have prosecuted Americans too. Bombs dropped on civilians killed and injured and destroyed more than any concentration camps -- camps that in Germany had been modeled in part after U.S. camps for native Americans. Is it possible that Nazi scientists blended into the U.S. military so well because an institution that had already done what it had done to the Philippines was not in all that much need of nazification?

Yet, somehow, we think of the firebombing of Japanese cities and the complete leveling of German cities as less offensive that the hiring of Nazi scientists. But what is it that offends us about Nazi scientists? I don't think it should be that they engaged in mass-murder for the wrong side, an error balanced out in some minds but their later work for mass-murder by the right side. And I don't think it should be entirely that they engaged in sick human experimentation and forced labor. I do think those actions should offend us. But so should the construction of rockets that take thousands of lives. And it should offend us whomever it's done for.

It's curious to imagine a civilized society somewhere on earth some years from now. Would an immigrant with a past in the U.S. military be able to find a job? Would a review be needed? Had they tortured prisoners? Had they drone-struck children? Had they leveled houses or shot up civilians in any number of countries? Had they used cluster bombs? Depleted uranium? White phosphorous? Had they ever worked in the U.S. prison system? Immigrant detention system? Death row? How thorough a review would be needed? Would there be some level of just-following-orders behavior that would be deemed acceptable? Would it matter, not just what the person had done, but how they thought about the world?
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Did We Let Them Poison Our Minds On Purpose?
By James Donahue

My father loved chemistry. Growing up in Kansas during the Great Depression years, he tinkered with chemical concoctions in a private laboratory in the basement of his home. He painted barns and did farm labor for a dollar a day and somehow paid his way through college. He then devoted his life to working as a chemical engineer for the Huron Milling Company, one of the nation's largest producers of monosodium glutamate.

Most Americans now recognize monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a toxin that not only makes foods taste good, but is an addictive brain killer. During his career, however, I don't think my father or the other chemists working with him in that lab at Harbor Beach ever dreamed the product they were producing was in any way harmful to the human body.

Ironically, after the Japanese cornered the market on MSG, the plant was sold to G. D. Searle & Company which used one of the buildings in the production of a new artificial sweetener, another brain killer known as aspartame.

Those were the years when Americans were sold on the idea of "a better life through chemistry." We watched as crop dusters sprayed out towns with DDT in a campaign to wipe out the pesky mosquitoes each summer. Farmers experimented with chemicals that not only killed the insects that infected their crops, but even controlled weeds, thus cutting down the hours spent in cultivation. We happily bought new shampoos and skin creams filled with strange sounding chemicals and let dentists brush fluoride on our teeth, believing it would prevent cavities.

It wasn't until years later that we began discovering that we had been poisoning not only ourselves but the environment around us.

The degradation of our foods, cosmetics, soils and waters was a gradual thing, but once it started, the total destruction of the quality of the things we used and depended on for our daily lives soon came down on us like an avalanche. And as it was happening, we hardly noticed.

Health advocate Dr. Craig A. Maxwell wrote on his website: "Household cleaners went from being largely soap-based to primarily chemical-based. Cosmetics such as lipstick and blush went from being made from bees wax, plant-based extracts, and strawberries to being pumped full of lead, parabens and synthetic dyes. A loaf of bread went from being nothing more than flour, yeast, sugar and salt to a confusing concoction of additives and artificial flavorings."

Over the years the average intelligence of Americans has been dropping. In 2011 the average American IQ was measured at 88.54, far lower than the international average of 89-100. More and more students appear unable to learn, process new concepts, reason and think for themselves. More and more children are diagnosed with autism and Asperger's syndrome.

Doctors and mental health professionals are prescribing more and more synthetic drugs designed to alter brain chemistry like serotonin and dopamine. These drugs stimulate an artificial "feel-good" mental sensation but may be doing more damage in the long-run.

The genetic modification of many of the crops that are used to produce the prepared foods that pack our grocery store shelves has been yet another troublesome issue. Monsanto Corporation, one of the largest producers of GMO seeds, has poured millions of dollars into campaigns fighting efforts to label products containing GMO foods. Someone does not want the public to know how much modified food they are consuming.

Nearly everything we use now, from cleaning supplies to air fresheners are laced with toxins like acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate and formaldehyde that attack brain cells when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. The toothpaste, mouthwash and antibacterial hand soap we use contains toxins never intended for regular human exposure.

As more and more information has been exposed, and little if anything is being done to change the way these big corporations manufacture their toxic products, we must question whether all of this hasn't been done to us on purpose?

Is there a great conspiracy to put the masses into some kind of stupor so they can be easily manipulated? Does this explain why the wealth of the nation has so quickly shifted to that one percent, and done at the expense of the middle class?

Indeed, Americans are losing their jobs, their homes and the good life they once enjoyed during the years immediately following World War II. College graduates find themselves saddled with excessive debt that cannot be paid because they cannot find work. Labor unions have been all but stripped of their power. And there is little evidence that things will ever get better.

Something needs to be done to bring about dynamic change, but what? Think! If we could just think....
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Volkswagen's factory in Wolfsburg, Germany

UAW's Challenge To Republican Political Interference Is About More Than VW Vote
By John Nichols

If a United States senator claims that a key manufacturing facility in his home state would lose a new product line if workers were to vote for a union, might the workers be less inclined to vote for the union?

If legislative leaders in that state threaten to withhold tax incentives for future expansion of the manufacturing facility if a pro-union vote was recorded, might that influence the election?

It would be absurd to try to deny the influence that top elected officials, with powerful connections and control of treasuries and tax policies, could have were they to intervene in this way.

It would be equally absurd for the union to simply walk away from such a blatant assault on not just the rights of workers but the rule of law.

