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In This Edition

Noam Chomsky returns with a query, "Can Civilization Survive Capitalism?"

Uri Avnery asks, "The Third Intifada?"

Glen Ford remembers, "Hugo Chavez: New World Rising."

Greg Palast wants to know, "How Do You Steal a Dream?"

Jim Hightower wonders, "The New Boom In Mergers: A Boom For Whom?"

Robert Scheer introduces some, "Whiny Billionaires In Need Of Sequestration."

James Donahue discovers, "Agriculture "Gag-Laws" Covering Up Factory Farm Horrors."

John Nichols questions, "If Switzerland Can Crack Down On CEOs, Why Not The US?"

Norman Solomon does, "Gun "Background Check" On Pentagon."

Robert Reich considers, "Sequestration Nation, And Remembering Robert Kennedy."

Paul Krugman finds Rethuglicans, "Mooching Off Medicaid."

Dean Baker concludes, "The Sequester Is President Obama's Fault."

Amy Goodman examines, "Rand Paul's Filibuster Of John Brennan."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges says, "We Are Bradley Manning."

Adam Keller watches, "A Carnival Parade, A Funeral And The Revolving Door Of Media."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "Pope Benedict Stops By Prayer Writers' Room To Say Goodbye" but first Uncle Ernie wants to know, "Why Am I Not Surprised?"

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Jerry Holbert, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Andy Singer, Jim Morin, Patrick Semansky, L.M. Otero, Stephen Crowley, Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons, Truthdig, The New York Times, United Press International, 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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Why Am I Not Surprised?
By Ernest Stewart

"The President continues to surprise people, so I am not surprised to be surprised." ~~~ Dick Cheney

"... the simplest hypothesis proposed as an explanation of phenomena is more likely to be the true one than is any other available hypothesis, that its predictions are more likely to be true than those of any other available hypothesis, and that it is an ultimate a priori epistemic principle that simplicity is evidence for truth." ~~~ Richard Swinburne

"There may never be a targeted killing of a US citizen on US soil and the question of whether a US citizen could be targeted and killed on US soil may remain a hypothetical question for some time, but the fact that the Obama administration has told a US senator there is a circumstance where the government could target and kill someone, who is a citizen, on US soil without charge or trial is a stark example of the imperial presidency. It is an example of how there is, for the most power, no power to violate civil liberties or human rights the president won't claim in order to respond to "threats" however it chooses." ~~~ Kevin Gostzola

You know, the landlord rang my front door bell.
I let it ring for a long, long spell.
I went to the window,
I peeped through the blind,
And asked him to tell me what's on his mind.
He said, Money, honey.
Money, honey.
Money, honey, if you want to get along with me.
Money Honey ~~~ Elvis Presley

Why am I not surprised? I keep reminding myself that the Demoncrats won the last federal election. I mean, Obama was reelected; the Dems picked up seats in both the Senate and House, right? Romney and the Rethuglicans financial plans were thoroughly rejected, as was the idea of sequester and Euro-styled economic destruction by the people, were they not? Did that not happen just last November? Weren't the people clear about these thing? But if you take a look around today, the Rethuglicans seem to be the ones in power -- all of their economic programs are either in play or will be brought on line in the next month or two!

Sure, Barry is on their side, and has been since he first came to the Senate, bending over backwards for them ever since; so, I'm not surprised. The game is in play, and will continue to unfold, no matter what's said or by whom down in foggy bottom; the rich will get richer; the poor will get poorer; the hungry hungrier; the sick sicker, and the elderly -- all of the above, except for richer! There's been a lot of talk from both sides about how this won't last; the people will rise up and put a stop to this. They'll come to their senses and pass something a little more balanced, won't they? I've got news for you; they won't; and after watching the last 12 years or so, most people just stood by and did nothing while our country and its laws were dismantled right before their eyes; ergo, I'm not surprised that they're now doing nothing. Like the Sunday Christian who becomes a capitalist the other six days of the week, the average voter thinks their job is done once they walk outside that booth. I'm not surprised!

It's taken the 1% four centuries to finally get complete control of this country; although they've been in partial control long before the revolution. Now it's finally come together where they control the law and they are the law -- like our favorite West Taxes prairie monkey once bemoaned, "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it's just a goddamned piece of paper!" And our current fuhrer being a "Constitutional Schoolar" knows how worthless it really is. Does this surprise me? Nope, not in the least bit!

Like with the Sequester, Barry needs some Rethuglican cover with what is going to happen next, when it comes to the budget. Will they pass a budget; sure; but maybe not at first; there'll be a lot of huffing and puffing and some more tax breaks for the rich, all kinds of things thrown into the budget at the last minute, and deeper cuts in programs for the poor, sick, elderly, and hungry. That's the way most budgets have been passed since Ray-Guns made the scene; so am I surprised by this? No, let's not see the same hands all the time... HELL NO, I'm not surprised! Are you?

In Other News

I ran across some puzzlers this week that got me to thinking; yes, I know; that can be quite dangerous! For example, there is at least $865 billion being cut from the budget by the Sequester over the next ten years (with some saying it could go over $1.2 trillion). This is, by a funny circumstance, the exact amount of money being funneled to the banksters during the next ten years. No doubt just a coincidence, huh?

Another puzzler was when they signed off on New Year's to fund the US government until the end of the month; you remember that song and dance; you may recall that they slipped a mere $16 billion in the package to help US companies send our jobs overseas! Meanwhile, by hook and by crook, the city of Detroit is about to have all its elected officials fired and replaced by one of Emperor Snyder's Gualtliters, because it's $400 million in debt; that $16 billion could have taken 40 Detroits out of the red and back into the black; but there was no help for Detroit that could have used those jobs. Hmmmm? Speaking of black, it must be another coincidence that the Emperor is only taking over black, democratically-controlled cities to help them out; and Detroit is the biggest prize of all!

If you don't buy that bullshit then consider Occam's Razor; you remember that from math right? To paraphrase Occam's Razor, simply put:
"All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."

Or more to the point:
"The best explanation is the one that makes the fewest assumptions after being stripped of any elements not pertaining to the phenomenon in question."

Now apply that to our current phenomena, along with that old stand-bye: "Follow the money trail!" The conclusion that I came to was that our fearless leaders, whether state or federal, whether Rethuglicans or Demoncrats, have hit on some new smoke-and-mirror tricks to steal what belongs to the people and take it for themselves and their 1% masters. Is there something wrong with my logic, America; or have you come to the same conclusion, too? So, in future, you just take those two thoughts: "Occam's Razor" and "Follow the dough;" and you'll see the truth right there in front of your face in no time at all!

And Finally

I see that Eric Holder has come out of the closet again, showing his true side and nature. Eric said in a letter to Rand Paul that Obama could kill US citizens, in America without due process. I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs.
Eric says Barry can kill whomever he wants, wherever he wants, without a trial by a jury of your peers, without any charges being laid, any time he wants to, without any oversight -- in direct violation of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights!

This was in a letter sent to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) by Holder and disclosed Tuesday as part of a deal reached between the White House and members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that allowed John Brennan, nominated to head the CIA, to have his confirmation fast-tracked to the full Senate for a vote. Eric said in part:
"It is possible [...] to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001."

Though Holder stipulates that such authority would not "likely" occur, even his hypothetical declaration that the government could assassinate a suspected American citizen without due process should send chills down your spine, America. The argument's been we only kill US citizens overseas because we can't capture them and bring them to trial, which doesn't hold water when they're right down the block from the police and courts! Whose responsible for collateral damage when that day care is accidentally hit when taking out the target? When you pick up your 5-year old who's been torn in two; who ya gonna call? Will Barry even say he's sorry? He never has for murdering children accidentally overseas!

Therefore, US Attorney General Eric Holder wins this week's "Vidkun Quisling Award.

Keepin' On

Every now and again, I feel myself wondering why I'm still doing this after all these years. I flash back on school and why I dropped out and became a DJ. The truth about our plight had become crystal clear and it was a bitch. What LBJ didn't teach me, Milhous did and where in the hell was Walt Disney now that I really needed him and his load of bullshit!

Then I flash back to reality and remember that nothing has changed, except it's gotten a whole lot worse; and unlike the radical daze of my youth, there seems to be no revolt in the populace -- just a wholesale acceptance of our coming doom. C'est la Guerre, mes amis!

Or, you can get mad as hell and swear that you're not going to take it anymore. Come and join us in our righteous fight to restore the old Republic. Please send us whatever you can, whenever you can; and we'll keep exposing the new-told lies, and fight the good fight, for you, the people!


01-06-1944 ~ 03-01-2013
Thanks for the film!

02-19-1940 ~ 03-03-2013
Thanks for the songs!

07-28-1954 ~ 03-05-2013
Thanks for the help!

12-19-1944 ~ 03-06-2013
Thanks for the jams!


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


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

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

Can Civilization Survive Capitalism?
Capitalism as it exists today is radically incompatible with democracy.
By Noam Chomsky

There is "capitalism" and then there is "really existing capitalism."

The term "capitalism" is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the "too-big-to-fail" government insurance policy for banks.

The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book "Digital

Disconnect." "Capitalism" is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support - both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.

Some might even use the term "capitalism" to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America's leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Dewey called for workers to be "masters of their own industrial fate" and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain "the shadow cast on society by big business."

The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority "down below" has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.

There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy - RECD for short - the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.

It seems to me unlikely that civilization can survive RECD and the sharply attenuated democracy that goes along with it. But could functioning democracy make a difference?

