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In This Edition

Greg Palast examines, "Too Fat To Vote."

Uri Avnery looks for, "Peace And Watermelons."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship find that, "The Revolving Door Spins From Sea To Shining Sea."

Joel S. Hirschhorn reviews, "Limbaugh's New Racism."

Jim Hightower points out, "The GOP's Disdain For Low-Wage Workers."

Amy Goodman tells of, "Albert Woodfox's 40 Years Of Solitary Confinement."

James Donahue wonders, "Has Slavery In America Really Been Abolished?"

John Nichols demands, "To Beat Austerity, Obama Must Campaign For Democracy."

Norman Solomon returns with, "Three-Quarters Of Progressive Caucus Not Taking A Stand Against Cuts In Social Security, Medicare And Medicaid."

Robert Reich explains, "Why Obama Must Meet The Republican Lies Directly."

Paul Krugman explores, "Austerity, Italian Style."

Glenn Greenwald warns, "Supreme Court Shields Warrantless Eavesdropping Law From Constitutional Challenge."

David Swanson discovers, "Top U.S. Terrorist Group: The FBI."

US Army Colonel Denise R. Lind wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges concludes, "Early Stage Rebellions Are Never Safe, Comfortable Or Popular."

Adam Keller studies, "The Nutcracker Dilemma."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz says, "House Science Committee Questions Existence Of Meteors" but first Uncle Ernie reports, "And Now The Dismantling Begins."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Joe Heller, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Tom Tomorrow, Jimmy Margulies, Internet Weekly.Org, Khalil Bendib, Lee Horsey, Mahmoud Illean, Charles Dharapak, Phillip Pessar, 20th Century Fox Television, Wikipedia, NSA, Getty Images, 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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And Now The Dismantling Begins
By Ernest Stewart

"President Obama has decided to travel more than 5,000 miles on his sequester fear-mongering tour." ~~~ Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.).

"Yankee Doodle came to terms, writing Martin Buber. Stuck a Fuhrer in our back, And called it Schicklgruber!" ~~~ The Firesign Theatre

"It is a privilege to join the campaign to support Bradley Manning for his courage and integrity in serving his country by helping make the government accountable to its citizens, and to inform the world of what its people should know." ~~~ Noam Chomsky

Help, I need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know I need someone... HELP!
Help ~~~ The Beatles

With the end of the world fast approaching, or so the pols would have us believe, by the time you read this, we'll have completed the first step to losing what's left of the economy, viz., the Sequester. The Sequester was a plan by Obamahood, the Rethuglicans and the Banksters, to end what little recovery we've made -- in spite of all their tremendous efforts to avert it, and to send us down that long-tail spinning road to a depression. A depression that will make the "Great Depression" seem like a Swiss Picnic by comparison. Meanwhile, spin masters from both sides of the same coin blame the other guy for all this madness; but the truth is, they're all guilty of this disaster -- every last one. As always, the puppets dance while their 1% masters keep going to the bank. But as bad as sequester is, it just the first step in a triple whammy.

Step two comes just four weeks later, on March 28 we run out of money as the government is only funded until March 27. You remember the changes we went through last time this happened? Well, here they come again. I wonder what Barry will give to the ultra-rich for their continued funding of Foggy Bottom. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the poor, old, sick, and hungry will have to give up what they can't afford to give up to people who count their money by the billions. Once that is all sorted out, with withholding paychecks and the like, including, who knows, Social Security checks, too. Remember nothing is off the table, except the 1%s money, which is mostly all overseas. Let's see how that third rail they've all grabbed works out in reality....

Once the bodies have been cleared away from that, we get to step three, and yet another fight over the debt ceiling. That's right, did you forget about the debt ceiling? The Rethuglicans haven't, rest assured. You may recall when Dubya wiped out Slick Willie's surplus and ran up a $50 trillion bill with tax cuts for the rich and escalating bills for playing in our sandboxes overseas? They said nary a word -- no talk of a debt ceiling. Funny thing that, eh? Oh, and did you believe the $8 to $15 trillion dollar debt? Guess again. As it is, our money has become all but worthless; but if truth be known, it would resemble the inflation of Weimar Germany in the 1920's. You know, a wheelbarrel full of money to buy a loaf of 3 penny bread. Paid three times a day, just to try and keep up with inflation. Hang on tight folks, because here we go again, and again, and again. Are you having a deja vu yet, America?

The stage is set to bring the curtain down on us all. Have you noticed that all the 1% movers and shakers seem to be dumping billions of dollars of their stock portfolios and moving that cash overseas just as quickly as they can? We are set to lose half or our recovery this year alone, if we are lucky. If we're not so lucky, may mighty Zeus protect you; but I wouldn't count on it, if I were you! Remember all those "how to" articles that we ran for several years? They're still in the archives! Now might be a good time to look them up and take some notes, before the dismantling begins!

In Other News

I see where Barry is off on another African adventure -- this time in Niger. If Niger is unfamiliar to you, you might know it under its Rethuglican spelling -- with a double g! As usual, Con-gress offered nary a peep when Barry sent them a short note telling them of his desire to send US troops into another war without their approval. Could someone explain to me why we need the Congress? They don't want to do their Constitutionally-required job; so why not just send them home? Think of the money that would save -- a few billion more for the government to send to the ultra-rich, not to mention the billions saved in bribes by those corpo-rats who bought and paid for them!

Barry is bringing in some boots on the ground to help the French in their war against Mali -- that's just next door from Niger. We'll be helping them by building drone bases and then bases for our fighter bombers to protect the drone bases by sending in the Air Force and CIA to fly them, the Marines to protect them, the Army to protect the Marines, the Coast Guard to guard Niger's coasts and the Navy to protect the Coast Guard.

Of course, our Con-gress could uphold the Constitution; but when was the last time they did that? Oh yeah, it was December 8, 1941 when they told Franklin he could nuke the Japanese and bomb Germany and Italy back to the Stone Age. Ever since, Presidents have done whatever they pleased against whoever they pleased, and Con-gress has gone along for the ride without giving the President permission to do so as they are required by law to do. Not a single, legal, declaration of war as required by law since 1941!

You'll recall there is a three-way power split built into the Constitution to keep a system of checks and balances so no one branch can overrule the two other branches. Apparently, there's too much money flowing from the military/industrial/media complex into their pockets and overseas bank accounts to actually do what they swore to do, i.e., uphold the Constitution. Nope, better to get rid of the Congress and the Judicial and just go with the Fuhrer. Since both the Con-gress and the Extreme court are both owned and operated by the corpo-rats, I see no problem eliminating them from the picture, leaving just our beloved Barry to be the corpo-rats pointman. While that isn't a good thing, think about all the mischief being done on a minute-by-minute basis by those two groups of traitors. Not to mention the benefits of giving the Obamabots no place to hide -- no cover ups -- for their glorious leader, no longer able to blame it on the House, Senate or courts.

Nope, those institutions don't exist any more, anyway, except as three more mouthpieces for the corpo-rats; and without them constantly voting for trillions to line their pockets and the pockets of their masters, we'd be several trillion dollars richer than we are today!

And Finally

Our Vidkun Quisling Award winner this week is Professor Denise R. Lind of George Washington University, who in her spare time is a colonel in the army and the presiding judge in Bradley Manning's pretrial case. It's obvious Denise has heard the word from Barry on how to proceed, and no doubt will get a star for her shoulder to wear for her many acts of treason.

The defense had the audacity to point out that Bradley has been held over eight times longer than the military laws say that he can be held, viz. 120 days when he's been held and tortured for over 10,000 days. Somehow, she came to the conclusion that the 1,000 plus days Bradley has been held isn't longer than the 120 days required by law. I'd show you her reasoning; but her decision is secret so we'll never know. Here's what the military code says...

"Under the Rules of Court Martial 707, any member of the military who is prosecuted must be brought to trial - as measured by the date of his or her arraignment - within a "speedy trial clock" of 120 days of being detained. But there are grounds for excusable delays that set back the clock that include the need for counsel to prepare for trial in a complex case, an inquiry into the mental condition of the accused, and the time taken to obtain security clearance for classified information."

You know what happened next, right? I wrote Frau Lind a note...

Hey Denise,

Boy did you fuck up, huh? I'm guessing Barry has promised you a star for your shoulder for your act of treason? So much for military law, right? 120 days, 1,000 days it all means the same thing to you. Forget about the torture of Manning; the only thing that matters is that you make a example of him, so that the truth is never known by the people, just like the reasons for your acts of treason are now safely hidden -- well, at least for the moment, until Anonymous digs them out and spreads them all over the planet for all to see. Just one question, Denise; I'm very sure my readership would like answered from you, i.e., "How do you look yourself in the mirror in the mornings without cutting your worthless throat?" An honorable person, after committing your crimes, would fall on her sword; but we both know that will never happened, don't we? You'd have to have honor to do that; and you have no honor!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine

If you'd like to share your thoughts with Denise write her at:

Denise R. Lind
Professorial Lecturer in Law
2000 H Street, N.W, Washington, DC 20052

Or email her at:

If you do, tell her Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

Here's the part of the week's work that I hate the most -- coming in front of you to beg for alms to keep the magazine running; I know for some of you it's your favorite part of the magazine, watching me squirm....

Of course, there is a simple solution to this as many of you have pointed out, simply to charge everyone who reads it a fee before they can read it. Most every other magazine does, so why shouldn't we? It would be a simple thing to do; and I'm sure we'd raise more money than our current methods; but to do so would defeat the purpose of all this, viz., getting the truth out to everybody, even those who have fallen through the cracks and gigantic holes in the safety net. The truth is just as important, maybe even more so to the very poor as it is to the middle class.

Ergo, if you believe in our mission to restore the old Republic and bring the criminals that destroyed it to trial, then please send us what you can as often as you can, and we'll keep working those 60 hour weeks for free to see that the important information gets out and can be used by everyone.


09-23-1948 ~ 02-25-2013
Thanks for the jams!

10-14-1916 ~ 02-25-2013
Only The Good Die Young!

07-12-1934 ~ 02-27-2013
Thanks for the jams!

07-14-1923 ~ 02-27-2013
Thanks for the film!


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


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

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

Miami voters waiting in a three hour line for early voting, November 3, 2012.

Too Fat To Vote
By Greg Palast

You know why black folk in the south don't vote? According to the New York Times and the experts at the Pew Charitable Trust, they're just too damn fat!

Normally I wouldn't care what the Times is passing off as fact, except for that, on February the 27th, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Voting Rights Act was the law that Martin Luther King Jr had a dream about a half-century ago: that all citizens will be able to exercise their right to vote. But, like all pleasant dreams, morning means waking up to the ugly reality sleeping next to you.

The pug-uglies in this case are the four Supreme Court justices hostile to the Act. If one more joins them, you can kiss Martin's dream goodbye.

The dream-busters are led by Chief Justice John Roberts. In 2009, he wrote, "The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable." But - and Roberts' "but" is huge - the Act is out of date and "fails to account for current political conditions."

According to Roberts, "Jim Crow laws" - the apartheid rules used in the Deep South to keep African-Americans from the polls - have long passed away.

It's true, black folks now fare better in Dixie. Why, just last week, Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery 147 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (I kid you not).

So, Roberts is ready to dump the key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act - the "pre-clearance" requirement.