The United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, with it's almost eighty-year history of fighting not just for labor rights but for civil rights and civil liberties in the United States and around the world, is not inclined toward absurdity. So UAW President Bob King announced Friday that the union has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate the extraordinary level of interference by politicians and outside special interest groups in the mid-February representation election at Volkswagen's state-of-the-art plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"It's an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee," says UAW president Bob King. "It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product."

In the complaint that could lead to an NLRB decision to set aside the controversial result of the first vote and arrange a new election, the UAW argues that top Tennessee Republicans "conducted what appears to have been a coordinated and widely-publicized coercive campaign, in concert with their staffs and others, to deprive VWGOA workers of their federally-protected right, through the election, to support and select the UAW." The campaign by the elected officials, in combination with efforts by anti-union groups from outside Tennessee to publicize it, was "clearly designed to influence the votes" of Volkswagen workers.

"No VWGOA employee could cast a vote without a well-founded fear that the exercise of the franchise could mean both that their job security at VWGOA and the financial health of their plant could be in serious jeopardy," reads the detailed complaint of the UAW, which cites NLRB standards and precedents regarding similar forms of interference. "Such an environment, foisted on VWGOA workers by politicians who have no regard for the workers' rights under federal law, is completely contrary to the environment that the National Labor Relations Act demands for union certification elections."

The process of challenging the vote is likely to be costly and complex. Success is far from guaranteed. But the complaint is credible, and it is vital to the discourse about the future of unions-and the role that right-wing politicians hope to play in thwarting labor organizing not just in the South but nationally. At a time when Republican governors and legislators across the country are using the authority of government to undermine union organizing and to weaken existing unions, it is entirely appropriate -- and increasingly necessary -- to raise objections to obvious abuses of power and the public trust.

The Volkswagen vote provides a glaring example of the extremes to which anti-union politicians will go.

By any reasonable measure, the most aggressive campaign to prevent Tennessee Volkswagen workers from deciding for themselves about whether to join the UAW was not waged by the company, nor even by the usual cabal of Koch Brothers-funded zealots from Washington.

As the high-stakes vote at the Chattanooga plant approached, the most prominent and powerful Republican elected officials in the region used their positions of public trust and responsibility to attack the UAW and to suggest that a pro-union vote would harm efforts to expand the plant and bring new jobs to the region.

Republican US Senator Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, began claiming just hours before the voting began that a new product line would come to the plant if workers voted against the union-and indicated that the line might be lost if the workers chose UAW representation. Volkswagen officials vigorously denied that this was the case, and Corker was never able to produce any evidence to support his claims. Yet, because he made them on the eve of the vote, they were not effectively refuted.

Similarly, State Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, a powerful Republican legislator, held a news conference two days before the vote in which he declared that a vote for the union would be "un-American" and announced that the Republican-controlled state Legislature would be disinclined toward providing aid that would assist in the expansion of production at that plant. That was no idle threat, as the state provided a $500 million incentive package to help lure Volkswagen to Chattanooga in 2008.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam played along with the anti-union campaign, lending further credence to the threats.

"In my twenty years on the hill [in the Tennessee legislature], I've never seen such a massive intrusion into the affairs of a private company," said Tennessee state Representative Craig Fitzhugh, a senior Democrat.

The intimidation and threats were covered on a daily basis in Chattanooga newspapers and on radio and television stations. The message was clear. "It's essentially saying, 'If you unionize, it's going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I'm going to make sure it does,'" Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer said of what she termed an "underhanded threat."

When the NLRB counted the votes, the UAW organizing drive was narrowly defeated. Very narrowly. If just forty-four votes-out of almost roughly 1,400 cast-the union would have won.

Might the underhanded threats from politicians have shifted forty-four votes?

And might those underhanded threats amount to an inappropriate intervention in the election process?

Anti-union politicians, their allies and financial benefactors will, of course, say "no."

But Volkswagen officials, who adopted a neutral stance with regard to the initial vote, could say "yes." If they do, key hurdles to a new election would collapse. The company has made no secret of its desire to establish a European-style labor-management "works council" at the plant, and experts on US labor relations have argued that approval of the union must be a part of that process.

So the UAW's long struggle to organize the VW plant-and foreign auto manufacturers in other parts of the South-is far from finished. Indeed, as union president Bob King says: "We're committed to standing with the Volkswagen workers to ensure that their right to have a fair vote without coercion and interference is protected."
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

In this still image from video footage released by WikiLeaks on Oct. 11, 2013, former
National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks in Moscow during a
presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award.

Edward Snowden's Moral Courage
By Chris Hedges

Last Thursday Chris Hedges opened a team debate at the Oxford Union at Oxford University with this speech arguing in favor of the proposition "This house would call Edward Snowden a hero." The others on the Hedges team, which won the debate by an audience vote of 212 to 171, were William E. Binney, a former National Security Agency official and a whistle-blower; Chris Huhne, a former member of the British Parliament; and Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for the United Kingdom. The opposing team was made up of Philip J. Crowley, a former U.S. State Department officer; Stewart A. Baker, a former chief counsel for the National Security Agency; Jeffrey Toobin, an American television and print commentator; and Oxford student Charles Vaughn.

I have been to war. I have seen physical courage. But this kind of courage is not moral courage. Very few of even the bravest warriors have moral courage. For moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle. And with moral courage comes persecution.

The American Army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and 10 terrified Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre. He ordered his gunner to fire his M60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson, like Snowden, was hounded and reviled. Moral courage always looks like this. It is always defined by the state as treason-the Army attempted to cover up the massacre and court-martial Thompson. It is the courage to act and to speak the truth. Thompson had it. Daniel Ellsberg had it. Martin Luther King had it. What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden.

