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In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald tears Mark Ames a new one in, "On The Meaning Of Journalistic Independence."

Uri Avnery meets, "Their Mothers, Their Fathers."

Glen Ford sees, "Hillary And Other Assorted Barbarians At Russia's Gate."

Tom Engelhardt enquires, "Where In The World Is 'The New World Order'"?

Jim Hightower says, "Ted Nugent Brings Bigotry And Misogyny To Texas Governors Race."

David Swanson reviews, "The Stupidest Idea In The History Of The World."

James Donahue studies, "The Hagel Plan To Cut Military Spending."

John Nichols declares, "Maine's Paul LePage Might Just Be The Worst Governor Of All."

Chris Hedges concludes, "Suffering? Well, You Deserve It."

David Sirota explains, "An Anti-Pension Billionaire Shows The Five Rules Of Deceptive Native Advertising."

Paul Krugman examines, "The Inflation Obsession."

Norman Solomon asks, "Heard The One About Obama Denouncing A Breach Of International Law?"

William Rivers Pitt warns, "The Ocean Is Coming."

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich points out, "The Real Job Killers."

Ray McGovern wonders, "Ukraine: One 'Regime Change' Too Many?"

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz reports, "Arizona Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill: 'Let's Focus on Discriminating Against Mexicans'" but first, Uncle Ernie sings, "Der Fuhrer's Face!"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of John Deering, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Robert F. Bukaty, Pete Souza, Mark Lennihan, Lance Page, Woodley Wonder Works, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons, Flickr, The Simpsons, The Intercept, Reuters, A.P., The White House, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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Der Fuhrer's Face
By Ernest Stewart

Ven der Fuehrer says, "Ve ist der Master Race,"
Ve Heil! Heil! Right in der Fuehrer's face!
For to doubt the Fuhrer would be a disgrace,
So ve Heil! Heil! Right in the Fuhrer's face!
Der Fuhrer's Face ~~~ Oliver Wallace

"Poor People Need Jesus, Not Food Stamps!" ~~~ Paul Ryan

"Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers' rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production." ~~~~ Nathan Runkle

"But let me offer a word of caution. If you choose to give from your heart, be careful. The most incredible feeling might just overwhelm you. And if you continue in this behavior, that feeling may become permanent." ~~~ Steve Goodier

Well, isn't Barry something? Whether you love him or hate him, you must admit, he's got balls! Imagine the man who invades innocent countries at will, whose fleet of drones launch missiles on a daily basis, destabilizing much of the world, and has the nerve to lecture Putin on securing his naval bases in the Crimea from American-sponsored revolution!

The man who leads the worst terrorist nation the world has ever known. A man who thinks he can go anywhere, at any time, to do what he pleases -- as he has some right to do it; but nobody else does. A man fighting tooth-and-nail to keep our troops in Afghanistan where everyone, including much of the world, hates them.

Don't get me wrong, Putin is just as evil as the next head of state; but at least he's not, as Tweety Bird would say, a hypo-twit! An appellation that sticks to Barry like glue.

Then there was Secretary of State John Kerry, who added his two cents in, apparently learning nothing from his experience in Vietnam, declaring that Russia is "in direct, overt violation of international law." Funny how John has nothing to say when Barry commits overt violations of international law on a daily basis; and, of course, every chicken hawk in the Rethuglican party has plenty to say on the subject. At least Russia has a valid reason for the invasion -- something we've never been able to say about our own actions!

We have even less reason to talk as we paid for the groups that overthrew the elected government. Of course, that's what we do best it seems; and the outcome is never pretty -- just death and destruction heaped on the innocents.

Barry has no integrity and credibility when it comes to violating other peoples rights, including our own; and while the Obamabots might buy it, the rest of the world isn't. One can only surmise Barry isn't hip to those old truisms, "What goes around, comes around;" and it's just a matter of time until we "reap what we sow!"

In Other News

I see where Wisconsin's favorite son Paul Ryan has crawled out from under his rock and jacked his jaws the other day bemoaning all those poor people spending all those government stipends on groceries and a roof over their heads -- when it could be better spent on the 1% of the 1%!

While Paul hates anyone that's not one of his puppetsmasters, he especially hates the poorest of the poor. Paul has recently issued a report on the poor, and the programs for them, and came out with some cherry-picked data to justify slashing their budgets.

His report is hardly a sophisticated analysis of the impact of childcare subsidies on poor families that might come from a real investigation of a federal poverty program; there are no voices from actual program users; but given the source, that's no surprise. Ryan has been trying to convince the public for a while now that he really cares about the poor; and that, driven by his Catholic faith, he's genuinely interested in trying to tackle entrenched poverty. But the proposals he's offered up in the past -- big budget cuts to poverty programs, and block-granting Medicaid -- have almost universally promised to make the suffering of the poor much worse than they already are.

You may also recall his anti-poverty proposals in the past have been so severe he even earned the wrath of the conservative US Conference of Catholic Bishops, finding his ideas in direct conflict with the church's teachings on social justice. If a group of dress-wearing child molesters are lecturing you on your treatment of children, your ideas must really be bad, huh?

Paul wants to get all these takers off the dole and back to work! Trouble is, Paul's voted to kill any job-producing bills that come across his desk for years. In fact, according to the "Center on Budget and Policy Priorities" (which Ryan cites with some regularity in his report), if every last job available in this country were filled tomorrow with an unemployed worker, 60% of unemployed people would still be out of work.

Perhaps he could get some of his puppetmasters to bring some of those jobs that used to be here back from overseas where they sent them? That will happen about as soon as sheep learn how to fly. Just another Rethuglican war, this one against the poor, like their wars against the sick, the hungry, the elderly, and, of course, their favorite war: against women.

Of course, the people of Wisconsin are equally to blame for electing this bozo to office -- the same union folks that elected and then wouldn't impeach Scott Walker for destroying their unions. My editor suggested there might be something that's driving them crazy in the Wisconsinites favorite food: cheese? If so, that would explain a lot, would it not?

And Finally

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed a bill threatening people who secretly film animal abuse at Idaho's agricultural facilities with jail and fines. Apparently, there's a lot of that going on in Idaho. While Otter is best known for his sanction slaughter of wolves this is perhaps even worse.

Otter, a rancher, said the measure promoted by the dairy industry"is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood." I guess he doesn't want them uncovering how many cow f*ckers are in Idaho, something Butch has some experience doing, as I guess all the boys in Idaho do it, huh, Butch?

"The bill came in response to videos released by Los Angeles-based vegetarian and animal rights group Mercy for Animals showing workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping, and sexually abusing cows in 2012."

Idaho's $2.5 billion dairy industry complained the group used its videos not to curb abuse, but to unfairly hurt Bettencourt's business. You'll may recall that the Rethuglicans are always on about if you allow gay folks to marry -- then everyone would want to marry their cattle, at least in Idaho, eh?

Those caught surreptitiously filming agricultural operations face a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

So you know what I did, don't ya? That's right, I wrote Butch this short note...
Hey Butch,

I see you signed the ag torture bill, making disclosing that torture a crime. Boy, did you f*ck up, huh? Until it's rescinded, I propose a boycott of Idaho potatoes, and will use my magazine to do just that! Still, I should offer congratulations as you've just won this weeks Vidkun Quisling Award, our weekly award for the biggest traitor in America. Your "Ag-Gag" law, won't stop the truth from coming out!

Ernest Stewart
Managing Editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine
If you'd like to share your thoughts with Butch just go here and fill out the forms, oh, and tell'em Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

I'm beginning to feel like old Mother Hubbard again! Once again, no ducats in the PO Box! It seems every year it gets harder and harder to raise operating funds to keep on, keeping on! Of course, I have a couple of other options.

First, we could start charging a fee to read us like most everybody else does. A $1 a week is just a fraction of what it costs to subscribe to a newspaper, and S soon we'd be swimming in extra money we could use to get back to some serious investigating journalism. Trouble with that is some of our readership can't afford to pay even that, and would be shut out of the news they need so desperately to know. Or I could drop the rest of the magazine and just write an essay instead of an editorial every week. This would save about $12,000 a year -- not to mention give me back about 50 hours a week to spend finishing up some books that I had to stop writing in order to bring you Issues & Alibis.

Personally, I could dig having all that time back; but I'd rather just keep on doing what we are doing, especially with what's been coming down as of late. It just keeps getting worse on a daily basis; so I know that there's a need to keep publishing the truth. If you think what we do is worthy of your support, please send us what you can, as often as you can; and we'll keep fighting the good fight for you and yours!


01-23-1930 ~ 03-04-2014
Thanks for the adventure!


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


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

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

Mark Ames

On The Meaning Of Journalistic Independence
By Glenn Greenwald

This morning, I see that some people are quite abuzz about a new Pando article "revealing" that the foundation of Pierre Omidyar, the publisher of First Look Media which publishes The Intercept, gave several hundred thousand dollars to a Ukraininan "pro-democracy" organization opposed to the ruling regime. This, apparently, is some sort of scandal that must be immediately addressed not only by Omidyar, but also by every journalist who works at First Look. That several whole hours elapsed since the article was published on late Friday afternoon without my commenting is, for some, indicative of disturbing stonewalling.

I just learned of this article about 30 minutes ago, which is why I'm addressing it "only" now (I apologize for not continuously monitoring Twitter at all times, including the weekend). I have not spoken to Pierre or anyone at First Look - or, for that matter, anyone else in the world - about any of this, and am speaking only for myself here. To be honest, I barely know what it is that I'm supposed to boldly come forth and address, so I'll do my best to make a few points about this specific article but also make some general points about journalistic independence that I do actually think are important:

(1) The Pando article adopts the tone of bold investigative journalism that intrepidly dug deep into secret materials and uncovered a "shocking" bombshell ("Step out of the shadows.... Pierre Omidyar"). But as I just discovered with literally 5 minutes of Googling, the Omidyar Network's support for the Ukrainian group in question, Centre UA, has long been publicly known: because the Omidyar Network announced the investment at the time in a press release and then explained it on its website.

In a September 15, 2011 press release, the Omidyar Network "announced today its intent to grant up to $3M to six leading organizations focused on advancing government transparency and accountability" including "Centre UA (Ukraine)". The Network then devoted an entire page of its website (entitled "New Citizen (Centre UA)") to touting the investment and explaining its rationale and purpose (the group, claims the Network, "seeks to enable citizen participation in national and regional politics by amplifying the voices of Ukrainian citizens and promoting open and accountable government").

I think it's perfectly valid for journalists to investigate the financial dealings of corporations and billionaires who fund media outlets, whether it be those who fund or own Pando, First Look, MSNBC, Fox News, The Washington Post or any other. And it's certainly reasonable to have concerns and objections about the funding of organizations that are devoted to regime change in other countries: I certainly have those myself. But the Omidyar Network doesn't exactly seem ashamed of these donations, and they definitely don't seem to be hiding them, given that they trumpeted them in their own press releases and web pages.

(2) Can someone please succinctly explain why this is a scandal that needs to be addressed, particularly by First Look journalists? That's a genuine request. Wasn't it just 72 hours ago that the widespread, mainstream view in the west (not one that I shared) was that there was a profound moral obligation to stand up and support the brave and noble Ukrainian opposition forces as they fight to be liberated from the brutal and repressive regime imposed on them by Vladimir Putin's puppet? When did it suddenly become shameful in those same circles to support those very same opposition forces?

In fact, I've been accused more times than I can count - including by a former NSA employee and a Eurasia Foundation spokesman - of being a Putin shill for not supporting the Ukrainian opposition and not denouncing Russian involvement there (by which they mean I've not written anything on this topic). Now we seem to have the exact opposite premise: that the real evil is supporting the opposition in Ukraine and any journalist who works at First Look - including ones who are repeatedly called criminals by top U.S. officials for publishing top secret government documents; or who risk their lives to go around the world publicizing the devastation wrought by America's Dirty Wars and its dirty and lawless private contractors; or who have led the journalistic attack on the banks that own and control the government - are now tools of neo-liberal, CIA-cooperating imperialism which seeks to undermine Putin by secretly engineering the Ukrainian revolution. To call all of that innuendo muddled and incoherent is to be generous.

(3) Despite its being publicly disclosed, I was not previously aware that the Omidyar Network donated to this Ukrainian group. That's because, prior to creating The Intercept with Laura Poitras and Jermey Scahill, I did not research Omidyar's political views or donations. That's because his political views and donations are of no special interest to me - any more than I cared about the political views of the family that owns and funds Salon (about which I know literally nothing, despite having worked there for almost 6 years), or any more than I cared about the political views of those who control the Guardian Trust.

There's a very simple reason for that: they have no effect whatsoever on my journalism or the journalism of The Intercept. That's because we are guaranteed full editorial freedom and journalistic independence. The Omidyar Network's political views or activities - or those of anyone else - have no effect whatsoever on what we report, how we report it, or what we say.