Let's keep to the most critical immediate problem that civilization faces: environmental catastrophe. Policies and public attitudes diverge sharply, as is often the case under RECD. The nature of the gap is examined in several articles in the current issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Researcher Kelly Sims Gallagher finds that "One hundred and nine countries have enacted some form of policy regarding renewable power, and 118 countries have set targets for renewable energy. In contrast, the United States has not adopted any consistent and stable set of policies at the national level to foster the use of renewable energy."

It is not public opinion that drives American policy off the international spectrum. Quite the opposite. Opinion is much closer to the global norm than the U.S. government's policies reflect, and much more supportive of actions needed to confront the likely environmental disaster predicted by an overwhelming scientific consensus - and one that's not too far off; affecting the lives of our grandchildren, very likely.

As Jon A. Krosnick and Bo MacInnis report in Daedalus: "Huge majorities have favored steps by the federal government to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated when utilities produce electricity. In 2006, 86 percent of respondents favored requiring utilities, or encouraging them with tax breaks, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Also in that year, 87 percent favored tax breaks for utilities that produce more electricity from water, wind or sunlight." These majorities were maintained between 2006 and 2010 and shrank somewhat after that.

The fact that the public is influenced by science is deeply troubling to those who dominate the economy and state policy.

One current illustration of their concern is the "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act" proposed to state legislatures by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded lobby that designs legislation to serve the needs of the corporate sector and extreme wealth.

The ALEC Act mandates "balanced teaching" of climate science in K-12 classrooms. "Balanced teaching" is a code phrase that refers to teaching climate-change denial, to "balance" mainstream climate science. It is analogous to the "balanced teaching" advocated by creationists to enable the teaching of "creation science" in public schools. Legislation based on ALEC models has already been introduced in several states.

Of course, all of this is dressed up in rhetoric about teaching critical thinking - a fine idea, no doubt, but it's easy to think up far better examples than an issue that threatens our survival and has been selected because of its importance in terms of corporate profits.

Media reports commonly present a controversy between two sides on climate change.

One side consists of the overwhelming majority of scientists, the world's major national academies of science, the professional science journals and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

They agree that global warming is taking place, that there is a substantial human component, that the situation is serious and perhaps dire, and that very soon, maybe within decades, the world might reach a tipping point where the process will escalate sharply and will be irreversible, with severe social and economic effects. It is rare to find such consensus on complex scientific issues.

The other side consists of skeptics, including a few respected scientists who caution that much is unknown - which means that things might not be as bad as thought, or they might be worse.

Omitted from the contrived debate is a much larger group of skeptics: highly regarded climate scientists who see the IPCC's regular reports as much too conservative. And these scientists have repeatedly been proven correct, unfortunately.

The propaganda campaign has apparently had some effect on U.S. public opinion, which is more skeptical than the global norm. But the effect is not significant enough to satisfy the masters. That is presumably why sectors of the corporate world are launching their attack on the educational system, in an effort to counter the public's dangerous tendency to pay attention to the conclusions of scientific research.

At the Republican National Committee's Winter Meeting a few weeks ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned the leadership that "We must stop being the stupid party ... We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters."

Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.

These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.

The official doctrines suffer from a number of familiar "market inefficiencies," among them the failure to take into account the effects on others in market transactions. The consequences of these "externalities" can be substantial. The current financial crisis is an illustration. It is partly traceable to the major banks and investment firms' ignoring "systemic risk" - the possibility that the whole system would collapse - when they undertook risky transactions.

Environmental catastrophe is far more serious: The externality that is being ignored is the fate of the species. And there is nowhere to run, cap in hand, for a bailout.

In future, historians (if there are any) will look back on this curious spectacle taking shape in the early 21st century. For the first time in human history, humans are facing the significant prospect of severe calamity as a result of their actions - actions that are battering our prospects of decent survival.

Those historians will observe that the richest and most powerful country in history, which enjoys incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster. Leading the effort to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life are the so-called "primitive" societies: First Nations, tribal, indigenous, aboriginal.

The countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.

Thus Ecuador, with its large indigenous population, is seeking aid from the rich countries to allow it to keep its substantial oil reserves underground, where they should be.

Meanwhile the U.S. and Canada are seeking to burn fossil fuels, including the extremely dangerous Canadian tar sands, and to do so as quickly and fully as possible, while they hail the wonders of a century of (largely meaningless) energy independence without a side glance at what the world might look like after this extravagant commitment to self-destruction.

This observation generalizes: Throughout the world, indigenous societies are struggling to protect what they sometimes call "the rights of nature," while the civilized and sophisticated scoff at this silliness.

This is all exactly the opposite of what rationality would predict - unless it is the skewed form of reason that passes through the filter of RECD.
(c) 2013 Noam Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is co=author, with Gilbert Achcar, of Perilous Power: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice. His most recent book is Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire.

The Third Intifada?
By Uri Avnery

IS THIS the third intifada? This question was raised this week by a number of Israeli security experts. And not only by them - their Palestinian colleagues were almost as perplexed.

All over the West Bank, Palestinian youth threw stones at Israeli soldiers. All the 3500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons took part in a three-day hunger strike. The immediate reason was the death of a young Palestinian man during interrogation by the Shin Bet. The autopsy showed no reason for the death. It was no heart attack, as first (and automatically) claimed by Israeli officials and their stooges, the so-called "military correspondents". So was it torture, as practically all Palestinians believe?

Then there were the four prisoners on a hunger strike which has already lasted 150 days (mitigated by infusions). Since almost every Palestinian family has now - or had in the past - at least one member in prison, this generates much excitement.

So is this IT?

THE UNCERTAINTY of security officials stems from the fact that both the first and the second intifada broke out in an unexpected way. Both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships were taken by surprise.

The Israeli surprise was especially - well, surprising. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip were, and still are, full of Israeli informers. Decades of occupation have allowed the Security Service to recruit thousands of them by bribery or blackmail. So how did they fail to know?

The Palestinian leadership, then in Tunis, was equally in the dark. It took Yasser Arafat several days to realize what was happening and laud the "Stone Children". The reason for the surprise was that both intifadas were completely spontaneous. No one planned them. Because of this, no informer could warn his handlers.

The trigger for the first one was a road accident. In December 1987, an Israeli driver killed several Palestinian workers near Gaza. All hell broke loose. The second was triggered by a deliberate Israeli provocation after the failure of the 2000 Camp David conference.

The Israeli army was quite unprepared for the First Intifada. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously exclaimed "Break their bones!" which some commanders took literally and carried out faithfully. A lot of arms and legs were broken with rifle butts.

Though the second intifada was also unexpected, this time the army was prepared for any event. Troops were trained in advance. No bones were broken this time. Instead, sharpshooters were placed near unit commanding officers. When a non-violent demonstration approached, the officer pointed out the ringleader, and the sharpshooter killed him. Very soon the non-violent uprising turned into a very violent one.

I don't know what the army plans for the third intifada. But one can be certain that even if it starts as a non-violent mass protest, it will not stay so for long.

TWO WEEKS ago, the Israeli Channel 10 showed a documentary about Ariel Sharon's manipulation of the Second Intifada.

It started when Prime Minister Ehud Barak allowed Opposition Chief Sharon to visit the Temple Mount, accompanied by hundreds of policemen. Since Sharon was a pork-eating atheist, there was no religious motive for the visit. It was a provocation, pure and simple.

When Sharon approached the Muslim shrines, he was greeted with stones. The police killed the stone-throwers with live ammunition. And lo and behold, the Second Intifada was on the way.

Arafat in far-away Tunis had nothing to do with it. But once the intifada had started, he embraced it. The local Fatah cadres took command.

Soon after, Sharon came to power. He did everything possible to stoke the fires. In the documentary, his closest assistants were interviewed at length and disclosed that Sharon did this quite deliberately.

His aim was to cause a general uprising, in order to give him a legitimate reason for re-conquering the West Bank, after parts of it were turned over to the Palestinian authority in the Oslo agreements. And indeed, a large number of suicide attacks and other outrages provided the necessary national and international legitimization for Operation Defensive Shield, in which Israeli troops re-entered all West Bank towns and spread death and destruction. In particular, the Palestinian Authority's offices were systematically ransacked, including the Education and Social Services ministries. Arafat was surrounded and isolated in the Ramallah Mukata'ah ("Compound"), and kept a virtual prisoners for years, till his murder.

In the film, the advisors readily admitted that Sharon did not even contemplate a political initiative to end the intifada - his sole aim was to vanquish the Palestinian resistance by brute force. During this intifada 4944 Palestinians were killed, as against 1011 Israelis. (In the preceding intifada, 1593 Palestinians and 84 Israelis found their death.)

Israelis believe that Sharon's brutal methods were a great success. The Second Intifada sputtered out.

WILL THERE be a Third Intifada? If so, when? Has it already begun or were the recent events only a kind of general rehearsal?

No one knows, least of all our security forces. There is no reliable information from the agents. Again, everything is spontaneous.

One thing is certain: Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat's heir, is very much afraid of it. He waited for a few days, and then, once he was sure that this was not a general uprising, he ordered his American-trained police forces to intervene and put an end to the demonstrations.

More than that, he publicly condemned the outbreaks and accused Binyamin Netanyahu of deliberately fomenting them.

One of the causes for this suspicion was that on Friday the Israeli police did not prevent young Palestinians from reaching the Temple Mount ("Haram al-Sharif"), as they do frequently when there is the slightest suspicion of coming unrest.

I put the question to a circle of friends: Assuming for a moment that Abbas is right, what might have been Netanyahu's motive?

One answered: He is afraid that Barak Obama will, in his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, demand the resumption of the "peace process". Netanyahu will tell him that, in view of the new intifada, that is impossible.

Another volunteered: Netanyahu will tell the President that Abbas has lost his authority and therefore is not a viable partner.