"My country, right or wrong" is the moral equivalent of "my mother, drunk or sober," G.K. Chesterton reminded us.

So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data, your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.

There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power. Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile. An omnipresent surveillance state-and I covered the East German Stasi state-creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible. Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state. It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control. The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, "but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population." The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional. Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain's chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress. This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life. A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to. It knows it is being lied to. The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying. And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.

These voyeurs listen to everyone and everything. They bugged the conclave that elected the new pope. They bugged the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They bugged most of the leaders of Europe. They intercepted the talking points of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of a meeting with President Obama. Perhaps the esteemed opposition can enlighten us as to the security threats posed by the conclave of Catholic cardinals, the German chancellor and the U.N. secretary-general. They bugged business like the Brazilian oil company Petrobras and American law firms engaged in trade deals with Indochina for shrimp and clove cigarettes. They carried out a major eavesdropping effort focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007. They bugged their ex-lovers, their wives and their girlfriends. And the NSA stores our data in perpetuity.

I was a plaintiff before the Supreme Court in a case that challenged the warrantless wiretapping, a case dismissed because the court believed the government's assertion that our concern about surveillance was "speculation." We had, the court said, no standing ... no right to bring the case. And we had no way to challenge this assertion-which we now know to be a lie-until Snowden.

In the United States the Fourth Amendment limits the state's ability to search and seize to a specific place, time and event approved by a magistrate. And it is impossible to square the bluntness of the Fourth Amendment with the arbitrary search and seizure of all our personal communications. Former Vice President Al Gore said, correctly, that Snowden disclosed evidence of crimes against the United States Constitution.

We who have been fighting against mass state surveillance for years-including my friend Bill Binney within the NSA-made no headway by appealing to the traditional centers of power. It was only after Snowden methodically leaked documents that disclosed crimes committed by the state that genuine public debate began. Elected officials, for the first time, promised reform. The president, who had previously dismissed our questions about the extent of state surveillance by insisting there was strict congressional and judicial oversight, appointed a panel to review intelligence. Three judges have, since the Snowden revelations, ruled on the mass surveillance, with two saying the NSA spying was unconstitutional and the third backing it. None of this would have happened-none of it-without Snowden.

Snowden had access to the full roster of everyone working at the NSA. He could have made public the entire intelligence community and undercover assets worldwide. He could have exposed the locations of every clandestine station and their missions. He could have shut down the surveillance system, as he has said, "in an afternoon." But this was never his intention. He wanted only to halt the wholesale surveillance, which until he documented it was being carried out without our consent or knowledge.

No doubt we will hear from the opposition tonight all the ways Snowden should have made his grievances heard, but I can tell you from personal experience, as can Bill, that this argument is as cogent as the offer made by the March Hare during the Mad Tea Party in "Alice in Wonderland."

"Have some wine," the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.

"I don't see any wine," she remarked.

"There isn't any," said the March Hare.

(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Hollywood Heist
Subsidies to the entertainment industry continue to fleece taxpayers
By David Sirota

Now that California has a budget surplus, the question for the state's lawmakers is pretty simple: Should they use all the new money to reverse recession-era cuts to social programs. Or, should they spend up to $400 million a year of the new resources on more taxpayer handouts to the film industry?

Yesterday, 59 California state legislators called for the latter, sponsoring a bill to increase tax credits to the film and television industry. Call it yet another Hollywood heist, this one engineered with a double-shot of chutzpah.

Consider the context of this latest proposal. For one thing it is being championed by state lawmakers even though one of their own is right now embroiled in an FBI corruption investigation surrounding - you guessed it! - tax subsidies for the entertainment industry. According to court documents uncovered by Al Jazeera America, that probe involved law enforcement officials posing as film executives, allegedly bribing a powerful California state senator to expand tax subsidies for their movie project.

The case generated big headlines only weeks after a joint New York Daily News/PIRG investigation uncovered a legalized bribery scandal on the opposite coast. There in New York, the newspaper reported that the "film and television industry has lavished Albany pols with more than $900,000 in campaign donations...while (they) were pushing to expand a production tax credit program" for the industry. And that scandal was preceded by other film-subsidy-related corruption scandals in Iowa, Massachusetts and Louisiana.

Evidently, the California lawmakers pushing to expand their state's slush fund for Hollywood studios aren't deterred by the negative publicity surrounding all this naked corruption. As I said: pure chutzpah. That chutzpah (and, perhaps, campaign contributions) also lets them ignore all the data showing these subsidies are often big losers for taxpayers - including California taxpayers.

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported back in 2010, states have been collectively spending roughly $1.5 billion a year just on subsidies to filmmakers. That's roughly equivalent to "the salaries of 23,500 middle school teachers, 26,600 firefighters, and 22,800 police patrol officers," according to the watchdog group.

Though shrouded in the argot of helping the arts, many of these subsidies are not Works Progress Administration-style programs tailored to support struggling indy filmmakers - they aim to subsidize studio conglomerates' big-budget enterprises.

Perhaps diverting so much money from basic public services and giving it to wealthy media conglomerates might be justifiable if doing so was a proven way to create jobs and generate a net tax revenue gain. But in its state-by-state analysis of the subsidies, CBPP notes it is quite the opposite: "The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies falls far short of the subsidies' direct costs to the state(s)."

Individual examples among the 45 states that offer film subsidies tell that larger story.

In Louisiana, which offers some of the most lucrative tax giveaways to Hollywood, the Legislative Auditor's Office reported that the subsidies cost the state $170 million in lost tax revenue in a single year. By one estimate, the state is handing $70,000 per episode to the cast of Duck Dynasty - all while pleading poverty to justify deep cuts to public health care programs and to retirement benefits for police officers, firefighters and teachers.