The author of the Pando article seems to understand this point quite well when it comes to excusing himself from working for a media outlet funded by national-security-state-supporting tech billionaires whose views he claims to find "repugnant":

It is a problem we all have to contend with-PandoDaily's 18-plus investors include a gaggle of Silicon Valley billionaires like Marc Andreessen (who serves on the board of eBay, chaired by Pierre Omidyar) and Peter Thiel (whose politics I've investigated [GG: before working for a media outlet he funded] and described as repugnant.)
So he acknowledges the truly repellent politics of those who fund the media outlet where he does his journalism: Andreessen, a Romney supporter, has become one of the NSA's most devoted defenders, while the company owned by Paypal founder Thiel, Palantir Technologies, works extensively with the CIA and got caught scheming against journalists, WikiLeaks supporters and Chamber of Commerce critics. But he obviously believes those repellent views and activities do not reflect on him or his journalism. Indeed, any of you who are approvingly citing the Pando article are implicitly saying the same thing: namely, that media outlets funded by government-supporting tech moguls with repugnant histories can produce important journalism, including reporting on other tech moguls.

More generally, you're endorsing the point that the political ideology of those who fund media outlets, no matter how much you dislike that ideology, does not mean that hard-hitting investigative journalism is precluded or that the journalism reflects the views of those who fund it. Anyone who thinks that The Intercept is or will be some sort of mouthpiece for U.S. foreign policy goals is invited to review the journalism we've produced in the 20 days we've existed.

Now, if you want to take the position that people should not work at organizations funded by oligarchs, or that journalism is inherently corrupted if funded by rich people with bad political views, then I hope you apply that consistently. Groups like the ACLU, Media Matters, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a whole slew of left-wing groups have been funded for years by billionaire George Soros and his foundations despite a long rtainly going to have views and activities that you find objectionable. If you want to take the position that this should never be done, that's fine: just be sure to apply it consistently to the media outlets and groups you really like.

But for me, the issue is not - and for a long time has not been - the political views of those who fund journalism. Journalists should be judged by the journalism they produce, not by those who fund the outlets where they do it. The real issue is whether they demand and obtain editorial freedom. We have. But ultimately, the only thing that matters is the journalism we or any other media outlets produce.

(4) Typical for this particular writer, the Pando article is filled with factual inaccuracies, including one extremely serious one:

Of the many problems that poses, none is more serious than the fact that Omidyar now has the only two people with exclusive access to the complete Snowden NSA cache, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Somehow, the same billionaire who co-financed the "coup" in Ukraine with USAID, also has exclusive access to the NSA secrets-and very few in the independent media dare voice a skeptical word about it. [emphasis added]
Let's leave to the side the laughable hyperbole that Omidyar is now the mastermind who has secretly engineered the Ukrainian uprising. Let's also leave to the side a vital fact that people like this Pando writer steadfastly ignore: that there are numerous media entities in possession of tens of thousands of Snowden documents, including The Guardian, Bart Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, and ProPublica, rendering absurd any conspiracy theories that Omidyar can control which documents are or are not published.

The real falsehood here is that Omidyar himself has any access, let alone "exclusive access", to "the NSA secrets." This is nothing short of a fabrication. The writer of this article just made that up.

history of funding of and profiting from all sorts of capitalism projects anathema to the left, including Ukrainian pro-democracy groups (the same Pando writer previously claimed without evidence that the ACLU received a $20 million donation from the Koch Brothers). Or, as Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts put it:

Are Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow responsible for all the bad acts of Comcast, which owns MSNBC, or is their journalism impugned by those bad acts? Was WikiLeaks infected with Vladimir Putin's sins, as some argued, because Julian Assange's show appeared on RT? Or go ahead and apply those questions to virtually every large media organization or advocacy group you like, which needs substantial funding, which in turn requires that they seek and obtain that funding from very rich people who undoubtedly have political views and activities you find repellent.

That journalistic outlets fail to hold accountable large governmental and corporate entities is a common complaint. It's one I share. It's possible to do great journalism in discrete, isolated cases without much funding and by working alone, but it's virtually impossible to do sustained, broad-scale investigative journalism aimed at large and powerful entities without such funding. As I've learned quite well over the last eight months, you need teams of journalists, and editors, and lawyers, and experts, and travel and technology budgets, and a whole slew of other tools that require serious funding. The same is true for large-scale activism.

That funding, by definition, is going to come from people rich enough to provide it. And such people are almost ce The only Snowden documents Omidyar has ever seen are the ones that have been published as part of stories in media outlets around the world. He has no possession of those documents and no access to them. He has never sought or received access to those documents. He has played no role whatsoever in deciding which ones will be reported. He obviously plays no role in deciding which documents all those other news outlets will report. Other than generally conveying that there is much reporting left to be done on these documents - something I've publicly said many times - I don't believe I've ever even had a single discussion with him about a single document in the archive.

We've continued to report on those documents with media outlets around the world - in the last month alone, I reported on numerous documents with NBC, while Laura did the same with The New York Times - and will continue to report on them at The Intercept with full editorial independence. But the claim that he has obtained possession of, or even access to, the archive (in full or in part) is an outright falsehood.

Other inaccuracies pervade the article. Marcy Wheeler, whose comments were prominently featured, complained rather vehemently and at length that the article wildly misrepresented what she said.

(5) I have a long history of condemning U.S. government interference in the governance of other countries, and of the accompanying jingoistic moral narrative that this interference is intended to engender Freedom and Democracy rather than the promotion of U.S. interests. I have equal scorn for those who feign opposition to Russian interference in the sovereignty of other countries while continuing to support all sorts of U.S. interference of exactly that sort. I know little about the specific Ukrainian group at issue here - do any of you touting this article know anything about them? - and I certainly don't trust this writer to convey anything accurately.

But what I do know is that I would never temper, limit, suppress or change my views for anyone's benefit - as anyone I've worked with will be happy to tell you - and my views on such interference in other countries isn't going to remotely change no matter the actual facts here. I also know that I'm free to express those views without the slightest fear. And I have zero doubt that that's true of every other writer at The Intercept. That's what journalistic independence means.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth book, No Place to Hide, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world, will be released in April 2014. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn's column was featured at Guardian US and Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book"How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Their Mothers, Their Fathers
By Uri Avnery

IT IS the summer of 1941. Five youngsters - three young men and two young women - meet in a bar and spend a happy evening, flirting with each other, getting drunk, dancing forbidden foreign dances. They have grown up together in the same neighborhood of Berlin.

It is a happy time. The war started by Adolf Hitler a year and a half before has progressed incredibly well. In this short time Germany has conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. The Wehrmacht is invincible. The Fuhrer is a genius, "the greatest military strategist of all times."

So starts the film that is running now in our cinemas - a unique historical document. It goes on for five breathless hours, and continues to occupy the thoughts and emotions of its viewers for days and weeks.

Basically it is a film made by Germans for Germans. The German title says it all: "Our Mothers, Our Fathers". The purpose is to answer the questions troubling many of the young Germans of today: Who were our parents and grandparents? What did they do during the terrible war? What did they feel? What was their part in the horrible crimes committed by the Nazis?

These questions are not asked in the film explicitly. But every German viewer is compelled to ask them. There are no clear answers. The film does not probe the depths. Rather, it shows a broad panorama of the German people in wartime, the various sections of society, the different types, from the war criminals, through the passive onlookers, to the victims.

The Holocaust is not the center of events, but it is there all the time, not as a separate event but woven into the fabric of reality.

THE FILM starts in 1941, and therefore cannot answer the question which, to my mind, is the most important one: How could a civilized nation, perhaps the most cultured in the world, elect a government whose program was blatantly criminal?

True, Hitler was never elected by an absolute majority in free elections. But he came very close to it. And he easily found political partners who were ready to help him form a government.

Some said at the time that it was a uniquely German phenomenon, the expression of the particular German mentality, formed during centuries of history. That theory has been discredited by now. But if so, can it happen in any other country? Can it happen in our own country? Can it happen today? What are the circumstances that make it possible?

The film does not answer these question. It leaves the answers to the viewer.

The young heroes of the film do not ask. They were ten years old when the Nazis came to power, and for them the "Thousand-Year Reich" (as the Nazis called it) was the only reality they knew. It was the natural state of things. That's where the plot starts.

TWO OF the youngsters were soldiers. One had already seen war and was wearing a medal for valor. His brother had just been called up. The third young man was a Jew. Like the two girls, they are full of youthful exuberance. Everything was looking fine.

The war? Well, it can't last much longer, can it? The Fuhrer himself has promised that by Christmas the Final Victory will be won. The five young people promise each other to meet again at Christmas. No one has the slightest premonition of the terrible experiences in store for each of them.

While viewing the scene, I could not help thinking about my former class. A few weeks after the Nazis' assumption of power, I became a pupil in the first class of high school in Hanover. My schoolmates were the same age as the heroes of the film. They would have been called up in 1941, and because it was an elitist school, all of them would probably have become officers.

Half way through the first year in high schooI, my family took me to Palestine. I never met any of my schoolmates again, except one (Rudolf Augstein, the founder of the magazine Der Spiegel, whom I met years after the war and who became my friend again.) What happened to all the others? How many survived the war? How many were maimed? How many had become war criminals?

In the summer of 1941 they were probably as happy as the youngsters in the film, hoping to be home by Christmas.

THE TWO brothers were sent to the Russian front, an unimaginable hell. The film succeeds in showing the realities of war, easily recognizable by anyone who has been a soldier in combat. Only that this combat was a hundredfold worse, and the film shows it brilliantly.

The older brother, a lieutenant, tries to shield the younger one. The bloodbath that goes on for four more years, day after day, hour after hour, changes their character. They become brutalized. Death is all around them, they see horrible war crimes, they are commanded to shoot prisoners, they see Jewish children butchered. In the beginning they still dare to protest feebly, then they keep their doubts to themselves, then they take part in the crimes as a matter of course.

One of the young women volunteers for a frontline military hospital, witnesses the awful agonies of the wounded, denounces a Jewish fellow nurse and immediately feels remorse, and in the end is raped by Soviet soldiers near Berlin, as were almost all German women in the areas conquered by the revenge-thirsty Soviet army.

Israeli viewers might be more interested in the fate of the Jewish boy, who took part in the happy feast at the beginning. His father is a proud German, who cannot imagine Germans doing the bad things threatened by Hitler. He does not dream of leaving his beloved fatherland. But he warns his son about having sexual relations with his Aryan girlfriend. "It's against the law!"

When the son tries to flee abroad, "aided" by a treacherous Gestapo officer, he is caught, sent to the death camps, succeeds in escaping on the way, joins the Polish partisans (who hate the Jews more than the Nazis) and in the end survives.

Perhaps the most tragic figure is the second girl, a frivolous, carefree singer who sleeps with a senior SS officer to further her career, is sent with her troupe to entertain the troops at the front, sees what is really happening, speaks out about the war, is sent to prison and executed in the last hours of the war.

BUT THE fate of the heroes is only the skeleton of the film. More important are the little moments, the daily life, the portrayal of the various characters of German society.

For example, when a friend visits the apartment where the Jewish family had been living, the blond Aryan woman who was allotted the place complains about the state of the apartment from which the Jews had been fetched and sent to their death: "They didn't even clean up before they left! That's how the Jews are, dirty people!"

Everyone lives in constant fear of being denounced. It is a pervading terror, which nobody can escape. Even at the front, with death staring therm in the face, a hint of doubt about the Final Victory uttered by a soldier is immediately silenced by his comrades. "Are you crazy?"

Even worse is the deadening atmosphere of universal agreement. From the highest officer to the lowliest maid, everybody is repeating endlessly the propaganda slogans of the regime. Not out of fear, but because they believe every word of the all-pervading propaganda machine. They hear nothing else.

It is immensely important to understand this. In the totalitarian state, fascist or communist or whatever, only the very few free spirits can withstand the endlessly repeated slogans of the government. Everything else sounds unreal, abnormal, crazy. When the Soviet army was already fighting its way through Poland and nearing Berlin, people were unwavering in their belief in the Final Victory. After all, the Fuhrer says so, and the Fuhrer is never wrong. The very idea is preposterous.

It is this element of the situation that is difficult for many people to grasp. A citizen under a criminal totalitarian regime becomes a child. Propaganda becomes for him reality, the only reality he knows. It is more effective than even the terror.

THIS IS the answer to the question we cannot abstain from asking again and again: How was the Holocaust possible? It was planned by a few, but it was implemented by hundreds of thousands of Germans, from the engine driver of the train to the officials who shuffled the papers. How could they do it?

They could, because it was the natural thing to do. After all, the Jews were out to destroy Germany. The communist hordes were threatening the life of every true Aryan. Germany needed more living space. The Fuhrer has said so.

That's why the film is so important, not only for the Germans, but for every people, including our own.

