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In This Edition

Tom Hayden warns of, "The Threat Of The Imperial Presidency."

Uri Avnery proudly shouts, "Ich bin ein Bil'iner!"

Glen Ford with a must read, "The U.S. Scorched Earth Policy, Ten Years After Iraq Invasion."

Glenn Greenwald examines, "The NYT And Obama Officials Collaborate To Prosecute Awlaki After He's Executed."

Jim Hightower considers, "The Mythical 'Dow' Versus The Real 'Doug.'"

Randal Amster returns with, "Pump Fiction."

James Donahue exclaims, "Our Heating Earth - It Ain't Natural!"

John Nichols says it's, "Time For A 'Right To Vote' Constitutional Amendment."

Norman Solomon tells, "Which Members Of Congress Are Standing Up For Economic Decency - And Which "Progressives" Aren't."

Robert Reich is having a deja vu about, "Ryan's Regressiveness Redux."

Paul Krugman sees, "Dwindling Deficit Disorder."

David Sirota declares, "Liberals Should Proudly Cheer On Rand Paul."

David Swanson finds, "Maryland: A Government Of, By, And For Lockheed Martin."

Iowa state Rep. Pat Grassley (R) wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges drives in a nail in, "The Crucifixion Of Tomas Young."

Adam Keller sees, "Rachel's Tears."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Will Durst tells, "The Bright Side Of Extreme Maturity" but first Uncle Ernie reports that Barry is, "Balancing The Budget On The Backs Of The Poor."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of David Horsey, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Tom Tomorrow, Jeff Malet, John Cole, Damian Dovarganes, Claudia Cuellar, Chip Somodevilla, UPI, Lockheed Martin, The Committee For Rachel's Tomb, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for a meeting with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus in the Mansfield Room
at the U.S. Capitol, on March 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. With tax reform, spending cuts, gun control and immigration on the
agenda, Obama will be holding four meetings over three days this week with Republican and Democratic members of Congress at the Capitol.

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Balancing The Budget On The Backs Of The Poor
Barry's "grand bargain" strikes again
By Ernest Stewart

"The base is not going to be happy with ham and egg justice that requires disproportionate sacrifice from all but the wealthy. It is a fiscal showdown. We're not going to blink. There is no reason in the world why the pillars of middle-class security, the earned benefits that our parents fought for, should be on the chopping block." ~~~ Van Jones ~ Obama's former green jobs czar and founder of Rebuild the Dream.

Paul Ryan's new budget is quite long, but its thesis can be stated briefly. If you cut spending on the poor to the bone and radically change the U.S. government's promises to help needy people pay for health care, it is remarkably easy to balance the budget. ~~~ Derek Thompson

"Voting is fundamental in our democracy. It has yielded enormous returns." ~~~ Arlen Specter

"No reason to get excited,"
The thief, he kindly spoke
"There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we've been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late"
All Along The Watchtower ~~~ Bob Dylan

Barry was off to the Senate on Tuesday to talk to Demoncratic Senators about his giveaway plans to the Rethuglicans for his "grand bargain." Behind closed doors, he told the Senators that he was open to cutting Social Security benefits as part of a deficit-reduction deal with congressional Republicans. "He is more inclined to cut benefits, which I strongly disagree with," Sen. Bernie Sanders told The Wall Street Journal and United Press International after leaving the meeting with the President. "I'm going to fight as hard as I can to make the point that Social Security has not contributed one nickel to the deficit," Sanders said Wednesday morning on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Senators Bernie Sanders and Tom Harkin questioned Obama's proposal to cut Social Security benefits. In an interview afterward with Reuters, Sanders said it would be better to bring more revenue into the system. "There are ways to address these problems without cutting benefits. Some of us suggested doing what he [Obama] proposed in 2008, which is to lift the cap on taxable income." Harkin told Politico that Obama's response to his and Sanders' concerns was "basically things are open for negotiation."

NPR asked Sanders if he would still stick to his position of not cutting Social Security, if it meant never reaching a so-called grand bargain? "Come on," he said on "All Things Considered." "There's nothing magical about the word grand bargain. The question is what is in the grand bargain. And if we could have a grand bargain which raises substantial revenue by doing away with corporate loopholes at a time when corporations are enjoying record-breaking profits, if we could have a grand bargain which protects Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, it would be great."

Sanders said he specifically highlighted to the President what Chained CPI would do to veterans. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the new formula would cost a veteran who began receiving benefits at 30 $1,425 at age 45 and $3,231 at age 65. "I just don't think that this president should develop a legacy to be the guy who cuts back on benefits for people who lost their arms and legs in Iraq and Afghanistan, or widows who lost their husbands," said Sanders.

Barry is off next to the House to lay his giveaways on the table for the Rethuglicans, where he will drop his pants, bend over, and beg Boner not to shove it in too far!

In Other News

I see that Wisconsin's national embarrassment has crawled out from under his rock again with another Rethuglican wish list of budget cuts for the elderly, hungry, sick, and poor. Yes, Paul Ryan, who is a perfect example of what Einstein said about being crazy, viz., "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Another good example of this is Michelle Bachmann, who placed a bill before the new Congress on its first day of session, the very same bill that she placed before the Congress 33 times last year -- only to have it rejected every time. Ryan's bill is the very same one that's been rejected time and time again. While all Rethuglicans may be a little crazy, you must admire their stamina, and their ability to overlook rejection! I can imagine that being rejected is the number one thing a Republican must learn to deal with from Day One?

Paul wants to balance the budget on the backs of, guess who, no, let's not see the same hands all the time... ...that's right on the backs of the poor, sick, elderly, and hungry. Paul is leaving his hands off Medicare and Social Security, for the moment, that is, by leaving everything in place for those over 55. However, for those 55 and younger, surprise, surprise, surprise! Paul may be crazy; but he's smart enough not to grab that third rail; it seems a pity that Barry isn't that smart!

No, half of Paul's spending cuts come from dumping ObamaCare and Medicaid, which would, of course, drive up the deficit, not lower it. He would give block grants to states, instead of having Medicaid which will cause millions more to lose health care. Paul insists on slashing the food stamp rolls, throwing millions off to starve. Is that what Rethuglican Jesus tells you to do, Paul? We know where regular Jesus stands on the subject!