Similarly, a 2009 analysis of data from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism found that state lost $113 million in revenue thanks to film tax credits. Additionally, according to the analysis by Connecticut Voices for Children, only 11 percent of the money was classified as "actual Connecticut expenditures," meaning Connecticut taxpayers have "largely been subsidizing out-of-state personnel and businesses."

It's the same story across the border in Canada. There, British Columbia's massive film subsidies appear to be generating about $100 million a year in net revenue losses, all while the province reduces funding for basic government services.

If California had a different experience with its existing tax credits, maybe these losses could be ignored. But guess what? It's the same predictable tale in the home of Hollywood. Though one of the bill's sponsors insists "Every single economic analysis of the program shows that it's a net economic generator for the state" that "creates revenue," that's belied by the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. In 2012, it reported that California's existing credit program "appears to result in a net decline in state revenues."

Of course, all this data has prompted pushback from the entertainment industry. Fearing that legislators might come to their senses - or that rising public anger against ongoing bailouts will force a change - the industry has deployed groups like the Motion Picture Association of America to try to preserve the subsidies by arguing that they encourage tourism.

As CBPP points out, the problem with that particular claim is that "the empirical evidence upon which these conclusions (regarding tourism) are based is weak."

That's putting it mildly when you consider the hilarious "evidence" the MPAA cites as its proof that the tax subsidies boost tourism in states like Massachusetts. Yes, you read page 17 of that MPAA report correctly: the organization actually claims that films like "The Fighter" and "The Town," which take place in some of the most rundown parts of Boston, encourage - rather than deter - tourism to the Bay State. That's almost as absurd as claiming HBO's "True Detective" (whose creator says it was filmed in Louisiana specifically because of the tax credits) is likely to encourage tourism to bayou country.

Not surprisingly, some states aren't buying the tourism talking point. Instead, some of them are slowly but surely beginning to reduce or eliminate their film subsidies. Meanwhile, some in the visual effects industry - which has been upended by these subsidies - are exploring a legal strategy involving challenges to foreign tax subsidies.

California lawmakers hope to capitalize on those trends by going in precisely the opposite direction. If their bill to expand the state's subsidies is passed and signed by the governor (a big "if"), it would certainly be a giant gamble with a huge amount of taxpayer cash.

The proponents of the scheme would no doubt be hoping for the kind of return a successful Hollywood blockbuster generates. However, the evidence suggests that from a public investment perspective, the current proposal being discussed in Sacramento looks far less like "Avatar" and far more like "John Carter."
(c) 2014 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

Health Care Horror Hooey
By Paul Krugman

Remember the "death tax?" The estate tax is quite literally a millionaire's tax - a tax that affects only a tiny minority of the population, and is mostly paid by a handful of very wealthy heirs. Nonetheless, right-wingers have successfully convinced many voters that the tax is a cruel burden on ordinary Americans - that all across the nation small businesses and family farms are being broken up to pay crushing estate tax liabilities.

You might think that such heart-wrenching cases are actually quite rare, but you'd be wrong: they aren't rare; they're nonexistent. In particular, nobody has ever come up with a real modern example of a family farm sold to meet estate taxes. The whole "death tax" campaign has rested on eliciting human sympathy for purely imaginary victims.

And now they're trying a similar campaign against health reform.

I'm not sure whether conservatives realize yet that their Plan A on health reform - wait for Obamacare's inevitable collapse, and reap the political rewards - isn't working. But it isn't. Enrollments have recovered strongly from the law's disastrous start-up; in California, which had a working website from the beginning, enrollment has already exceeded first-year projections. The mix of people signed up so far is older than planners had hoped, but not enough so to cause big premium hikes, let alone the often-predicted "death spiral."

And conservatives don't really have a Plan B - in their world, nobody even dares mention the possibility that health reform might actually prove workable. Still, you can already see some on the right groping toward a new strategy, one that relies on highlighting examples of the terrible harm Obamacare does. There's only one problem: they haven't managed to come up with any real examples. Consider several recent ventures on the right:

* In the official G.O.P. response to the State of the Union address, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers alluded to the case of "Bette in Spokane," who supposedly lost her good health insurance coverage and was forced to pay nearly $700 more a month in premiums. Local reporters located the real Bette, and found that the story was completely misleading: her original policy provided very little protection, and she could get a much better plan for much less than the claimed cost.

* In Louisiana, the AstroTurf (fake grass-roots) group Americans for Prosperity - the group appears to be largely financed and controlled by the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors - has been running ads targeting Senator Mary Landrieu. In these ads, we see what appear to be ordinary Louisiana residents receiving notices telling them that their insurance policies have been canceled because of Obamacare. But the people in the ads are, in fact, paid actors, and the scenes they play aren't re-enactments of real events - they're "emblematic," says a spokesman for the group.

* In Michigan, Americans for Prosperity is running an ad that does feature a real person. But is she telling a real story? In the ad, Julia Boonstra, who is suffering from leukemia, declares that her insurance has been canceled, that the new policy will have unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, and that "If I do not receive my medication, I will die." But Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post tried to check the facts, and learned that thanks to lower premiums she will almost surely save nearly as much if not more than she will be paying in higher out-of-pocket costs. A spokesman for Americans for Prosperity responded to questions about the numbers with bluster and double-talk - this is about "a real person suffering from blood cancer, not some neat and tidy White House PowerPoint."

Even supporters of health reform are somewhat surprised by the right's apparent inability to come up with real cases of hardship. Surely there must be some people somewhere actually being hurt by a reform that affects millions of Americans. Why can't the right find these people and exploit them?