People who carelessly play with ultra-nationalist, fascist, racist, or other anti-democratic ideas don't realize that they are playing with fire. They cannot even imagine what it means to live in a country that tramples on human rights, that despises democracy, that oppresses another people, that demonizes minorities. The film shows what it is like: hell.

THE FILM does not hide that the Jews were the main victims of the Nazi Reich, and nothing comes near their sufferings. But the second victim was the German people, victims of themselves.

Many people insist that after this trauma, Jews cannot behave like a normal people, and that therefore Israel cannot be judged by the standards of normal states. They are traumatized.

This is true for the German people, too. The very need to produce this unusual film proves that the Nazi specter is still haunting the Germans, that they are still traumatized by their past.

When Angela Merkel came this week to see Binyamin Netanyahu, the whole world laughed at the photo of our Prime Minister's finger inadvertently painting a moustache on the Kanzlerin's face.

But the relationship between our two traumatized peoples is far from a joke.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Hillary And Other Assorted Barbarians At Russia's Gate
By Glen Ford

Hillary Clinton is a walking profanity - and, thereby, a prime candidate to be the next president of the United States. The fiend who played Julius Caesar when U.S.-employed jihadists butchered Libya's Muammar Gaddafi ("We came, we saw, he died") now likens Russia's response to the U.S.-backed fascist putsch in the Ukraine to Hitler's quest for a Greater Germany. It is like spitting on the graves of the 25 million Russians and other Soviet nationalities slaughtered in Hitler's racist jihad - the people who actually defeated the Nazis while the U.S. and Britain loitered off Europe's shores. At war's end, the United States imported thousands of Nazis to construct the nuclear/chemical/biological military juggernaut that would usher in an "American Century" - while confiscating Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois' passports.

Thanks to the Americans, West German denazification never happened but, by the mid-Seventies, Washington had implanted fascist military regimes throughout Latin America - one of which exterminated 200,000 Guatemalan Mayas.

When John Kerry praises the "brave Ukrainians" that "took to the streets to stand against tyranny and demand democracy," he makes common cause with the direct political heirs of the Ukrainian Waffen SS units and concentration camp guards that eagerly joined Hitler's genocidal rampage in the mid-20th century. The Ukrainian fascists, who command 40 percent of the electorate in some western regions of the country, return the compliment, hoisting the Confederate flag in Kiev's city hall. They see, correctly, that the epicenter of their ideology is not Berlin, but Washington.

The trans-Atlantic affinity is more fundamental and deep-rooted than the $5 billion that Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland brags the U.S. has invested in developing "democratic institutions" in Ukraine - resulting in the overthrow of the elected government and its replacement by ethnic-based mob rule. This is the model that held sway in the southern United States for nearly a century, following the death of Reconstruction. Ethnic purity was the organizing principle of one-party Democratic rule in Dixie from the mid-1870s to the mid-1960s. Race and Nation were One, ordained by God, Science and History, obligating every white man to break and burn the bodies of all Negroes, mongrels and race-mixing whites that might challenge the political order. Mob rule - lynch law - buttressed the political and economic supremacy of the most exploitative sectors of industry and agribusiness. The American "Solid South" not only fits the "classic" definition of fascism, it provided a template for future fascists. The apartheid order in Dixie predates the establishment of fascist regimes in Europe and, in terms of its racial component, has more in common with the Nazi strain than Mussolini's Italy.

The ideological unity of the White South empowered Democrat/Fascists to exercise outsized influence over the national government. The Dixie-born Ku Klux Klan became a national phenomenon, and the emerging U.S. empire swaggered about the globe with a decidedly southern accent. Pre-Civil War white southern dreams of building a slave empire throughout the Americas meshed nicely with Teddy Roosevelt's imperial ambitions. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Roosevelt violated all the rules of naval warfare in favor of racial pageantry, painting U.S. naval vessels white for a world tour of "The Great White Fleet." Both Europe and the non-white world understood his meaning.

When the Black Freedom Movement forced a split in the national Democratic Party, in the early Sixities, southern whites bolted to the Republicans, transforming the Party of Lincoln into the national White Man's Party. With Dixie the bedrock of Republican electoral college strength, the coded language of race came to dominate general U.S. political discourse. In a very real sense, Americans sound like southern white fascists, with their reflexive assumptions of supremacy, global privilege, and ordained national mission - including lots of Black Americans. After all, the fascist order of the pre-Sixties Solid South was simply a domestic expression of U.S. Manifest Destiny - the national religion.

Fascists all over the world - not just Ukraine - know they have tens of millions of soul mates in the United States, including the leadership of both major parties. That's why they flashed the white supremacist gang-sign from Kiev. In turn, the American political class and corporate media prove they are also fascists, by pretending that their Ukrainian allies are democrats.

With the U.S. and NATO now poised at Russia's door, as was Germany in 1941, Hillary Clinton attempts to flip the clear historical parallel by ranting that it is President Putin who seeks a "Greater Russia." The Kremlin has every reason to believe the barbarians are at the gate.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Outline of the Post-War New World Map. Published 1942, Philadelphia, PA.

Where In The World Is 'The New World Order'?
What happened to war and the imperial drive to organize the planet?
By Tom Engelhardt

There is, it seems, something new under the sun.

Geopolitically speaking, when it comes to war and the imperial principle, we may be in uncharted territory. Take a look around and you'll see a world at the boiling point. From Ukraine to Syria, South Sudan to Thailand, Libya to Bosnia, Turkey to Venezuela, citizen protest (left and right) is sparking not just disorganization, but what looks like, to coin a word, de-organization at a global level. Increasingly, the unitary status of states, large and small, old and new, is being called into question. Civil war, violence, and internecine struggles of various sorts are visibly on the rise. In many cases, outside countries are involved and yet in each instance state power seems to be draining away to no other state's gain. So here's one question: Where exactly is power located on this planet of ours right now?

There is, of course, a single waning superpower that has in this new century sent its military into action globally, aggressively, repeatedly -- and disastrously. And yet these actions have failed to reinforce the imperial system of organizing and garrisoning the planet that it put in place at the end of World War II; nor has it proven capable of organizing a new global system for a new century. In fact, everywhere it's touched militarily, local and regional chaos have followed.

In the meantime, its own political system has grown gargantuan and unwieldy; its electoral process has been overwhelmed by vast flows of money from the wealthy 1%; and its governing system is visibly troubled, if not dysfunctional. Its rich are ever richer, its poor ever poorer, and its middle class in decline. Its military, the largest by many multiples on the planet, is nonetheless beginning to cut back. Around the world, allies, client states, and enemies are paying ever less attention to its wishes and desires, often without serious penalty. It has the classic look of a great power in decline and in another moment it might be easy enough to predict that, though far wealthier than its Cold War superpower adversary, it has simply been heading for the graveyard more slowly but no less surely.

Such a prediction would, however, be unwise. Never since the modern era began has a waning power so lacked serious competition or been essentially without enemies. Whether in decline or not, the United States -- these days being hailed as "the new Saudi Arabia" in terms of its frackable energy wealth -- is visibly in no danger of losing its status as the planet's only imperial power.

What, then, of power itself? Are we still in some strange way -- to bring back the long forgotten Bush-era phrase -- in a unipolar moment? Or is power, as it was briefly fashionable to say, increasingly multipolar? Or is it helter-skelter-polar? Or on a planet whose temperatures are rising, droughts growing more severe, and future food prices threatening to soar (meaning yet more protest, violence, and disruption), are there even "poles" any more?

Here, in any case, is a reality of the initial 13 years of the twenty-first century: for the first time in at least a half a millennium, the imperial principle seems to be ebbing, and yet the only imperial power, increasingly incapable of organizing the world, isn't going down.

If you survey our planet, the situation is remarkably unsettled and confusing. But at least two things stand out, and whatever you make of them, they could be the real news of the first decades of this century. Both are right before our eyes, yet largely unseen. First, the imperial principle and the great power competition to which it has been wedded are on the wane. Second and no less startling, war (global, intrastate, anti-insurgent), which convulsed the twentieth century, seems to be waning as well. What in the world does it all mean?

A Scarcity of Great Powers

Let's start with the imperial part of the equation. From the moment the Europeans dispatched their cannon-bearing wooden ships on a violent exploration and conquest of the globe, there has never been a moment when one or more empires weren't rising as others waned, or when at least two and sometimes several "great powers" weren't competing for ways to divide the planetary spoils and organize, encroach upon, or take over spheres of influence.

In the wake of World War II, with the British Empire essentially penniless and the German, Japanese, and Italian versions of empire crushed, only two great powers were left. They more or less divided the planet unequally between them. Of the two, the United States was significantly wealthier and more powerful. In 1991, after a nearly half-century-long Cold War in which those superpowers at least once came to the edge of a nuclear exchange, and blood was spilled in copious amounts on "the peripheries" in "limited war," the last of the conflicts of that era -- in Afghanistan -- helped take down the Soviet Union. When its army limped home from what its leader referred to as "the bleeding wound" and its economy imploded, the USSR unexpectedly -- and surprisingly peacefully -- disappeared.

Which, of course, left one. The superest of all powers of any time -- or so many in Washington came to believe. There had never, they were convinced, been anything like it. One hyperpower, one planet: that was to be the formula. Talk of a "peace dividend" disappeared quickly enough and, with the U.S. military financially and technologically dominant and no longer worried about a war that might quite literally end all wars, a new era seemed to begin.

There had, of course, been an ongoing "arms race" between great powers since at least the end of the nineteenth century. Now, at a moment when it should logically have been over, the U.S. instead launched an arms race of one to ensure that no other military would ever be capable of challenging its forces. (Who knew then that those same forces would be laid low by ragtag crews of insurgents with small arms, homemade roadside bombs, and their own bodies as their weapons?)

As the new century dawned, a crew led by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney ascended to power in Washington. They were the first administration ever largely born of a think tank (with the ambitious name Project for a New American Century). Long before 9/11 gave them their opportunity to set the American military loose on the planet, they were already dreaming of an all-American imperium that would outshine the British or Roman empires.

Of course, who doesn't know what happened next? Though they imagined organizing a Pax Americana in the Middle East and then on a planetary scale, theirs didn't turn out to be an organizational vision at all. They got bogged down in Afghanistan, destabilizing neighboring Pakistan. They got bogged down in Iraq, having punched a hole through the heart of the planet's oil heartlands and set off a Sunni-Shiite regional civil war, whose casualty lists continue to stagger the imagination. In the process, they never came close to their dream of bringing Tehran to its knees, no less establishing even the most rudimentary version of that Pax Americana.

They were an imperial whirlwind, but every move they made proved disastrous. In effect, they lent a hand to the de-imperialization of the planet. By the time they were done and the Obama years were upon us, Latin America was no longer an American "backyard"; much of the Middle East was a basketcase (but not an American one); Africa, into which Washington continues to move military forces, was beginning to destabilize; Europe, for the first time since the era of French President Charles de Gaulle, seemed ready to say "no" to American wishes (and was angry as hell).

And yet power, seeping out of the American system, seemed to be coagulating nowhere. Russian President Vladimir Putin has played a remarkably clever hand. From his role in brokering a Syrian deal with Washington to the hosting of the Olympics and a winning medal count in Sochi, he's given his country the look of a great power. In reality, however, it remains a relatively ramshackle state, a vestige of the Soviet era still, as in Ukraine, fighting a rearguard action against history (and the inheritors of the Cold War mantle, the U.S. and the European Union).

The EU is an economic powerhouse, but in austerity-gripped disarray. While distinctly a great economic force, it is not in any functional sense a great power.

China is certainly the enemy of choice both for Washington and the American public. And it is visibly a rising power, which has been putting ever more money into building a regional military. Still, it isn't fighting and its economic and environmental problems are staggering enough, along with its food and energy needs, that any future imperial destiny seems elusive at best. Its leadership, while more bullish in the Pacific, is clearly in no mood to take on imperial tasks. (Japan is similarly an economic power with a chip on its shoulder, putting money into creating a more expansive military, but an actual imperial repeat performance seems beyond unlikely.)

There was a time when it was believed that as a group the so-called BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (and some added Turkey) -- would be the collective powerhouse of a future multi-polar planet. But that was before the Brazilian, South African, Indian, and Turkish economies stopped looking so rosy.

In the end, the U.S. aside, great powers remain scarcer than hen's teeth.

War: Missing in Action

Now, let's move on to an even more striking and largely unremarked upon characteristic of these years. If you take one country -- or possibly two -- out of the mix, war between states or between major powers and insurgencies has largely ceased to exist.