Yet another: Netanyahu will tell the Israeli public that we have an emergency at hand, so we need to set up a Government of National Unity at once. All Zionist parties must be pushed by their voters to join.

And so forth.

BE THAT as it may, the pertinent question is whether a spontaneous outbreak is in the offing.

Frankly, I don't know. I doubt if anyone does.

The absence of any genuine peace initiative makes another intifada probable at some point. How long can the harsh occupation continue without a serious challenge?

On the other hand, it does not appear that the great mass of the Palestinian people is mentally prepared for a fight. In the occupied territories, a new bourgeoisie has come to life, which has a lot to lose. Under the auspices of the US, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has succeeded in stimulating some sort of economy, in which quite a number flourish.

The prospect of another round of violence does not appeal to these people, nor does it attract poor people, who are already fully occupied with their daily survival. To get these people to rise up, you need an extremely provocative event. This can happen tomorrow morning, or within weeks or months, or not at all.

Abbas accuses Hamas of fomenting unrest in the West Bank, which is governed by Fatah, while Hamas itself, at the same time, is keeping the cease-fire in its own dominion, the Gaza Strip. Actually, both regimes, each in its own part of Palestine, are interested in quiet while accusing the other of collaborating with the occupation.

(A century and a half ago, Karl Marx denounced the efforts of his socialist adversary, Ferdinand Lassalle, to set up workers' cooperatives. Marx asserted that once the workers had something to lose, they would not rise up anymore. If you want a revolution, Lenin is supposed to have said, "The worse things are, the better.")

THE MORE people on both sides talk about the Third Intifada, the less it is likely to happen. As the Germans used to say, Revolutions foretold are not going to happen.

But if there is no end to the occupation in sight, the Third Intifada will break out one day, quite suddenly, when nobody has been talking about it, when everybody on both sides was thinking about other things.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

Hugo Chavez: New World Rising
By Glen Ford

The darker majorities of Latin America mourn the passing of the people's champion, President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, the man whom the racist white Venezuelan elite called ese mono - "that monkey." Since 1998 - with a 48-hour break during the 2002, U.S.-sponsored coup - the four-fifths of Venezuela that is some variety of Indigenous-mestizo-mullato-African - like Chavez - has known power for the first time since the conquistadors of Western Europe launched their 500-year war against the rest of planet Earth.

South America's emergence as the most promising zone of resistance to U.S. imperial savagery is inseparable from the dark awakening in the barrios, favelas, rural villages and native highlands of the continent. Chavez's triumph, and that of the Aymara-descended Bolivian president, Evo Morales, in 2005, are the most dramatic expressions of what has been called the "Latin Spring" - a reclamation of national patrimony that is, by historical necessity, socialist. As a result, a large majority of South Americans now live under relatively progressive governments.

The Cuban Revolution of 1959 was, of course, the great hemispheric breakaway from Yankee empire in the 20th century, the seminal event in the disintegration of what later came to be called the "Washington Consensus" in Latin America. Chavez's victory, almost 40 years later, was the other shoe dropping, a phenomenon nearly as racially-weighted, in Latin American terms, as the Haitian Revolution that culminated in 1804. Fidel, the son of a Spanish soldier, declared that "the blood of Africa runs deep in our veins" and that Cuba is an "African Spanish" nation. However, that reality was hardly visible in the Cuban hierarchy. Not so, with Chavez, the pardo whose lineage was obvious and proudly worn. "My Indian roots are from my father's side. He is mixed Indian and black, which makes me very proud," said Chavez - a circumstance of birth and pride that made the whites of affluent east Caracas neighborhoods like Altamira spitting mad, hysterical in their hatred. The racial-political color line has long been plain to see in the complexions of pro- and anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela.

The purported "ambiguity" of race in South America is largely limited to those who belong to the innumerable subgroups of the Not-White, in all their flavors. However, for the fraction of the population that believe themselves to be purely European, there is no ambiguity; they know precisely who they are (or claim to be). Color lines may be fuzzy among the mixed race majorities of much of Latin America, but white elites quickly bring these boundaries into stark relief when fundamental questions of privilege and power arise. Popular power means the rule of people like "that monkey," Chavez - illegitimate and bestial.

U.S. corporate media speak the language of the pale denizens of Altamira. For 14 years, they have painted the Bolivarian Republic as illegitimate, dictatorial, primitive. Chavez is delegitimized as a "strongman," rather than a remarkably popular politician and icon who has won more elections than any other head of state in the western hemisphere during the same space of time. As former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said, last year: "As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."

In assessing Chavez's "legacy," the global bourgeois media cite the "divisions" that plague Venezuelan society and, in the words of Business Week, an economy in "shambles." But, Chavez and his comrades would have been abject failures - and been tossed from office - had they not drawn lines between the oppressed majority and the privileged exploiters. Division is good and necessary. Consequently, the economy has succeeded in reducing the proportion of households in poverty from 44 percent in 1998 to 27 percent in 2011. Chavez has served the people.

Just before Chavez's last electoral victory, former Brazilian president Lula da Silva, a product of the post-1998 wave of leftist triumphs at the polls, said: "A victory for Chavez is not just a victory for the people of Venezuela but also a victory for all the people of Latin America … this victory will strike another blow against imperialism."

Last week, as Chavez was fading, the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles Radonski, traveled to New York, Miami and Washington - presumably, to get his marching orders. Washington hopes that Venezuelan socialism cannot survive without Chavez. In their state of desperate decay, the imperialists are willing to throw whole regions of the world into chaos rather than be eclipsed by new alignments of trade and international relations. Venezuelans have every reason to expect a renewed U.S. campaign of destabilization, in the wake of their leader's passing.

Chavez tried to give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. On election night, 2008, at a rally in Caracas, Chavez spoke this way of the president-elect:

"We are not asking him to be a revolutionary, to be a socialist - no. We just want the black man who is about to be the U.S. president to have enough stature for the times the world is living through.

"I send an overture to the black man, from us here, who are of Indigenous, black, Caribbean, South American race. I am ready to sit down and talk ... I hope we can, and I hope we can enter a new stage."

But the Black man in the White House is smelling like sulphur, just like his predecessor.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

How Do You Steal a Dream?
Supreme Court hears suit to kill Voting Rights Act
By Greg Palast

Jim Crow is alive and well - and he has mounted a new attack on the law Martin Luther King dreamed of: the Voting Rights Act.

Today, the Supreme Court will hear a suit brought by Shelby County, Alabama, which challenges the right of the Department of Justice to review changes in voting procedure. Example: Attempts to cut the number of early voting days, to expunge "illegal alien" voters without any evidence, refusing Spanish-language ballots, have been blocked by the Department of Justice and courts because they have stopped Black and Hispanic citizens casting ballots.

Sixteen states are subject to this "pre-clearance" law, every one with a history of Jim Crow rules such as "literacy" tests - Blacks had to recite the Constitution, Whites "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Dixie moans it's been picked on unfairly, but the "pre-clearance" states, chosen by an arithmetic formula, include all or parts of the "Confederate states" of California, Arizona, Alaska and New York.

All those above the Mason-Dixon line are on the civil-rights hot-water roster because of a history of hostility to Hispanic citizens. In 2006, for example, the Republican Secretary of State of California rejected 42% of voter registration forms because the names were "unusual" and difficult to type into records! The names, like Chávez and Muhammad, were only "unusual" for Republicans.

New York's mayor Michael Bloomberg is happy to pre-clear his city's changes with the Justice Department and has told that to the Court. But once again, as Dr. King said in his Dream speech, in Alabama, the "Governor has his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification" - to nullify the 15th Amendment's right to vote and to interpose himself between federal law and the enforcement of this basic American right.

And the Southland? In 2000, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris purged tens of thousands of African-Americans from voter rolls, labeling them "felons" when their only crime was VWB: Voting While Black. All - every one - were innocent. And again, in 2012, Florida Governor Rick Scott targeted 180,000 voters, mostly Latinos, as illegal "alien" voters. The Governor, when challenged by the Justice Department, cut the "alien" list to 198 but in the end, could only produce evidence against one.

If it were not for Section 5, the pre-clearance law, the purges, gerrymandering and other racially bent trickery rampant in Florida, Arizona (with its profiling and harassment of Hispanic voters) and Alaska with its bias against Native Americans would be so much worse. Without review - and the threat of review - Americans would once again lose the rights that the Constitution promises, won with the blood of our Fathers.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the Jim Crow and Jose Crow tactics that create long lines of voters of color in Ohio and other states.

Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan signed massive expansions of the Voting Rights Act, tripling its reach. It is time to extend the law's protections again - to Ohio, to Wisconsin, to everyone. When every American is protected by the Voting Rights Act review of voting changes, then all of us may be secure that our votes will not be nullified by politicians abusing the voting system to seize office through tactics racist in effect, if not intent.

A half century ago this year, Dr. Martin Luther King shared his dream with America:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

"We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

King's dream is the American Dream - which no Court should take away. It is a mighty stream which must touch all citizens in every state.

Without "pre-clearance," the Voting Rights Act is an empty promise - with purged, blocked and intimidated voters having to protest after an election to the very officials elected by the vote thievery that put them in office.

If this Supreme Court removes "pre-clearance" Section 5 on the grounds that it does not apply to every state, then the solution is simple and just: apply pre-clearance to every state. Every American deserves a review by Justice of laws which tell us who can vote - and who can't.

As King admonished us, we must not be satisfied when we see Black folk, a half century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, stand in line for six hours to vote whether in Miami or in Cleveland.

We petition the Court and Congress to let freedom ring.

Sign the petition to Defend Martin Luther King's Dream Act - here.