The most likely answer is that the true losers from Obamacare generally aren't very sympathetic. For the most part, they're either very affluent people affected by the special taxes that help finance reform, or at least moderately well-off young men in very good health who can no longer buy cheap, minimalist plans. Neither group would play well in tear-jerker ads.

No, what the right wants are struggling average Americans, preferably women, facing financial devastation from health reform. So those are the tales they're telling, even though they haven't been able to come up with any real examples.

Hey, I have a suggestion: Why not have ads in which actors play Americans who have both lost their insurance thanks to Obamacare and lost the family farm to the death tax? I mean, once you're just making stuff up, anything goes.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"War is the concentration of all human crimes. Here is its distinguishing, accursed brand. Under its standard gather violence, malignity, rage, fraud, perfidy, rapacity, and lust. If it only slew man, it would do little. It turns man into a beast of prey."
~~~ William Ellery Channing

When 'Religious Liberty' Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia
By Ian Millhiser

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." ~~~ Judge Leon M. Bazile, January 6, 1959

The most remarkable thing about Arizona's "License To Discriminate" bill is how quickly it became anathema, even among Republicans. Both 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called upon Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto this effort to protect businesses that want to discriminate against gay people. So did Arizona's other senator, Jeff Flake. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Indeed, three state senators who voted for this very bill urged Brewer to veto it before she finally did so on Wednesday, confessing that they "made a mistake" when they voted for it to become law.

The premise of the bill is that discrimination becomes acceptable so long as it is packaged inside a religious wrapper. As Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R) explained, lawmakers introduced it in response to instances where anti-gay business owners in other states were "punished for their religious beliefs" after they denied service to gay customers in violation of a state anti-discrimination law.

Yet, while LGBT Americans are the current target of this effort to repackage prejudice as "religious liberty," they are hardly the first. To the contrary, as Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis explained in a 2012 law review article, many segregationists justified racial bigotry on the very same grounds that religious conservatives now hope to justify anti-gay animus. In the words of one professor at a prominent Mississippi Baptist institution, "our Southern segregation way is the Christian way . . . . [God] was the original segregationist."

God Of The Segregationists

Theodore Bilbo was one of Mississippi's great demagogues. After two non-consecutive terms as governor, Bilbo won a U.S. Senate seat campaigning against "farmer murderers, corrupters of Southern womanhood, [skunks] who steal Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms" and a host of other, equally colorful foes. In a year where just 47 Mississippi voters cast a ballot for a communist candidate, Bilbo railed against a looming communist takeover of the state - and offered himself up as the solution to this red onslaught.

Bilbo was also a virulent racist. "I call on every red-blooded white man to use any means to keep the n[*]ggers away from the polls," Bilbo proclaimed during his successful reelection campaign in 1946. He was a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan, telling Meet the Press that same year that "[n]o man can leave the Klan. He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux, always a Ku Klux." During a filibuster of an anti-lynching bill, Bilbo claimed that the bill...

"...will open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing, lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold; and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon White Southern men will not tolerate."
For Senator Bilbo, however, racism was more that just an ideology, it was a sincerely held religious belief. In a book entitled Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, Bilbo wrote that "[p]urity of race is a gift of God . . . . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed." Allowing "the blood of the races [to] mix," according to Bilbo, was a direct attack on the "Divine plan of God." There "is every reason to believe that miscengenation and amalgamation are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God."

Bilbo was one of the South's most colorful racists, but he was hardly alone in his beliefs. As early as 1867, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld segregated railway cars on the grounds that "[t]he natural law which forbids [racial intermarriage] and that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races, is as clearly divine as that which imparted to [the races] different natures." This same rationale was later adopted by state supreme courts in Alabama, Indiana and Virginia to justify bans on interracial marriage, and by justices in Kentucky to support residential segregation and segregated colleges.

In 1901, Georgia Gov. Allen Candler defended unequal public schooling for African Americans on the grounds that "God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks." After the Supreme Court ordered public schools integrated in Brown v. Board of Education, many segregationists cited their own faith as justification for official racism. Ross Barnett won Mississippi's governorship in a landslide in 1960 after claiming that "the good Lord was the original segregationist." Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia relied on passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew when he spoke out against the civil rights law banning employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters on the Senate floor.

Bob Jones

Although the Supreme Court never considered whether Bilbo, Candler, Barnett or Byrd's religious beliefs gave them a license to engage in race discrimination, a very similar case did reach the justices in 1983.

Bob Jones University excluded African Americans completely until the early 1970s, when it began permitting black students to attend so long as they were married. In 1975, it amended this policy to permit unmarried African American students, but it continued to prohibit interracial dating, interracial marriage, or even being "affiliated with any group or organization which holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage." As a result, the Internal Revenue Service revoked Bob Jones' tax-exempt status.

This decision, that the IRS would no longer give tax subsidies to racist schools even if they claimed that their racism was rooted in religious beliefs, quickly became a rallying point for the Christian Right. Indeed, according to Paul Weyrich, the seminal conservative activist who coined the term "moral majority," the IRS' move against schools like Bob Jones was the single most important issue driving the birth of modern day religious conservatism. According to Weyrich, "[i]t was not the school-prayer issue, and it was not the abortion issue," that caused this "movement to surface." Rather it was what Weyrich labeled the "federal government's move against the Christian schools."