Admittedly, every rule has its exceptions and from full-scale colonial-style wars (Iraq, Afghanistan) to small-scale conflicts mainly involving drones or air power (Yemen, Somalia, Libya), the United States has seemingly made traditional war its own in the early years of this century. Nonetheless, the Iraq war ended ignominiously in 2011 and the Afghan War seems to be limping to something close to an end in a slow-motion withdrawal this year. In addition, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has just announced the Pentagon's intention to cut its boots-on-the-ground contingent significantly in the years to come, a sign that future conflicts are far less likely to involve full-scale invasions and occupations on the Eurasian land mass.

Possible exception number two: Israel launched a 34-day war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and a significant three-week military incursion into the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009 (though none of this added up to anything like the wars that country fought in the previous century).

Otherwise when it comes to war -- that is, to sending armies across national boundaries or, in nineteenth-century style, to distant lands to conquer and "pacify" -- we're left with almost nothing. It's true that the last war of the previous century between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea straggled six months into this one. There was as well the 2008 Russian incursion into Georgia (a straggler from the unraveling of the Soviet Union). Dubbed the "five-day war," it proved a minor affair (if you didn't happen to be Georgian).

There was also a dismal U.S.-supported Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 (and a Kenyan invasion of that mess of a country but not exactly state in 2011). As for more traditional imperial-style wars, you can count them on one hand, possibly one finger: the 2013 French intervention in Mali (after a disastrous U.S./NATO air-powered intervention in Libya destabilized that neighboring country). France has also sent its troops elsewhere in Africa, most recently into the Central African Republic, but these were at best micro-versions of nineteenth century colonial wars. Turkey has from time to time struck across its border into Iraq as part of an internal conflict with its Kurdish population.

In Asia, other than rising tensions and a couple of ships almost bumping on the high seas, the closest you can get to war in this century was a minor border clash in April 2001 between India and Bangladesh.

Now, the above might look like a sizeable enough list until you consider the record for the second half of the twentieth century in Asia alone: The Korean War (1950-1953), a month-long border war between China and India in 1962, the French and American wars in Vietnam (1946-1975), the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978; China's invasion of Vietnam in 1979; and Indian-Pakistani wars in 1965, 1971, and 1999. (The Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971 was essentially a civil war.) And that, of course, leaves out the carnage of the first 50 years of a century that began with a foreign intervention in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and ended with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In fact, judged by almost any standard from just about any period in the previous two centuries, war is now missing in action, which is indeed something new under the sun.

Driving With the Lights Off

So an imperial era is on the wane, war in absentia, and no rising great power contenders on the horizon. Historically speaking, that's a remarkable scorecard in an otherwise appalling world.

Of course, the lack of old-style war hardly means no violence. In the 13 years of this new century, the scorecard on internal strife and civil war, often with external involvement, has been awful to behold: Yemen (with the involvement of the Saudis and the Americans), Syria (with the involvement of the Russians, the Saudis, the Qataris, the Iranians, Hezbollah, the Iraqis, the Turks, and the Americans), and so on. The record, including the Congo (numerous outside parties), South Sudan, Darfur, India (a Maoist insurgency), Nigeria (Islamic extremists), and so on, couldn't be grimmer.

Moreover, 13 years at the beginning of a century is a rather small sampling. Just think of 1914 and the great war that followed. Before the present Ukrainian crisis is over, for instance, Russian troops could again cross a border in force (as in 2008) along the still fraying edges of the former Soviet Union. It's also possible (though developments seem to be leading in quite a different direction) that either the Israelis or the Americans could still launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, increasing the chaos and violence in the Middle East. Similarly, an incident in the edgy Pacific might trigger an unexpected conflict between Japan and China. (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently compared this moment in Asia to the eve of World War I in Europe and his country and China to England and Germany.) And of course there are the "resource wars" expected on an increasingly devastated planet.

Still, for the moment no rising empire and no states fighting each other. So who knows? Maybe we are off the beaten path of history and in terra incognita. Perhaps this is a road we've never been down before, an actual new world order. If so, we're driving it with our headlights off, the wind whipping up, and the rain pouring down on a planet that may itself, in climate terms, be heading for uncharted territory.
(c) 2014 Tom Engelhardt is co- founder of the American Empire Project. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Ted Nugent Brings Bigotry And Misogyny To Texas Governors Race

Ted Nugent, the old rocker from the Seventies, is now just plain old... and off his rocker.

A political novelty act for the far right and a front man for the National Rifle Association, Nugent regularly spews venomous, vulgar, race-laced, abusive hate speech about liberals, Democrats, gun laws, and creeping communism. In January, for example, he tongue-lashed President Obama, calling him a "communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel."

So, naturally, this scurrilous lout was promptly invited to come to Texas by the leading Republican candidate for governor. It seems that Greg Abbott, currently the state attorney general and a dyed-in-the-wool tea party extremist, thought it would juice up his far-out GOP flock to have the rabidly-nutty Nugent come campaign with him. Ted came, even embracing the gubernatorial wannabe as his "blood brother."

But the brotherhood gambit backfired. Even Republican leaders wondered aloud why Abbott would, as one put it, "keep company with a noted misogynist and bigot." In addition to Nugent's disgusting "subhuman mongrel" slur, the old rocker is also well-known for being a sexual predator of underage girls.

The issue, however, is not Nugent's sordid character, but Abbott's. Hugging an infamous predator and hate-monger for political gain is both morally repugnant and politically stupid. Yet, Abbott continues to cling to Nugent's embrace, tersely (and cluelessly) saying: "It's time to move beyond this." A campaign aide even tried to paint Nugent's endorsement as a positive: "We appreciate the support of everyone who supports protecting our constitution."

Everyone? Sexual predators, overt racists, mass murderers? Shouldn't a candidate for governor – even in Texas – draw a sharper moral line than, "He loves the Second Amendment?"
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

The Stupidest Idea In The History Of The World
By David Swanson

This article is really better as a video.

If you search on the internet for "the stupidest idea in the history of the world" you'll come away thinking that maybe a top contestant is the invention of Youtube. Who knew so many idiots could do so much damage to themselves with so many motorbikes and diving boards and flame throwers?

If you survey the span of human history a little more seriously, some big ideas jump out, beginning with the creation of history itself. Maybe if we'd stayed unhistoric, hunted, gathered, and existed eternally as part of nature we wouldn't have gotten into such a mess. But that's too easy an answer, and way too much for people who ride surf boards off their roofs -- and film it -- to think about.

Other ideas are in the running, I think, from industrial farming, to religion, to racism, to fossil fuels, to science at any cost, to the creation of the United States Senate. And yet, one idea stands out for its wild improbability, creativity, long-lasting destruction on an enormous scale, and insidious ability to turn even people who don't own video cameras and catapults into champion unwitting masochists.

The idea I'm talking about, and my nominee for Stupidest Idea in the History of the World, is the idea that any ordinary person should ever support a war.

While it's undoubtedly true that the war propagandist is the world's second-oldest, and least respectable, profession, he or she is a product of history who wasn't needed in prehistoric times. Nobody needed to be sold on the idea of hunters fighting off lions and bears. It's when they ran out of lions and bears and decided to keep their jobs by starting fights with other tribes of humans that persuasion became necessary.

Why in the world would people want to support fighting and killing other people and having those other people fight and kill you? What's to be gained? A thrill? If you want a serious and useful and communal thrill these days you can do nonviolent resistance to fascist governments. Or you can join a fire department. If you want a useless and pointless thrill, you can jump off a 100-foot bridge with a 100-foot (but all too stretchable) bungee cord and a video camera. Back then, you could go hunting or exploring, or try to discover gravity or surgery. Never was the only thrill available war.

And yet, down through the ages, war has popped up again and again, here and there, around the globe. And where it takes hold in a culture it carries with it the false belief that it's always around in every culture. Thus people manage to find that they support the stupidest idea ever for the stupidest reason ever, because supposedly they have no choice. Yet, choosing to support war because you have no choice in the matter remains a feat which people with developed brains find challenging.

The stupidest idea ever is a marvel of simplicity, and in its simplicity answers every challenge. Why should people of tribe A be willing to go to war with the people of tribe B just because the tribe A chiefs want to steal some stuff from tribe B? The answer is easy if you're a certified idiot who juggles flaming torches on Youtube: Anyone in tribe A who opposes waging war on tribe B is, by magical definition, in favor of tribe B winning a war against tribe A. Or, as modern sophisticates like to put it: Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists.

OK, so that's a nifty trick, but the stupidest idea ever must be more comprehensive. It must surprise us in its ability to destroy in new areas, to pass unseen behind the backs of its moronic supporters, and to gain partial support from the partially informed, limiting its actual opponents to the barest minority of freaks and misfits. I offer for your consideration, once again, the idea of supporting war.

Observe: the nations that wage the most war claim that they are under attack for no good reason and are forced to wage war to defend themselves, even as their wars make them more and more hated and less and less safe. While the nations that wage the least war have the fewest enemies threatening them in the world. But people who've begun supporting war will readily believe that sending killer robot planes over the homes of poor people thousands of miles away is defensive, and that when it creates hatred and hostility the answer must be yet more weapons.

In fact, the same people support manufacturing tons of weapons and selling them to other countries against whom theirs will later fight wars, and they support this as a jobs program even though it actually sucks jobs out of their society rather than creating them. That is to say, war-related jobs cost more per job than do jobs created by spending on just about anything else, even tax cuts. So, people support weapons-making because they have been misled into supporting war, and they support war because they have been misled into supporting the weapons industries, and then they just support both out of sheer stupid habit -- which is, of course, the single most powerful force in the universe.

But the stupidity of war doesn't end there. People who support wars can be brought to believe that wars are good for their victims. They think of each war as building better nations where it's fought, even though that's never actually happened. They talk of humanitarian wars even though humanity suffers. They imagine war is a solution to genocide, even though war kills more people and those people are just as disproportionately helpless innocents from one group in a war as in a genocide.

A recent U.S.-led war on Iraq destroyed that nation and killed some million people there, leaving behind chaos, violence, and environmental ruin; and war supporters think of Iraq as having benefitted. Someone explain to me how that's not stupider than cleaning your loaded gun on Youtube or praying for god to make the other football team lose. And it gets even stupider when you hear how Iraqis supposedly benefitted. They benefitted by being given freedom, because wars bring freedom, even though -- during the course of any war its supporters end up with fewer and fewer actual rights, due to restrictions justified by the war, even thought the war is justified by the cry of "freedom!"

How stupid can you get? War gets even stupider. It is the leading destroyer of the natural environment, but environmental groups will hardly touch it because they wouldn't want their concern for the earth to interfere with their blind stupid loyalty to a tribe. And human rights groups and civil liberties groups are the same way. They want to have war without murder, torture, rape, or imprisonment -- but opposing war would be unacceptable. Never mind that the atrocities increase in direct proportion to the war spending, they want to oppose only the atrocities. The war spending that generates the wars is viewed almost universally as an insurance against wars.

In the U.S. there are those who will object to murdering a U.S. citizen with a missile from a drone -- and some will object even if the president does have a secret memo he won't show us but which he claims re-writes the law and makes murder legal. Some will even object to murdering non-U.S. citizens with drones if they're civilians. Some even extend their concern to militants suspected of fighting on the side in some local war opposed by the far-off and unthreatened United States. And some, the true radicals, will object to all killing of human beings outside of a proper war zone.

But try pointing out to them that murdering people remains cruel and evil, immoral, impractical and counter-productive, and in violation of laws like the U.N. Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact regardless of where you declare there to be a "war zone," and you'll run head-first into the brick wall of the Stupidest Idea in the History of the World.

That's a powerful force to challenge, but it can be challenged, and it can be brought down, brick by brick.
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Chuck gives the corpo-rat salute

The Hagel Plan To Cut Military Spending
By James Donahue

The conservative pundits are wasting no time in attacking Defense Secretary Church Hagel's proposed plan to shrink the U.S. military budget.

Anybody that takes the time to step back and look at the entire U.S. financial picture has to agree that the Hagel plan is the first step in a long-needed move toward shrinking the nation's massive debt.

The defense budget currently eats 22 percent of the nation's $1.7 trillion in yearly debt. The only thing larger is health care which is estimated at 26 percent.

Among the proposed cuts, Hagel proposes the elimination of the entire fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft which were specifically designed for defense of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, and replacing the U-2 spy plane with the remote flown Global Hawk. Eleven Navy cruisers would be placed in reduced operating status.

Overall, however, the Pentagon, whose senior officers allegedly support the Hagel plan, would still be capable of fighting two wars and staffing military bases around the world. In the event of two large-scale military actions, however, there is a threat of greater risk on the armed forces because of the reduced size of the Army.

The cuts proposed by Hagel fit the Bipartisan Budget Act approved by Congress in December. The act calls for a military spending limit of $496 billion for the year 2015.

With all of the talk among right-wing conservative Republicans about slashing government spending and balancing the national budget, Hagel's plan is a step in the right direction. The nation has built the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about. It has, indeed, gone to the extreme. The United States currently spends more on defense than China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Brazil, Italy, South Korea, Australia and Canada, combined.