Joining Palast as initial co-signers of the petition are Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., CEO, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who succeeded Dr. King as President of SCLC and one of the original Freedom Riders, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., co-founder, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
(c) 2013 Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." His investigations for BBC TV and Democracy Now! can be seen by subscribing to 's reports at. Greg will be providing investigative reports for

The New Boom In Mergers: A Boom For Whom?

The word of the day is "Boom!" Yes, boom times are upon us again.

"The stars came into alignment," marveled one financial manager. "Corporate confidence returns," applauded a recent headline. "We're finally dusting off the cobwebs," rejoiced a business analyst, pointing out that "banks are willing to take risks."

Well, it's about time that bankers and CEOs began turning loose of some of the trillions of dollars they've been hoarding. Since the crash of 2008, grassroots America has been starved of investment in job-creating enterprises. So any sign of that long-dormant capital finally beginning to move would be splendid news indeed - except for this nagging question: Where's the money going?

HINT: Not to you. The big money is not being invested in job growth, grassroots enterprise, new products, or anything else that would improve your family's economic prospects. Rather, this "boom" is truly-explosive - a job-destroying, financial flim-flam known grandly as: "The Corporate Merger." It amounts to nothing more than one giant corporation taking over another, or even a corporation taking over itself.

"The mega-merger is back," exclaimed the New York Times. I'll say - already this year, $11 billion was spent to merge US Air into American Airlines. Warren Buffet and a Brazilian buyout group threw $23 billion into the purchase of ketchup peddler H.J. Heinz. And Michael Dell amassed $24 billion to buy his namesake computer outfit, which he already was in charge of and owned the biggest chunk of.

This buyout boom is a boon to the financial hucksters and top executives who profit from the deals; but merger mania cuts jobs, shrinks competition, raises consumer prices, concentrates wealth in fewer hands, and diverts capital from productive enterprises. What a deal for America!
(c) 2013 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Whiny Billionaires In Need Of Sequestration
By Robert Scheer

Where is the Occupy movement now that the depravity of the super rich is on full display?

The suddenly increased national debt is primarily the result of a deep recession caused by the top bankers and hedge fund hustlers of Wall Street, saved from their folly by massive and costly federal intervention. The result has been a season of obscene profit for them, while the rest of the nation has floundered. But instead of making the rich pay, ordinary citizens will be visited with job furloughs and a savaging of public services that often are lifesaving.

Consider two stories this week that make Karl Marx look prescient: one, in The Wall Street Journal, concerns the payout of $1 billion in bonuses to nine private equity executives; the other, under a New York Times headline, states that the jobless recovery has been a boondoggle for corporate profits. "Recovery in U.S. Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs," the headline reads, by way of explaining why the stock market is nearing its unprecedented high while the unemployment picture remains so dismally bleak.

But whenever a politician dares to hold those "fat cats" accountable, as Barack Obama once did, he or she is branded by apologists for the super rich as a socialist engaging in class warfare. The outrage of the entitled as opposed to the despair of the dispossessed is the cultural norm, as evidenced by Stephen Schwarzman, one of the more egregious of those private equity billionaires.

What is truly outrageous about Schwarzman is not the $213.3 million he got last year from Blackstone, the private equity company where he has long been the CEO. Heck, he "earned" that much the previous year and has been raking it in since he co-founded the company back in 1985. What is startling, and it goes to the hubris of America's most wealthy at the heart of the current sequester impasse, is that he thinks the more than $1 billion he and eight other private equity executives got in compensation last year should continue to be taxed at the "carried interest" rate of 15 percent, rather than the 35 percent reserved for ordinary income.

When President Obama first threatened to end that weird tax break for the top strata of the super rich back in 2010, it sent Schwarzman into a tizzy, complaining "It's a war. ... It's like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939." At the time, Schwarzman had accumulated a fortune of $4.7 billion-now a cool $2 billion more, according to Forbes-hardly the fate of those occupied by Hitler.

His is a company that invested heavily in the distressed housing market, exploiting the pain of those losing their homes to foreclosure, as he crowed in a conference call with investors, reported on the Blackstone website, about "still seeing attractive opportunities in many places in the world including ... distressed and over-leveraged real estate. ... " Wallowing in that sad world of the foreclosed, Schwarzman bragged "we're the largest in the world."

Last year Blackstone spent about $1.5 billion purchasing 10,000 foreclosed homes. "This is the kind of thing that happens once, every once in a while, where you see something that's a market-turning trend and we are loading the boat," Schwarzman said in an earnings call Oct. 18. Those foreclosed homes are typical of the "alternative assets" in which Blackstone has specialized.

For private equity companies like Blackstone, the economic crisis and the federal government's response to it have ushered in unprecedented boom times that dwarfed the ill gotten gains of their counterparts in the much more regulated commercial banking world. "In contrast," The Wall Street Journal reported, "private-equity firms have rebounded strongly in the last couple of years, helped by low interest rates and more appetite for risk among big investors who pour money into deals with the firms."

But the other fat cats in the corporate world are doing quite well in comparison to the fate of regular Americans. Although corporate earnings have jumped at an annual rate of 20.1 percent since 2008, The New York Times reported, the disposable income of America's wage earners increased yearly by a scant 1.4 percent after allowing for inflation. Corporations' profits as a share of national income are now at their highest point in more than 60 years, while the income of their employees is at a 45-year low.

While the country now debates the causes and cures for the enormous public debt runup since the onset of the Great Recession, it is quite clear that a national bipartisan policy of bailing out Wall Street has succeeded splendidly, but at the expense of the average citizen.

It is brutally immoral that the proposed cuts in federal spending now be imposed on the victims of the meltdown rather than the perpetrators of their financial ruin. Occupy Wall Street is gone, but the headline in Monday's WSJ states "New York City Leads Jump in Homeless."
(c) 2013 Robert Scheer is the editor of Truthdig. A journalist with over 30 years experience, Scheer has built his reputation on the strength of his social and political writing. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country, and his in=depth interviews have made headlines. He is the author, most recently, of "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America," published by Twelve Books.

Agriculture "Gag-Laws" Covering Up Factory Farm Horrors
By James Donahue

After getting caught with their pants down by investigative reporters posing as workers on corporate-owned factory farms, big business interests are striking back. Legislators in at least six states have caved to corporate pressure and passed laws making it illegal to take entry-level jobs to document the food safety and animal welfare abuses that are going on.

Since the concept of "factory farms" has swept the nation, undercover investigations, mostly by food safety and animal rights activists, have led to massive meat recalls, the shut-down of several slaughterhouses and disclosures of cruel animal handling practices. The source of this movement is reportedly the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which is providing legal representation for the corporations that own and operate these massive farming operations.

To date, six states have adopted laws making it illegal to enter these farms under false pretenses, to photograph, or report such abuses without permission from the owners of the farms. Those states are Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Utah. According to a report by Truthout, three other states, New Hampshire, Wyoming and Nebraska are considering similar gag-laws. Consumer and animal welfare activists successfully blocked such laws from passing in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

But the pressure is on. The idea is to hide from public view the way America's food is being mass produced. And it isn't the way many of us that grew up on family-owned farms remember.

I grew up on such a farm. That was a time when families could make a good living on farms no larger than 160-acres. Dairy farmers with herds of 10 to 20 cows milked the animals by hand. All of the animals were treated well and on some farms, they were given names by the family members who fed and cared for them.

We worked our fields with tractors just large enough to pull a two-bottom plow. It took us a day or two just to get a 40-acre field prepared for planting. A good yield of wheat was about 30 bushes of seed from an acre of land.

Things have changed in a big way since I left the farm. During my years on various Michigan newspapers, I never forgot the farm life and watched with interest as the small family farms got bought up by the more prosperous area farmers. Farms got larger and larger in size. And these new farm operators, forced by tighter pricing, reduced profits and rising operating costs, eventually turned farming into a highly mechanized business. Only the best and most aggressive operators survived.

They bought more and more land, expanded the farms into hundreds if not thousands of acres, tore down fences, cut down trees, bulldozed over the little ponds, and farmed with massive machines capable of plowing, conditioning and planting hundreds of acres in a single afternoon. Instead of knowing the joy of working with the land, these "modern farmers" turned to giant tractors with air-conditioned cabs, built-in radio systems, and they used chemicals that killed bugs and weeds. The chemicals were often applied by crop dusters flying over the fields, getting the job done in a few swipes.

Eventually these farms were snatched up by the corporate farming operators. Instead of having a few animals in the barn, they introduced the feedlots where they kept thousands of animals. They fed them chemicals designed to make them grow quickly, and antibiotics to keep them healthy in such a closed environment. This then, is a description of the factory farm.

My wife and I were born and raised in a rural farming area of Michigan and when we retired, our hope was to buy a small home with a few acres of land on which to garden and live out the golden years of our lives. But the stench of these factory farms was so terrible, there was literally no place to live that folks in that area weren't suffering from the noxious smells. Living downwind from a 2,000 head beef farm is bad enough, but we had similar farms keeping hogs, chickens and dairy cows. We retreated to the Upper Peninsula of the state where the soil is rocky and the seasons too short to attract industrial farming.

Imagine the cruelty of keeping an animal locked in a constrictive cage where it barely has room to move, and feeding it chemicals to make it grow fat in a short time before it is butchered and sent to our grocery store meat counters. People who can do this share no love for the animals or for nature. The waste from these farms gets in the water supply, and works its way into local streams and eventually the Great Lakes.

The process of killing and butchering these animals is done on an assembly line, with no regard for the suffering of the creature. And careless practices have brought about the spread of such terrible bugs as salmonella, listeria and E-coli. The exposure of such practices has linked these diseases to the crass new era of farming.
(c) 2013 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site

The Federal Palace of Switzerland, which houses parliament and other government offices.