Sixteen states must "clear" any changes in voting procedures with the US Department of Justice. That's to make sure there's no racial funny business - that new rules aren't clever tactics meant to remove black, brown, Native American, Catholic, Mormon or other minority voters.

In the current case before the Court, some rebel states are hollering that they were unfairly singled out for this special scrutiny.

However, it was arithmetic in the law, not the Civil War, that put Mississippi on the list. Before the Act, only seven percent of its black citizens were registered to vote, below the law's 50 percent line.

In November, at least a few Americans got quite upset to see television coverage from Florida of long lines of black folk waiting four or five hours to vote for the President. So is Jim Crow really dead and gone in Dixie?

That's the weighty question addressed by the prestigious Pew Charitable Trust.

Why pick on Dixie? After all, despite what we saw with our own eyes, Pew shows that there's only a 23 minute wait to vote in Florida - less time than it takes to cast a vote in Indiana. Overall, Florida ranks near the best in Pew's "Elections Performance Index". Let's give a medal to Florida's former Secretary of State, Katherine Harris!

Pew was advised by Yale law professor Heather K Gerken, who explained the study for the New York Times.

"Poor Southern states perform well, and they perform badly. Rich New England states perform well and badly - mostly badly," she said. In other words, Justice Roberts is right: "The evil that [Voting Rights Act Section 5] is meant to address may no longer be concentrated in the jurisdictions singled out for preclearance."

In other words, why pick on Florida and the 15 others?

But wait. Something's missing: colour. Sure, the average Floridian waited 23 minutes to vote, but what about black voters?

In November, I joined African-American voters on "Souls to the Polls" day. Their wait for a ballot: four hours. Then I went up the road to an all-white polling station. Wait: zero minutes. There were unused rows of balloting machines, more poll workers than voters and a pot of coffee brewing for the pale suburban-Americans casting ballots.

Oddly, despite a hot, hot Presidential contest with an African-American candidate, by mid-May 2012, the Census Bureau reported that the number of African-Americans registered declined by over one million. Hispanic names on voter rolls fell, too, despite massive registration drives. A big decline in voters of colour was reported in the South's huge swing state, Florida.

So, overall voter turnout fell short. But the reason, according to the Pew expert featured in the Times, is that, "States in the Deep South with high obesity problems seem to be having a problem getting people to the polling place."

Apparently, citizens of colour south of the Mason-Dixon line are just too fat to vote.

Maybe there's another explanation for black and Hispanic names disappearing from the polls. Willie Steen, a Gulf War veteran, was removed from the voter rolls in 2000 because the Republican Secretary of State of Florida listed him as a felon. I met Steen. He'd never got so much as a parking ticket. He was, like tens of thousands of others, guilty of "VWB"; Voting While Black.

Secretary of State Katherine Harris sent Steen a note of apology for the "error", but only after the election of George W Bush. Then, in 2004, Steen, who is quite slender, was purged again.

Steen's name matched that of an Ohio felon named "O'Steen" on a database created by Republican hacks. The name-match game cost 58,000 innocent voters their registrations in just one year.

This was just one method of nine used to hold Florida's black voting rate to 58 percent compared to 65 percent for whites.

Jim Crow isn't dead, he's just changed his white sheets for spreadsheets.

And in 2012, a new Republican Secretary of State again set out to bleach the rolls.

Using lists of illegal aliens, the GOP hack-marked 182,000 (!) voters whose names matched the deportees. But wait: it's a jail-time crime for a non-citizen to register or vote, so that's one heck of a crime wave.

So how many illegal foreign voters were arrested in Florida? One: a Canadian gun aficionado.

Yet, nearly one in ten Hispanic voters would have been barred from the polling booth. But, at the last moment, federal voting rights law stopped the Republican's latest Jose Crow manoeuver.

But wait - if the Voting Rights Act required Florida to get federal approval for voter roll purges, how could Steen and other black men have been stripped of their rights?

Answer: Florida lied. The state used a loophole in the Voting Rights Act, claiming the purge was not a change in rules, just a clerical clean-up of the voting lists.

What's the solution to the new trickery? Not, as Justice Roberts suggests, to eliminate Section 5, but to expand it.

Indeed, the reach of the Voting Rights Act was massively expanded by presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Reagan!

As a result of their changes, states designated officially racist include the Confederate states of… California, Arizona, New York, New Mexico, South Dakota and Alaska. Alaska? You betcha!

And for good reason. Take California - under a Republican Secretary of State, Bruce McPherson, 42 percent of voter registration forms were rejected, an overwhelmingly amount of those Hispanic, Arab-American and Asian. Jim Crow, it seems, became a surfer dude.

In 2004, in McKinley County, New Mexico, only one in ten voters cast a ballot for President - at least, that's what the machines said. In fact, the voting machines simply disappeared the vote - almost all cast by Navajo Natives. Unfortunately McKinley was, by that time, "bailed out" of the Voting Rights Act, which any state can do by proving it no longer discriminates. (Apparently there's not much you have to prove.)

And those lines I filmed of black voters standing for hours and white voters waltzing in for a ballot without a wait? That was in Ohio, with arguably the most racially bent voting system in America. (When the black voters finally made it to the voting station, I discovered they'd been given "absentee" ballots, subject to challenge, rather than the regular ballots given to the white voters.)

The horror show in Ohio does not absolve the racist voting systems of Florida, it merely calls for another expansion of the pre-clearance list to reflect a new reality. Jim Crow voting games are more widespread and far more sophisticated today than in 2000 when I first uncovered the Florida black-out.

That's because Jim Crow is now Dr. James Crow, database analyst, a hired gun who knows it's easier to win elections by blocking voters rather than winning their votes. Identifying and challenging "suspect" voters is far more effective in chasing away blacks than burning crosses.

In 2012, cyber-guru Karl Rove created a massive voter profiling system called Data Trust. Rove stated then that, for example, "Even a small drop in the share of black voters would wipe out [Obama's] winning margin in North Carolina. If [black voters'] share of turnout drops just one point in North Carolina, Mr Obama's winning margin there is wiped out two and a half times over."

A little purge goes a long way. Add in a requirement of voter IDs with photos (which Indiana used to bar about 72,000 black voters this year), and voting games, not voters, will pick our government.

The solution is not for the Supreme Court to let Jim Crow ride again through the Southland, but another expansion of pre-clearance scrutiny to Ohio and those states that need a little Reconstruction.
(c) 2013 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to 's reports at. Greg will be providing investigative reports for

Peace And Watermelons
By Uri Avnery

ONE OF the most interesting and prolonged private debates I have had in my life was with the brilliant Dr. Nahum Goldmann. The subject: American peace initiatives.

It was an unequal debate, of course. Goldmann was my elder by 28 years. While I was a mere editor of an Israeli news magazine, he was an international figure, President of the World Zionist Organization and the World Jewish Congress.

In the mid '50s, when I was looking for a personality who could possibly contest David Ben-Gurion's stranglehold on the prime minister's office, I thought of Goldmann. He had the necessary stature and was liked by moderate Zionists. No less important, he had a clear set of opinions. From the first day of the State of Israel, he had proposed that Israel become a "Middle Eastern Switzerland", neutral between the US and the Soviet Union. For him, peace with the Arabs was absolutely essential for the future of Israel.

I visited him in a luxury suite in Jerusalem's classy Kind David hotel. He was wearing a silken dressing gown, and when I made my offer, he responded: "Look, Uri, I like the good life. Luxury hotels, good food and beautiful women. If I challenged Ben-Gurion, all these would disappear. His people would vilify me as they do you. Why would I risk all that?"

We also started a discussion that ended only with his death, some 27 years later. He was convinced that the US wanted peace between us and the Arabs, and that a major American peace effort was just around the corner. This was not simply an abstract hope. He assured me that he had just met with the highest policy-makers and had it from the highest authority. Straight from the American horse's mouth, so to say.

Goldman was also an inveterate name-dropper. He regularly met with most major American, Soviet and other political personalities, and never failed to mention this in his conversation. So, being assured by the incumbent US presidents, ministers and ambassadors that the US was just about to impose peace on Israelis and Arabs, he told me just you wait. You'll see.

THIS BELIEF in an American Imposed Peace has haunted the Israeli peace movement for decades. In advance of the coming visit of President Obama to Israel next month, it is raising its weary head once more.

Now, finally, it is going to happen. At the beginning of his second term, Barak Obama will shed the hesitations, fears and incompetence that marked his first. AIPAC will not be able to terrorize him anymore. A new, strong and resolute Obama will emerge and knock all the heads together. The leaders will be strongarmed into peace.

This is a very typical and very convenient conviction. It relieves us of the duty to do anything unpopular or daring ourselves. It is also very comforting. The Zionist Left is feeble and lifeless? Maybe, but we have an ally who will do the job. Like the little kid who threatens the bully with his powerful big brother.

This hope has been shattered again and again and again. US presidents came and went, each with his entourage of Jewish advisors, White House and State Department officials and ambassadors. And nothing happened.

Of course, there have been American peace initiatives galore. From Nixon's "Rogers plan", through Carter's Camp David agreement about Palestinian self-government to Clinton's Parameters and Bush's Road Map there were plenty of them, each one more convincing than the last. And then came the Obama, the new man, energetic and resolute, and imposed on Binyamin Netanyahu a stop of the settlement enterprise for several months, and...well, nothing.

No peace initiative and no watermelons, as we say in Hebrew (borrowed from the Arabs). Watermelons have a short season.

SLOWLY BUT surely, even Goldmann began to despair of the mirage of US intervention.

In our conversations we tried to crack the code of this enigma. Why, for God's sake, did the Americans not do what logic dictated? Why didn't they put pressure on our government? Why didn't they make an offer that our leaders couldn't refuse? In short, why no effective peace initiative?

It could not be in the American national interest to follow a policy that made it a hate-object of the masses throughout the entire Arab and most of the Muslim world. Didn't the Americans understand that they were undermining their clients in every Arab country - as these rulers never tired of telling them at every meeting?

The most obvious reason was the growing power of the pro-Israel lobby, from the early 50s on. AIPAC alone has now more than 200 employees in seven offices throughout the US. Almost everyone in Washington DC lives in deadly fear of it. The Lobby can dethrone any senator or congressman who arouses its anger. Look at what is happening right now to Chuck Hagel, who dared to say the unthinkable: "I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!"

The two professors, Mearsheimer and Walt, dared to say it: the pro-Israeli lobby controls American policy.

But this theory is not completely satisfying. What about the spying affair around Jonathan Pollard, who stays in prison for life in spite of immense Israeli pressure to release him?

Can a world power really be induced by a small foreign country and a powerful domestic lobby to act for decades against its basic national interest?

ANOTHER FACTOR often mentioned is the power of the arms industry.

When I was young, no one was more despised than the Merchants of Death. These days are long past. Countries - including Israel - pride themselves on selling arms to the most despicable regimes.

The US supplies us with huge quantities of the most sophisticated weapons. True, a lot of these come to us as a gift - but that doesn't change the picture. The arms producers are paid by the US government as a kind of New Deal public works project supported enthusiastically even (and especially) by the Republicans. After the arms are supplied to Israel, some Arab countries see themselves compelled to order huge quantities for themselves, for which they pay through the nose. See: Saudi Arabia.

This theory, which was once very popular, does not really satisfy either. No single industry is powerful enough to compel a nation to act against its own general interests for half a century.