Of course, there is also some pretty huge tax breaks for the ruling class; but since it's a Ryan budget, it goes without saying I'm repeating myself. Oh, and did I mention Paul chops another $1 trillion from "mandatory spending," i.e., cash assistance to the unemployed, low-income, and veterans -- forget those extended unemployment benefits and other programs; and he'll butcher retirement programs for vets and federal employees, too. Makes you want to reenlist, huh?

No, it's all same ole, same ole, when it comes to Rethuglican ideas: steal from the poor and give to the rich. Are you having a deja vu all over again, America? You can read Paul's bright idea for yourself, right here, but only, if you are very, very, very, very, slow to anger and have a cast iron stomach!

And Finally

From our, "It's Always Something" department comes the tale of Iowa state Rep. Pat Grassley (R), (the grandson of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)) who introduced a bill earlier this week that increases the amount of instruction in government and "the tenets of American citizenship" in the state's high school social studies curriculum, but specifically eliminates "the high school social studies requirement to teach voting procedures."

Under the bill, public high school students in Iowa would learn about "national, state, county, and local governments" without receiving instruction in voting procedures or methods as they are removed from the courses:

This bill increases the amount of instruction in government required as part of the state's high school social studies curriculum from one-half unit to one unit. The bill adds instruction in the federal system of government; the overlapping features and responsibilities of the national, state, county, and local governments; and the tenets of American citizenship to the subjects required in the instruction in government. The bill adds the principles of American citizenship to the required subjects for assessment as part of the instruction in government.

The bill strikes requirements that high school students receive instruction in voting statutes and procedures, voter registration requirements, the use of paper ballots and voting systems in the election process, and the method of acquiring and casting an absentee ballot.
So you know what I did, huh? That's right I sent Pat this little note...

Hey Pat,

Boy, did you fuck up, huh? So high schools shouldn't teach their students about voting? One would think that nothing is more fundamental to being American than exercising your right to vote; and yet you're removing it from Government classes? If not in Social Studies, what department should teach voting rights, how to vote, the importance of voting, etc.? Have no fear, Pat; your corpo-rat masters will still choose who gets to run and and who will win the "election," no matter what the people want. Oh, and Congratulations are in order, Pat; because you've just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award, our weekly award to the biggest traitor in America, and even with all the competition coming out of Foggy Bottom, you're this week's winner!

Ernest Stewart
Managing editor
Issues & Alibis Magazine
If you'd like to add your 2 cents worth you can email Pat at:

Or for those of you who like an adventure, call Pat at home at:
(319) 983.9019

And tell him Uncle Ernie sent ya!

So, Pat is this week's winner of the Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Oh lawd, got dem ole "Mother Hubbard's Empty Cupboard Blues, oh lawd, have mercy, once again!" Come on, ya'll; we need a little help here. Drove the one and a half hours back to Taylor and closed my account at the post office, having anything that arrives in the future sent on to my new PO Box; it's a tricky one to remember, folks; it's #1! I'm assuming that some branch of our spy network had me assigned that number so that they could remember it. I'm guessing it was Fatherland Security as they're all over my new neighborhood, got those friendly green and white trucks everywhere as I'm moving into our most watched section of all of our borders.

And who can blame them? Got all those "deadly hosers," a.k.a. "Canadians" just across the St. Mary's river, eh? Plotting and planing to come over here and do those awful things, that those smiling, friendly, people do, like shop and spend lots of money. Damn them all! Of course, those folks have no trouble coming across on the Blue Water Bridge to shop in the continuous shopping Mall that forms both sides of the road for miles and miles and miles just north and outside of Port Huron. No problem that is, unless your not blue eyed with blonde hair, if you get my drift, Abdul.

Ergo, it looks to be long, hot, interesting summer to say the least; and since it might hit the fan in my current environment, it might be to your advantage to keep me watching and reporting from what might be ground zero -- not to mention all the important things from around the world, so that you don't have to? Wouldn't that be to your, and your family's advantage? I bet it would! So, if you can help us out covering the cost of publishing, please send in whatever you can, whenever you can; and we'll be your eyes and ears, all along the watchtower!


02-05-1923 ~ 03-07-2013
Thanks for the music!

03-08-1957 ~ 03-12-2013
Thanks for the music!


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.

The Threat Of The Imperial Presidency
By Tom Hayden

Civil libertarians, human rights advocates and peace advocates should insist on a renewed congressional assertion of its power under the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, to take part in declaring war. Among the many reasons for this reassertion is that social movements typically have greater influence over elected congressional representatives than over the more remote and secretive executive branch.

Historically, American presidents have "encroached on Congress's war making responsibilities, leaving the legislative branch increasingly irrelevent," according to an analysis by Bennett Ramberg, a former State Department analyst in the first Bush administration.

Recent hearings by the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA director John Brennan's authority and the House Judiciary Committee into drones are at least momentary signs that Congress may be ready to reclaim some of its powers. Statements by President Obama literally asking Congress to write "new legal architecture" to "rein in" his presidency and those of his successors, are clear indications that the growth of an Imperial Presidency may be limited. The bipartisan vote of nearly 300 House members against the administration's launching of the six-month 2011 Libyan war is the most concrete example of legislative unease.

As Congress considers its options, it is crucial that the public be included in a rightful role. The public sends its sons and daughters to risk their lives in war, pays the taxes that fund those wars and accepts the burden of debt, the paring back of social programs and restrictions on civil liberties in the name of war. The public has a right to know, obtained through public debate and public elections, the rationale, the costs and the predicted outcomes of any military venture. James Madison, cited by Ramberg, gave the reason centuries ago: "Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued or concluded."

Section 4(b) of the War Powers Resolution mandates that "the President shall provide such other information as the Congress may request in the fulfillment of its constitutional responsibilities with respect to committing the Nation to war and to the use of United States Armed Forces abroad." Yet only insistent congressional pressure has forced the Obama administration to disclose some of its internal legal memoranda concerning drones, apparently in exchange for senate approval of Brennan's nomination. It continues to resist the spirit of Section 4(b).

Hopefully, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) will take up the reform of war-making powers as a major priority. Already, one of the CPC's co-chairs, Representative Keith Ellison, has expressed the need to reform and reverse the administration's secret drone war. In the Senate, strong leadership on transparency has come from Senator Ron Wyden. Libertarian Republican senator Rand Paul is demanding to know whether the White House will unleash drone strikes on American citizens. Longtime activist groups like Code Pink suddenly are finding themselves in the center of a national conversation.