If Switzerland Can Crack Down On CEOs, Why Not The US?
By John Nichols

Does anyone seriously doubt that, if America had the same national referendum system that Switzerland does, voters in the United States would vote just as aggressively as the Swiss have to curb CEO abuses?

Actually, the 68 percent support for Sunday's Swiss referendum that gives shareholders broad new powers to curb excessive pay for bankers and corporate executives might well be shy of the mark that the US could hit.

Polls of American voters have regularly shown that over 70 percent favor restrictions on executive compensation, with even self-identified conservatives registering majority support for clamping down on CEOs.

And rightly so. It is not jealousy that motivates concerns about CEO pay. As the AFL-CIO's Executive Paywatch campaign notes, when CEO pay rises so too does income inequality. In 2010, as the United States emerged from the depths of the Bush recession, a study by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez found that the top 1 percent of Americans captured 93 percent of the growth in income.

Worse yet, CEOs use their money to game the system so that they get richer while the great mass of Americans are squeezed. More than 120 CEOs are currently supporting billionaire Pete Peterson's "Fix the Debt" campaign, which is chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. A deficit-reduction plan proposed by Bowles and Simpson last month would slash cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients while at the same time reducing the top marginal tax rate for corporations and the wealthy.

In Switzerland, anger at "golden handshake" and "golden parachute" deals for executives who ran corporations poorly and seemed to be more concerned for their own good than for the long-term economic prosperity of their country, led by small businessman and parliamentarian Thomas Minder to mount a populist campaign to increase the authority of shareholders to regulate errant CEOs.

As in the United States, that's the sort of proposal that gets a lot of talk but that was not likely to go far in the corridors of political power in Switzerland. Luckily, Switzerland has a long history of allowing citizens to initiate and implement legislative changes. Under Swiss law, any issue can be put to a national referendum if supporters of a vote attain 100,000 petition signatures seeking the test. In recent years, the Swiss have voted on people's initiatives to guarantee "six weeks of vacation for everyone," to put an "end to the limitless construction of second homes" that crowd Alpine villages, to expand the ability of tax-supported building society savings to finance energy saving and environmental measures, and to require money gained from maintaining casinos be used for the public interest.

Minder, who has been campaigning for years to address excessive pay for executives he refers to as "losers of the century" and "studs in pinstripes," was elected to the Swiss Senate as an independent (who has since sided with conservatives on some issues and the Greens on others) in 2011. He agitated on the inside of government for moves to empower shareholders, but quickly turned to the referendum route. Condemned as a "loner" and criticized for being uncompromising, Minder went up against the political and economic establishment in Switzerland, a country that has long been a haven for multinational corporations and banks. His "Minder Initiative" drew aggressive opposition from prominent business and political leaders. But it made sense to voters, especially as Minder explained: "I never said that my goal was the reduction of salaries. I just want shareholders to take responsibility for the levels of remuneration. If the shareholders want to waste company money by paying exorbitant amounts, that's their problem." At the very least, the sweeping victory for reform in Switzerland has sent a signal. One of the leading newspapers in the banking center of Zurich, Tages-Anzeiger, observed Monday morning that the decision was "a vote in favour of decency and fair salaries." The vote "does not above all express envy," the newspaper's editorial continued, "but a feeling that company managers have been ransacking the coffers at the expenses of society."

The Minder Initiative serves as an important model for US discussions about increasing shareholder rights. And that discussion can and should go well beyond the question of CEO pay.

In 2010, the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling removed barriers to unlimited corporate spending on US political campaigns. At the same time, highly compensated CEOs are among the biggest direct donors not just to individual campaigns but to so-called "Super PACs" that flood the airwaves with negative advertising.

The Citizens United ruling will ultimately need to be addressed either by a reversal of the court's decision or by a constitutional amendment. But of the immediate fixes that have been proposed, one of the best is the suggestion that shareholders be given the right to vote on corporate political expenditures. Britain has such a law. But the United States does not. As a result, notes the Brennan Center, the "Citizens United decision opened a loophole in which one group of Americans-shareholders in publicly traded companies-must routinely support political goals that they may reject. Under Citizens United, corporations can spend directly from their treasuries to influence elections. When shareholders' invested money is spent on politics, millions of Americans are stuck unknowingly contributing to political causes they may not themselves support."

In 2011, Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA) introduced an American Shareholder Protection Act to empower shareholders to vote on whether to allow CEOs and corporate boards to spend company money on political campaigns. "Shareholders-not the CEO and not the board of directors-are the real owners of any publicly traded corporation, and the decision should be theirs," argued Public Citizen in campaigning for the measure, which attracted forty-nine co-sponsors.

Public Citizen has also led the campaign to get the Obama administration to crackdown on federal contractors that use corporate money-from accounts padded with taxpayer dollars-to fund campaigns. Which raises an interesting question: Could the president issue an executive order giving shareholders of companies that contract with the government the authority to decide whether those firms should play politics with corporate money?

The Swiss vote for the Minder Initiative is drawing a lot of attention in the United States.

That's good. Hopefully, it will lead to greater pressure for reducing excessive CEO pay.

But it is essential to recognize that simply regulating CEOs is not enough.

Shareholders should be empowered in the US, as they have been in Switzerland. "The shareholders are the owners of the company," explains Julie Goodridge, CEO of NorthStar Asset Management of Boston, a socially active investment firm. "They need to be voting on these kinds of contributions."

That's right.

As Public Citizen notes, "Anyone with a 401(k) invested in stocks or mutual funds-nearly half of all households today-has a stake in how the corporate money in those funds is spent. Passage of a Shareholder Protection Act would help the public hold corporations accountable for their political behavior."

And, make no mistake, if the United States had a national referendum model like Switzerland, we would not have to wait for Congress to act. The voters would pass a Shareholder Protection Act. And probably by a wider margin than Switzerland's 68 percent.
(c) 2013 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Gun "Background Check" On Pentagon
By Norman Solomon

Stringent "background checks" are central to many proposals for curbing gun violence. The following is a background check on the nation's largest buyer of firearms:

The applicant, U.S. Pentagon, seeks to purchase a wide variety of firearms in vast quantities. This background check has determined that the applicant has a long history of assisting individuals, organizations and governments prone to gun violence.

Pentagon has often served as an active accomplice or direct perpetrator of killings on a mass scale. During the last 50 years, the applicant has directly inflicted large-scale death and injuries in numerous countries, among them the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan (partial list). Resulting fatalities are estimated to have been more than 5 million people.

For purposes of this background check, special attention has been necessarily focused on the scope of firearms currently sought by Pentagon. They include numerous types of semi-automatic and fully automatic rifles as well as many other assault weapons. Continuing purchases by the applicant include drones and cruise missiles along with the latest models of compatible projectiles and matching explosives.

Notable on Pentagon's shopping list is the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. This "bunker buster" weapon -- with a weight of 30,000 pounds, set for delivery by a B-2 stealth bomber -- is for prospective use in Iran.

While considering the likely outcomes of authorizing Pentagon to purchase such large-scale assault weapons, past lethal recklessness should be viewed in context of present-day mindset. A meaningful background check must include a current psychological profile.

Despite the abundant evidence of massive carnage made possible by past Pentagon acquisitions of firearms and other weapons, the applicant is unrepentant. This indicates that the applicant is sociopathic -- unwilling to acknowledge, let alone express any semblance of remorse for, pain and suffering inflicted on human beings.

The unrepentant character of Pentagon is reflected in continued use of the alias "Department of Defense." This background check strongly indicates the prevalence of a highly functional yet psychically numbed institutional personality disorder, with reflexive denial and perennial insistence on claiming victim status even while victimizing others.

In addition, Pentagon has used guns of all types to fire on countless civilians including young people. The ongoing threat to children posed by weapons in the hands of the applicant, therefore, is grave.

Grim evidence emerged with the unauthorized release of the "Collateral Murder" video three years ago by WikiLeaks. That video, filmed in 2007 in the district of New Baghdad, showed a callous disregard for human life as 30 mm cannon fire from Apache helicopters caused the deaths of nearly a dozen Iraqi adults while wounding two children.

In a deeply sociopathic mode, Pentagon -- rather than expressing remorse or taking action to prevent such tragedies in the future -- has sought retribution against those shedding light on many of such terrible actions. Pentagon has subjected whistleblower Bradley Manning to protracted inhumane treatment and relentless prosecution. By sharp contrast, in the last few days alone, tens of thousands of people have expressed their admiration, love and support by signing an online letter to Thank Bradley Manning.

Meanwhile, Pentagon is seeking approvals for items ranging from new firearms to F-35 jet fighters, recently dubbed by Time magazine "the costliest weapons program in human history."

Even a cursory background check on the applicant must conclude that augmenting Pentagon's vast stockpile of guns and other weapons would be unconscionable.
If background checks are to be a meaningful tool for curbing gun violence, they must apply to individuals and institutions alike, without fear or favor.
(c) 2013 Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death" and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State."

Kennedy speaking to a civil rights crowd in front of the Justice Department on June 14, 1963.

Sequestration Nation, And Remembering Robert Kennedy
By Robert Reich

With the sequester now beginning, I find myself thinking about Robert F. Kennedy - and 46 years ago when I was an intern in his Senate office.

1967 was a difficult time for the nation. America was deeply split over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Many of our cities were burning. The war was escalating.

But RFK was upbeat. He was also busy and intense - drafting legislation, lining up votes, speaking to the poor, inspiring the young. I was awed by his energy and optimism, and his overriding passion for social justice and the public good. (Within a few months he'd declare his intention to run for president. Within a year he'd be dead.)