Since we have not had a major war since 1945, and since the Cold War with Russia has ended, how can America justify such a massive defense budget? We now have over 730 military bases with more than 2.5 million personnel stationed on them on every continent. It appears as if the United States is building a world empire under the guise of operating as a world peace keeper.

Jules Defour, in an in-depth report for the website Global Research, states that the U.S. Military has basis in 63 countries and that new bases have been built since 2001 in seven countries.

"These facilities include a total of 845,441 different buildings and equipments. The underlying land service is of the order of 30 million acres," Defour wrote. He said this makes the Pentagon one of the largest landowners in the world.

He reports that the military bases and installations are "distributed according to a Command structure divided up into five spatial units and four unified Combatant Commands. Each unit is under the command of a general. The Earth surface is being conceived as a wide battlefield which can be patrolled or steadfastly supervised from the bases." Defour identifies the nine commands as: the Northern Command, the Pacific Command, the Southern Command, the Central Command, the European Command, Joint Forces Command, Special Operations Command, the Transportation Command and the Strategic Command.

In addition to all of the above, the United States is actively involved in the Atlantic Alliance, or (NATO) which maintains a network of 30 military bases, mostly located in Western Europe.

In addition to the estimated 94,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan and 48,000 still in Iraq, the United States has over 40,000 military personnel serving in South Korea, more than 40,000 in Japan, over 75,000 troops in Germany, and nearly 17,000 naval officers at sea, according to the Defour report.

Another 800 are stationed in Africa, 491 at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, 100 in the Philippines, 196 in Singapore, 113 in Thailand, 200 in Australia, about 1,000 at Ganci Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, 3,432 in Qatar, 700 in Guantanamo, 413 in Honduras, 1,496 in Bahrain, and 147 in Canada.

In addition to all of this military presence, the United States had been engaging private defense contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton to act as mercenary fighters and service military personnel in the field.

Defour strongly suggests that the so-called "War on Terrorism" has been created as a replacement for the Cold War as a reason for continued maintenance of such a strong military industrial complex, which includes the operation of major defense plants and bases operating in nearly every state of the union. He describes this as "the greatest fraud in US history."

Don't let the consertive pundits frighten us into thinking that cutting our military will reduce our safety from foreign invasion. Even with Hagel's proposed cuts, we will still be maintaining the most powerful military in the world. There is plenty of room for even more spending cuts in this area.
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Governor Paul LePage speaks at the State House in Augusta, Maine, 2011.

Maine's Paul LePage Might Just Be The Worst Governor Of All
By John Nichols

When Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released its report on "The Worst Governors in America" last summer, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was not even on the list. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did make the "cronyism, mismanagement, nepotism, self-enrichment" list, but the review of his tenure was not necessarily the most scathing in CREW's assessment of Republicans and Democrats who had gone astray. And Ohio Governor John Kasich was ranked as nothing more than a "sideshow."

Now Christie is busy answering questions about blocked traffic, misdirected Sandy aid and political misdeeds. Walker's facing national and state scrutiny of secret e-mails and illegal campaign operations so intense that even Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace interrupted him to say, "But sir, you're not answering my question." And Kasich is scrambling to deal with a "Frackgate" controversy touched off by the exposure of a public-relations scheme-apparently developed by his administration, Halliburton and oil and gas industry lobbyists-to "proactively open state park and forest land" for fracking.

The scandals surrounding these prominent Republican governors, some of them potential presidential contenders, are serious. And they raise the question: Could there really be a governor who is more controversial? And whose actions might be even more troubling?

Meet Maine Governor Paul LePage, who ranked in the very top tier of CREW's "worst" list with this review:

The first-term governor packed his administration with lobbyists and used his office to promote their environmental-deregulation agenda, and allegedly went so far as to fire a state employee who testified in favor of policies the administration opposed.

Gov. LePage also attempted to gut his state's open records act, and is under investigation by the federal government for trying to bully employees of the state Department of Labor into deciding more cases in favor of business.

Now, the federal investigation has been completed, and LePage is still very much in the "worst governor" competition. A report from the US Department of Labor Office of the Solicitor General concluded that LePage and his appointees meddled with the process by which unemployment claims are reviewed-apparently with an eye toward advantaging employers and disadvantaging the jobless.

When the governor and his appointees pressured officials who consider appeals from Mainers seeking unemployment benefits, the federal investigation concluded, they acted with "what could be perceived as a bias toward employers." Specifically, the investigators determined, "hearing officers could have interpreted the expectations communicated by the pressure to be more sympathetic to employers."

The headlines from Maine newspapers Thursday were blunt:

Federal probe finds LePage pushed jobless benefits appeals officers to show 'bias toward employers

Federal probe faults LePage administration on unemployment hearings

Federal investigation finds that LePage, Maine DOL endangered fairness of unemployment hearings

In the Maine legislature, there were immediate calls for hearings into the governor's actions. State Senator John Patrick, a Democrat who chairs the Legislature's Labor Committee, said, "After this, I wonder how you can trust the governor to move forward fairly and in an unbiased way." Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, a veteran Democratic legislator, went further, suggesting that LePage should be removed from office. "I think he should be impeached," said Jackson. "The governor thinks he should be the next [Wisconsin Governor] Scott Walker, but he should be thinking about being the next [impeached Illinois Governor] Rod Blagojevich."

Bombastic as ever, LePage on Saturday responded to the impeachment talk by declaring "if (Jackson) has cause, bring it on."

But Mainers were unimpressed.

The "It's Time for Paul LePage to Resign" petition circulated by state Representative Diane Russell, a Portland Democrat, had attracted almost 20,000 signatures by Friday afternoon.

For his part, LePage was complaining that he was targeted unfairly by the Obama administration. But the investigation into LePage's actions go back almost a year and has deep roots in Maine, as noted by the state's Sun Journal newspaper in a front-page story Thursday:

An April 11 Sun Journal investigation cited sources who said the governor had summoned DOL employees to a mandatory luncheon at the Blaine House on March 21 and scolded them for finding too many unemployment-benefit appeals cases in favor of workers. They were told they were doing their jobs poorly, sources said. Afterward, they told the Sun Journal they felt abused, harassed and bullied by the governor.

Emails released under a Freedom of Access Act request echoed complaints made to the Sun Journal by the hearing officers who attended the meeting.

LePage denied the charges and claimed his communications with the hearing officers were "cordial." When the US Department of Labor investigation was launched-because hearing officers are paid with federal funds and must follow federal rules-the governor denied it was going on.

But there is no denying now that LePage has been called out for creating what reasonable people would interpret as an unfair "bias" against the jobless in a state that has a significantly higher unemployment rate than its northern New England neighbors New Hampshire and Vermont.

LePage is expected to seek re-election this year. Among the candidates he will face is Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud, a third-generation paper mill worker who says, "I understand what people are going through, the hard times that they are facing. Whether or not they have a job today or tomorrow, the uncertainty is real."

Providing a fair process for reviewing unemployment claims helps to address that uncertainty. Infusing bias into the process is not just wrong, it's cruel. And that cruelty-as much as any political abuse or ethical excess-provides a vital measure for assessing the worst of the worst governors.
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

People wait in line to enter the Northern Brooklyn Food Stamp and DeKalb Job Center in New York City.

Suffering? Well, You Deserve It
By Chris Hedges

OXFORD, England-The morning after my Feb. 20 debate at the Oxford Union, I walked from my hotel along Oxford's narrow cobblestone streets, past its storied colleges with resplendent lawns and Gothic stone spires, to meet Avner Offer, an economic historian and Chichele Professor Emeritus of Economic History.

Offer, the author of "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950," for 25 years has explored the cavernous gap between our economic and social reality and our ruling economic ideology. Neoclassical economics, he says, is a "just-world theory," one that posits that not only do good people get what they deserve but those who suffer deserve to suffer. He says this model is "a warrant for inflicting pain." If we continue down a path of mounting scarcities, along with economic stagnation or decline, this neoclassical model is ominous. It could be used to justify repression in an effort to sustain a vision that does not correspond to the real world.

Offer, who has studied the rationing systems set up in countries that took part in World War I, suggests we examine how past societies coped successfully with scarcity. In an age of scarcity it would be imperative to set up new, more egalitarian models of distribution, he says. Clinging to the old neoclassical model could, he argues, erode and perhaps destroy social cohesion and require the state to engage in greater forms of coercion.

"The basic conventions of public discourse are those of the Enlightenment, in which the use of reason [enabled] us to achieve human objectives," Offer said as we sat amid piles of books in his cluttered office. "Reason should be tempered by reality, by the facts. So underlining this is a notion of science that confronts reality and is revised by reference to reality. This is the model for how we talk. It is the model for the things we assume. But the reality that has emerged around us has not come out of this process. So our basic conventions only serve to justify existing relationships, structures and hierarchies. Plausible arguments are made for principles that are incompatible with each other."

Offer cited a concept from social psychology called the just-world theory. "A just-world theory posits that the world is just. People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.

"Major ways of thinking about the world constitute just-world theories," he said. "The Catholic Church is a just-world theory. If the Inquisition burned heretics, they only got what they deserved. Bolshevism was a just-world theory. If Kulaks were starved and exiled, they got what they deserved. Fascism was a just-world theory. If Jews died in the concentration camps, they got what they deserved. The point is not that the good people get the good things, but the bad people get the bad things. Neoclassical economics, our principal source of policy norms, is a just-world theory."

Offer quoted the economist Milton Friedman: "The ethical principle that would directly justify the distribution of income in a free market society is, 'To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces.' "

"So, everyone gets what he or she deserves, either for his or her effort or for his or her property. No one asks how he or she got this property. And if they don't have it, they probably don't deserve it. The point about just-world theory is not that it dispenses justice, but that it provides a warrant for inflicting pain.

"Just-world theories are models of reality. A rough and ready test is how well the model fits with experienced reality. When used to derive policy, an economic model not only describes the world but also aspires to change it. In policy, if the model is bad, then reality has to be forcibly aligned with it by means of coercion. How much coercion is actually used provides a rough measure of a model's validity. That the Soviet Union had to use so much coercion undermined the credibility of communism as a model of reality. It is perhaps symptomatic that the USA, a society that elevates freedom to the highest position among its values, is also the one that has one of the very largest penal systems in the world relative to its population. It also inflicts violence all over the world. It tolerates a great deal of gun violence, and a health service that excludes large numbers of people." "There are two core doctrines in economics. One is individual self-interest. The other is the invisible hand, the idea that the pursuit of individual self-interest aggregates or builds up for the good of society as a whole. This is a logical proposition that has never been proven. If we take the centrality of self-interest in economics, then it is not clear on what basis economics should be promoting the public good. This is not a norm that is part of economics itself; in fact, economics tells us the opposite. Economics tells us that everything anyone says should be motivated by strategic self-interest. And when economists use the word 'strategic' they mean cheating."

Offer argued that "a silent revolution" took place in economics in the 1970s. "Economists," he said of the 1970s, "discovered opportunism-a polite term for cheating. Before that, economics had been a just-world defense of the status quo. But when the status quo became the welfare state, suddenly economics became all about cheating. Game theory was about cheating. Public-choice theory was about cheating. Asymmetric information was about cheating. The invisible-hand doctrine tells us there is only one outcome, and that outcome is the best. But once you enter a world of cheating there is no longer one outcome. It is what economists call multiple equilibria, which means there is not a deterministic outcome. The outcome depends on how successful the cheating is. And one of the consequences of this is that economists are not in a strong position to tell society what to do."

The problem, he said, is that the old norms of economics continue to inform our policy norms, as if the cheating norm had never been introduced.

"Let's take the doctrine of optimal taxation. If you assume a world of perfect competition, where every person gets their marginal products, then you can deduce a tax distribution where high progressive taxation is inefficient. This doctrine has been one of the drivers to reduce progressive taxation. But looking at the historical record this has not been accompanied by any great surge in productivity; rather, it has produced a great surge in inequality. So once again, there is a gap between what the model tells us should happen and what actually happens. In this case the model works, but only in the model, only if all the assumptions are satisfied. Reality is more complicated.

"The standard in modern society is that government allocates between 40 to 50 percent of output. This anomaly is not explained by economic theory. If people are making democratic choices in their self-interest, why have these large government structures been built up?

"There is very little analytical argument in economics in support of government, but its benefits are so overwhelming it continues to hang on. "One of the issues here is when those in authority, whether political, academic or civic, are expounding their doctrines through Enlightenment idioms and we must ask, is this being done in good faith?. And here I think the genuine insight provided by the economics of opportunism is that we cannot assume it is being done in good faith. "When I hear Republicans in the United States say that taking away people's food stamps will do them good I ask, what do you know that allows you to say this? This rhetoric invokes the Enlightenment model. We all use it. It is improvement by means of reason. But Enlightenment discourse should not be taken at face value. We have to again ask whether it is being carried out in good faith."