Three senators who voted for Brennan's confirmation-Wyden, Mark Udall and Susan Collins-also issued a call on March 5 "to bring the American people into this debate and for Congress to consider ways to ensure that the president's sweeping authorities are subject to appropriate limitations, oversight and safeguards."

By most accounts, this fuss over the Imperial Presidency wasn't supposed to be happening. The drone wars were supposed to be cheap for the taxpayer, erase American military casualties and hammer the terrorists into peace negotiations. The assassination of Osama bin Ladin was supposed to be the turning point. But even with the wars being low-intensity and low-visibility, the "secrets" have remained in the public eye, especially the drone war.

From a peace movement perspective, pressure from anywhere for any steps that will complicate and eventually choke off the unfettered use of drones will be an improvement over the status quo. For some, like Ramberg, a reform of the 1973 War Powers Act is overdue. That resolution, which passed during an uproar against the Nixon presidency, actually conceded war-making power to the president for a two-month period before requiring congressional authorization. The original 1973 Senate version of the war-powers bill, before it was watered down, required congressional authorization except in the case of armed attack on the US or the necessity of immediate citizen evacuation. No president has ever signed the war powers legislation, on the grounds that it encroaches on the executive branch, although most presidents have voluntarily abided by its requirements.

Ramberg lists the US military actions undertaken after the War Powers Resolution "with minimal or no congressional consultation," as: Mayaguez (1975), Iran hostage rescue action (1980), El Salvador (1981), Lebanon (1982), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), Panama (1989), Iraq (May 1991, 1993), Somalia (1993) Bosnia (1993-95), Haiti (1993, 2004) and Kosovo (1999), leaving out Sudan (1998) and the dubious authorizations for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The immediate issue ripe for attention is the drone policy, conducted especially in Pakistan by the CIA in utter secrecy, but also spreading through Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Mali.

Drone attacks clearly are acts of war as defined by the War Powers Resolution, although the WPR was written mainly to contain the deployment of American ground forces. The drone war rests more squarely on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the underlying legal rationale for the "global war on terrorism."

The challenge of reform, as opposed to emergency tinkering, will require prolonged efforts to amend and clarify both the WPR and AUMF. Allowing any president a sixty-day period before seeking congressional authorization, as the WPR does, makes no sense in drone warfare. Instead, the president should be required to seek congressional permission if he wishes to target a clearly definable "enemy," and be required to issue public guidelines, including necessary disclosure, governing the use of force he contemplates. That means:

First, Congress should establish a special inspector general, like the SIGUR created for Iraq and Afghanistan, to define, monitor and determine civilian casualties ("collateral damage") from drone strikes. Currently that information is collected by the CIA, which has a conflict of interest, not to mention a curtain of secrecy.

Second, Congress will need to draft guidelines sharply narrowing-or even banning-the use of "signature strikes," which permit drone attacks against targets profiled according to identity, such as young males of military age (which could be civilians, participants in a wedding or funeral, etc.).

Third, Congress or the courts will have to restore the open-ended concept of "imminent threat" to its traditional meaning, as an immediate operational threat aimed at American citizens, US territory or facilities. Under the elastic formulation employed by Brennan and others, the simple fact of ill-defined jihadists holding meetings anywhere on the planet is an "imminent threat" justifying military action. And according to the CIA interpretation, the threat is a "continuous" one, carrying over from war to war. But if every "potential" threat is defined as "imminent," and all the threats are continuous, the CIA, Special Forces and American military will be spread thin indeed from the jungles of the Philippines to the ghettos of Britain.

The 2001 AUMF was written to justify the unofficial military doctrine of the "long war," developed by counterinsurgency advisers to General David Petraeus and the State Department, like David Kilcullen, who project a conflict of fifty- to eighty-years' duration against ill-defined Muslim fundamentalists. The designated targets of the AUMF are "Al Qaeda" and "associated" terrorist groups. That overly broad definition authorizes a global war in the shadows against forces whose actual links to Al Qaeda are difficult to discern and who may or may not be threats against the United States. If targeted by the United States, however, the likelihood of their becoming threats will only increase.

A recent example in a long list of these targets is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the 40-year-old Algerian who may or may not have been killed last week in Chad. Belmokhtar allegedly carried out the January attack on an Algerian gas plant in which thirty-seven foreign hostages died. He did so in retaliation against France's military intervention in its former colony of Mali, and against Algeria's siding with Western counterterrorism policies. Otherwise, Belmokhtar was nicknamed the "Marlboro Man" because of his decades-long involvement in smuggling cigarettes. Ten years ago he led one faction of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, before breaking away to form his own force in the Sahel.

The question is whether the 2001 AUMF was written to cover a regional warlord like the "Marlboro Man" whose history is "smuggling, kidnapping and fighting for decades in the Sahel," or whether it is being used as a blanket authorization for official kill lists and CIA drone assassins everywhere.

Finally, Congress should commission an independent body to evaluate whether the war on terrorism, including the drone attacks, has made Americans "safer." The rise of the drones-as well as cyber-warfare-has a lulling effect on public opinion since American group operations are ending and casualties are down. But the 9/11 attacks took place unexpectedly as a result of burning grievances in the Muslim world. The official metrics of safety (e.g., how many jihadist "leaders" have been killed, whether insurgent attacks are up or down) ignore the incendiary hatred and desire for revenge building in Muslim communities suffering from remote drone attacks. A few empirical studies have shown a direct correlation between the rise of suicide bombers and US/Western occupation of Muslim lands, but the mass illusion of safety from terrorism tends to persist. A national conversation, including the forgotten ways in which we are made less safe by the war on terrorism, is sorely needed.

In perspective, the effort to prevent the restoration of an Imperial Presidency is long and politically difficult, something like reversing the mass incarceration policies and police buildups that followed the neoconservatives' "war on gangs" campaign of the early 1990s, which the Clinton administration adopted. Many liberals in general, and Democrats in particular, cringe at being labeled "soft on crime" (or "soft on terrorism"). Some on the left, on the other hand, seem to think that the threat of terrorism is manufactured. However, if another attack should occur against the United States, the danger that a second Patriot Act will pass is real. Current US policies inadvertently provoke that possibility, with the drone strikes the equivalent of attacking a hornet's nest. Therefore, the open window for "reining in" the president's executive powers could close at any time. Hearings to reform of the 2001 AUMF and the 1973 WPR could not be more urgent.
(c) 2013 Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of 1960's peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently teaches at PitzerCollege in Los Angeles. His books include The Port Huron Statement [new edition], Street Wars and The Zapatista Reader.