The nation is once again polarized, but I don't hear our politicians talking about social justice or the public good. They're talking instead about the budget deficit and sequestration.

At bottom, though, the issue is still social justice.

The austerity economics on which we've embarked is a cruel hoax - cruel because it hurts those who are already hurt the most; a hoax because it doesn't work.

The trickle-down-economics, on which Republicans base their refusal even discuss closing tax loopholes for the wealthy, is a proven failure - proven because it's been tried before, by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; a failure because nothing has trickled down. Taxes have been cut on the wealthy, but the real median wage keeps dropping and the rate of poverty keeps rising. Now, 22 percent of American children are in poverty.

Yet in the months (or years) ahead, federal money will be reduced for poor schools, child nutrition, preschools, and mental-health services.

Some 3.8 million who have been unemployed for more than six months will see their jobless benefits cut.

Some 600,000 low-income women and children will no longer benefit from the federal nutrition program for women and toddlers.

Lower-income Americans are already suffering disproportionately from high unemployment. But they are most likely to have even fewer jobs as the economy slows because of the sequester.

Meanwhile, America has become far more unequal than it was in 1967. Then, the richest 1 percent got 9 percent of the nation's total income and paid a top marginal tax of 78 percent (and an effective rate, after deductions and credits, of 54 percent).

Now the richest 1 percent get over 20 percent of the nation's income and pay a marginal tax of 39 percent (and an effective rate of 23 percent - or, if you're in Mitt Romney's league, less than 19 percent). The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million combined.

If Robert Kennedy were alive today he'd condemn the Tea Party Republicans (and the Koch Brother billionaires who fund them) for violating the basic ideal of social justice that's the moral foundation of this nation.
(c) 2013 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Mooching Off Medicaid
By Paul Krugman

Conservatives like to say that their position is all about economic freedom, and hence making government's role in general, and government spending in particular, as small as possible. And no doubt there are individual conservatives who really have such idealistic motives.

When it comes to conservatives with actual power, however, there's an alternative, more cynical view of their motivations - namely, that it's all about comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted, about giving more to those who already have a lot. And if you want a strong piece of evidence in favor of that cynical view, look at the current state of play over Medicaid.

Some background: Medicaid, which provides health insurance to lower-income Americans, is a highly successful program that's about to get bigger, because an expansion of Medicaid is one key piece of the Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare.

There is, however, a catch. Last year's Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare also opened a loophole that lets states turn down the Medicaid expansion if they choose. And there has been a lot of tough talk from Republican governors about standing firm against the terrible, tyrannical notion of helping the uninsured.

Now, in the end most states will probably go along with the expansion because of the huge financial incentives: the federal government will pay the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, and the additional spending will benefit hospitals and doctors as well as patients. Still, some of the states grudgingly allowing the federal government to help their neediest citizens are placing a condition on this aid, insisting that it must be run through private insurance companies. And that tells you a lot about what conservative politicians really want.

Consider the case of Florida, whose governor, Rick Scott, made his personal fortune in the health industry. At one point, by the way, the company he built pleaded guilty to criminal charges, and paid $1.7 billion in fines related to Medicare fraud. Anyway, Mr. Scott got elected as a fierce opponent of Obamacare, and Florida participated in the suit asking the Supreme Court to declare the whole plan unconstitutional. Nonetheless, Mr. Scott recently shocked Tea Party activists by announcing his support for the Medicaid expansion.

But his support came with a condition: he was willing to cover more of the uninsured only after receiving a waiver that would let him run Medicaid through private insurance companies. Now, why would he want to do that?

Don't tell me about free markets. This is all about spending taxpayer money, and the question is whether that money should be spent directly to help people or run through a set of private middlemen.

And despite some feeble claims to the contrary, privatizing Medicaid will end up requiring more, not less, government spending, because there's overwhelming evidence that Medicaid is much cheaper than private insurance. Partly this reflects lower administrative costs, because Medicaid neither advertises nor spends money trying to avoid covering people. But a lot of it reflects the government's bargaining power, its ability to prevent price gouging by hospitals, drug companies and other parts of the medical-industrial complex.

For there is a lot of price-gouging in health care - a fact long known to health care economists but documented especially graphically in a recent article in Time magazine. As Steven Brill, the article's author, points out, individuals seeking health care can face incredible costs, and even large private insurance companies have limited ability to control profiteering by providers. Medicare does much better, and although Mr. Brill doesn't point this out, Medicaid - which has greater ability to say no - seems to do better still.

You might ask why, in that case, much of Obamacare will run through private insurers. The answer is, raw political power. Letting the medical-industrial complex continue to get away with a lot of overcharging was, in effect, a price President Obama had to pay to get health reform passed. And since the reward was that tens of millions more Americans would gain insurance, it was a price worth paying.

But why would you insist on privatizing a health program that is already public, and that does a much better job than the private sector of controlling costs? The answer is pretty obvious: the flip side of higher taxpayer costs is higher medical-industry profits.