"Economics, political science and even philosophy, ever since rational choice swept through the American social sciences, have embraced the idea that an individual has no responsibility towards anyone except himself or herself. A responsibility to anyone else is optional. The public discourse, for this reason, has become a hall of mirrors. Nothing anymore is what it seems to be.

"Our current economic model," he said, "will be of little use to us in an age of ecological deterioration and growing scarcities. Energy shortages, global warming, population increases and increasing scarcity of water and food create an urgent need for new models of distribution. Our two options," he said, "will be "hanging together or falling apart." Offer argues that we cannot be certain that growth will continue. If standards of living stagnate or decline, he said, we must consider other models for the economy. Given the wealth and resources of industrialized nations, he said, a drop in living standards to what they were one or two generations ago would still permit a good quality of life.

Offer has studied closely the economies of World War I. Amid this catastrophe, he notes, civilian economies adapted. He holds up these war economies, with their heavy rationing, as a possible model for collective action in a contracting economy.

"What you had was a very sudden transition to a serious scarcity economy that was underpinned by the necessity for sharing. Ordinary people were required to sacrifice their lives. They needed some guarantee for those they left at home. These war economies were relatively egalitarian. These economics were based on the safety net principle. If continued growth in the medium run is not feasible, and that is a contingency we need to think about, then these rationing societies provide quite a successful model. On the Allied side, people did not starve, society held together."
However, if we cling to our current economic model-which Offer labels "every man for himself"-then, he said, "it will require serious repression."

"There is not a free market solution to a peaceful decline," he said.

"The state of current political economy in the West is similar to the state of communism in the Soviet Union around 1970. It is studied widely in the university. Everyone knows the formula. Everyone mouths it in discourse. But no one believes it. The gap between the model and reality is now vast. Those in power seek "to bring reality into alignment with the model, and that usually involves coercion."

"The amount of violence that is inflicted is an indicator of how well the model is aligned with reality. That doesn't mean imminent collapse. Incorrect models can endure for long periods of time. The Soviet model shows this."

Violence, however, is ultimately an inefficient form of control. Consent, he said, is a more effective form of social control. He argued, citing John Kenneth Galbraith, that in affluent societies the relative contentment of the majorities has permitted, through free market ideology, the abandonment, impoverishment and repression of minorities, especially African-Americans. As larger and larger segments of society are forced because of declining economies to become outsiders, the use of coercion, under our current model, will probably become more widespread.
"One of the unresolved issues in social science is how does the system hold together. We have the economic model of the invisible hand, the miracle of the market, but we know it is not true, since government allocates up to 50 percent of output and income. We don't actually rely on the 'free' market for our prosperity. Even the market sector is mostly dominated by entities with large market power.

"We have this model that we are all selfish and somehow this generates the miracle of cooperation. But equilibrium is only a truism for the well-off. There is money in the bank. The car is in the drive. The shops are full. The semesters follow each other. There is an overseas conference. The world seems to be OK. But if you look the other way, look at these other people, there is a world of hardship, misery and suffering. These suffering people are not always visible to invisible-hand advocates.

"Experimental economics has, in fact, demonstrated that when people are placed in experimental situations they do not behave as individualistic maximizers. Some of them do. Some of them do not."

"Adam Smith, wrote that what drives us is not, in the end, individual selfishness but reciprocal obligation. We care about other people's good opinions. This generates a reciprocal cycle. Reciprocity is not altruistic. That part of the economic core doctrine is preserved. But if we depend on other people for our self-worth then we are not truly self-sufficient. We depend on the sympathy of others for our own well-being. Therefore, obligation to others means that we do not always seek to maximize economic advantage. Intrinsic motivations, such as obligation, compassion and public spirit, crowd out financial ones. This model can also motivate a different type of political and economic aspiration.

"The free market norm assumes a frictionless exchange which maximizes everyone's well-being. The existence of ... coercive instruments, such as the prisons and the enormous military, makes you think that the theory is not all it is purported to be. There is a gap between what it pretends to be and what it is."

Offer said that universities, which should be incubators of new and radical ideas, are being stripped of their ability to independently critique the widening gap between reality and the false models of reality that are disseminated by the elites.
"The kind of willfulness with which I can talk to you now is not guaranteed for future scholars. The academic system has discovered it is no longer necessary to provide tenure. This system is fraying. And this is deliberate. This independence is a source of trouble. When Stalin carried out his purges he purged the best and the brightest. These were an alternative source of power. And I think there is a sense in government and business that there is too much independence in academia. We need to be put in our place. The spirit of free inquiry, free expression, and to some extent free teaching, and communality is alien to the corporate and political culture, which are repressive hierarchies."
Those academics who deviate from the central core doctrines, including in economics, are finding themselves defunded. Oversight committees impose quotas on academics and insist that the work conform to what they call disciplinary norms.

"The golden age of the university was in the postwar years, especially in the 1960s," Offer said. "You saw great expansion. The university thrived under the auspices of the Cold War. But once the Cold War imperative disappears it is no longer as vital to maintain national capacity. Universities could be privatized."

"The idea of the autonomous scholar is disappearing," he said. "I am not sure many people even remember it."
(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

An Anti-Pension Billionaire Shows The Five Rules Of Deceptive Native Advertising
By David Sirota

The term "native advertising" may be new, but the principles of deception and camouflage that define it are not.

The Federal Trade Commission used to call this kind of thing "deceptive advertising" and punish the purveyors of it. Some countries called it "subliminal advertising" and outright banned it. Of late in the United States, though, it has become a seemingly new $2.4 billion business. But again, it has been around for a long time - most prominently in the public policy arena, where special interest content and ideological agitprop is routinely disguised as nonpartisan empiricism and dispassionate news.

The most recent reminder of this came from billionaire anti-pension activist John Arnold, whose foundation's goal is to convince governments "to stop promising a (retirement) benefit" to public employees.

As Pando's "Wolf of Sesame Street" investigation documented, Arnold's (still) secret deal with public television created a native advertising conduit for him to launder that political agenda through shows like PBS NewsHour. As we noted in our report, this $3.5 million project was but one tentacle of Arnold's sprawling native advertising campaign to justify cuts to retirement benefits for police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers. It is a campaign that involves everything from foundation grants to campaign contributions to state-based advocacy groups to ballot initiatives.

This week, another of Arnold's native-advertising tentacles slithered through the political world - this one a report advocating cuts to pension benefits published by one of the seemingly most dispassionate think tanks in Washington: the Brookings Institution.

It is significant not just as a part of Arnold's ongoing campaign to raid public workers' pensions, but also as a blueprint for how the most effective - and deceptive - native advertising campaigns are engineered. Indeed, the paper embodies the five fundamental rules that guarantee a native advertising campaign leads unsuspecting audiences to a native advertiser's pre-determined conclusions.

Rule 1: The native advertiser should pick a credible platform for its campaign

Fresh off of being humiliated for his public television scheme, Arnold is back in the native advertising game with a sponsored white paper from Brookings that amplifies his $10 million crusade to slash pension benefits. Citing examples from Utah, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Illinois, the paper proposes various political strategies for pension cutters to continue slashing retirement benefits in states and localities across the country.

To know this is a native advertising play, just remember that Arnold has his own eponymous foundation that could publish the paper. But he's choosing to fund another foundation to put it out as their own native content. That's no accident.

Arnold's particular choice of venue follows the first rule of effective native advertising - the rule about picking the most credible platform to reach and subsequently deceive a target audience.

In this case, Arnold is looking to coerce legislators, policy staff, political reporters and the larger universe of so-called opinion leaders. The most influential platform for that elite crowd is typically a non-profit .org or an academic .edu. Brookings was therefore a shrewd pick. Why? Because it presents itself as both. Yes, Brookings is branded as a political think tank yet also has a .edu website to give it the facade of independent, academia research.

That makes Brookings a perfectly positioned vehicle to launder Arnold's biased views on pension policy. In short, Brookings is positioned to present his views not as the plutocratic ideology of a former Enron trader whose old company destroyed pension funds. Instead, with a big grant from the Arnold Foundation, Brookings can present Arnold's agenda as staid academic research.

The decision has already paid political dividends to Arnold. A quick perusal of the news about the paper shows it being promoted as a "middle ground" Brooking Institution project - with no prominent mention of Arnold's involvement.

Rule 2: Obscure the true identity of the native advertiser and create an echo chamber

Of course, "facade" is the accurate term, because the Brookings report is anything but independent. As mentioned, it appears to be financed by Arnold as part of his half-million-dollar grant to Brookings "to analyze improvements to public pension systems." But you have to look carefully to discover this because the paper follows the second rule of native advertising - the one about obscuring the true identity of the native advertiser.

This tactic creates the "native" in native advertising in that it makes sponsored content look like any other content. In Arnold's earlier public broadcasting scandal, it meant not explicitly disclosing to PBS NewsHour viewers that Arnold was funding the show's "Pension Peril" series. It also meant not disclosing that a California ballot initiative touted by the "Pension Peril" series was being bankrolled by the series' benefactor, Arnold.

In the Brookings paper, it is the same tactic. It meant just one line on the last page acknowledging Arnold's funding of the paper. It also meant omitting mention that the same John Arnold funding the paper is also funding many of the seemingly independent individuals and organizations being touted in the paper.

For example, the Brookings report touts the pension-cutting legislation of Utah State Senator Dan Liljenquist without mentioning that Liljenquist was a paid pension-policy consultant for John Arnold's foundation. The report also trumpets the pension-cutting work of Rhode Island State Treasurer Gina Raimondo without mentioning that Raimondo's political career is being financially subsidized by Arnold.

Likewise, the Brookings report repeatedly quotes anti-pension material from the Pew Center on the States, without mentioning that Arnold is financing Pew's pension research with a $4.8 million grant. And the Brookings report promotes the work of EngageRI, but only mentions in a fine-print endnote that the anti-pension advocacy group was financed by Arnold.

These native advertising techniques manufacture an image of many disparate voices sponetaneously calling for pension cuts. Yet, in reality it is an an airtight echo chamber whereby only one voice is actually speaking.

This native advertising tactic is a sophisticated version of what's often called sockpuppetry or astroturfing. It serves to create the illusion of a political groundswell that is organic, grassroots and decentralized, even when it is precisely the opposite.

Rule 3: Forward prepackaged assumptions that serve the native advertiser's goals, and do not mention facts that undermine the native advertiser's agenda

Self-serving assumptions and strategic framing are among the most critical components of native ads. Arnold's public television series, for example, was called "The Pension Peril" - the idea being that pensions are primarily or even singularly causing a financial crisis in states.

It's the same technique in the Arnold-funded Brookings paper. By the paper's own admission, it "starts from the premise that the pension systems in many states have simply become unsustainable." Largely ignored is the data showing that while some pension funds face problems, those problems are typically small compared to other bigger budget problems.

For instance, the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that pension shortfalls are "less than 0.2 percent of projected gross state product over the next 30 years" and "even in the cases of the states with the largest shortfalls, the gap is less than 0.5 percent of projected state product." Similarly, Boston College's Center for Retirement Research reports that pension contributions "account for only 3.8 percent of state and local spending."

Summing all that data up, McClatchy Newspapers has noted that "there's simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim." Meanwhile, what pension shortfalls do exist are far smaller in total than the amount state and local governments are spending each year on subsidies and tax breaks to corporations.

These facts are nowhere to be found in the Brookings report. Instead, pension cutting politicians like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) are lauded for "successfully creating a sense of crisis around the pension system" and for pleading poverty to justify retirement benefit cuts. Amazingly, the paper does not contrast Christie pleading poverty with his handing out a record amount of corporate subsidies, signing legislation to expand those expensive corporate handouts and proposing expensive new tax cuts for the future.

Why are these and other basic facts omitted and obscured? Because the most effective native advertising doesn't dare focus on facts that might inconvenience the native advertiser. In this specific case, mentioning the context of pension shortfalls and the size of corporate subsidies would undermine Arnold's ideological crusade to cut pension benefits. Consequently, those facts are excised from the native advertisement's narrative.

Rule 4: Portray the native advertiser as an underdog and its work as heroic, all while ignoring facts to portray the native advertiser's opponents as an evil Goliath

The best native advertising flips the script. It casts the monied native advertiser as the earnest underdog David and the native advertiser's disadvantaged opponent as the big bad Goliath. The Arnold-funded Brookings paper does exactly this.

For instance, the paper asserts that "public employee unions are one of the most-if not the most-powerful political actors in state politics." Readers are expected to believe that this makes unions the omnipotent villain that needs to be thwarted by poor powerless corporations, even though that's the opposite of what the data show.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, unions have spent a combined $1.7 billion on state politics since 2000. That's a lot - but it is dwarfed by the $8.1 billion spent on state politics by the business sector in that same period. Those numbers are hardly surprising or secret - they track the same rough ratio that exists at the federal level.