"Ich bin ein Bil'iner!"
By Uri Avnery

THIS DOES not happen every day: a Minister of Culture publicly rejoices because a film from her country has NOT been awarded an Oscar. And not just one film, but two.

It happened this week. Limor Livnat, still Minister of Culture in the outgoing government, told Israeli TV she was happy that Israel's two entries for Oscars in the category of documentary films, which made it to the final four, did lose in the end.

Livnat, one of the most extreme Likud members, has little chance of being included in the diminishing number of Likud ministers in the next government. Perhaps her outburst was meant to improve her prospects.

Not only did she attack the two films, but she advised the semi-official foundations which finance Israeli films to exercise "voluntary self-censorship and deprive such unpatriotic films of support, thus making sure that they will not be produced at all.

THE TWO documentaries in question are very different in character.

One, The Gatekeepers, is a collection of testimonies by six successive chiefs of the General Security Service, Israel's internal intelligence agency, variously known by its Hebrew initials Shin Bet or Shabak. In the US its functions are performed by the FBI. (The Mossad is the equivalent of the CIA.)

All six service chiefs are harshly critical of the Israeli prime ministers and cabinet ministers of the last decades. They accuse them of incompetence, stupidity and worse.

The other film, 5 Broken Cameras, tells the story of the weekly protest demonstrations against the "separation" fence in the village of Bil'in, as viewed through the cameras of one of the villagers.

One may wonder how two films like these made it to the top of the Academy awards in the first place. My own (completely unproven) conjecture is that the Jewish academy members voted for their selection without actually seeing them, assuming that an Israeli film could not be un-kosher. But when the pro-Israeli lobby started a ruckus, the members actually viewed the films, shuddered, and gave the top award to Searching for Sugar Man.

I HAVE not yet had a chance to see The Gatekeepers. In spite of that, I am not going to write about it.

However, I have seen 5 Broken Cameras several times - both in the cinema and on the ground.

Limor Livnat treated it as an "Israeli" film. But that designation is rather problematical.

First of all, unlike other categories, documentaries are not listed according to nationality. So it was not, officially, "Israeli".

Second, one of its two co-producers protested vehemently against this designation. For him, this is a Palestinian film.

As a matter of fact, any national designation is problematical. All the material was filmed by a Palestinian, Emad Burnat. But the co-editor, Guy Davidi, who put the filmed material into its final shape, is Israeli. Much of the financing came from Israeli foundations. So it would be fair to say that it is a Palestinian-Israeli co-production.

This is also true for the "actors": the demonstrators are both Palestinians and Israelis. The soldiers are, of course, Israelis. Some of members of the Border Police are Druze (Arabs belonging to a marginal Islamic sect.)

When the last of Emad Burnat's sons was born, he decided to buy a simple camera in order to document the stages of the boy's growing up. He did not yet dream of documenting history. But he took his camera with him when he joined the weekly demonstrations in his village. And from then on, every week.

BIL'IN IS a small village west of Ramallah, near the Green Line. Few people had ever heard of it before the battle. I heard of it for the first time some eight years ago, when Gush Shalom, the peace organization to which I belong, was asked to participate in a demonstration against the expropriation of some of its lands for a new settlement, Kiryat Sefer ("Town of the Book").

When we arrived there, only a few new houses were already standing. Most of the land was still covered with olive trees. In following protests, we saw the settlement grow into a large town, totally reserved for ultra-orthodox Jews, called Haredim, "those who fear (God)". I passed through it several times, when there was no other way to reach Bil'in, and never saw a single man there who was not wearing the black attire and black hat of this community.

The Haredim are not settlers per se. They do not go there for ideological reasons, but just because they need space for their huge number of offspring. The government pushes them there.

What made this first demonstration memorable for me was that the village elders emphasized, in their summing-up, the importance of non-violence. At the time, non-violence was not often heard about in Palestinian parlance.

Non-violence was and remains one of the outstanding qualities of the Bil'in struggle. From the first demonstration on, week after week, year after year, non-violence has been the hallmark of the protests.

Another mark was the incredible inventiveness. The elders have long ago given way to the younger generation. For years, these youngsters strived to fill every single demonstration with a specific symbolic content. On one occasion, protesters were carried along in iron cages. On another, we all wore masks of Mahatma Gandhi. Once we brought with us a well-known Dutch pianist, who played Schubert on a truck in the midst of the melee. On yet another protest, the demonstrators chained themselves to the fence. At another time, a football match was played in view of the settlement. Once a year, guests are invited from all over the world for a symposium about the Palestinian struggle.

THE FIGHT is mainly directed at the "Separation" Fence, which is supposed to separate between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In built-up areas it is a wall, in open spaces it is a fence, protected on both sides by a broad stretch of land for patrol roads and barbed wire. The official purpose is to prevent terrorists from infiltrating into Israel and blowing themselves up here.

If this were the real purpose, and were the wall built on the border, nobody could fairly object. Every state has the right to protect itself. But that is only part of the truth. In many regions, the wall/fence cuts deeply into Palestinian territory, ostensibly to protect settlements, in reality to annex land. This is the case in Bil'in.

The original fence cut the village off from most of its lands, which were earmarked for the enlargement of the settlement now called Modi'in Illit ("Upper Modi'in"). The real Modi'in is an adjacent township within the Green Line.

In the course of the struggle, the villagers appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, which finally accepted part of their claim. The government was ordered to move the fence some distance nearer to the Green Line. This still leaves a lot of land for the settlement.

In practice, the complete wall/fence annexes almost 10% of the West Bank to Israel. (Altogether, the West Bank constitutes a mere 22% of the country of Palestine is [is as] it was before 1948.)

ONCE EMAD BURNAT started to take pictures, he could not stop. Week after week he "shot" the protests, while the soldiers shot (without quotation marks) at the protesters.

Tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets were used by the military every week. Sometimes, live ammunition was employed. Yet in all the demonstrations I witnessed, there was not a single act of violence by the protesters themselves - Palestinians, Israelis or international activists. The demonstrations usually start in the center of the village, near the mosque. When the Friday prayers end (Friday is the Muslim holy day), some of the devout join the young people waiting outside, and a march to the fence, a few kilometers away, commences. At the fence, the clash happens. The protesters push forward and shout, the soldiers launch tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. The gas canisters hit people (Rachel, my wife, had a big bruise on her thigh for months, where a canister had hit her. Rachel was already carrying a fatal liver disease and was strictly warned by her doctor not to come near tear gas. But she could not resist taking photos close up.)

Once the melee starts, boys and youngsters - not the demonstrators themselves - on the fringes usually start to throw stones at the soldiers. It is a kind of ritual, a test of courage and manhood. For the soldiers this is a pretext for increasing the violence, hitting people and gassing them.

Emad shows it all. The film shows his son grow up, from baby to schoolboy, in between the protests. It also shows Emad's wife begging him to stop. Emad was arrested and seriously injured. One of his relatives was killed. All the organizers in the village were imprisoned again and again. So were their Israeli comrades. I testified at several of the trials in the military court, located in a large military prison camp.

The Israeli protesters are barely seen in the film. But right from the beginning, Jews played an important part in the protests. The main Israeli participants are the "Anarchists against the Wall", a very courageous and creative group. (Gush Shalom activist Adam Keller is shown in a close-up, trying out a passive resistance technique he had learned in Germany. Somehow it did not work. Perhaps you need German police for it.)

If the film does not do full justice to the Israeli and international protesters, that is quite understandable. The aim was to showcase the Palestinian non-violent resistance.

In the course of the struggle, one of Emad's cameras after another was broken. He is now wielding camera No. 6.

THIS IS a story of heroism, the heroic struggle of simple villagers for their lands and their country.

Long after Limor Livnat will be forgotten, people will remember the Battle of Bil'in.

President Barack Obama would be well advised to see this film before his forthcoming visit to Israel and Palestine.

Some years ago, I was asked to make the laudatory speech at a Berlin ceremony, in which the village of Bil'in and the "Anarchists against the Wall" were decorated for their courage.

Slightly paraphrasing President John Kennedy's famous speech in Berlin, I proposed that every decent person in the world should proudly proclaim: "Ich bin ein Bil'iner!"
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

The U.S. Scorched Earth Policy, Ten Years After Iraq Invasion
By Glen Ford

"Iraq was much more than an imperial episode; it was supposed to be an epochal game-changer." When the United States invaded Iraq on March 17, 2003, the Bush regime hoped to forestall America's impending economic eclipse through ruthless deployment of its last remaining global advantage: a war machine so huge and technologically advanced, it accounted for half the world's military spending. The strategic aim of the unprovoked assault, broadly outlined by the Project for the New American Century and telegraphed in numerous Pentagon leaks, was to block the rise of any challenge to U.S. imperial supremacy in the foreseeable future.

Iraq, which the Republican administration believed was ripe for a relatively quick and painless plucking, would serve as a base for U.S. power projection throughout the Arab world and deep into formerly Soviet Central Asia, a region of vast energy reserves that was "still in play" in terms of competition with Russia, China, India and Iran. The U.S. military would thrust itself into the contested region, blocking the natural progression of trade and political relations between eastern and western Eurasia, and unambiguously establishing the United States as the "New Rome" - the permanent arbiter of global affairs. The rise of China would be both slowed and politically quarantined, through a robust U.S. presence.

The larger goal was to prevent America's long-term economic decline - no secret, even then - from resulting in the loss of global strategic supremacy. The "New Rome" might be in an advanced state of deindustrialization and increasingly uncompetitive in trade, its "soft power" utterly exhausted, but aggressive deployment of its awesome war machine would allow the U.S. to remain the "indispensable nation," the permanent hegemon.

Iraq was much more than an imperial episode; it was supposed to be an epochal game-changer - the equivalent of George Bush slamming his fist on the global game board, upsetting all the pieces, and then putting them back in ways that ensured U.S. dominance. China, and all the other emerging powers of a world seeking independent routes of development - checked!

As I wrote in BlackCommentator on the evening that Shock and Awe broke over Baghdad:

"We are all assembled, the world's people, awaiting the Pirates' lunge at history. The Bush men have made sure we pay rapt attention to their Big Bang, their epochal Event, after which the nature of things will have changed unalterably to their advantage - they think. The Bush men are certain of our collective response, convinced that once we have witnessed The Mother of All War Shows, humanity will react according to plan, and submit."

As we predicted, Bush had "reached too far." His engines of war ultimately failed to "harness Time and cheat the laws of political economy, to leapfrog over the contradictions of their parasitical existence into a new epoch of their own imagining."

The eventual defeat and withdrawal at the hands of Iraqi irregulars and civil society was catastrophic to U.S. prestige. So much face was lost, it required that the Empire put a new, Black face forward, so as to resume the game under (cosmetically) new circumstances.

A cunning liar emerged from the duopoly pack, a slick young man who claimed to oppose "dumb" wars while pledging undying dedication to U.S. supremacy in the world. And much of the world let its guard down.

Barack Obama would need some smartly-worded wars, because he faced the same historical dilemma as Bush - only now, the imperial rot was far more advanced, and evident to everyone. People had coined the term BRICs, to describe the emerging powerhouses of Brazil, whose development bank would soon surpass the World Bank in size; Russia, newly assertive and still a petro-chemical colossus; India, soon to be the world's most populous nation; and China, which by some measures became the planet's biggest economy in 2010, following the global capitalist financial meltdown. (American intelligence services still claim the final economic eclipse of the U.S. will not arrive until around 2030, in the vain hope of delaying a national psychological depression.) Just like Bush, Obama needed to reset the game board.

The defeat in Iraq could not be reversed, so Obama reluctantly honored the terms of Bush's withdrawal agreement. He "surged" in Afghanistan, to no avail, and now seeks a formula to retain as much killing power in that country as possible after 2014. But Obama's forced retreats in Iraq and Afghanistan were accompanied by a general declaration of war against the international order, cloaked in the bogus doctrine of humanitarian military intervention. The scope of U.S. aggression has become limitless, bounded only by the geopolitical ambitions of Washington and its ad hoc formations of allies and proxies. Obama has shattered the bedrock of global relations - the sovereignty of nations - without which there can be no international rule of law. Every government on the planet can be made a target, if the U.S. makes the case that the regime is unfit to administer its people.