THEN THERE is the "Common History" thing. The US and Israel are so much alike, aren't they? They have both displaced another people, and live on denial. Is there much difference between the Native-American naqba and the Palestinian one? Between the American and Zionist pioneers who struck roots in the wilderness and built a new nation? Do they not both base themselves on the same Old Testament and believe that God has given them their land (whether they believe in God or not)?

Do our settlers, who are creating a new Wild East in the occupied territories, not imitate the Wild West of American movies? A few days ago, Israel TV showed one Avri Ran, who declares himself "sovereign" of the West Bank, terrorizing both Palestinians and settlers, grabbing land irrespective of to whom it belongs, telling the army where to go and what to do, openly despising the Israeli and all other governments, and becoming a multi-millionaire in the process. Hollywood at its best.

But all this applies also to Australia (with whom we are quarreling at the moment), Canada, New Zealand and South American nations. Yet we don't have this kind of relationship with them.

Noam Chomsky, the brilliant linguistician, has another answer: Israel is just a lackey of American imperialism, serving its interest in this region. A kind of unsinkable aircraft-carrier. I don't quite see it that way. Israeli was not involved in the US action in Iraq, for example. If the American dog is wagging the Israeli tail, just as surely, the tail is wagging the dog.

NEITHER GOLDMANN nor I found a satisfactory answer to this riddle.

Eight months before his death, I received from him, quite unexpectedly, a surprising letter. Written in German (which we never spoke) on his stationery, it was a kind of apology: I had been right all along, no American peace initiative was to be expected, the rationale remained inexplicable.

The letter bears the date of January 30, 1982, five months before Ariel Sharon's bloody invasion of Lebanon, which was approved in advance by Alexander Haig, the then Secretary of State, and presumably by President Reagan too.

The letter was a response to an article I had written some days before in the magazine I edited, Haolam Hazeh, in which I asked: "Do the Americans really want peace?"

Goldmann wrote: "I, too, have already sometimes asked myself this question. Though one should not underestimate the lack of statesmanlike wisdom of American foreign policy makers ... I could write a whole book proving that America seriously wants peace, and another book showing that they do not want peace."

He mentioned America's fear of Soviet penetration of the Middle East, and their belief that peace is impossible without Russian participation. He also disclosed that a Russian diplomat had told him that there had been an American-Russian agreement to convene a peace conference in Geneva, but that Moshe Dayan had called upon the American Jews to sabotage it. The Russians were very angry.

Sprinkling names along the way, he summed up: "Without being quite sure, I would say at the moment that there is a combination of American diplomatic incompetence on one hand, a fear of Russian involvement in a peace on the other hand, added to the domestic fear of the pro-Israeli lobby, (which includes) not only the Jews but also (non-Jews) like Senator (Henry "Scoop") Jackson and others. (All these) seem to be the reasons for the complete lack of understanding and results of the American Middle East policy, for which Israel will pay heavily in the future."

EXCEPT FOR the decline of Russian influence, every word is valid today, 31 years later, on the eve of the Obama visit.

Again many Israelis and Palestinians hope for an American peace initiative, which will put pressure on both sides. Again the President denies any such intent. Again the results of the visit will probably be disappointment and despair.

Just now, there are no watermelons on the market. Nor a real US peace initiative.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The Revolving Door Spins From Sea To Shining Sea
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

To those who would argue that the notion of a perpetual motion machine is impossible, we give you the revolving door - that ever-spinning entrance and exit between public service in government and the hugely profitable private sector. It never stops.

Yes, we've talked about the revolving door until we're red or blue in the face (the door is bipartisan and spins across party lines) but this mantra bears its own perpetual repetition, a powerful reason for our distrust of the people who make and enforce our laws and regulations.

Jesse Eisinger, writing at The New York Times, reports that on January 25th, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid announced the appointment of Cathy Koch as his chief advisor on tax and economic policy. According to the Times, "The news release lists Ms. Koch's admirable and formidable experience in the public sector. 'Prior to joining Senator Reid's office,' the release says, 'Koch served as tax chief at the Senate Finance Committee.'"

But, Eisinger notes, the press statement fails to mention Ms. Koch's actual last job - as a registered lobbyist for GE. "Yes, General Electric," he writes, "the company that paid almost no taxes in 2010. Just as the tax reform debate is heating up, Mr. Reid has put in place a person who is extraordinarily positioned to torpedo any tax reform that might draw a dollar out of GE - and, by extension, any big corporation."

One other example cited in the Times article: Julie Williams, chief counsel for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency - "and a major friend of the banks for years" - has been forced out of the OCC by its new boss and is joining Promontory Financial Group, "a classic Washington creature that is a private sector mirror image of a regulatory body."

Promontory plays both sides of the field, helping financial companies hack their way through the bogs of regulation while simultaneously "helping" the OCC review said regulations - like the just abandoned Independent Foreclosure Review that essentially let the banks hire outside "experts" to decide who had been victimized by the banks' abuse of mortgages. Result: not a dime to affected homeowners but $1.5 billion in consulting fees to Promontory and other companies like it.

And get this: as Julie Williams exits OCC for Promontory, she will be succeeded as chief counsel by Amy Friend, former chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee but currently a managing director at - wait for it - Promontory!

It's a wonder all of Washington doesn't lie prostrate in the streets, overcome by vertigo from all the spinning back and forth. But while we're at it, remember that this whirling frenzy isn't limited to the federal government. There are revolving doors installed at the exits and entrances of every state capitol in the country. The temptation for officeholders to seek greener pastures in lobbying can be even greater in statehouses where salaries are small and legislative sessions infrequent.

A quick search of newspapers around the country reveals how pernicious the problem is. On February 22, the Los Angeles Times reported "the abrupt resignation" of State Senator Michael J. Rubio to take a government affairs job with Chevron: "As chairman of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, Rubio was leading the charge to make California's environmental laws more business-friendly and has introduced bills during his two years in office that affect the oil industry in his Central Valley district."

A recent editorial in the Raleigh News & Observer points out that since the last session of the legislature there, Republican Harold Brubaker, former speaker of the North Carolina House; and Republican Richard Stevens, a ten-year veteran of the state senate, have become registered lobbyists: "Both men became experts in state spending by heading budget committees in their respective chambers... Top legislators-turned-hired-guns advising lawmakers sounds like an opening for well-funded interests to buy influence."

Florida, that inflamed big toe of American politics, is one of the worst offenders, even as the state debates a sweeping ethics reform bill that keeps in place a current law that prevents departing members from lobbying the legislature for a two-year "cooling off" period - but postpones for two years a similar ban on doing business with the governor and state agencies. Over the last two decades, the state has increasingly contracted government work - currently valued at $50 billion - to outside vendors.

Earlier this month, Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald wrote, "The infusion of state cash into private and non-profit industries has spawned a cottage industry of lobbyists who help vendors manage the labyrinth of rules and build relationships with executive agency officers and staff so they can steer contracts to their clients."

"There are now more people registered to lobby the governor, the Cabinet and their agencies - 4,925 - than there are registered to lobby the 160-member Legislature - 3,235." Dozens of them are former legislators and staff members "as well as former utility regulators, agency secretaries, division heads and other employees."

Former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon retired last November and has set up a lobbying shop just a block from the state capitol in Tallahassee. And former Senate President Mike Haridopolos, now a lobbyist, "used his influence to get lawmakers to insert millions into the budget at the final stage of the budget process to pay for a state law enforcement radio system the agencies didn't ask for, a juvenile justice contract that agency didn't seek and the extension of a contract to expand broadband service in rural areas."

You get the picture. In 15 states, according to the progressive Center for Public Integrity, "there aren't any laws preventing legislators from resigning one day and registering as lobbyists the next...In the most egregious cases, legislators or regulators have written laws or set policy that helps a business or industry with whom they have been negotiating for a job once they leave office." What's more, in many of the 35 states that do have restrictions, "the rules are riddled with loopholes, narrowly written or loosely enforced."

Which is why Glenn Harlan Reynolds, law professor, libertarian and head honcho of the political blog Instapundit, may be on to something. In a column for USA Today last month, he suggested, "...Let's involve the most effective behavior-control machinery in America: The Internal Revenue Code."

"In short, I propose putting 50% surtax - or maybe it should be 75%, I'm open to discussion - on the post-government earnings of government officials. So if you work at a cabinet level job and make $196,700 a year, and you leave for a job that pays a million a year, you'll pay 50% of the difference - just over $400,000 - to the Treasury right off the top. So as not to be greedy, we'll limit it to your first five years of post-government earnings; after that, you'll just pay whatever standard income tax applies."

The conservative Boston Herald endorsed the idea, comparing an ex-legislator or official's connections and knowledge to intangible capitol and Reynolds' scheme to a capital gains tax.

Imagine - conservatives and libertarians making a favorable comparison to the capital gains tax! This and that Russian meteor may be signs of the apocalypse. Just gives you an idea of how deeply awful and anti-democratic the revolving door is, no matter which side you're on. That's why it has to be slowed down if not completely stopped - and why we'll keep talking about it.
(c) 2013 Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America's strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal.
(c) 2013 Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

Limbaugh's New Racism
By Joel S. Hirschhorn

For some years, several times a week while driving to go shopping and do errands, I have listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. Pretty much all the time I have become angered because every few sentences I realized that with his total sincerity and conviction he was stating absolutely incorrect things. Add to endless wrong information complete lapses in logic, causing me to be bewildered that Limbaugh has reached such success. My only explanation is that he appeals to a very large number of ignorant and unintelligent people who, like religious zealots, remain enraptured by his ultra-ring wing rhetoric. What a surprise therefore that recently Limbaugh has been speaking relentlessly about "information poor" Americans as his pseudo brilliant explanation of why President Obama has succeeded.

Two things stand out. First, he clearly refuses to face the reality that it is his incredibly loyal audience that must be information poor to readily accept all the falsehoods he dishes out daily.

Here are just two simple example of intentional misinformation and disinformation he has dispensed, like the proverbial Kool-Aid keeping his listeners doped up. He recently was admonishing President Obama for doing terrible things or not doing the right things and in his routinely glib, smooth style spoke of the five years of the Obama presidency. This happened at about 10 percent into Obama's second term, in other words some weeks, or about 90 percent less than the full fifth year of the Obama presidency. How could an honest, fair person so easily state to his vast audience that there had already been five years of Obama as president? And yet, there it was. I quickly realized that this specific event was just part of the normal design of the ludicrous Limbaugh rhetoric, actually propaganda designed to maintain the conservative idiocy of his loyal audience.

And then today I heard Limbaugh refer to the settlement of Minnesota by the Vikings. As usual I shook my head in disbelief. I could not imagine how the Vikings had managed to get so far inland when they had hit North America around the year 1000. So when I got home I did some easy research on the web and, of course, verified that I was correct to disbelieve what Limbaugh had said. The Vikings discovered Eastern Canada, not what is now defined as Minnesota. But like everything else Limbaugh mutters he conveys a complete sense of honesty, correctness and conviction, despite being totally wrong. Does Limbaugh connect the Minnesota Vikings to historical fact? Perhaps he has learned from many years of astounding radio success that he can say just about anything and get away with it.