Such an imbalance predictably results in a political debate that assumes public employee pensions must be cut in order to balance state budgets, all while much larger corporate subsidies to Big Business must be preserved. Yet, even as the debate is skewed that way, the official story of politics is the one the Brookings' native advertisement presents - the one that ignores data and leads the audience to believe Big Business is the politically disenfranchised player and the unions are all-powerful.

At the same time, the Brookings paper effusively celebrates "the political courage and effective leadership" of Rhode Island State Treasurer Gina Raimondo (D), who slashed public employee pension benefits at the very moment the state was spending millions on corporate handouts.

In this bold spectacle of innovative mythmaking, Brookings' native advertisement asks its audience to believe it takes courage for a politician to do the bidding of corporations, Wall Street firms and billionaires like John Arnold who dominate American politics and financially support her political career. It further asks the audience to believe it is courageous for an elected official to move retirees' money into high fee hedge funds and other schemes that lose taxpayer money but enrich the financial industry that is funding that official's campaigns. Most amazingly, it asks the audience to believe it is courageous for that elected official to divert public money into risky investments that potentially personally enrich the elected official herself.

With such up-is-down myth making, Brookings has created a powerful native advertisement for the ages.

Rule 5: Depict the native advertiser's goals as the only possible choice

With states and cities both cutting taxes and spending so much on handouts to corporations, there's clearly plenty of public money available to deal with a 30-year $1.38 trillion pension shortfall. That's a gap of about $46 billion a year - far less than the $80 billion a year the New York Times reports that states and cities are spending every year on subsidies to companies.

But, then, eliminating those subsidies or raising taxes on the rich and using the new resources to meet pension obligations is probably not what Big Business or billionaires like John Arnold want. And so Brookings loyally follows the fifth and final rule of native advertisement - it simply presents the plutocrats' agenda as the only course of action.

Specifically, the Brookings paper declares that "while it is possible to raise taxes to pay off pension obligations, this appears politically impossible."

Not surprisingly, Brookings ignores polls showing the public wants taxes raised on the rich. Also not surprising is the fact that Brookings offers no actual proof that this raising taxes is "politically impossible." It just throws out the assertion as if it is an unquestioned truism, facts be damned. When sculpted most effectively, those fact-free assertions present the native advertiser's goals as the one and only path forward.

* * * *

You may love John Arnold's crusade to slash the retirement benefits of police officers, firefighers, teachers and other public workers. You may hate it. Either way, what's clear from his public broadcasting efforts, his Brookings initiative and his other efforts is that he is a virtuoso of native advertising.

That doesn't make him unique. After all, many political powerbrokers, media organizations and interest groups are right now developing ever-more-deceptive ways to camouflage political and commercial messages as dispassionate analysis and news. But as the Brookings paper proves, it does mean Arnold has so mastered the dark arts of native advertising that trillions of dollars of retirement funds are threatened - and relatively few are even paying attention to the man behind the curtain.
(c) 2014 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

The Inflation Obsession
By Paul Krugman

Recently the Federal Reserve released transcripts of its monetary policy meetings during the fateful year of 2008. And, boy, are they discouraging reading.

Partly that's because Fed officials come across as essentially clueless about the gathering economic storm. But we knew that already. What's really striking is the extent to which they were obsessed with the wrong thing. The economy was plunging, yet all many people at the Fed wanted to talk about was inflation.

Matthew O'Brien at The Atlantic has done the math. In August 2008 there were 322 mentions of inflation, versus only 28 of unemployment and 19 of systemic risks or crises. In the meeting on Sept. 16, 2008 - the day after Lehman fell! - there were 129 mentions of inflation versus 26 mentions of unemployment and only four of systemic risks or crises.

Historians of the Great Depression have long marveled at the folly of policy discussion at the time. For example, the Bank of England, faced with a devastating deflationary spiral, kept obsessing over the imagined threat of inflation. As the economist Ralph Hawtrey famously observed, "That was to cry 'Fire, fire!' in Noah's flood." But it turns out that modern monetary officials facing financial crisis were just as obsessed with the wrong thing as their predecessors three generations before.

And it wasn't just a bad call in 2008. Much supposedly informed opinion has remained fixated on the supposed threat of rising prices despite being wrong again and again. If you spent the last five years watching CNBC, or reading the Wall Street Journal opinion pages, or for that matter listening to prominent conservative economists, you lived in a constant state of alarm over runaway inflation, which was coming any day now. It never did.

What accounts for inflation obsession? One answer is that obsessives failed to distinguish between underlying inflation and short-term fluctuations in the headline number, which are mainly driven by volatile energy and food prices. Gasoline prices, in particular, strongly influence inflation in any given year, and dire warnings are heard whenever prices rise at the pump; yet such blips say nothing at all about future inflation.

They also failed to understand that printing money in a depressed economy isn't inflationary. I could have told them that, and in fact I did. But maybe there was some excuse for not grasping this point in 2008 or early 2009.

The point, however, is that inflation obsession has persisted, year after year, even as events have refuted its supposed justifications. And this tells us that something more than bad analysis is at work. At a fundamental level, it's political.

This is fairly obvious if you look at who the inflation obsessives are. While a few conservatives believe that the Fed should be doing more, not less, they have little if any real influence. The overall picture is that most conservatives are inflation obsessives, and nearly all inflation obsessives are conservative.

Why is this the case? In part it reflects the belief that the government should never seek to mitigate economic pain, because the private sector always knows best. Back in the 1930s, Austrian economists like Friedrich Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter inveighed against any effort to fight the depression with easy money; to do so, warned Schumpeter, would be to leave "the work of depressions undone." Modern conservatives are generally less open about the harshness of their view, but it's pretty much the same.

The flip side of this antigovernment attitude is the conviction that any attempt to boost the economy, whether fiscal or monetary, must produce disastrous results - Zimbabwe, here we come! And this conviction is so strong that it persists no matter how wrong it has been, year after year.

Finally, all this ties in with a predilection for acting tough and inflicting punishment whatever the economic conditions. The British journalist William Keegan once described this as "sado-monetarism," and it's very much alive today.

Does any of this matter? It's true that the Fed hasn't surrendered to the sado-monetarists. Notably, it didn't panic in 2011, when another blip in gasoline prices briefly raised the headline rate of inflation, and Republicans began inveighing against the "debasement" of the dollar.

But I'd argue that the clamor from inflation obsessives has intimidated the Fed, which might otherwise have done more. And it has also been part of a general climate of opposition to anything that might address our continuing jobs crisis.