Obama's drone armadas are central to his military posture, and the war on terror rationales inherited from Bush remain useful to Obama's purposes, at home as well as abroad. However, his principal tool and innovation in the twilight struggle to maintain U.S. hegemony in the era of general American decline, is humanitarian intervention, which justifies any aggression. In effectively jettisoning the rules of war - which the United States was so central to codifying after World War Two - Obama threatens to plunge the world into chaos.

It now appears that the U.S., in desperation to halt the slide into "non-empire" status, has adopted the imposition of chaos as its default foreign policy. No longer competitive in a global playing field, ruled by finance capitalists who create nothing and seek only to monetize other people's labor and resources, the United States appears to have concluded that extended periods of chaos in crucial areas of the world may be more advantageous than a state of relative peace in which the U.S. is not the dominant actor.

Washington has long favored this strategy in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It funded Somali warlords to keep that nation in chaos and political incoherence, finally instigating Ethiopia to invade the country in late 2006 to prevent the spread of peace under a popular Islamist government. Since the fall of its long-time strongman, Mobutu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.S. proxies Rwanda and Uganda have imposed a living hell in the country's eastern regions, a chaos so horrific it has claimed six million lives since 1996, and still counting. Minerals extraction continues amidst the carnage.

Then came the advent of the Arab Spring, and the West's nightmare scenario of true independence and popular rule in the energy centers of the world. Europe and the U.S. responded with overwhelming force, allying with the royalist Arab oil regimes and the international jihadist movement to bring down Muammar Gaddafi's government in Libya, under a paper-thin humanitarian UN mandate. It was absolutely predictable that chaos would soon spread throughout the northern tier of Africa - what else could possibly occur with the empowerment of jihadists? Simultaneously, the West launched its jihadist war against Syria, igniting two years, so far, of chaos by design in the heart of the Arab world.

This is, in effect, a kind of scorched earth policy, based on the premise that chaos is preferable to international order in situations where a declining U.S. cannot exert effective control. It is a policy that does not blink after two years of mayhem in the tinderbox in which Syria sits - because the alternative, as the U.S. sees it, is the inevitable shrinking of its global domain through the independent interactions of other peoples. Given the alternative, Washington says: let it burn.

The scorched earth strategy suits a retreating army. America still has global reach, which means no region is safe from its dying, imperial convulsions. Although Venezuela provides a huge portion of U.S. oil imports and is situated on a continent that has overwhelmingly rejected the "Washington Consensus," the period following Hugo Chavez's passing is fraught with danger of blatant U.S. intervention. The declining empire's rulers are desperate to erase the Chinese handwriting on the wall. They feel compelled to roll the dice, as Bush did, ten years ago.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

The NYT And Obama Officials Collaborate To Prosecute Awlaki After He's Executed
A joint media-government attempt to justify the assassination of a US citizen ends up doing the opposite
By Glenn Greenwald

The New York Times and the Obama administration have created a disturbing collaborative pattern that asserted itself again on Sunday with the paper's long article purporting to describe the events leading up to the execution by the CIA of US citizen Anwar Awlaki. Time and again, the Obama administration shrouds what it does with complete secrecy, and then uses that secrecy to avoid judicial review of its actions and/or compelled statutory disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. "Oh, we're so sorry", says the Obama DOJ, "but we cannot have courts deciding if what we did is legal, nor ordering us to disclose information under FOIA, because these programs are so very secret that any disclosure would seriously jeopardize national security."

But then, senior Obama officials run to the New York Times by the dozens, demand (and receive) anonymity, and then spout all sorts of claims about these very same programs that are designed to justify what the US government has done and to glorify President Obama. The New York Times helpfully shields these officials - who are not blowing any whistles, but acting as government spokespeople - from being identified, and then mindlessly regurgitates their assertions as fact. It's standard government stenography, administration press releases masquerading as in-depth news articles.

Sunday's lengthy NYT article on the Awlaki killing by Mark Mazzetti, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane is a classic case of this arrangement. It purports to provide "an account of what led to the Awlaki strike" that is "based on interviews with three dozen current and former legal and counterterrorism officials and outside experts." But what it really does is simply summarize the unverified justifications of the very officials involved in the killing, most of whom are permitted to justify themselves while hiding behind anonymity. It devotes itself with particular fervor to defending the actions of former Obama OLC lawyers David Barron and Marty Lederman, who concocted the theories to authorize due-process-free assassinations of American citizens (those same Democratic lawyers were, needless to say, among the most vocal critics of the Bush administration's War on Terror policies that denied due process and relied on rampant secrecy).

There are many points to make about all of this. To begin with, will the Obama administration - which has persecuted whistleblowers with an unprecedented fervor and frequency - launch a criminal investigation to determine the identity of the "three dozen current and former legal and counterterrorism officials" who spoke to the NYT about the classified Awlaki hit, or, as usual, are such punishments reserved for those who embarrass rather than glorify the president?

Moreover, why can Obama officials run to the NYT after the fact and make all sorts of claims about the mountain of evidence providing Awlaki's guilt, but not have done the same thing in a court of law prior to killing him? As the NYT notes, when the ACLU sued on behalf of Awlaki's father seeking to enjoin Obama from killing his son, the Obama DOJ invoked the "state secrets" privilege, insisting that the evidence against Awlaki was so secret that national security would be jeopardized if disclosed to the court: the very same alleged evidence that Obama officials are now spilling to the NYT. They also deliberately refused to indict him, which would have at least required showing some evidence to a court to justify the accusations against him and would have enabled him to turn himself in and defend himself if inclined to do so.

All of this highlights why it's so odious to prosecute and convict people in a newspaper after you execute them, rather than in a court of law before you end their life. As but one example, the statements about Awlaki from attempted underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab on which the NYT heavily relies to assert Awlaki's guilt would have been subjected to intense cross-examination to see if they were simply the results of Abdulmutallab giving the government what they wanted - namely, statements that incriminated someone they wanted to kill - in exchange for favors as part of his plea agreement. It's so basic, though the NYT seems not to have heard, that statements made by accused criminals in exchange for favors as part of a plea bargain are among the most unreliable.