Now for my major point about information poor people that he now talks about endlessly. Limbaugh has shown semantic creativity in expressing racist thinking. When he uses the presence of many millions of information poor Americans to explain Obama and Democratic successes he has devised yet another way to attack African Americans and Hispanic Americans that, indeed, are demographic realities causing failure for Romney and other Republicans. Moreover, it is also apparent that Limbaugh does not appeal to the poorest Americans who he routinely condemns for living off of government handouts.

I suspect that if there were good data about the demographics of the Limbaugh audience they would reveal, like those voting for Romney, that it consists mostly of older, higher income white American men. Well, turns out there is some decent information.

As to the listeners of Limbaugh's daily radio show, according to a 2008 news media consumption survey conducted by PewResearch, 72 percent are male and 80 percent are conservative. About three-quarters of his listeners identify themselves as Tea Partiers and Christian Conservatives. In other words, Limbaugh does not change the thinking of people, he appeals to a mindset and gives those people exactly what they like. Another source says his audience is 95 percent white and two-thirds earn more than $60k a year with the majority earning over $100k a year. In other words, not only is his audience mostly white men, they are also in the upper parts of the economic spectrum (I suspect mostly small business types who may have learned how to make money but nevertheless are quite ignorant and prejudiced.)

As to his website, according to (as of March 3, 2012) the vast majority of visitors to are aging white males: 54 percent are 45 and older, with 28 percent 55 and older, and 91 percent are Caucasian.

So here is a radio god whose success depends on having information poor people as addicted listeners using the same concept to condemn those minority Americans he aggressively blames for the ruin of the nation because they vote for Democrats. And of course with his male dominated audience he has shown himself to be rude and worse towards women, another demographic that Republicans have lost.

It is time for people, especially decent Republicans, to condemn wacko Limbaugh for all of his many failures, especially his new attempt to mask racism with the cloak of information deficits. If Republicans ever want to appeal to a broad cross section of Americans they should have the courage to disown and openly condemn the appalling strategy of bloviator Limbaugh to cater to the most stupid and biased Americans. They may, indeed, be seen as the core constituency of the Republican Party, but they are a heavy anchor pulling it down. Interestingly, among Republicans, only 13 percent say they tune in to Limbaugh "regularly." Time to dump Limbaugh.
(c) 2013 Joel S. Hirschhorn observed our corrupt federal government firsthand as a senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association and is the author of Delusional Democracy =Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. To discuss issues write the author. The author has a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and was formerly a full professor of metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The GOP's Disdain For Low-Wage Workers

When President Obama called for raising America's wage floor to nine bucks an hour, GOP House leader John Boehner attacked it like a gater on a poodle.

Incredibly, he claimed that raising the wages of our country's most-poorly-paid workers would hurt - guess who? - America's most-poorly-paid workers! This disingenuous pitting of poor people against themselves is derived from a corporate-manufactured myth that hiking the minimum forces small business owners to fire employees or even go bankrupt. "When you raise the price of employment," he grumped, "guess what happens? You get less of it."

Well guess again, John. That "job killer" fable has been debunked again and again by real world experience. The pay floor has constantly been elevated by Congress, states, and cities, causing little-to-zero negative impacts on job numbers, but very positive results for employee morale, productivity, and turnover. It also generates a spending boost for local economies (especially for - guess who? - small businesses).

Obviously, the major impact of the raise is to lift the incomes of about 18 million hard-working people in low-wage jobs, allowing them to make a down payment on a used car or enroll in a couple of community college classes. Plus, it gives at least a token nod to the essential need of bridging America's dangerously-widening chasm of economic inequality.

The real shame in the Republican leader's attack is not its flagrant dishonesty, but the raw disdain that it flings at low-wage workers - 60 percent of whom are women. The Boehners, Romneys, Koch brothers and Wall Street billionaires, see such people only in terms of their price tags, not in their value. That dehumanized contempt for the working class not only stains those who look down on the non-rich, but it's also holding back public policies to help America reach its full economic potential - and it is social dynamite.
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Albert Woodfox's 40 Years Of Solitary Confinement
By Amy Goodman

Albert Woodfox has been in solitary confinement for 40 years, most of that time locked up in the notorious maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary known as "Angola." This week, after his lawyers spent six years arguing that racial bias tainted the grand-jury selection in Woodfox's prosecution, federal Judge James Brady, presiding in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, agreed. "Accordingly, Woodfox's habeas relief is GRANTED," ordered Brady, compelling the state of Louisiana to release Woodfox. This is the third time his conviction has been overturned. Nevertheless, Woodfox remains imprisoned. Those close to the case expect the state of Louisiana, under the direction of Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell, to appeal again, as the state has successfully done in the past, seeking to keep Woodfox in solitary confinement, in conditions that Amnesty International says "can only be described as cruel, inhuman and degrading."

Woodfox is one of the "Angola 3." Angola, the sprawling prison complex with 5,000 inmates and 1,800 employees, is in rural Louisiana on the site of a former slave plantation. It gets its name from the country of origin of many of those slaves. It still exists as a forced-labor camp, with prisoners toiling in fields of cotton and sugar cane, watched over by shotgun-wielding guards on horseback. Woodfox and fellow inmate Herman Wallace were in Angola for lesser crimes when implicated in the prison murder of a guard in 1972. Woodfox and Wallace founded the Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971, and were engaged in organizing against segregation, inhumane working conditions and the systemic rape and sexual slavery inflicted on many imprisoned in Louisiana's Angola.

"Herman and Albert and other folks recognized the violation of human rights in prison, and they were trying to achieve a better prison and living conditions," Robert King told me last year. "And as a result of that, they were targeted." King is the third member of the Angola 3, and the only one among them to have finally won his freedom, in 2001.

King went on: "There is no rationale why they should be held in solitary confinement-or, for that matter, in prison. This is a double whammy. We are dealing with a double whammy here. We are not just focusing on Herman's and Albert's civil- or human-rights violation, but there is question also as to whether or not they committed this crime. All the evidence has been undermined in this case." Since his release, King has been fighting for justice for Wallace and Woodfox, traveling around the U.S. and to 20 countries, as well as addressing the European Parliament.

The devastating psychological impacts of long-term solitary confinement are well-documented. Solitary also limits access to exercise, creating a cascade of health complications. The Center for Constitutional Rights is challenging the use of solitary confinement in California prisons, writing: "Ever since solitary confinement came into existence, it has been used as a tool of repression. While it is justified by corrections officials as necessary to protect prisoners and guards from violent superpredators, all too often it is imposed on individuals, particularly prisoners of color, who threaten prison administrations in an altogether different way."

In a recorded phone conversation from Angola, Herman Wallace explained: "Where we stay, we're usually in the cell for 23 hours, and an hour out. I'm not 'out.' I may come out of the hole here, but I'm still locked up on that unit. I'm locked up. I can't get around that. Anywhere I go, I have to be in chains. Chains have become a part of my existence. And that's one of the things that people have to fully understand. But understanding it is one thing, but experiencing it is quite another."

Despite the decades in solitary confinement, Woodfox remains strong. As he said over a prison pay phone in one of the documentaries about the case, "In the Land of the Free": "If a cause is just noble enough, you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. And I thought that my cause, then and now, was noble. So therefore, they could never break me. They might bend me a little bit, they might cause me a lot of pain. They might even take my life. But they will never be able to break me."
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

Has Slavery In America Really Been Abolished?
By James Donahue

Every school child knows the story about Abraham Lincoln and the great American struggle to free the slaves.

What the text books don't teach, and most adult Americans don't understand, is that slavery was never really abolished in America. What happened was a shifting from a landowner relationship with his "owned" workers, to an industrial relationship of controlled workers in a capitalistic system.

The Civil War was a battle over political ideologies. The question of freeing slaves was not the issue. The war was fought over the right of states to maintain autonomy, and decide for themselves issues like slavery, as opposed to controls under a strong central government. That the Union Army won this battle, and opened the door for cheap labor to serve the industrial revolution, appears to have been a wrong turn in American history.

Even Lincoln's famous Emancipation Proclamation, that many believe was a declaration that led to the end of slavery, has been misinterpreted.

Ron and Don Kennedy, in their book "The South was Right," wrote: "A reading of the proclamation will show that Lincoln declared free those slaves who were held 'within any state or part of a State the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States.' In other words, he declared free those slaves over whom he had no control."

The Kennedys go on to say: "Indeed the six parishes of Louisiana that were at that time under Yankee control were specifically excluded from this great document of freedom, as were the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia! The proclamation states that these excepted areas are 'left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued'."

A key to the thought processes going on among the American aristocrats at the time may be found in the knowledge that Ulysses S. Grant's wife kept personal slaves throughout the war. Her slaves were not freed until the 13th Amendment was enacted. Grant was quoted as saying that the slaves were maintained in his home because "good help is so hard to come by these days." I wonder if he started that thread-worn cliche.

Indeed. The issue has always been cheap labor to do the work of the few wealthy individuals who own and operate affairs of the nation.

The development of a workable steam engine prior to the Civil War launched the industrial revolution. Coal miners, fruit pickers, factory workers and a wide variety of other laborers were needed. This demand intensified after Henry Ford invented the concept of assembly line production.

My father, who grew up just after the turn of the Twentieth Century and lived through the Great Depression years, talked about painting barns and picking strawberries in Kansas for a dollar a day. He worked 10-hour days, and thought it was good money.

Indeed, a dollar seemed to buy a lot in those days, just as a wage of $100 a day seems good to some people now.

When you look at the whole picture with an objective eye, however, you realize that slavery still exists in America, but in a more subtle way than it did in 1861.

Slaves in those days, who were lucky enough to be placed in a good home, had their needs provided for them. They worked without pay, but were given a place to live and sleep, they were fed and clothed. A smart slave owner wanted his work force to be healthy and happy so the farm work was done on time. Unfortunately, not all slave owners were benevolent and kind and the horror stories about the things that happened on these plantations are still remembered.

Setting human wickedness aside, the technical difference between "owned" slaves and "free" laborers is that contemporary workers must spend the wages they earn to provide for themselves. Often, with both husband and wife holding full-time jobs, and the children farmed off to day-care centers and public schools, families still lack the means to buy food, clothing and shelter. The extra cost of buying a badly needed automobile to get people to and from their jobs, paying taxes, insurance, and paying doctor bills, can be overwhelming.

True, the "free" worker has the independence to quit one job and seek another, when economic times are good. And if he or she gets lucky, the new job might pay a few cents more an hour than the old one, or offer a better health insurance package. But that is about the best we can hope for. Because of the current economic slump those jobs are drying up for all but the most skilled workers and wages have not been keeping up with the rising cost of living.

The concept of real freedom . . . the freedom that we can only dream about . . . used to be dangled like the proverbial carrot in front of the mule. We called it retirement. What most people never realized was that retirement benefit programs, including the federal Social Security system, were designed to provide only a few months of payment before the "average" retired person died.

In other words, the slave system keeps everyone's noses to the grindstone until we are worn out and of no more value to the masters we serve. We spend our lives slaving for a wealthy few that own and control the corporation we labor for. There is little time to pursue our personal bliss.

That the life span of Americans has been on the increase in recent years has stirred our government to push the time for drawing Social Security benefits a little farther out on the stick. While I was eligible to draw Social Security at 62, my wife, who is two years younger than I am, had to wait until she was 65. New proposals are on the table to force workers to stay on the job until age 70 before they can fall into the social security net.

How many great artists, writers or inventors have been so caught up in the rush to earn enough badly needed cash to provide for their families, they never get time to bring their creative talent to fruition?