When Bob Jones' case reached the Supreme Court, the school argued that IRS' regulations denying tax exemptions to racist institutions "cannot constitutionally be applied to schools that engage in racial discrimination on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs." But the justices did not bite. In an 8-1 decision by conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger, the Court explained that "[o]n occasion this Court has found certain governmental interests so compelling as to allow even regulations prohibiting religiously based conduct." Prohibiting race discrimination is one of these interests.

My Liberty Stops At Your Body

Ultimately, the question facing anti-gay business owners, even if the bill Brewer vetoed had become law, is why it is acceptable to exclude gay people simply because of who they are, when we do not permit this sort of behavior by racists such as Bilbo or Byrd? And there is another, equally difficult question facing advocates of the kind of sweeping "religious liberty" protected by the Arizona bill - why should we allow people to impose their religious beliefs upon others?

One year before Bob Jones, the Court decided a case called United States v. Lee, which involved an Amish employer's objection to paying Social Security taxes on religious grounds. As the Court explained in Lee, allowing people with religious objections to opt out of Social Security could undermine the viability of the entire program. "The design of the system requires support by mandatory contributions from covered employers and employees," Burger wrote for the Court. "This mandatory participation is indispensable to the fiscal vitality of the social security system. . . . Moreover, a comprehensive national social security system providing for voluntary participation would be almost a contradiction in terms and difficult, if not impossible, to administer."

Just as importantly, allowing religious employers to exempt themselves from the law would be fundamentally unfair to the employees who are supposed to benefit from those laws. "When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. Granting an exemption from social security taxes to an employer operates to impose the employer's religious faith on the employees."

Lee, in other words, stands for the proposition that people of faith do not exist in a vacuum. Their businesses compete with other companies who are entitled to engage in this competition upon a level playing field. Their personnel decisions impact their employees, and their decision to refuse to do business with someone - especially for reasons such as race or sexual orientation - can fundamentally demean that individual and deny them their own right to participate equally in society.

This is why people like Theodore Bilbo should not be allowed to refuse to do business with African Americans, and it is why anti-gay business owners should not be given a special right to discriminate against LGBT consumers. And this is also something that the United States has understood for a very long time. Bob Jones and Lee are not new cases. A whole generation of Americans spent their entire professional careers enjoying the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Religious liberty is an important value and it rightfully belongs in our Constitution, but it we do not allow it to be used to destroy the rights of others.

The argument Gov. Brewer resolved Wednesday night with her veto stamp is no different than the argument Lyndon Johnson resolved when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Invidious discrimination is wrong. And it doesn't matter why someone wants to discriminate.
(c) 2014 Ian Millhiser is a Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Editor of Think Progress Justice.

America Vs. The World
By Margaret Kimberley

The word imperialism fell into disuse in recent decades. If it seems slightly retro, that is only because there aren't enough Americans committed to telling the ugly truth about their government.

During the cold war era we were told that communism increased in influence via a domino effect, knocking down nations one by one and forcing them into Moscow's or Beijing's orbit. In the 21st century there is a new domino theory which puts every part of the world into America's cross hairs.

Barack Obama has succeeded in expanding America's influence in ways that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney could only dream about. The neo-conservative project for a new American century has reached full fruition under a Democratic president, who now has many notches on his gun. He and the rest of the NATO leaders began the trail of destruction with Libya, tearing that country asunder under the guise of saving it.

Using lies and their servants in the corporate media, they constructed a tale of a tyrant and a people yearning for protection. That evil success emboldened them and their gulf monarchy allies further and they decided that Syria would be the next domino.

That plan didn't work quite as well as Obama and the rest of murder incorporated team thought it would. When the British parliament said no to new military adventures Obama was left sputtering on national television. He was forced to back down from an adamant position he had taken just days earlier.

The semi-comedic setback was only temporary because the monster must be fed at all cost. The system can no longer sustain itself and brute force is the only out. There is nothing old fashioned about imperialism. This malevolent force is still alive and well.

George W. Bush made efforts to overthrow the democratically elected Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela when he plotted with the opposition against the late Hugo Chavez. Obama is clearly more committed to violence than his predecessor and has helped to stir up right wing Venezuelans who want to rid themselves of Nicolas Maduro. Maduro has been weakened by the ginned up protests and is now forced into talks with an opposition that won't be satisfied until he is dead and gone too.

The Venezuelan people have voted for their revolution numerous times. The U.S., a country that never ceases to call itself a democracy, has thwarted their clearly expressed will time and time again. But that is the essence of empire after all.

While armed force against Syria was temporarily blocked, the West, the Persian gulf monarchies, Israel, and jihadists have not given up their effort to topple the Bashir al-Assad government in Syria. The savage war has made thousands of Syrians homeless and starving refugees, all because the empire needs its next domino.

Not only does United States meddles in its own backyard, it also relentlessly interferes on the other side of the world in far away Ukraine. Popular discontent against that country's president became a successful effort to bring that country into the western sphere of economic influence but with the awful strings of austerity attached. Ukraine has the choice of going bankrupt or being bailed out and dying a slow death a la Greece.

While the machinations were afoot, president Obama warned Vladimir Putin away with threats of sanctions. The scenes of sometimes violent street protests in Ukraine made a fortuitous tableau for the United States which claimed the infamous "responsibility to protect" which never protects anyone who actually needs help and which has brought so much suffering to people around the world. Every invasion, occupation and disruption in recent years can be laid at the feet of the United States and its allies. Iraq has been destroyed quite literally, Iran has been destroyed economically. Libya was taken out and Syria is on the brink.