But that kind of critical scrutiny only happens in courtrooms, with due process. By contrast, asserted government evidence is simply mindlessly assumed to be true when it's fed to journalists after the fact without anyone to contradict it or any process available to disprove it. As the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights jointly said yesterday about this NYT story:

"This is the latest in a series of one-sided, selective disclosures that prevent meaningful public debate and legal or even political accountability for the government's killing program, including its use against citizens.

"Government officials have made serious allegations against Anwar al-Aulaqi, but allegations are not evidence, and the whole point of the Constitution's due process clause is that a court must distinguish between the two. If the government has evidence that Al-Aulaqi posed an imminent threat at the time it killed him, it should present that evidence to a court."

Indeed, while the NYT asserts as though it's incontrovertible that he was "a senior operative in Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen." Yemen experts such as Gregory Johnsen have long said the opposite: "We suspect a great deal about Anwar al-Awlaki, but we know very little, precious little when it comes to his operational role" and "Mendelsohn [said]: '(Awlaki) played an important role in a string of attacks in the West'. We just don't know this, we suspect it but don't know it."

Beyond that, the DOJ officials whose conduct is defended by this story have long been important sources to the very NYT reporters writing this article (not just during the Obama years but also the Bush years), so it's a typical case of journalists using anonymity to serve the agendas of their government sources. And it's yet another case where journalistic anonymity is granted not to protect whistleblowers from recriminations by the powerful, but to protect government officials from accountability so they can justify government conduct. And, finally, Marcy Wheeler details several extremely dubious claims that were passed off as fact by this NYT article: here and here.

But I want to focus on one key point. What prompted my opposition from the start to the attempted killing of Awlaki was that it was very clear he was being targeted because of his anti-American sermons that were resonating among English-speaking Muslim youth (sermons which, whatever you think of them, are protected by the First Amendment), and not because he was a Terrorist operative. In other words, the US government was trying to murder one of its own citizens as punishment for his political and religious views that were critical of the government's policies, and not because of any actual crimes or warfare.

The NYT addresses this concern directly with a long, convoluted explanation that the Obama administration refrained from targeting Awlaki when they thought he was only a "dangerous propagandist", and decided to kill him only once they obtained proof that he was an actual Terrorist operative. The NYT says that this proof was obtained in "late January 2010" when Abdulmutallab cooperated with authorities and claimed Awlaki participated in his plot. In order to validate this explanation, the NYT claims that a December, 2009 drone strike in Yemen that was widely reported at the time to have targeted Awlaki - and which media outlets falsely reported killed him - was actually targeting others, and that Awlaki would merely have been oh-so-coincidental (and perfectly legal) "collateral damage". Here is the NYT's effort to insist that the Obama administration targeted Awlaki for death only once it obtained evidence in late January, 2010 that he was more than a mere propagandist:

"[Awlaki's] eloquent, English-language exhortations to jihad turned up repeatedly on the computers of young plotters of violence arrested in Britain, Canada and the United States.

"By 2008, said Philip Mudd, then a top F.B.I. counterterrorism official, Mr. Awlaki 'was cropping up as a radicalizer - not in just a few investigations, but in what seemed to be every investigation.'

"In November 2009, when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was charged with opening fire at Fort Hood in Texas and killing 13 people, Mr. Awlaki finally found the global fame he had long appeared to court. Investigators quickly discovered that the major had exchanged e-mails with Mr. Awlaki, though the cleric's replies had been cautious and noncommittal. But four days after the shootings, the cleric removed any doubt about where he stood.

"'Nidal Hassan is a hero', he wrote on his widely read blog. 'He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people.'

"As chilling as the message was, it was still speech protected by the First Amendment. American intelligence agencies intensified their focus on Mr. Awlaki, intercepting communications that showed the cleric's growing clout in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

"On Dec. 24, 2009, in the second American strike in Yemen in eight days, missiles hit a meeting of leaders of the affiliate group. News accounts said one target was Mr. Awlaki, who was falsely reported to have been killed.

"In fact, other top officials of the group were the strike's specific targets, and Mr. Awlaki's death would have been collateral damage - legally defensible as a death incidental to the military aim. As dangerous as Mr. Awlaki seemed, he was proved to be only an inciter; counterterrorism analysts did not yet have incontrovertible evidence that he was, in their language, "operational."

"That would soon change. The next day, a 23-year-old Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried and failed to blow up an airliner as it approached Detroit. The would-be underwear bomber told FBI agents that after he went to Yemen and tracked down Mr. Awlaki, his online hero, the cleric had discussed 'martyrdom and jihad' with him, approved him for a suicide mission, helped him prepare a martyrdom video and directed him to detonate his bomb over United States territory, according to court documents.

"In his initial 50-minute interrogation on Dec. 25, 2009, before he stopped speaking for a month, Mr. Abdulmutallab said he had been sent by a terrorist named Abu Tarek, although intelligence agencies quickly found indications that Mr. Awlaki was probably involved. When Mr. Abdulmutallab resumed cooperating with interrogators in late January, an official said, he admitted that 'Abu Tarek' was Mr. Awlaki. With the Nigerian's statements, American officials had witness confirmation that Mr. Awlaki was clearly a direct plotter, no longer just a dangerous propagandist.

"'He had been on the radar all along, but it was Abdulmutallab's testimony that really sealed it in my mind that this guy was dangerous and that we needed to go after him,' said Dennis C. Blair, then director of national intelligence."<>

So that tortured justification for what the Obama administration did, laundered through the NYT, is clear in its claims: (1) we were legally and constitutionally barred from trying to kill Awlaki when we thought he was just a propagandist; (2) the December, 2009 strike wasn't really targeting him, despite what media outlets reported at the time, because we did not yet have evidence that he was a Terrorist plotter; and (3) we acquired that evidence only in late January, 2010, and only then did we start to target Awlaki for execution. Obviously, those claims are necessary to defend themselves from what would clearly be criminal behavior: trying to kill a US citizen because of the government's dislike for his political and religious speech.

But the first journalist to report on the existence of Obama's kill list and the inclusion of US citizens was the Washington Post's Dana Priest. On January 26, 2010, this is what she wrote:

"As part of the operations [in Yemen], Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a US citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of US citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said . . .

"The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a US citizen joins al-Qaeda, 'it doesn't really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them', a senior administration official said. 'They are then part of the enemy.'

"Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called 'High Value Targets' and 'High Value Individuals', whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three US citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added."