With this thought in mind, I ask if Lincoln was really the Great Emancipator? Did the Civil War free anybody? True, the outcome of the Civil War set the stage for equality among the blacks, but even that turned out to be a lie. The blacks continue struggling for the things they were promised even to this day.

The concept of equality has been a fairy tale.

After the attacks of September 11, most Moslems and certainly people of Middle Eastern origin are clearly not equal in the United States. We singled out the Japanese Americans and placed them in concentration camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ask the American Indians about equality. Or the Chinese and Irish laborers who slaved for big business interests as the nation's railroads and factories went into production.

People who come to this country from other lands still pledge allegiance to our flag and proclaim their gratitude. Indeed, living conditions for the masses are much worse in other parts of the world. But they could have been so much more here.

All that we think we are as Americans, is an illusion.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

President Barack Obama waves before giving his State of the Union address.

To Beat Austerity, Obama Must Campaign For Democracy
By John Nichols

President Obama, who famously used his 2010 State of the Union address to rip activist Supreme Court Justices for removing longstanding barriers to corporate control of the political discourse, did not mention the Court's wrongheaded Citizens United decision in his 2012 State of the Union address.

That was concerning.

Not just because the president's support is needed to expand the campaign to amend the Constitution so that it is clear free speech rights are afforded citizens, not corporations. But because this is a moment when it is essential to explain how Wall Street is using its "money power" to thwart the will of the people when it comes to debt and deficit debates.

As the country stumbles toward sequestration, powerful forces are seeking to take advantage of the wrangling. Hoping to capitalize on popular frustration with the fighting in Washington, the failed proponents of a far deeper austerity than sequestration would impose, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, are back with a new plan to hack away at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

They are advancing failed ideas, which have already been proven by the bitter experience of European nations to stall growth and increase unemployment.

They are advancing failed ideas that have already been rejected by the America people, who voted in the 2012 election against candidates endorsed by Simpson and Bowles and against the most prominent American champion of austerity: House Budget Committee chairman and defeated Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Yet they are being heard because of a massive new "Fix the Debt" campaign, which is already spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying to repurpose Simpson-Bowles as the only answer to what ails the economy. With financial backing from the nation's wealthiest CEOs, they are not just advancing an agenda. They are speaking to elected officials as individuals with the power to direct vast resources toward the cause of re-electing or defeating favored contenders.

In the Citizens United era, when corporations and CEOs can spend as they please to influence elections, that's a powerful threat.

And Obama should address it.

We know the president is aware of the threat. We know that he sympathizes with those who would amend the Constitution to address the money power. Indeed, during the course of the 2012 campaign, Obama indicated that he was supportive of an amendment.

After he won that re-election, however, there were fears that Obama and the Democrats had decided that, while they might not always be able to match Republican spending, they could hold their own.

Reformers launched a campaign to get Obama to use his 2013 State of the Union address to formally "call for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics."

A petition on the White House website-initiated by John Bonifaz and the group Free Speech for People, and supported by People for the American Way, Demos and "Our democracy is broken, flooded by money from corporations, billionaires and SuperPACs that puts their interests over those of the public. From big banks sinking our economy while blocking real reform to the NRA preventing sensible gun safety measures, big money forces are corrupting our politics. Since the US Supreme Court has ruled that corporations and wealthy donors have the right to spend unlimited money in our elections, a growing popular movement is now calling for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy. Eleven states and nearly 500 cities and towns have joined this call. We petition President Obama to use the State of the Union to call for a constitutional amendment to reduce the influence of money in our political system and restore democracy to the people."

The petition attracted more than the 25,000 signatures required to get a White House response. Indeed, it eventually attracted close to 40,000 signatures. But the State of the Union address came and went without mention of Citizens United or the amendment.

Then, late last week, the White House replied with an encouraging announcement: "You're right."

The formal reply read:

In this year's State of the Union address, [the] President chose to prioritize an economic agenda to create jobs and invest in infrastructure, clean energy, and education. He also called for a National Commission to address the long lines and other chronic problems at the polls every election.

But that doesn't mean fighting the influence of money in politics isn't important. In fact, President Obama agrees with you.

That's a point he made clear last fall, saying: "Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."

Now, it's going to take more than a response to this petition or a paragraph in a future State of the Union to get this done. Our founders quite consciously made amending the U.S. Constitution a difficult piece of business.

That's where you come in. If this is a fight that motivates you, you need to work for it. Keep making your voice heard and encourage others to take a stand against limitless corporate spending in our elections. And speak out in favor of changes that will reduce the influence of special interests.

There's a reason that this President has worked to make his administration the most open and accountable in history. He's trying to lead by example, and change Washington from the ground up.

That's why he banned lobbyists or lobbying organizations from giving gifts to appointees in the executive branch. That's why he directed agencies to stop appointing lobbyists to federal boards and commissions. That's why lobbyists aren't allowed to work in the Administration on matters or agencies they had lobbied in the preceding two years. And that's why appointees aren't allowed to lobby the Administration once they leave.

It's why our visitor logs, daily public schedules, staff salaries, and ethics waivers are all posted on the White House website. And it's why we've created a program like We the People-to allow citizens like you to write to us directly and build support to compel our response.

If we want to get this done, we all have plenty of work to do in the months and years ahead. So let's keep at it.

That's not a bad response, except, of course, that it did not come in the State of the Union address.

In some senses, the White House statement recalls President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's response to New Deal-era progressives who wanted him to step up the fight for economic and social democracy: "Go out and make me do it."

But only in some senses.

FDR did encourage activists to press their agendas agressively so that he could better bargain with conservatives in his own party and on the Republican side of the aisle. But he gave those activists more than vague encouragement, especially at points when the battle lines were being drawn on fiscal and economic issues.

Roosevelt used his first Inaugural Address to call out the "rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods" and to declare that the "practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."

He portrayed a struggle between Wall Street and the great mass of Americans in biblical terms, announcing: "The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

Roosevelt did not merely express agreement with critics of Wall Street as an economic and political force, he defined that criticism. Throughout his tenure, FDR decried "economic royalists." "Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people," he argued. "The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism-ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power."

That was blunt language. Blunt enough to clarify the lines of division on questions of economic democracy, and to rally citizens-and ultimately mass movements-to the cause of economic democracy.

Obama would do well to recognize, as Roosevelt did in the 1930s, that the United States is not just wrestling with economic and fiscal issues. This is a time for addressing critical questions of how democracy itself will operate.

For so long as the "money power" is able to use its resources to reanimate and reassert failed ideas, the United States will fail to consider a proper range of responses to economic issues. The balance will tip too far toward those who pay for campaigns, and for the lobbyists who seek to undo the results of lost elections.

President Obama should, in the style and tradition of FDR, declare that he is against austerity and against the broken politics that keeps buying a place in the debate for "Fix the Debt" fantasies that the American people have repeatedly and soundly rejected. And he can do that by going beyond mere agreement with reformers to a full and muscular embrace of the reform agenda that shifts the defining power in our discourse away from corporations and toward citizens.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Three-Quarters Of Progressive Caucus Not Taking A Stand Against Cuts In Social Security, Medicare And Medicaid
By Norman Solomon

For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven't signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: "we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."

More than 10 days ago, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano initiated the forthright letter, circulating it among House colleagues. Addressed to President Obama, the letter has enabled members of Congress to take a historic stand: joining together in a public pledge not to vote for any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

The Grayson-Takano letter is a breath of fresh progressive air, blowing away the customary fog that hangs over such matters on Capitol Hill.

The Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, signed the letter. So did Barbara Lee, the caucus whip. But no signer can be found among the five vice chairs of the Progressive Caucus: Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Michael Honda, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Jan Schakowsky. The letter's current list of signers includes just 16 members of the Progressive Caucus (along with five other House signers who aren't part of the caucus).

What about the other 54 members of the Progressive Caucus? Their absence from the letter is a clear message to the Obama White House, which has repeatedly declared its desire to cut the Social Security cost of living adjustment as well as Medicare. In effect, those 54 non-signers are signaling: Mr. President, we call ourselves "progressive" but we are unwilling to stick our necks out by challenging you in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; we want some wiggle room that you can exploit.

In contrast, the House members on the short list of the letter's signers deserve our praise for taking a clear stand: Brown, Cartwright, Conyers, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Grayson, G. Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, A. Hastings, Kaptur, Lee, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.

If you don't see the name of your representative in the above paragraph, you might want to have a few words. (For a list of the 54 Progressive Caucus members who haven't signed the letter, click here.)

It's one thing -- a fairly easy thing -- to tell someone else what you hope they'll do, as 107 House Democrats did recently in a different letter to President Obama: "We write to affirm our vigorous opposition to cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. . . . We urge you to reject any proposals to cut benefits."

It's much more difficult -- and far more crucial -- for members of Congress to publicly commit themselves not to vote for any cuts in those programs, which are matters of life and death for vast numbers of Americans.

Even a signed pledge to do or not do something, in terms of a floor vote, is no guarantee that a member of Congress will actually follow through. But in a situation like this, the pledge is significant -- and even more significant is a refusal to make such a pledge.

As of now, 54 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have taken a historic dive. We should take note -- and not forget who they are.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Why Obama Must Meet The Republican Lies Directly
By Robert Reich

The White House apparently believes the best way to strengthen its hand in the upcoming "sequester" showdown with Republicans is to tell Americans how awful the spending cuts will be, and blame Republicans for them.

It won't work. These tactical messages are getting in the way of the larger truth, which the President must hammer home: The Republicans' austerity economics and trickle-down economics are dangerous, bald-faced lies.

Yes, the pending spending cuts will hurt. But even if some Americans begin to feel the pain when the cuts go into effect Friday, most won't feel it for weeks or months, if ever.

Half are cuts in the military, which will have a huge impact on jobs (the military is America's only major jobs program), but the cuts will be felt mainly in states with large numbers of military contractors, and then only as those contractors shed employees.

The other half are cuts in domestic discretionary spending, which will largely affect lower-income Americans. There will be sharp reductions in federal aid to poor schools, nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and the like. But here again, most Americans won't see these cuts or feel them.

Moreover, the blame game can be played both ways, and Republicans are adept at slinging mud. When it comes to high-visibility consequences of the spending cuts - such as a sudden dearth of air-traffic controllers - Republicans will dodge blame by happily giving Obama authority to shift spending and find the cuts himself, thereby making the White House appear even more culpable.

Besides, there's no end to this. After Friday's sequester comes the showdown over continuing funding of the government beyond March 27. Then another fight over the debt ceiling.

The White House must directly rebut the two big lies that fuel the Republican assault - and that have fueled it since the showdown over the debt ceiling in the summer of 2011.

The first big lie is austerity economics - the claim that the budget deficit is the nation's biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.

Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession - which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.

The second big lie is trickle-down economics - the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they're the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.

Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.

As inequality continues to widen, and income and wealth become ever more concentrated at the top, the rest don't have the purchasing power they need to boost the economy. That's the underlying reason why the recovery continues to be so anemic.

These two lies - austerity economics and trickle-down economics - are being told over and over by Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News, yell radio, and the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. They are wrong and there are dangerous.

Yet unless they are rebutted clearly and forcefully, the nation will continue to careen from crisis to crisis, showdown to showdown.

And we will have almost no chance of reversing the larger challenge of widening inequality.