The United States quite openly makes it clear that it wants to have its way in the world. If Russia attempts to use its influence then it is vilified and caricatured as a cruel dictatorship controlled by a tyrant. No matter how many elections Chavez and now Maduro won, they are called dictators by American talking heads.

A superpower can foment conflict anywhere it wants to at anytime it chooses. Venezuelans must knuckle under or face the prospect of more turmoil and violence. Ukraine must sign onto economic policies which have already proven disastrous. The United States leaves its fingerprints in these and many other places and that is the essence of imperialism. It is all about control with the rawest brute force available.

The United States hasn't officially made Venezuela or any other a colony but it doesn't have to do that. It just has to show that it is boss and the dominos will fall wherever it chooses.
(c) 2014 Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.Com.

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Reaktionare Nugent,

Congratulations, you have just been awarded the "Vidkun Quisling Award!" Your name will now live throughout history with such past award winners as Marcus Junius Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold, George Stephanopoulos, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Sam Bush, Fredo Bush, Kate Bush, Kyle Busch, Anheuser Busch, Vidkun Quisling and last year's winner Volksjudge John (the enforcer) Roberts.

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your attempts to start a race war, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 03-15-2014. We salute you Herr Nugent, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Inequality, Productivity, And WhatsApp
By Robert Reich

If you ever wonder what's fueling America's staggering inequality, ponder Facebook's acquisition of the mobile messaging company WhatsApp.

According to news reports today, Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion.

That's the highest price paid for a startup in history. It's $3 billion more than Facebook raised when it was first listed, and more than twice what Microsoft paid for Skype.

(To be precise, $12 billion of the $19 billion will be in the form of shares in Facebook, $4 billion will be in cash, and $3 billion in restricted stock to WhatsApp staff, which will vest in four years.)

Given that gargantuan amount, you might think Whatsapp is a big company. You'd be wrong. It has 55 employees, including its two young founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

Whatsapp's value doesn't come from making anything. It doesn't need a large organization to distribute its services or implement its strategy.

It value comes instead from two other things that require only a handful of people. First is its technology - a simple but powerful app that allows users to send and receive text, image, audio and video messages through the Internet.

The second is its network effect: The more people use it, the more other people want and need to use it in order to be connected. To that extent, it's like Facebook - driven by connectivity.

Whatsapp's worldwide usage has more than doubled in the past nine months, to 450 million people - and it's growing by around a million users every day. On December 31, 2013, it handled 54 billion messages (making its service more popular than Twitter, now valued at about $30 billion.)

How does it make money? The first year of usage is free. After that, customers pay a small fee. At the scale it's already achieved, even a small fee generates big bucks. And if it gets into advertising it could reach more eyeballs than any other medium in history. It already has a database that could be mined in ways that reveal huge amounts of information about a significant percentage of the world's population.

The winners here are truly big winners. WhatsApp's fifty-five employees are now enormously rich. Its two founders are now billionaires. And the partners of the venture capital firm that financed it have also reaped a fortune.

And the rest of us? We're winners in the sense that we have an even more efficient way to connect with each other.

But we're not getting more jobs.

In the emerging economy, there's no longer any correlation between the size of a customer base and the number of employees necessary to serve them. In fact, the combination of digital technologies with huge network effects is pushing the ratio of employees to customers to new lows (WhatsApp's 55 employees are all its 450 million customers need).

Meanwhile, the ranks of postal workers, call-center operators, telephone installers, the people who lay and service miles of cable, and the millions of other communication workers, are dwindling - just as retail workers are succumbing to Amazon, office clerks and secretaries to Microsoft, and librarians and encyclopedia editors to Google.

Productivity keeps growing, as do corporate profits. But jobs and wages are not growing. Unless we figure out how to bring all of them back into line - or spread the gains more widely - our economy cannot generate enough demand to sustain itself, and our society cannot maintain enough cohesion to keep us together.
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

The Obama Method: Combine Threats With Accommodation
By William Pfaff

The Obama government has taken a Cold War stand on the crisis in Ukraine. The White House has warned Russia not to intervene, which they have not threatened, and has ordered U.S. military precautions. This seems unnecessary, since the Europeans seem to have matters in hand. Moreover, events last week were the second effort in a decade to bring the Ukraine into the Western camp, wrenching it away from its historical ties to Russia, a provocative and risky project.

The initial American effort to get Ukraine into NATO, following the Orange Revolution (2004-2005) and its turbulent aftermath, broke assurances given Mikhail Gorbachev when the Berlin Wall came down, and amounted to an effort to detach a part of historical Russia, with strong and lasting cultural and linguistic ties to that country, and place it under American military command. This was foolhardy, and disastrous to U.S.-Russian relations.

From the start it has been difficult to interpret foreign policy as Barack Obama envisages it. The reason, so far as I can see, is that he has always been a man of American domestic affairs and of law, his profession. He has in both his first term, and as much as we have seen of the second, surrounded himself with both liberal and conservative advisors, both anti-war and interventionist, with contradictions even within the two camps, all of which has blocked consistent policy.

Following his 2008 victory, he wanted a "reset" in Russian-American relations, but has followed policies of his predecessor, notably continuing to develop an anti-missile shield supposed to save Russia as well as the United States from an absurdly improbable nuclear attack by Iran, but also facilitating an American first strike on Russia=as Moscow has noted.