So ignore all the talk about too much government spending and too much aid to moochers who don't deserve it. As long as the spending ends up lining the right pockets, and the undeserving beneficiaries of public largess are politically connected corporations, conservatives with actual power seem to like Big Government just fine.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"Without an unfettered press, without liberty of speech, all of the outward forms and structures of free institutions are a sham, a pretense -- the sheerest mockery. If the press is not free; if speech is not independent and untrammeled; if the mind is shackled or made impotent through fear, it makes no difference under what form of government you live, you are a subject and not a citizen."
~~~ William E. Borah

President Barack Obama during a news conference regarding sequestration, in Washington, March 1, 2013.

The Sequester Is President Obama's Fault
By Dean Baker

Now that we are counting up the days of the sequester instead of counting down, it would be a good time to cast blame. And my candidate is President Obama.

I'm not blaming Obama for the reasons that Bob Woodward came up with in his fantasyland. I am blaming President Obama and his administration for trying to be cute and clever rather than telling the public the truth about the economic crisis. The result is that the vast majority of the public, and virtually all of the reporters and pundits who deal with budget issues, do not have any clue about where the deficit came from and why it is a virtue rather than a problem.

The basic story is incredibly simple. Demand from the private sector collapsed when the housing bubble burst. We lost $600 billion in annual demand due to residential construction falling through the floor. We will not return to normal levels of construction until the vacancy rates return to normal levels. Vacancy rates are still near post-bubble record highs.

We also lost close to $500 billion in annual consumption spending due to the loss of the $8 trillion in housing-bubble-generated equity that was driving this consumption. This demand will also not come back.

This creates a gap in annual demand of more than $1 trillion. The stimulus, which boosted demand by roughly $300 billion a year in 2009 and 2010, helped to fill part of this gap, but was nowhere near big enough. Furthermore, stimulus spending fell off quickly in 2011, and the stimulus is now pretty much gone altogether. This means that we are still faced with a huge hole in private-sector spending.

We know the Republicans love the Job Creators and President Obama has gone out of his way to show his love, also. But in the real world, investment in equipment and software has never been much above its current share of GDP, except in the days of the dot-com bubble. This means that unless we drug investors so that they are willing to throw hundreds of billions of dollars into the stock of worthless companies, we are unlikely to see any substantial rise in investment.

As a result, we are stuck with an economy that is mired well below full employment. President Obama's top economic advisers from his first term all claimed that they understood this point. But they said that they could not get a bigger stimulus package through Congress.

That assessment may well be true, but the real issue is what President Obama did after the stimulus package passed. He could have told the country the truth. He could have said what all his advisers claim they told him at the time: the stimulus was not large enough and we would likely need more. He could have used his presidency to explain basic economics to the public and the reporters who cover budget issues.

He could have told them that we need large deficits to fill the hole in demand that was created by the collapse in private-sector spending. He could have shown them colorful graphs that beat them over the head with the point that there was very little room for investment to expand even under the best of circumstances.

He could have also explained that consumers would not go back to their bubble levels of consumption since the wealth that had supported this consumption had disappeared with the collapse of the bubble. The public would likely understand this point, since most homeowners themselves lost large amounts of equity and understood that they were much poorer as a result of the collapse of the bubble.

In this context, the only choice in the near term is between larger budget deficits and higher unemployment. The people who clamored for cuts in government spending and lower deficits are in fact clamoring to throw people out of work and slow growth.

We will never know if President Obama could have garnered support for more stimulus and larger deficits if he had used his office to pound home basic principles of economics to the public and the media. But we do know the route he chose failed.

He apparently thought the best route to get more stimulus was to convince the deficit hawks that he was one of them. He proudly announced the need to pivot to deficit reduction following the passage of the stimulus and then appointed two deficit hawks, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, to head a deficit commission.

This set the ball rolling for the obsession with deficit reduction that has dominated the nation's politics for the last three years. Instead of talking about the deficit of 9 million jobs the economy faces, we have the leadership of both parties in Congress arguing over the debt-to-GDP ratios that we will face in 2023.

This would be comical if lives were not being ruined by the charade. The unemployed workers and their families did not do anything wrong - the people running the economy did.

Now the sequester comes along, throwing more people out of work, worsening the quality of a wide range of government services and denying hundreds of thousands of people benefits they need. Yes, this is really stupid policy, and the Republicans deserve a huge amount of blame in this picture.

But it was President Obama who decided to play deficit reduction games rather than be truthful about the state of the economy. There was no reason to expect better from the Republicans in Congress, but we had reason to hope that President Obama would act responsibly.
(c) 2013 Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.


Rand Paul's Filibuster Of John Brennan
By Amy Goodman

You could say that a filibuster occurs when a senator drones on and on. The problem with the U.S. Senate was that there were too few senators speaking about drones this week.

President Barack Obama's controversial nomination of John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency was held up Wednesday afternoon by a Senate filibuster. The reason: Brennan's role in targeted killings by drones, and President Obama's presumed authority to kill U.S. citizens, without any due process, if they pose an"imminent threat." The effort was led by tea-party Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky, joined by several of his Republican colleagues. Among the Democrats, at the time of this writing, only Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon had joined in the genuine, old-fashioned "talking filibuster," wherein the activities of the Senate floor are held up by a senator's speech.

Members of Congress, tasked with oversight of intelligence and military matters, have repeatedly demanded the memoranda from the White House detailing the legal basis for the drone program, only to be repeatedly denied. The nomination of Brennan has opened up the debate, forcing the Obama administration to make nominal gestures of compliance. The answers so far have not satisfied Sen. Paul.

Nearing hour six of his filibuster, Sen. Paul admitted: "I can't ultimately stop the nomination, but what I can do is try to draw attention to this and try to get an answer ... that would be something if we could get an answer from the president ... if he would say explicitly that noncombatants in America won't be killed by drones. The reason it has to be answered is because our foreign drone strike program does kill noncombatants. They may argue that they are conspiring or they may someday be combatants, but if that is the same standard that we are going to use in the United States, it is a far different country than I know about."

The issue of extrajudicial execution of U.S. citizens, whether on U.S. soil or elsewhere, is clearly vital. But also important is the U.S. government's now-seemingly routine killing of civilians around the world, whether by drone strikes, night raids conducted by special operations forces or other lethal means.

Rand Paul's filibuster followed a curious route, including references to Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," and quotes from noted progressive, constitutional attorney and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and blogger Kevin Gosztala of Firedoglake.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Sen. Paul March 4, writing, "It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States."

Holder noted that Paul's question was "entirely hypothetical." So, on the Senate floor, Paul brought up the case of two actual U.S. citizens killed by drone strikes, Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, Abdulrahman. Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011. Two weeks later, also in Yemen, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, a Denver native, was also killed by a drone strike. Paul asked during his filibuster, "If you happen to be the son of a bad person, is that enough to kill you?"

As Sen. Paul filibustered, Will Fitzgibbon wrote from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London: "Last month, we launched a new drones project: Naming the Dead. The aim of this project is to identify as many of the more than 2,500 victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan as possible. Given we currently do not know the identities of 80 percent of those killed, we believe this is a crucial and missing step to having a more transparent drones debate. ... With all the attention being recently paid to American citizens killed by drones and with the drone debate growing, we thought it would be a good time to remind ourselves of the individual human stories of drone victims. Those we know about and those we don't." Barack Obama and John Brennan direct the drone strikes that are killing thousands of civilians. It doesn't make us safer. It makes whole populations, from Yemen to Pakistan, hate us. Sen. Paul's outrage with the president's claimed right to kill U.S. citizens is entirely appropriate. That there is not more outrage at the thousands killed around the globe is shameful ... and dangerous.
(c) 2013 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Dead Letter Office...

Eric gives the corpo-rat salute!

Heil Obama,

Dear Generalbundesanwalt Holder,

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

Without your lock step calling for the repeal of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, your rewriting US law so Barry can murder whoever he likes, 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 "Demoncratic whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

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

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

We Are Bradley Manning
By Chris Hedges

I was in a military courtroom at Fort Meade in Maryland on Thursday as Pfc. Bradley Manning admitted giving classified government documents to WikiLeaks. The hundreds of thousands of leaked documents exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as government misconduct. A statement that Manning made to the court was a powerful and moving treatise on the importance of placing conscience above personal safety, the necessity of sacrificing careers and liberty for the public good, and the moral imperative of carrying out acts of defiance. Manning will surely pay with many years-perhaps his entire life-in prison. But we too will pay. The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all.

This trial is not simply the prosecution of a 25-year-old soldier who had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse that are carried out by our government and our occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth-the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings-are from now on to be charged with "aiding the enemy." All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government's use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.

The cowardice of The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, all of which used masses of the material Manning passed on to WikiLeaks and then callously turned their backs on him, is one of journalism's greatest shames. These publications made little effort to cover Manning's pretrial hearings, a failure that shows how bankrupt and anemic the commercial press has become. Rescuing what honor of our trade remains has been left to a handful of independent, often marginalized reporters and a small number of other individuals and groups-including Glenn Greenwald, Alexa O'Brien, Nathan Fuller, Kevin Gosztola (who writes for Firedog Lake), the Bradley Manning Support Network, political activist Kevin Zeese and the courtroom sketch artist Clark Stoeckley, along with The Guardian, which also published the WikiLeaks documents. But if our domesticated press institutions believe that by refusing to defend or report on Manning they will escape the wrath of the security and surveillance state, they are stunningly naive. This is a war that is being played for keeps. And the goal of the state is not simply to send Manning away for life. The state is also determined to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and try him in the United States on espionage or conspiracy charges. The state hopes to cement into place systems of information that will do little more than parrot official propaganda. This is why those with the computer skills to expose the power elite's secrets, such as Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in January, and Jeremy Hammond, who is facing up to 30 years in prison for allegedly hacking into the corporate security firm Stratfor, have been or are being ruthlessly hunted down and persecuted. It is why Vice President Joe Biden labeled Assange a "high-tech terrorist," and it is why the Bradley Manning trial is one of the most important in American history.

The government has decided to press ahead with all 22 charges, including aiding the enemy (Article 104), stealing U.S. government property (18 USC 641), espionage (18 USC 793(e)) and computer crimes (18 USC 1030(a)(1))-the last notwithstanding the fact that Manning did not hack into government computers. The state will also prosecute him on charges of violating lawful general regulations (Article 92). The government has refused to settle for Manning's admission of guilt on nine lesser offenses. Among these lesser offenses are unauthorized possession and willful communication of the video known as "Collateral Murder"; the Iraq War Logs; the Afghan War Diary; two CIA Red Cell Memos, including one entitled "Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-Led Mission-Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough"; Guantanamo files; documents of a so-called Article 15-6 investigation into the May 2009 Garani massacre in Afghanistan's Farah province; and a Department of Defense counterintelligence report, " Online Reference to Foreign Intelligence Services, Insurgents, or Terrorist Groups?" as well as one violation of a lawful general order by wrongfully storing information.

Manning's leaks, the government insists, are tantamount to support for al-Qaida and international terrorism. The government will attempt to prove this point by bringing into court an anonymous witness who most likely took part in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan. This witness will reportedly tell the court that copies of the leaked documents were found on bin Laden's computer and assisted al-Qaida. This is an utterly spurious form of prosecution-as if any of us have control over the information we provide to the public and how it is used. Manning, for substantial amounts of money, could have sold the documents to governments or groups that are defined as the enemy. Instead he approached The Washington Post and The New York Times. When these newspapers rejected him, he sent the material anonymously to WikiLeaks.