President Obama has the bully pulpit. Americans trust him more than they do congressional Republicans. But he is letting micro-tactics get in the way of the larger truth. And he's blurring his message with other messages - about gun control, immigration, and the environment. All are important, to be sure. But none has half a chance unless Americans understand how they're being duped on the really big story.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Austerity, Italian Style
By Paul Krugman

Two months ago, when Mario Monti stepped down as Italy's prime minister, The Economist opined that "The coming election campaign will be, above all, a test of the maturity and realism of Italian voters." The mature, realistic action, presumably, would have been to return Mr. Monti - who was essentially imposed on Italy by its creditors - to office, this time with an actual democratic mandate.

Well, it's not looking good. Mr. Monti's party appears likely to come in fourth; not only is he running well behind the essentially comical Silvio Berlusconi, he's running behind an actual comedian, Beppe Grillo, whose lack of a coherent platform hasn't stopped him from becoming a powerful political force.

It's an extraordinary prospect, and one that has sparked much commentary about Italian political culture. But without trying to defend the politics of bunga bunga, let me ask the obvious question: What good, exactly, has what currently passes for mature realism done in Italy or for that matter Europe as a whole?

For Mr. Monti was, in effect, the proconsul installed by Germany to enforce fiscal austerity on an already ailing economy; willingness to pursue austerity without limit is what defines respectability in European policy circles. This would be fine if austerity policies actually worked - but they don't. And far from seeming either mature or realistic, the advocates of austerity are sounding increasingly petulant and delusional.

Consider how things were supposed to be working at this point. When Europe began its infatuation with austerity, top officials dismissed concerns that slashing spending and raising taxes in depressed economies might deepen their depressions. On the contrary, they insisted, such policies would actually boost economies by inspiring confidence.

But the confidence fairy was a no-show. Nations imposing harsh austerity suffered deep economic downturns; the harsher the austerity, the deeper the downturn. Indeed, this relationship has been so strong that the International Monetary Fund, in a striking mea culpa, admitted that it had underestimated the damage austerity would inflict.

Meanwhile, austerity hasn't even achieved the minimal goal of reducing debt burdens. Instead, countries pursuing harsh austerity have seen the ratio of debt to G.D.P. rise, because the shrinkage in their economies has outpaced any reduction in the rate of borrowing. And because austerity policies haven't been offset by expansionary policies elsewhere, the European economy as a whole - which never had much of a recovery from the slump of 2008-9 - is back in recession, with unemployment marching ever higher.

The one piece of good news is that bond markets have calmed down, largely thanks to the stated willingness of the European Central Bank to step in and buy government debt when necessary. As a result, a financial meltdown that could have destroyed the euro has been avoided. But that's cold comfort to the millions of Europeans who have lost their jobs and see little prospect of ever getting them back.

Given all of this, one might have expected some reconsideration and soul-searching on the part of European officials, some hints of flexibility. Instead, however, top officials have become even more insistent that austerity is the one true path.

Thus in January 2011 Olli Rehn, a vice president of the European Commission, praised the austerity programs of Greece, Spain and Portugal and predicted that the Greek program in particular would yield "lasting returns." Since then unemployment has soared in all three countries - but sure enough, in December 2012 Mr. Rehn published an op-ed article with the headline "Europe must stay the austerity course."

Oh, and Mr. Rehn's response to studies showing that the adverse effects of austerity are much bigger than expected was to send a letter to finance minsters and the I.M.F. declaring that such studies were harmful, because they were threatening to erode confidence.

Which brings me back to Italy, a nation that for all its dysfunction has in fact dutifully imposed substantial austerity - and seen its economy shrink rapidly as a result.