He also has allowed the Neo-Conservatives to persist in the effort to detach Ukraine from Russia and attach it to NATO. On the precedent of the earlier failure President Obama should have fired the Neo-Conservatives still present in his administration, such as Victoria Nuland=Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs. Instead, Ms. Nuland remained, to be heard in the midst of this month's crisis, during a famous tapped phone call, blurting out to the American Ambassador to Ukraine details of what apparently was a planned coup d'etat.

A new fraternal alignment of Ukraine with the European Union (a relationship more prudent than outright membership) is essential. The Europeans' present diplomatic conduct is responsible for the present calm in a fragile Ukraine and the constructive decisions that have been taken with respect to new elections.

Mr. Obama's disposition to combine threat with accommodation has been evident in previous instances. Among Mr. Obama's liberal policy appointments are National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Samantha Power, Ambassador to the U.N. and a prominent defender of military intervention to deal with humanitarian outrages. Both seem to have advocated the bombardment of Syria in 2013, when the Bashar el-Assad government was accused, on unconfirmed evidence, to have used chemical weapons against the rebels. Russia's President Vladimir Putin intervened, to the Obama government's dismay, to impose a peaceful solution.

The President's advisors include people who support the drone war on Islamic militants, a new means of war of which the administration is enamored because it kills at long distance and at no risk to the operator, other than moral. This is a high-technology sniper's weapon system, dropping its targets with an anonymous shot. The infantry sniper kills an individual in a war in which it is presumed that those deployed on the enemy side are legitimate targets.

The identity of the drone target and of the group accompanying him, who are destroyed with him (or her), are not the operator's responsibility. Too often the target turns out to be a family at dinner or asleep, or a clan meeting or a wedding. Such has been the unfortunate experience. The drone is like the roadside bomb or the mine, or fragmentation weapon. The President has taken upon himself the responsibility of picking targets.

President Obama has also supported the American army's demands in the cases of withdrawal both from Iraq and the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan to keep certain combat troops in the country after the official withdrawal of American forces. These would continue training local forces, pursue "anti-terrorist" missions, and in Afghanistan, conduct the drone war against the Taliban. This proposal was rejected (thus far, in the Afghan case) by the obstinate refusal of both Iraqi and Afghan leaders to give the soldiers conducting these stay-on missions immunity from national law, depriving the host countries of full sovereignty. What kind of withdrawal is this?

This passive/aggressive disposition has also been apparent in Mr. Obama's announcement of a "pivot" to Asia, an act that could only be interpreted as a provocation to China, meaningless unless China is understood in Washington as likely to attack its neighbors (among them two formal allies of the United States, South Korea and Japan).

Surely the administration might have grasped that China's leaders, while responsible for stirring trouble with Japan and their southerly island neighbors in the Yellow and South China Seas, would have understood the significance of a reinforcement of American forces in the western Pacific=without a slap in the face. The Chinese are reputed a subtle people.
(c) 2014 Visit William Pfaff's website for more on his latest book, "The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy."

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bill Day ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Green Rush Munchies
By Will Durst

Easy to imagine an arena full of Phish fans raising and waving their lighters to honor U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for suggesting the feds might help states that legalize pot by allowing dispensaries to utilize banking services. Way to go, Super AG. That's so incredibly righteous of you.

These days, everyone dealing with marijuana distribution is forced to use cash in financial dealings. To buy inventory, pay employees, stock up on munchies, tip the pizza dude, everything. Even cover their taxes. Problem is, those amounts of dead presidents tend to attract the sort of unsavory company you normally associate with orange-jumpsuit-wearing, ankle-shackle-sporting, border-tunnel-digging, Vin-Diesel-movie-watchers.

Nineteen states have already approved medical marijuana and in 2014, the citizens of Oregon, Alaska, California, Arizona and DC will vote to legalize it for recreational use, joining Washington and Colorado in the Pot Club. The smoke, it is a wafting. Banks can smell the money and are itching for a taste of the action. Lawmakers themselves are jonesing for additional revenue. You've heard of squeezing blood out of a turnip? Think of this as scraping green off the green. A phenomenon that pot journalist, Jack Rikess, calls "Grassnost."

Grass. Tea. Weed. Reefer. Mary Jane. Wacky tobaccy. Herb. Hemp. Happy leaf. Hippie lettuce. Parsley. Oregano. Cabbage. Chronic. Ganja. Da kine. Doobie. Dope. Blunt. Bone. Bud. Smoke. Spliff. Stank. Schwag. Shanizzle. Sticky icky. Indica. Tetrahydrocannabinol. The assassin of youth. Hairy purple skunk balls. Whatever brand name you prefer, lines are forming at the trampoline for corporate America to jump on The Green Rush Bandwagon.

Even President Obama admitted marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, and he should know. As opposed to Bill Clinton, who never inhaled, some skeptics doubt the 44th POTUS ever exhaled. In high school, as a member of the Choom Gang, he was noted for cutting off passing joints, intercepting extra hits. Seems to have lost some initiative in the days since. Typical.

But brah's right. Consider how many steps it takes to produce a bottle of whiskey. Not like you can walk into the backyard and pick a Daiquiri off the Cocktail Tree. Pot, however, grows right out of the ground. They don't call it "weed" for nothing. You saying God made a mistake?

Convincing politicians to stop lumping all drugs together would be a major victory. In their condemning zeal, they admit to no gradations. But even a fifth grader can tell you that heroin is to pot like an Uzi is to a banana. Heroin kills. Pot giggles.

What's the worst thing going to happen if you do run into a crazed pothead? You might get fleas. That's about it. Okay, There's Twinkie cream on your shirt, wipe it off. Can't get the song "Stairway to Heaven" out of your head- deal with it.

All that said, legalizing the stuff on a federal basis is going to be trickier than rolling three joints while swinging by your knees on a trapeze in a high breeze. Plan for heavy pushback from a variety of vested interests: the cotton and oil industries. Big Pharma. Prison guard unions. Mexican drug cartels. Mexican politicians. Taco Bell. Bail Bondsmen. The Catholic Church. Zig Zag Papers. Liquor distributors. Law enforcement agencies. ATM manufacturers. ATV manufacturers. Phish.
(c) 2014 Will Durst, is a nationally acclaimed, award- winning political comic. Go to to find about more about his new CD, "Elect to Laugh" and calendar of personal appearances.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 08 (c) 02/28/2014

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