The short, slightly built Manning told the military court Thursday about the emotional conflict he experienced when he matched what he knew about the war with the official version of the war. He said he became deeply disturbed while watching a video taken from an Apache helicopter as it and another such craft joined in an attack on civilians in Baghdad in 2007. The banter among the crew members, who treated the murder and wounding of the terrified human beings, including children, in the street below as sport, revolted him. Among the dead was Reuters photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh. Reuters had repeatedly asked to see the video, and the Army had repeatedly refused to release it. [Click here to see the "Collateral Murder" video.] "Using Google I searched for the event by its date and general location," Manning said in reading from a 35-page document that took nearly an hour to deliver. "I found several new accounts involving two Reuters employees who were killed during the aerial weapon team engagement. Another story explained that Reuters had requested a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Reuters wanted to view the video in order to be able to understand what had happened and to improve their safety practices in combat zones. A spokesperson for Reuters was quoted saying that the video might help avoid the reoccurrence of the tragedy and believed there was compelling need for the immediate release of the video." [Alexa O'Brien, another journalist who attended Thursday's proceedings, has provided a full transcript of Manning's statement: Click here.]

"Despite the submission of the FOIA request, the news account explained that CENTCOM [Central Command] replied to Reuters stating that they could not give a time frame for considering a FOIA request and that the video might no longer exist," Manning said. "Another story I found written a year later said that even though Reuters was still pursuing their request [the news organization] still did not receive a formal response or written determination in accordance with FOIA. The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq, or MNF-I, would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck [van] were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely 'good Samaritans.' The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they [the helicopter crew members] appeared to have.

"They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote 'dead bastards' unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers," Manning said, speaking into a court microphone while seated at the defense table. "At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

"While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew's lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew-as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times. Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van, and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote 'Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle' unquote.

"The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team verbalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over a body-or one of the bodies. As I continued my research, I found an article discussing the book 'The Good Soldiers,' written by Washington Post writer David Finkel. In Mr. Finkel's book, he writes about the aerial weapons team attack. As I read an online excerpt in Google Books, I followed Mr. Finkel's account of the event belonging to the video. I quickly realize that Mr. Finkel was quoting, I feel in verbatim, the audio communications of the aerial weapons team crew. It is clear to me that Mr. Finkel obtained access and a copy of the video during his tenure as an embedded journalist. I was aghast at Mr. Finkel's portrayal of the incident. Reading his account, one would believe the engagement was somehow justified as 'payback' for an earlier attack that led to the death of a soldier. Mr. Finkel ends his account of the engagement by discussing how a soldier finds an individual still alive from the attack. He writes that the soldier finds him and sees him gesture with his two forefingers together, a common method in the Middle East to communicate that they are friendly. However, instead of assisting him, the soldier makes an obscene gesture extending his middle finger. The individual apparently dies shortly thereafter. Reading this, I can only think of how this person was simply trying to help others, and then he quickly finds he needs help as well. To make matters worse, in the last moments of his life he continues to express his friendly gesture-his friendly intent-only to find himself receiving this well known gesture of unfriendliness. For me it's all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean, and how it all fits together. It burdens me emotionally. ...

"I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled-if not more troubled than me by what they saw."

Manning provided to the public the most important window into the inner workings of imperial power since the release of the Pentagon Papers. The routine use of torture, the detention of Iraqis who were innocent, the inhuman conditions within our secret detention facilities, the use of State Department officials as spies in the United Nations, the collusion with corporations to keep wages low in developing countries such as Haiti, and specific war crimes such as the missile strike on a house that killed seven children in Afghanistan would have remained hidden without Manning.

"I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides," Manning said. "I began to become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year. The SigActs [significant-acts reports of the Army] documented this in great detail and provide a context of what we were seeing on the ground.

"In attempting to conduct counterterrorism, or CT, and counterinsurgency, COIN, operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our host nation partners, and ignoring the second- and third-order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables [a reference to military information] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to re-evaluate the need or even the desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment every day."

It is certain that with this "naked" plea Manning will serve perhaps as much as 20 years in prison. The judge, Col. Denise Lind, who will determine Manning's sentence, warned him that the government could use his admissions to build a case for the more serious charges. Manning faces 90 years if he is convicted on the greater charge of espionage, and he faces life if convicted of aiding the enemy. Military prosecutors have made it clear they are out for blood. They said they will call 141 witnesses, including 15 who will charge that Manning caused harm to national interests; 33 witnesses, the government claims, will discuss information so sensitive or secret that it will require closed court sessions. Four witnesses-including, it appears, a Navy SEAL involved in the bin Laden raid-will give testimony anonymously. Army Maj. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecution attorney, has told the court that the government witnesses will discuss issues such as "injury and death to individuals" that resulted from the WikiLeaks disclosures, as well as how the "capability of the enemy increased in certain countries." The government is preventing Manning's defense team from interviewing some of the witnesses before the trial.

When he was secretary of defense, Robert Gates said a Defense Department review determined that the publication of the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary had "not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods." In the trial, however, the government must prove only that the "disclosure could be potentially damaging to the United States" and need only provide "independent proof of at least potential harm to the national security" beyond mere security classification, writes law professor Geoffrey Stone.

The government reviews determined that the release of Department of State "diplomatic cables caused only limited damage to U.S. interests abroad despite the Obama administration's public statements to the contrary," according to Reuters. "We were told the impact [of WikiLeaks revelations] was embarrassing but not damaging," a congressional official, briefed by the State Department, told Reuters. The "Obama administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers," the official told the news outlet. Government prosecutors, strengthening their case further, have succeeded in blocking Manning's lawyers from presenting evidence about the lack of real damage caused to U.S. interests by the leaks.

Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited-especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system-poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.

The court has not yet issued an official text of Bradley Manning's statement. Thanks to Alexa O'Brien for providing a transcript.
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

A Carnival Parade, A Funeral And The Revolving Door Of Media Interest
By Adam Keller

This Sunday there were huge crowds of people in the street near my home in the city of Holon. Many times more than on any other day of the year. Thousands and tens of thousands poured in from all neighborhoods in the city and from far and wide, to see the famous Holon Adloyada. There were very many cheerful children in colorful costumes, holding the hands of their parents or riding on shoulders or running around playfully. And also grown ups took care to have a costume - at least to the extent of having on their head a plastic Viking helmet or a pointed Chinese hat. The crowd was terribly dense when everybody scrambled to get places from which the carnival parade could be seen, the giant puppets of Pinocchio and Geppetto and the elephants and dinosaurs and the hundreds of dancing school girls who had trained over months for this day. Newspaper headlines told of the rising tensions on the West Bank and the army's high alert. But who reads papers during the Adloyada?

This Monday there were huge crowds of people in the streets of Sa'ir village near Hebron. Many times more than on any other day of the year. Thousands and tens of thousands poured in from all over the West Bank to the funeral of Arafat Jaradat, the gas station attendant who was suspected of stone-throwing and who died in questionable circumstances after five days in Israeli detention. Very many angry young people in the checkered national kafiya headdress, who had already undergone short or long terms in detention centers and prisons of the Israeli occupation. They knew it could just as well have been any one of them. With them were older Palestinians who remembered the First Intifada and some of the elderly, who still carry the traumatic memories of the 1948 Nakba. They marched behind the coffin and chanted loudly and debated with each other if the time has already come to launch a full-scale Intifada and whether to go immediately to confront the Israeli soldiers stationed at the entrance to the village.

For a few days the Israeli media discovered the Palestinians. The Palestinian prisoners whose hunger strike had already gone on for many months without the citizens of Israel knowing or caring suddenly caught the top headlines. Also the protest vigil at the gates of Tel Aviv University got media attention which its organizers had given up expecting. Reporters fanned out across the West Bank to provide real-time coverage from the confrontations developing at all the hot spots. Experts discussed and debated endlessly on whether the Third Intifada had indeed arrived.

"The Goal: Quiet" announced a banner headline on the front page of the mass- circulation Yediot large, and various commentators gave their opinions and evaluations on how such quiet is to be achieved - some counseling dialogue with the Palestinians while others called for overwhelming use of brute force. And after three days, headlines reported "security experts" as stating their opinion that "the riots are fading out" and that evidently it was not yet the Third Intifada. And with an audible sigh of relief, the media rushed to push the Palestinians back to the godforsaken back pages and return their attention to the usual Israeli routine of corruption scandals and political party intrigues and juicy judicial cases.

Today Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is mainly concerned with the desperate attempts to form a new governing coalition. He remains faced with the solid political alliance between Naftali Bennett, former head of the settlers' Judea and Samaria Council and Yair Lapid who declares his strong desire to talk peace with the Palestinians - but who are united in relegating this to the background and giving complete precedence to the issue of taking Haredi Ultra-Orthodox youths into the army, or at least throwing their representatives out of the government. And, the papers are filled to the brim with wild speculations of commentators how Netanyahu should square the circle.

Also today, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad left his office to join the young demonstrators in Bil'in, whose weekly protest this week reached Hollywood ( "5 broken cameras"). The Palestinian PM shared in the most common experience for young Palestinians nowadays, inhaling tear gas. Most citizens of Israel did not get to hear this piece of news. The editors just did not regard it as important or worthy of publication. For the time being, there is no Third Intifada, so who cares what Palestinians are doing?
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Jerry Holbert ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Republicans Reach Out To Women With New 'No Punch Pretty Lady' Bill

Parting Shots...

Pope Benedict came to the Vatican in 1951 as young staff prayer writer for Pope Pius XII.

Pope Benedict Stops By Prayer Writers' Room To Say Goodbye

VATICAN CITY-Making the rounds at Vatican City Thursday as he said a final goodbye to colleagues on his last day as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI reportedly took a few moments in the early afternoon to stop by the prayer writers' room and wish his team of ecclesiastical writers a fond farewell. Poking his head into the casually furnished room on the ground floor of St. Peter's Basilica, the resigning pope reportedly sat down at the messy writers' room table and chatted lightheartedly with the young staff of nine writers responsible for penning the masses, sermons, tweets, and encyclical letters delivered to Catholic followers from the Holy See.

"Mind if I sit in?" the Bishop of Rome said as he slid into a chair and looked up at the whiteboard of notes for upcoming homilies, listening intently as writers pitched sermon titles, prayer invocations, and new calls to action. "I think this is looking really good, guys. Wish I could deliver these myself."

Added the Pope, "Great stuff."

According to papal sources, the Vatican's staff of prayer writers meets every day to brainstorm, write, and edit catechetical materials for the Pontiff. The head prayer writer and prayer-writing assistant then meet with Pope Benedict in his office to deliver completed speeches, discuss upcoming liturgies, and receive edits on sermon drafts.

In addition, the head prayer writer is responsible for reviewing prayer submission packets-typically consisting of one full sermon, 10 possible titles for open-air masses, and 10 tweet options for the papal Twitter account-and hiring new writers for the team in the case of an opening.

After sitting with his team of writers for approximately seven minutes and warmly reminiscing about a certain humorously botched sermon from 2009, the Pope told the group of young men and women in their late 20s and early 30s to "be good" before bidding them all farewell and exiting the room.

"Benedict's great; he's got good instincts, he's super talented, and his sensibility leans toward things like sacrificial love and the Gospel of Christ, which are sort of in my wheelhouse," said head prayer writer Josh Heinz, who joined the papal writing staff in 2006 after years of freelancing at various Catholic archdiocese in the United States. "So it's definitely a little sad to see him go, especially for some of the older writers like me and Megan and Geoff. Hopefully the new Pope will be as simpatico with our style."

"Assuming whoever comes in next doesn't already have his own writers he wants to bring in, that is," Heinz added. "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

According to sources in the prayer writers' room, the staff plans to keep in touch over the interregnum and continue bouncing ideas off each other for new sermons and masses, keeping a close eye on the papal race in the hopes a frontrunner will emerge and they can begin penning outlines for his inaugural mass and Easter sermon.

Aside from that, writers told reporters, they plan to enjoy the unexpected time off and catch up on ecclesiastical writing they haven't had time to read.

"Last hiatus, I started reading a classic encyclical letter called Vigilante Cure from Pope Pius XI, but then work started back up again and I had to put it down," staff prayer writer Cole Harrod said. "Though to be honest, after writing sermons all day long, the last thing I want to do when I get home is read more Pope stuff."
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Issues & Alibis Vol 13 # 10 (c) 03/08/2013

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