Outside observers are terrified about Italy's election, and rightly so: even if the nightmare of a Berlusconi return to power fails to materialize, a strong showing by Mr. Berlusconi, Mr. Grillo, or both would destabilize not just Italy but Europe as a whole. But remember, Italy isn't unique: disreputable politicians are on the rise all across Southern Europe. And the reason this is happening is that respectable Europeans won't admit that the policies they have imposed on debtors are a disastrous failure. If that doesn't change, the Italian election will be just a foretaste of the dangerous radicalization to come.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Nothing doth more hurt in a state than that cunning men pass for wise."
~~~ Sir Francis Bacon

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Among other
forms of intelligence-gathering, the NSA secretly collects the phone records of
millions of Americans, using data provided by telecom firms AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

Supreme Court Shields Warrantless Eavesdropping Law From Constitutional Challenge
The five right-wing justices hand Obama a victory by accepting his DOJ's secrecy-based demand for dismissal
By Glenn Greenwald

The Obama justice department succeeded in convincing the five right-wing Supreme Court justices to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2008 law, the FISA Amendments Act, which vastly expanded the government's authority to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. In the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, released today, which adopted the argument of the Obama DOJ, while the Court's four less conservative justices (Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan) all dissented. This means that the lawsuit is dismissed without any ruling on whether the US government's new eavesdropping powers violate core constitutional rights. The background of this case is vital to understanding why this is so significant.

One of the most successful government scams of the last decade has been to prevent any legal challenges to its secret surveillance programs. Both the Bush and Obama DOJ's have relied on one tactic in particular to insulate its eavesdropping behavior from judicial review: by draping what it does in total secrecy, it prevents anyone from knowing with certainty who the targets of its surveillance are. The DOJ then exploits this secrecy to block any constitutional or other legal challenges to its surveillance actions on the ground that since nobody can prove with certainty that they have been subjected to this eavesdropping by the government, nobody has "standing" to sue in court and obtain a ruling on the constitutionality of this eavesdropping.

The Bush DOJ repeatedly used this tactic to prevent anyone from challenging the legality of its eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the FISA law. That's another way of saying that the Bush administration removed their conduct from the rule of law: after all, if nobody has standing to obtain a court ruling on the legality or constitutionality of their conduct, then neither the law nor the Constitution constrain what the government does. Simply put, a law without a remedy is worthless. As Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist 15:

"It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation."

Thus did the Bush DOJ exploit their secrecy extremism into a license of lawlessness: they never had to prove that even their most radical actions were legal because by keeping it all a secret, they prevented anyone from being able to obtain a ruling about its legality.

The Obama DOJ has embraced this tactic in full. In 2008, the Democratic-led Congress (with the support of then-Sen. Barack Obama) enacted the so-called FISA Amendments Act, which dramatically expanded the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers beyond what they had been for the prior 30 years. The primary intention of that new law was to render the Bush warrantless eavesdropping program legal, and it achieved that goal by authorizing the NSA to engage in whole new categories of warrantless surveillance aimed at Americans.

Since its enactment, the Obama administration has been using that massively expanded eavesdropping authority to spy on the electronic communications of Americans without the need to obtain specific warrants (the law simply provides that the government must periodically obtain court approval for their general methods of eavesdropping, but not approval for their specific eavesdropping targets). At the end of last year, the Obama administration relied on overwhelming GOP Congressional support to extend this law for another five years without a single reform.

Immediately upon enactment of this new law in 2008, the ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging that the warrantless eavesdropping powers it vests violate the First and Fourth Amendments. The plaintiffs in the case are US lawyers, journalists, academic researchers and human rights activists and groups (such as Amnesty) who work on issues of terrorism, foreign policy and human rights. They argued that they have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the eavesdropping law because its very existence impedes their work in numerous ways and makes it highly likely that their communications with their clients and sources will be targeted for interception by the NSA.

Because the Obama administration insists that it is a secret who they target for eavesdropping, neither these plaintiffs - nor anyone else - can prove with absolute certainty that they or their clients have been targeted. Taking a page (as usual) from the Bush DOJ, the Obama DOJ thus argued in response to this lawsuit that this secrecy means that nobody has "standing" to challenge the constitutionality of this law. With perfect Kafkaesque reasoning, the Obama DOJ says that (1) who we spy on is a total secret, and therefore (2) nobody has the right to obtain a judicial ruling as to whether what we are doing is legal or constitutional.

It is true that "standing" is an important doctrine: the requirement that a person first prove that they have been uniquely harmed by a law they want to challenge is not only necessary to fulfill the Constitution's limitation on the federal court's power (which confines their authority to actual "cases or controversies"), but it also prevents the Court from acting as a free-floating arbiter that rules on every political question. Courts can only rule on actual cases where one party has concretely harmed another.

The plaintiffs, however, have argued that although they cannot prove they or their clients and sources have been targeted, they are already being harmed by the existence of this law. They have ample reason to fear, they say, that the communications they have with their clients or sources are targeted for interception by the government. That means that this law forces them to refrain from communicating, or to expend substantial sums to travel across the world to meet in person with them, or that these clients and sources refuse to speak to them out of fear of being eavesdropped on. These concrete harms mean, they say, that they have standing to sue the government and obtain a ruling as to whether this law is constitutional.

In 2011, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Obama DOJ's arguments and ruled that plaintiffs had standing to challenge the eavesdropping law given the concrete harms they are suffering from the mere existence of these eavesdropping powers. Rather than defend the constitutionality of the law, the Obama DOJ appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, and asked the court to dismiss the suit on standing grounds, without reaching the merits of the lawsuit.

Today, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, agreed to do exactly that. Justice Alito (joined by Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Kennedy) fully embraced the Kafka-like rationale of the Obama DOJ. They rewarded the government for its extreme secrecy by using it to bar any challenges to the law; said Alito:

"[Plaintiffs] have no actual knowledge of the Government's §1881a targeting practices. Instead, [plaintiffs] merely speculate and make assumptions about whether their communications with their foreign contacts will be acquired under §1881a. . . . [Plaintiffs], however, have set forth no specific facts demonstrating that the communications of their foreign contacts will be targeted. Moreover, because §1881a at most authorizes - but does not mandate or direct - the surveillance that [plaintiffs] fear, [plaintiffs'] allegations are necessarily conjectural. . . . Simply put, [plaintiffs] can only speculate as to how the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will exercise their discretion in determining which communications to target."

To call this argument ludicrous is to be generous. Every one of the plaintiffs here have been harmed by this eavesdropping law. In the course of their work, they have cause to communicate regularly with people whom the US government suspects are involved in Terrorism. When combined with the US government's technological abilities to spy on virtually every communication anywhere in the world, along with the government's proven propensity to eavesdrop on everyone it deems has anything to do with a terrorist group, it is a virtual certainty that the communications of these plaintiffs will be targeted, as Justice Breyer explained in dissent:

"In my view, this harm is not 'speculative'. Indeed it is as likely to take place as are most future events that commonsense inference and ordi­nary knowledge of human nature tell us will happen. . . . .

"Several considerations, based upon the record along with commonsense inferences, convince me that there is a very high likelihood that Government, acting under the authority of §1881a, will intercept at least some of the communications just described . . . . . The Government has a strong motive to conduct surveillance of conversations that contain material of this kind. . . . [T]he Government's past behavior shows that it has sought, and hence will in all likelihood continue to seek, information about alleged terrorists and detainees through means that include surveillance of electronic communications. As just pointed out, plaintiff Scott McKay states that the Government (under the authority of the pre-2008 law) 'intercepted some 10,000 telephone calls and 20,000 email communications involving [his client] Mr. Al-Hussayen.'

"To some de­gree this capacity rests upon technology available to the Government. See 1 D. Kris & J. Wilson, National Security Investigations & Prosecutions §16:6, p. 562 (2d ed. 2012) ('NSA's technological abilities are legendary'); id., §16:12, at 572–577 (describing the National Security Agency's capacity to monitor 'very broad facilities' such as interna­tional switches). See, e.g., Lichtblau & Risen, Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report, NY Times, Dec. 24, 2005, p. A1 (describing capacity to trace and to analyze large volumes of communications into and out of the United States)".

In sum, the US government has constructed a ubiquitous Surveillance State. It has repeatedly demonstrated that it intends to eavesdrop on the communications of exactly the people who have brought this lawsuit. To prevent them from suing on the ground that the US government's secrecy precludes them from proving with certainty that they are being targeted is to remove the US government's surveillance actions from the rule of law and the constraints of the Constitution.

But that is what the Obama DOJ just succeeded in convincing the five right-wing members of the Court to do: allow it to conduct its Surveillance State beyond the rule of law. What's the point of having a Fourth Amendment that bars unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause warrants if the US government simply shrouds its unconstitutional eavesdropping with so much secrecy that it prevents anyone from challenging the legality of what it is doing?

The supreme irony here is that when Obama supported this 2008 eavesdropping law, it sparked intense anger among his own supporters as he ran for president. To placate that anger, he vowed that, once in power, he would rein in the excesses of this law that he oh-so-reluctantly supported. He has done exactly the opposite. He just succeeded in pressuring the Congress, with heavy GOP support, to extend this eavesdroppiong law for five years without a single reform. And now his Justice Department has used the five right-wing justices to completely immunize the law from judicial review (the only way the law could now be challenged is from a handful of extremely unlikely situations, such as if the US government criminally prosecutes the foreign clients and sources of these plaintiffs using information they obtained from the warrantless eavesdropping, and even then, the ability to challenge the law's constitutionality is far from certain).

When the new 2008 FISA eavesdropping law was passed, all sorts of legal scholars debated its constitutionality, but it turns out that debate was - like the Constitution itself - completely academic. As both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly proven, they are free to violate the Constitution at will just so long as they do so with enough secrecy to convince subservient federal courts to bar everyone from challenging their conduct.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.


Top U.S. Terrorist Group: The FBI
By David Swanson

A careful study of the FBI's own data on terrorism in the United States, reported in Trevor Aaronson's book "The Terror Factory," finds one organization leading all others in creating terrorist plots in the United States: the FBI.

Imagine an incompetent bureaucrat. Now imagine a corrupt one. Now imagine both combined. You're starting to get at the image I take away of some of the FBI agents' actions recounted in this book.

Now imagine someone both dumb enough to be manipulated by one of those bureaucrats and hopelessly criminal, often sociopathic, and generally at the mercy of the criminal or immigration courts. Now you're down to the level of the FBI informant, of which we the Sacred-Taxpayers-Who-Shall-Defund-Our-Own-Retirement employ some 15,000 now, dramatically more than ever before. And we pay them very well.

Then try to picture someone so naive, incompetent, desperate, out-of-place, or deranged as to be manipulable by an FBI informant. Now you're at the level of the evil terrorist masterminds out to blow up our skyscrapers.

Well, not really. They're actually almost entirely bumbling morons who couldn't tie their own shoes or buy the laces without FBI instigation and support. The FBI plants the ideas, makes the plans, provides the fake weapons and money, creates the attempted act of terrorism, makes an arrest, and announces the salvation of the nation.

Over and over again. The procedure has become so regular that intended marks have spotted the sting being worked on them simply by googling the name or phone number of the bozo pretending to recruit them into the terrorist brotherhood, and discovering that he's a serial informant.

Between 911 and August, 2011, the U.S. government prosecuted 508 people for terrorism in the United States. 243 had been targeted using an FBI informant. 158 had been caught in an FBI terrorism sting. 49 (that we know of, FBI recording devices have completely unbelievable patterns of "malfunctioning") had encountered an agent provocateur. Most of the rest charged with "terrorism" had little or nothing to do with terrorism at all, most of them charged with more minor offenses like immigration offenses or making false statements. Three or four people out of the whole list appear to be men whom one would reasonably call terrorists in the commonly accepted sense of the word. They intended to and had something at least approaching the capacity to engage in acts of terrorism.

These figures are not far off the percentages of Guantanamo prisoners or drone strike victims believed to be guilty of anything resembling what they've been accused of. So, we shouldn't single out the FBI for criticism. But it should receive its share.

Here's how U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon understood a case that seems all too typical:

"The essence of what occurred here is that a government, understandably zealous to protect its citizens from terrorism, came upon a man both bigoted and suggestible, one who was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own. It created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true. . . . I suspect that real terrorists would not have bothered themselves with a person who was so utterly inept."

When we hear on television that the FBI has prevented a plot to blow up a crowded area of a big U.S. city, we either grow terrified and grateful, or we wait for the inevitable revelation that the FBI created the plot from start to finish, manipulating some poor fool who had zero contact with foreign terrorists and more often than not participated unwittingly or for the money offered him. But even those of us who do the latter might find Aaronson's survey of this phenomenon stunning.

During some of its heretofore darkest days the FBI didn't use informants like it does now. J. Edgar Hoover's informants just observed and reported. They didn't instigate. That practice took off during the war on drugs in the 1980s. But the assumption that a drug dealer might have done the same thing without the FBI's sting operation is backed up by some statistics. There is no evidence to back up the idea that the unemployed grocery bagger and video game player who sees visions, has never heard of major Islamic terrorist groups, can't purchase a gun with thousands of dollars in cash and instructions on how to purchase a gun, understands terrorism entirely from the insights of Hollywood movies, and who has no relevant skills or resources, is going to blow up a building without help from the FBI.

(Which came first, the FBI's terror factory or Hollywood's is a moot question now that they feed off each other so well.)

Read this book, I'm telling you, we're looking at people who've been locked away for decades who couldn't have found their ass with two hands and a map. These cases more than anything else resemble those of mentally challenged innocent men sitting on death rows because they tried to please the police officer asking them to confess to a crime they clearly knew nothing about.

Of course the press conferences announcing the convictions of drug dealers and "terrorists" are equally successful. They also equally announce an ongoing campaign doomed to failure. The campaign for "terrorists" developed under President George W. Bush and expanded, like so much else, under President Barack Obama.

Aaronson spoke with J. Stephen Tidwell, former executive assistant director at the FBI. Tidwell argued that someone thinking about the general idea of committing crimes should be set up and then prosecuted, because as long as they're not in prison the possibility exists that someone other than the FBI could encourage them to, and assist them in, actually committing a crime. "You and I could sit here, go online, and by tonight have a decent bomb built. What do you do? Wait for him to figure it out himself?"

The answer, based on extensive data, is quite clearly that he will not figure it out himself and act on it. That the FBI has stopped 3 acts of terrorism is believable. But that the FBI has stopped 508 and there wasn't a 509th is just not possible. The explanation is that there haven't been 509 or even 243. The FBI has manufactured terrorist plots by the dozens, including most of the best known ones. (And if you watched John Brennan's confirmation hearing, you know that the underwear bomber and other "attacks" not under the FBI's jurisdiction have been no more real.)

Arthur Cummings, former executive assistant director of the FBI's National Security Branch, told Aaronson that the enemy was not Al Qaeda or Islamic Terrorism, but the idea of it. "We're at war with an idea," he said. But his strategy seems to be one of consciously attempting to lose hearts and minds. For the money spent on infiltrations and stings, the U.S. government could have given every targeted community free education from preschool to college, just as it could do for every community at home and many abroad by redirecting war spending. When you're making enemies of people rather than friends, to say that you're working against an idea is simply to admit that you're not targeting people based on a judicial review finding any probable cause to legally do so.