As I suggested, we used to marvel at the wrongheadedness of policy makers during the Great Depression. But when the Great Recession struck, and we were given a chance to do better, we ended up repeating all the same mistakes.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
~~~ James Madison

Breaches of international law are a serious matter...
when some country other than the United States is accused.

Heard The One About Obama Denouncing A Breach Of International Law?
By Norman Solomon

International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a "breach of international law." Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is "in direct, overt violation of international law."

Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.

Fifty years ago, another former law professor, Senator Wayne Morse, condemned such arrogance of power. "I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right," Morse said on national TV in 1964. "And that's the American policy in Southeast Asia-just as unsound when we do it as when Russia does it."

Today, Uncle Sam continues to preen as the globe's big sheriff on the side of international law even while functioning as the world's biggest outlaw.

Rather than striving for an evenhanded assessment of how "international law" has become so much coin of the hypocrisy realm, mainline U.S. media are now transfixed with Kremlin villainy.

On Sunday night, the top of the New York Times home page reported: "Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has pursued his strategy with subterfuge, propaganda and brazen military threat, taking aim as much at the United States and Europe as Ukraine itself." That was news coverage.

Following close behind, a Times editorial appeared in print Monday morning, headlined "Russia's Aggression," condemning "Putin's cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea." The liberal newspaper's editorial board said that the United States and the European Union "must make clear to him that he has stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior."

Such demands are righteous-but lack integrity and credibility when the same standards are not applied to President Obama, whose continuation of the Bush "war on terror" under revamped rhetoric has bypassed international law as well as "civilized behavior."

In these circumstances, major U.S. media coverage rarely extends to delving into deviational irony or spotlighting White House hypocrisy. Yet it's not as if large media outlets have entirely excluded key information and tough criticism.

For instance, last October the McClatchy news service reported that "the Obama administration violated international law with top-secret targeted-killing operations that claimed dozens of civilian lives in Yemen and Pakistan," according to reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Last week, just before Obama leapt to high dudgeon with condemnation of Putin for his "breach of international law," the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed piece that provided illuminating context for such presidential righteousness.

"Despite the president's insistence on placing limits on war, and on the defense budget, his brand of warfare has helped lay the basis for a permanent state of global warfare via 'low footprint' drone campaigns and special forces operations aimed at an ever-morphing enemy usually identified as some form of Al Qaeda," wrote Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University's law school.

Greenberg went on to indicate the scope of the U.S. government's ongoing contempt for international law: "According to Senator Lindsey Graham(R-S.C.), the Obama administration has killed 4,700 individuals in numerous countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Obama has successfully embedded the process of drone killings into the executive branch in such a way that any future president will inherit it, along with the White House 'kill list' and its 'terror Tuesday' meetings. Unbounded global war is now part of what it means to be president."

But especially in times of crisis, as with the current Ukraine situation, such inconvenient contradictions go out the mass-media window. What remains is an Orwellian baseline, melding conformist ideology and nationalism into red-white-and-blue doublethink.
(c) 2014 Norman Solomon is co- founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

The Ocean Is Coming
By William Rivers Pitt

It occurs to me that I spend an inordinate amount of time in this space pointing out the ludicrous, the extreme and the absurd in America. Doing so is just slightly less fun than emergency root canal during a national novocaine shortage. To be fair, however, there's a hell of a lot to talk about in that particular vein, the fodder for these stories are the people running the country, and not nearly enough people in a position to inform the public are talking about it, so I do it.

When a Virginia GOP senator labels all women as incubators - "some refer to them as mothers," he said - someone needs to shine a light.

When 65 miles of the Mississippi River gets shut down due to a massive oil spill, including the port of New Orleans, when that causes public drinking water intakes to be shuttered, and no bit of it makes the national news, someone needs to say it happened.

When the Tokyo Electric Power Company, a.k.a. Tepco, announces that radiation levels at the disaster zone formerly known as the Fukushima nuclear power plant are being "significantly undercounted," and nary a word is said about it in the "mainstream" news, someone needs to put the word out.

These serial astonishments make for easy copy, and pointing them out is important for no other reason than they actually and truly fa-chrissakes happened, and people need to know...but merely pointing at absurdity for the sake of exposure changes nothing to the good, and turns politics into just another broadcast of a car chase that ends in a messy wreck.


I believe the minimum wage should be somewhere between $15 and $20 an hour, and that all the so-called business "leaders" crowing against any raise to that wage are self-destructive idiots. Commerce needs funds in the hands of consumers to survive and thrive, and consumers today are barely handling rent. Put more money in the worker's pocket, and he will spend some of it at your store, because he can. The minimum wage has been stagnant for 30 years, and is due for a right and proper boost. If people don't have money, your store won't sell any goods. Get out of your own way and pay your people, so they can have money to spend on what you're selling. This strikes me as simple arithmetic.

I believe the weather is going crazy because there is an enormous amount of moisture in the atmosphere due to the ongoing collapse of the Arctic ecosystem. More water in the atmosphere leads to fiercer storms and higher tides, and every major city on the coast is under dire threat. The ocean is coming, higher and higher each year, so we can either run for high ground, or we can adjust our behavior. The ocean is coming, and it brooks no argument. It is stronger than all of us, and will take what it pleases.

I believe the Keystone XL pipeline, the drought-causing national practice of fracking, the coal-oriented water disasters in West Virginia and North Carolina, the serial poison spills nationwide, the oil train derailments, and the entire practice of allowing the fossil fuels industry to write its own regulations so as to do as it pleases, are collectively a suicide pact that I did not sign up for. The ocean is coming, unless we find a better way.

I believe President Obama, who talks about the environment while pushing the Keystone pipeline, who talks about economic inequality while demanding fast-track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, is a Hall-of-Fame worthy bullshit artist. I believe the sooner people see this truth for what it is, the better. He is not your friend. He is selling you out.

I believe the 50% of eligible American voters who can't be bothered to turn out one Tuesday every two years should be ashamed of themselves, because this is a good country, but if that goodness doesn't show up at the polls, we wind up in this ditch with a bunch of self-satisfied non-voters complaining about the mess we're in. Decisions are made by those who show up, and lately, the small minority of hateful nutbags showing up become a large majority because they're the only ones pulling the lever.

And that's for openers.

These things are happening nationally, but they are also happening locally, right in your back yard. These are your fights, in your communities, involving your air and drinking water and basic rights. The ocean is coming, boys and girls, and it will sweep us all away with a flick of its finger - rich and poor, powerful and powerless alike - unless we figure out a few home truths at speed and make serial changes to the way we operate on this small planet.

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

The Dead Letter Office...

Butch greats his Lt Governor with a Corpo-rat salute.

Heil Obama,

Dear Drehzahlregler Otter,

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 defense of factory farms, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Wisconsin Jobs Now and the Overpass Light Brigade call for action on the minimum wage increase.

The Real Job Killers
By Robert Reich

House Speaker John Boehner says raising the minimum wage is "bad policy" because it will cause job losses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase would be a job killer. Republicans and the Chamber also say unions are job killers, workplace safety regulations are job killers, environmental regulations are job killers, and the Affordable Care Act is a job killer. The California Chamber of Commerce even publishes an annual list of "job killers," including almost any measures that lift wages or protect workers and the environment.

Most of this is bunk.

When in 1996 I recommended the minimum wage be raised, Republicans and the Chamber screamed it would "kill jobs." In fact, in the four years after it was raised, the U.S. economy created more jobs than were ever created in any four-year period.

For one thing, a higher minimum wage doesn't necessarily increase business costs. It draws more job applicants into the labor market, giving employers more choice of whom to hire. As a result, employers often get more reliable workers who remain longer - thereby saving employers at least as much money as they spend on higher wages.

A higher wage can also help build employee morale, resulting in better performance. Gap, America's largest clothing retailer, recently announced it would boost its hourly wage to $10. Wall Street approved. "You treat people well, they'll treat your customers well," said Dorothy Lakner, a Wall Street analyst. "Gap had a strong year last year compared to a lot of their peers. That sends a pretty strong message to employees that, 'we had a good year, but you're going to be rewarded too.'"

Even when raising the minimum wage - or bargaining for higher wages and better working conditions, or requiring businesses to provide safer workplaces or a cleaner environment - increases the cost of business, this doesn't necessarily kill jobs.

Most companies today can easily absorb such costs without reducing payrolls. Corporate profits now account for the largest percentage of the economy on record. Large companies are sitting on more than $1.5 trillion in cash they don't even know what to do with. Many are using their cash to buy back their own shares of stock - artificially increasing share value by reducing the number of shares traded on the market.

Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year buying back shares of its own stock - a move that papered over its falling profits. Had it used that money on wages instead, it could have given its workers a raise from around $9 an hour to almost $15. Arguably, that would have been a better use of the money over the long-term - not only improving worker loyalty and morale but also giving workers enough to buy more goods from Walmart (reminiscent of Henry Ford's pay strategy a century ago).

There's also a deeper issue here. Even assuming some of these measures might cause some job losses, does that mean we shouldn't proceed with them?

Americans need jobs, but we also need minimally decent jobs. The nation could create millions of jobs tomorrow if we eliminated the minimum wage altogether and allowed employers to pay workers $1 an hour or less. But do we really want to do that?

Likewise, America could create lots of jobs if all health and safety regulations were repealed, but that would subject millions of workers to severe illness and injury.

Lots of jobs could be added if all environmental rules were eliminated, but that would result in the kind of air and water pollution that many people in poor nations have to contend with daily.

If the Affordable Care Act were repealed, hundreds of thousands of Americans would have to go back to working at jobs they don't want but feel compelled to do in order to get health insurance.

We'd create jobs, but not progress. Progress requires creating more jobs that pay well, are safe, sustain the environment, and provide a modicum of security. If seeking to achieve a minimum level of decency ends up "killing" some jobs, then maybe those aren't the kind of jobs we ought to try to preserve in the first place.

Finally, it's important to remember the real source of job creation. Businesses hire more workers only when they have more customers. When they have fewer customers, they lay off workers. So the real job creators are consumers with enough money to buy.

Even Walmart may be starting to understand this. The company is "looking at" whether to support a minimum wage increase. David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, noted that such a move would increase the company's payroll costs but would also put more money in the pockets of some of Walmart's customers.

In other words, forget what you're hearing from the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce. The real job killers in America are lousy jobs at lousy wages.
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

President Barack Obama discusses Ukraine during a meeting with
members of his National Security Staff in the Oval Office, Feb. 28, 2014.

Ukraine: One 'Regime Change' Too Many?
By Ray McGovern

Is "regime change" in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative "regime changers" of Official Washington and their sophomoric "responsibility-to-protect" (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has given an unmistakable "yes" to those questions - in deeds, not words. His message is clear: "Back off our near-frontier!"

Moscow announced on Saturday that Russia's parliament has approved Putin's request for permission to use Russia's armed forces "on the territory of the Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country."

Putin described this move as necessary to protect ethnic Russians and military personnel stationed in Crimea in southern Ukraine, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet and other key military installations are located. But there is no indication that the Russian parliament has restricted the use of Russian armed forces to the Crimea.

Unless Obama is completely bereft of advisers who know something about Russia, it should have been a "known-known" (pardon the Rumsfeldian mal mot) that the Russians would react this way to a putsch removing Yanukovich. It would have been a no-brainer that Russia would use military force, if necessary, to counter attempts to use economic enticement and subversive incitement to slide Ukraine into the orbit of the West and eventually NATO.

This was all the more predictable in the case of Ukraine, where Putin - although the bete noire in corporate Western media - holds very high strategic cards geographically, militarily, economically and politically.

Unlike 'Prague Spring' 1968

Moscow's advantage was not nearly as clear during the short-lived "Prague Spring" of 1968 when knee-jerk, non-thinking euphoria reigned in Washington and West European capitals. The cognoscenti were, by and large, smugly convinced that reformer Alexander Dubcek could break Czechoslovakia away from the U.S.S.R.'s embrace and still keep the Russian bear at bay.

My CIA analyst portfolio at the time included Soviet policy toward Eastern Europe, and I was amazed to see analysts of Eastern Europe caught up in the euphoria that typically ended with, "And the Soviets can't do a damned thing about it!"

That summer a new posting found me advising Radio Free Europe Director Ralph Walter who, virtually alone among his similarly euphoric colleagues, shared my view that Russian tanks would inevitably roll onto Prague's Wenceslaus Square, which they did in late August.

Past is not always prologue. But it is easy for me to imagine the Russian Army cartographic agency busily preparing maps of the best routes for tanks into Independence Square in Kiev, and that before too many months have gone by, Russian tank commanders may be given orders to invade, if those stoking the fires of violent dissent in the western parts of Ukraine keep pushing too far.

That said, Putin has many other cards to play and time to play them. These include sitting back and doing nothing, cutting off Russia's subsidies to Ukraine, making it ever more difficult for Yanukovich's successors to cope with the harsh realities. And Moscow has ways to remind the rest of Europe of its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

Another Interference

There is one huge difference between Prague in 1968 and Kiev 2014. The "Prague Spring" revolution led by Dubcek enjoyed such widespread spontaneous popular support that it was difficult for Russian leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Aleksey Kosygin to argue plausibly that it was spurred by subversion from the West.

Not so 45-plus years later. In early February, as violent protests raged in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the White House professed neutrality, U.S. State Department officials were, in the words of NYU professor emeritus of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, "plotting a coup d'etat against the elected president of Ukraine."

We know that thanks to neocon prima donna Victoria Nuland, now Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, who seemed intent on giving new dimension to the "cookie-pushing" role of U.S. diplomats. Recall the photo showing Nuland in a metaphor of over-reach, as she reached deep into a large plastic bag to give each anti-government demonstrator on the square a cookie before the putsch.

More important, recall her amateurish, boorish use of an open telephone to plot regime change in Ukraine with a fellow neocon, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Crass U.S. interference in Ukrainian affairs can be seen (actually, better, heard) in an intercepted conversation posted on YouTube on Feb. 4.

Yikes! It's Yats!

Nuland was recorded as saying: "Yats is the guy. He's got the economic experience, the governing experience. He's the guy you know. ... Yats will need all the help he can get to stave off collapse in the ex-Soviet state. He has warned there is an urgent need for unpopular cutting of subsidies and social payments before Ukraine can improve."

And guess what. The stopgap government formed after the coup designated Nuland's guy Yats, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, prime minister! What luck! Yats is 39 and has served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister. And, as designated pinch-hitter-prime-minister, he has already talked about the overriding need for "responsible government," one willing to commit "political suicide," as he put it, by taking unpopular social measures.

U.S. meddling has been so obvious that at President Barack Obama's hastily scheduled Friday press conference on Ukraine, Yats's name seemed to get stuck in Obama's throat. Toward the end of his scripted remarks, which he read verbatim, the President said: "Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister [pause] - the prime minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government's efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine."

Obama doesn't usually stumble like that - especially when reading a text, and is normally quite good at pronouncing foreign names. Perhaps he worried that one of the White House stenographic corps might shout out, "You mean our man, Yats?" Obama departed right after reading his prepared remarks, leaving no opportunity for such an outburst.

Western media was abuzz with the big question: Will the Russians apply military force? The answer came quickly, though President Obama chose the subjunctive mood in addressing the question on Friday.

Throwing Down a Hanky

There was a surreal quality to President Obama's remarks, several hours after Russian (or pro-Russian) troops took control of key airports and other key installations in the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, and home to a large Russian naval base and other key Russian military installations.

Obama referred merely to "reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine" and warned piously that "any violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing."

That Obama chose the subjunctive mood - when the indicative was, well, indicated - will not be lost on the Russians. Here was Obama, in his typically lawyerly way, trying to square the circle, giving a sop to his administration's neocon holdovers and R2P courtiers, with a Milquetoasty expression of support for the new-Nuland-approved government (citing Biden's assurances to old whatshisname/yatshisname).

While Obama stuck to the subjunctive tense, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk appealed to Russia to recall its forces and "stop provoking civil and military resistance in Ukraine."

Obama's comments seemed almost designed to sound condescending - paternalistic, even - to the Russians. Already into his second paragraph of his scripted remarks, the President took a line larded with words likely to be regarded as a gratuitous insult by Moscow, post-putsch.

"We've made clear that they [Russian officials] can be part of an international community's effort to support the stability of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of the people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia's interest."

By now, Russian President Vladimir Putin is accustomed to Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, et al. telling the Kremlin where its interests lie, and I am sure he is appropriately grateful. Putin is likely to read more significance into these words of Obama:

"The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine ... and we will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies."
Fissures in Atlantic Alliance

There are bound to be fissures in the international community and in the Western alliance on whether further provocation in Ukraine is advisable. Many countries have much to lose if Moscow uses its considerable economic leverage over natural gas supplies, for example.

And, aspiring diplomat though she may be, Victoria Nuland presumably has not endeared herself to the EC by her expressed "Fuck the EC" attitude.

Aside from the most servile allies of the U.S. there may be a growing caucus of Europeans who would like to return the compliment to Nuland. After all does anyone other than the most extreme neocon ideologue think that instigating a civil war on the border of nuclear-armed Russia is a good idea? Or that it makes sense to dump another economic basket case, which Ukraine surely is, on the EU's doorstep while it's still struggling to get its own economic house in order?

Europe has other reasons to feel annoyed about the overreach of U.S. power and arrogance. The NSA spying revelations - that continue, just like the eavesdropping itself does - seem to have done some permanent damage to transatlantic relationships.

In any case, Obama presumably knows by now that he pleased no one on Friday by reading that flaccid statement on Ukraine. And, more generally, the sooner he realizes that - without doing dumb and costly things - he can placate neither the neocons nor the R2P folks (naively well meaning though the latter may be), the better for everyone.

In sum, the Nulands of this world have bit off far more than they can chew; they need to be reined in before they cause even more dangerous harm. Broader issues than Ukraine are at stake. Like it or not, the United States can benefit from a cooperative relationship with Putin's Russia - the kind of relationship that caused Putin to see merit last summer in pulling Obama's chestnuts out of the fire on Syria, for example, and in helping address thorny issues with Iran.
(c) 2014 Ray McGovern served as a CIA analyst for 27 years - from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. During the early 1980s, he was one of the writers/editors of the President's Daily Brief and briefed it one- on- one to the president's most senior advisers. He also chaired National Intelligence Estimates. In January 2003, he and four former colleagues founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ John Deering ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

Arizona Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill: 'Let's Focus on Discriminating Against Mexicans'
By Andy Borowitz

PHOENIX (The Borowitz Report)-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial anti-gay bill last night, telling reporters, "Let's focus on discriminating against Mexicans.

Governor Brewer said that while "the intentions behind this bill were obviously excellent," she was worried that the bill "would distract us from our main mission of harassing, tormenting, and otherwise making life miserable for Mexicans.

Although Governor Brewer said that she could foresee a time when Arizona might "branch out into discriminating against gays," the decision to veto the anti-gay bill in the name of anti-immigrant pride was not difficult: "Arizona needs to stick to what it does best."
(c) 2014 Andy Borowitz

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