The drug war's failure can be calculated in the presence of drugs, although the profits for prisons and other profiteers aren't universally seen as failures. The FBI's counterterrorism can be calculated as a failure largely because of the waste of billions of dollars on nonexistent terrorism. But there's also the fact that the FBI's widespread use of informants, very disproportionately in Muslim communities, has made ordinary people who might provide tips hesitant to do so for fear of being recruited as informants. Thus "counter terrorism" may make it harder to counter terrorism. It may also feed into real terrorism by further enraging people already outraged by U.S. foreign policy. But it's no failure at all if measured by the dollars flowing into the FBI, or the dollars flowing into the pockets of informants who get paid by commission (that is, based on convictions in court of their marks). Nor do weapons makers, other war profiteers, or other backers of right wing politics in general seem to be objecting in any way to the production of widespread fear and bigotry.

Congressman Stephen Lynch has introduced a bill that would require federal law enforcement agencies to report to Congress twice a year on all serious crimes, authorized or unauthorized, committed by informants (who are often much more dangerous criminals than are those they're informing on). The bill picked up a grand total of zero cosponsors last Congress and has reached the same mark thus far in the current one.

The corporate media cartel has seen its ratings soar with each new phony incident. Opposition to current practice does not seem to be coming from that quarter.

And let's all be clear with each other: our society is tolerating this because the victims are Muslims. With many other minority groups we would all be leaping to their defense.

It may be time to try thinking of Muslims as Samaritans, as of course some of them are.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear militarische Richter Lind,

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 rewriting military law for the sake of revenge, 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 "military whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Axel von dem Bussche, a German nobleman, professional Army officer and member of the
German Resistance. He tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in coordination with Count
Stauffenberg in November 1943 at the Wolfsschanze.

Early Stage Rebellions Are Never Safe, Comfortable Or Popular
By Chris Hedges

I was in the Swiss village of Begnins outside Geneva shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. I spent three days there with Axel von dem Bussche, a former Wehrmacht major, holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for extreme battlefield bravery, three times wounded in World War II, and the last surviving member of the inner circle of German army officers who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

I was reminded of my visit with von dem Bussche, whom I was interviewing for The Dallas Morning News, by the 70th anniversary of the execution of five Munich University students and their philosophy professor who were members of the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany. The BBC last week interviewed the 99-year-old Liselotte Furst-Ramdohr, who hid leaflets for the group in her closet and helped make stencils used to paint slogans on walls. [Click here to hear the interview or click here to see the BBC's article based on the interview.] The six White Rose members managed to distribute thousands of anti-Nazi leaflets before they were arrested by the Gestapo and guillotined. The text of their sixth and final set of leaflets was smuggled out of Germany by the resistance leader Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, who was arrested in 1944 and hanged by the Nazis in January 1945. Copies of the leaflets' language were dropped over Germany by Allied planes in July 1943. Furst-Ramdohr, who was widowed during the war when her first husband was killed on the Russian front, also was arrested by the Gestapo. She was imprisoned but eventually released.

The White Rose has been lionized by postwar Germans-one of its members, Alexander Schmorell, was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church last year, and squares and schools in Germany are named for the resisters-but in the BBC interview Furst-Ramdohr curtly dismissed the adulation of the group.

"At the time, they'd have had us all executed," she said in speaking of most Germans' hatred of resisters during the war.

Although history has vindicated resistance groups such as the White Rose and plotters such as von dem Bussche, they were desperately alone, reviled by the wider public and forced to defy the law, their oaths of national allegiance, and public opinion. The resisters, once exposed, were condemned in vitriolic terms by most of the German public, and their lopsided trials were state-choreographed lynchings. Von dem Bussche said that even after the war he was spat upon as he walked down a city street. He and those like him who made a moral choice to physically defy evil teach us something extremely important about rebellion. It is, when it begins, not safe, comfortable or popular. Those rare individuals who have the moral and physical courage to resist must accept that they will be pariahs. They must live outside the law. And they must be prepared to be condemned.

"Somebody, after all, had to make a start," one of the White Rose members, Sophie Scholl, said on Feb. 21, 1943, at her trial in a Nazi court. "What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did."

Von dem Bussche, who died in 1993, took part as a 20-year-old lieutenant in the invasions of Belgium, Luxembourg, France-where a French sniper blasted off his right thumb and he was shot through the shoulder-and Poland. He was stationed after the invasion of Poland in the town of Dubno in the western Ukraine. His military unit was ordered to secure an abandoned air base, and the young officer watched as the SS took some 2,000 Jews into the airfield.

"The Jews were trucked in from the surrounding countryside, stripped and forced by the black-uniformed officers toward long, deep trenches," von dem Bussche told me when I interviewed him. "They were shot in their heads by an SS officer with a machine pistol and then the next row was made to lie down and shot in their heads. It is not an easy memory to live with, especially as I considered myself, as an officer of the German army, to be an accessory to these murders."

It was then that he decided to defy Hitler. But it would only be in 1943, when it was clear that the Germans were losing the war, that he and a small group of other officers led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg began to plot to assassinate Hitler. The conspirators did not defy the Nazi regime on behalf of the Jews, von dem Bussche conceded, but to save the country from defeat, dismemberment and catastrophe.

"One motive, along with just stopping the killing, was the most valid, to stop the Russians east of Poland," he said of the plotters. "If we had managed to keep the Russians out, Europe would have been spared the division and pain of the last 44 years."

By 1943 von dem Bussche was a captain. He was asked to model the army's new winter coat for Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, the Nazi leader's headquarters in East Prussia. He and von Stauffenberg managed to get silent fuses-the German fuses hissed when lit-and plastic explosives from the British underground. Von dem Bussche also had two hand grenades. He planned to physically seize Hitler and ignite the grenades in a suicide mission intended to kill the fuhrer and perhaps other high-ranking Nazi officials in the room. The code name for the operation was "Overcoat."

Von Stauffenberg at the time told von dem Bussche, "I am committing high treason with all my might and means" and added that under natural law the rebels had a duty to use violence to defend the innocent from the horrific crimes of the state.

Von dem Bussche was summoned to Hitler's headquarters in November 1943. He waited for three days about 10 miles away. He rarely left his room. He woke up every morning and wondered, he said, if he would be alive in the evening and "if my nerve would hold." But the train carrying the winter uniforms was bombed by Allied warplanes, and von dem Bussche was sent back to the Russian front, where he lost a leg in the bitter fighting.

Von dem Bussche, 6 feet 5 inches tall and with cobalt-blue eyes and a voice that rumbled like a freight train during the interview, refused to describe what he or the other plotters did as heroism. He detested words like "honor" or "glory" when they were applied to warfare. He had no time for those who romanticized war. He said he had no option as a human being but to resist. He acted, he said, to save his "self-esteem."

"There was no hero stuff involved, none at all," he said. "I thought this was an adequate means to balance out what I had seen. I felt that this was justifiable homicide and was the only means to stop mass murder inside and outside Germany."

His was the 10th thwarted attempt on Hitler's life. There would be one more.

On July 20, 1944, von Stauffenberg carried two small bombs in a briefcase to a meeting with Hitler. He struggled before the meeting to arm the bombs with pliers, a difficult task as he had lost his right hand and had only three fingers on his left hand after being wounded in North Africa. He managed to arm only one bomb. He placed the briefcase with the bomb under the table near Hitler. He left the room and was outside at the time of the explosion, which killed four people-including Hitler's security double-but only slightly wounded Hitler, who was shielded by a table leg. Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels announced over the radio that Hitler had survived. Hitler spoke to the nation not long afterward. Von Stauffenberg and other conspirators were captured and hastily executed by a firing squad.

Von dem Bussche, recovering in a Waffen-SS hospital outside Berlin from the loss of his leg, anxiously followed the news of the assassination attempt on the radio. He listened to Hitler's angry tirade against the "traitors" who had attempted to kill him. He knew it would not be long before the SS appeared at his bedside. He spent the night eating page after page of his address book, which had the name of every major conspirator who was under arrest or dead. The British explosive material from his aborted suicide bombing was in a suitcase under his bed. He asked another officer to spirit the suitcase out of the hospital and toss it into a lake. He was repeatedly interrogated over the next few days but because none of the other plotters had implicated him, even under torture, he managed to elude their fate.

He suffered lifelong guilt over his survival. As a rebel he did not succeed, at least not in killing Hitler and terminating the regime. He felt that as an army officer, even with his involvement in the assassination plots, he remained part of the murderous apparatus that unleashed indefensible suffering and death. He worried that he had not done enough. The brutality and senselessness of the war haunted him. The German public's enthusiastic collusion with the Nazi regime haunted him. And the ghosts of the dead, including those he admired, haunted him. He understood, as we must, that to do nothing in a time of national distress is to be complicit in acts of radical evil.

"I should have taken off my uniform in the Ukraine," he told me on the last afternoon of my visit, "and joined the line of Jews to be shot."
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

Samer & Nathan

The Nutcracker Dilemma
By Adam Keller

Uri Elitzur, who had been secretary general of settlers' Judea and Samaria Council and Netanyahu's chef de bureau and later became an influential columnist of the Israeli right-wing, is very enthusiastic about the political alliance forged between Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. He writes: "There is something exciting that two people completely new to politics, both in their forties, are at the head of two big parties. Aside from their age and the enthusiasm of something new starting, there are other significant things that are common to both of the parties behind Lapid and Bennett. For example, an awareness that the old debate between Left and Right on the future of the Territories is not necessarily the most important of issues. A new generation has arisen, which is tired of this division and which sees a lot of important and urgent matters on which Left and Right can work together."

Apparently, this new generation considers the issue of forcing upon Haredi youths recruitment to military service as far more important and urgent than the question of what duties and tasks the State of Israel imposes on its army. And it is a fact that the opinion polls which made headlines in the weekend papers predict great success for Lapid and Bennet and their respective parties, were repeat elections held in the near future.

Still, over there - behind the fences and walls, very close geographically but worlds away from the hearts and minds of the majority of Israelis - are living millions of people who are far from tired of the debate whether Israeli occupation continues or ends. They care little if it is devout Haredim or irreverant Atheists who don the IDF uniform and go out to harass drivers at checkpoints on Palestinian highways, guard the ever expanding settlements built on Palestinian land and shoot tear gas at protesters and demonstrators.

This week, an increasing wave of demonstrations and protests throughout the Palestinian territories, culminating on Friday at the East Jerusalem's Temple Mount mosques, at long last forced the Israeli printed and electronic media to pay some attention to what is going on among Palestinian prisoners held in Israel's prisons. Already soon after last year's prisoner exchange, the security services found various pretexts to start re-arresting an increasing number of the Palestinians released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Lacking other recourse, four of these re-arrested prisoners turned to a prolonged hunger strike endangering their lives - which makes them into heroes in the eyes of Palestinians regardless of political affiliation.

On Thursday, Samer Al-Issawy, who had gone without solid food for more than 200 days, appeared in court in a wheelchair. He was charged with having "violated the terms of his parole by leaving the boundaries of Jerusalem" - having gone to a garage at a Jerusalem suburb which has not been annexed to Israel and is legally part of the West Bank. For this he was condemned to eight months imprisonment, the term deemed to have started with his arrest on July 7, 2012.

This would set him free in a few weeks from now - but that may not be the end of the matter. Through hastily enacted regulations, any breach of the law by a Palestinian released in the Shalit Exchange could lead to re-imposition of the original, years-long term. In the case of Issawi, who is determined to continue his hunger strike until he is free, this would be tantamount to a death sentence.

In several previous cases, Israeli authorities showed themselves wise and flexible enough to set hunger striking prisoners before any of them could die in prison. Hopefully, they would act as wisely this time, too. Which in itself is far from enough to avert outbreak of the often predicted and talked about Third Intifada.

Palestinians feel that the world has forgotten them and abandoned them to open-ended Israeli occupation and the steady encroachment of Israeli settlements, and are far from being impressed by Netanyahu reiterating his verbal commitment to the two-state solution and getting the famous Tzipi Livni to represent him in negotiations, if and when they are resumed. Lacking a real reason for hope, any chance spark could light the dry tinder. Exactly twenty five years ago, a pure accident - an Israeli driver hitting Palestinian pedestrians - was enough to set alight the fires of the First Intifada. Would President Obama, in his visit scheduled for next month, provide a measure of real hope - or will still another disappointment be added to the combustible mixture?

Meanwhile, there is at least one young Israeli who is not "tired of the old debate between Left and Right on the future of the Territories". Nathan Blanc, a 19-year old Israeli from Haifa, is already for many months going in and out of prison due to a particularly firm position taken in this old debate.

Blanc's cycle has so far repeated itself six times. He comes to the Induction Center, is ordered to join the army, says "I will not serve in an army of occupation" and gets sent to another month at Military Prison 6. Gets out of the prison - and straight again to the Induction Center, refuses again and goes back through the revolving door to prison. So it has gone on, and without an end in sight. The army has patience, the military authorities strongly insist that this young man must surrender and serve. But Nathan Blanc also has patience and perseverance, and he certainly does not intend to capitulate. Another month in prison and yet another, and the saga continues.

This morning, hundreds of activists of the Yesh Gvul Movement climbed on the mountain opposite Military Prison 6, to celebrate the Purim holiday together with with Nathan Blanc and his fellow prisoners. Artists came voluntarily to perform, and strong loudspeakers carried the sound of singing into the prison courtyard. And meanwhile, the name of Nathan Blanc is becoming increasingly known internationally. In Switzerland a poster was published with his photo, the student newspaper at Emory University in the United States published an article praising him as a hero, When I was a month ago in at Hiroshima in Japan, I found that there, too, peace activists have already heard of Nathan Blanc.

Blanc has already rejected the option of getting psychiatric discharge.

If more months of imprisonment accumulate, what is waiting him is a court martial where he could be condemned to years in the harsh military prison conditions. Then, also he may enter the headlines and the news broadcasts of the mainstream media around the world - another victim of the occupation.
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

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House Science Committee Questions Existence Of Meteors
By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)-The chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology said today that the committee would hold hearings next week "to settle the question, once and for all, of whether meteors exist."

"The media has been in something of a frenzy recently on this whole topic of meteors,” said chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). "I think it's irresponsible of them to frighten the public about something that, at the end of the day, may be about as real as unicorns."

Rep. Smith said that he had seen recent reports of the "so-called Russian meteor” of last week, but added, "Maybe it's the scientific skeptic in me, but this 'meteor' may just have been a bunch of fireworks that some Siberian fellow set off after drinking a little too much Stoli. It is winter, after all, and that's how those folks keep warm."

The Texas congressman said that he and other meteor doubters are worried that scientists had "a vested interest" in convincing people that meteors are real: "They want the government to spend more money on science, and, let me tell you, that is the last thing the Science Committee is going to do." As for the scientific theory that meteors may have killed the dinosaurs, Rep. Smith chuckled, "That theory would also have us believe that there were dinosaurs."
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 09 (c) 03/01/2013

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