According to Priest's reporting back then, the Obama administration was trying to execute Awlaki as early as late 2009 - exactly when the Obama officials who spoke to the NYT admit that they had no evidence that he was anything other than a "propagandist" and this his targeted killing would therefore be unconstitutional and illegal. (That's also a reminder that not only Awlaki, but at least two other still-unknown Americans, have been placed on Obama's kill list). Priest then added that the cause of Awlaki's being placed on the kill list were his "academic" discussions with Nidal Hasan: exactly what the NYT's Obama-official-sources now say are protected free speech that could not be used to legally justify his killing:

"Intelligence officials say the New Mexico-born imam also has been linked to the Army psychiatrist who is accused of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian at Fort Hood, Tex., although his communications with Maj. Nidal M. Hasan were largely academic in nature. Authorities say that Aulaqi is the most important native, English-speaking al-Qaeda figure and that he was in contact with the Nigerian accused of attempting to bomb a US airlner on Christmas Day."

Whatever else is true, there is a serious potential contradiction between the self-justifying claims of the NYT's sources (we waited until late January, 2010 when we acquired evidence of Awlaki's involvement in plots before trying to kill him) and Priest's reporting (the Obama administration began trying to kill Awlaki in 2009, before it had evidence that he had done anything beyond "inspiring" plots with his sermons). The reason this matters so much regardless of your views of Awlaki is obvious, and is certainly on the mind of the NYT's government sources: it would be purely tyrannical, not to mention unconstitutional and criminal (murder), for the US government to try to kill one of its own citizens in order to stop his critical speech.

It's possible that there is a distinction in this reporting between being targeted for killing by JSOC versus the CIA, although the NYT's government sources are clear that any government targeted killing of Awlaki without proof of involvement in terrorist plots - based solely on his sermons - would be legally dubious, at best (indeed, on Democracy Now this morning, the NYT's Scott Shane said: "they had in fact decided they could not target Samir Khan, because he was a propagandist, and not an actual plotter, but he was killed anyway"; when I asked Savage about this, he told me this morning via email that "the exact date that Awlaki went on 'the list' is one of several issues that we dug into at length, and while we were able to mosaic together some answers to some previously outstanding questions this one remains murky"). It's also possible that Priest's reporting was wrong and efforts to kill Awlaki only began in 2010 once the government acquired what it claims is evidence of his involvement in Terrorist plots. It's also possible that the NYT's sources are simply wrong, or worse, when claiming that abundant evidence exists to prove Awlaki's involvement in such plots.

But all of this only underscores why governments of civilized nations don't first execute people without charges or due process and seek after the fact the convict them in a one-sided, non-adversarial process of newspaper leaks; these are exactly the kinds of questions that are resolved by adversarial judicial procedures, precisely the procedures the Obama administration made sure could never take place. It also underscores why responsible media outlets should do more than print these unverified government accusations as truth, especially about a matter as consequential as the government's assassination of its own citizens. That the Obama administration and the New York Times did neither of those things in this case is quite revealing about the function they perform.
(c) 2013 Glenn Greenwald. was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

The Mythical 'Dow' Versus The Real 'Doug'

It's a sign that the economy is "healing," exclaims a happy headline. "It signals that things are getting back to normal," says a delighted market analyst. And the New York Times heralded it as "a golden age."

The "it" they're hailing is The Dow - that mythical and mystical force said by faithful Dowists to be "The Way" - the provider of good fortune, often by magical means. It's the Dow Jones industrial average, and this holy measure of corporate stock prices is now smiling warmly on its acolytes.

On March 5, the Dow Jones Average reached a new high, regaining every dime of the $11 trillion that Wall Street investors had lost in the 2007 crash. Worker productivity is zooming, corporate profits are soaring, wealth is flowing like a mighty river, Wall Street is buoyant - all praise the Dow!

Unless, of course, your wealth is dependent not on stock prices, but on wages. In that case, you're among the majority of Americans who're concerned about the Doug Jones Average. Forget all the buzz about "a golden age," Doug, Darcy, Deewanna, and all the other Joneses can't even afford to eat at the Golden Arches - for they're still mired in the Great Job Depression that Wall Street's crash caused. Washington rushed to rescue the financial elites, but the Joneses are still getting stiffed by the very elites Washington continues to coddle.

United Technologies is typical. The profits of this manufacturing giant have never been higher, and it continues to be blessed with lucrative government contracts. Grand. But how are the workers doing? Only four days after its stock prices reached a record high in February - United Tech's honchos announced the firing of 3,000 workers, on top of the 4,000 they fired last year.

The continued separation of the few from the rest of us is revolting. In more ways than one.
(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.

Pump Fiction
By Randall Amster

We have entered a critical era for the future of humanity on this planet, and the stakes are indeed as high as whether there will be anything left for those who come next. In the period of expansive consumer growth following World War II, and then again with another quantum leap in the age of globalization and digitization, humankind has been collectively taxing the planet's carrying capacity and altering basic processes that have sustained our existence for eons. At this juncture, we cannot simply go back to a more pristine time (real or imagined), and the question of where we go from here is an open and urgent one.

Unfortunately, elite interests of both the national and multinational varieties are already in the process of making this all-important decision for us. Rather than reconsidering the profligate lifestyles and extractive mindsets that have pushed us to the brink, the profit-seeking powers that be are doubling down on their efforts to procure every last usable penny's worth from the planet in short order. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that we are not going to drill, pump, mine, or frack our way out of this mess - and in reality, such methods are only going to exacerbate the problem.

We have a crisis of both hardware and software converging upon us. On the hardware side, there are 7 billion people to feed while basic resources such as arable land, energy inputs, and freshwater supplies are imperiled by waste, overuse, and maldistribution. Too many people consume disproportionately while others suffer needlessly, creating an ongoing quest by the latter to join the ranks of the former (understandably so), yielding a sharp spike in demand as supplies are dwindling.

We needn't be neo-Malthusians to recognize the gravity of the situation. You may remember Malthus: he predicted about two centuries ago that at some point human population would exceed food supplies. Thus far, we have generally avoided the worst of his predictions through innovations and new technologies, but the debt is coming due sooner rather than later. The basic equation of how much there is to go around is hard to avoid, and the inflationary bubble we've been living in during the age of abundant energy inputs (primarily through fossil fuels) is bound to burst.

In order to try and stave off this bursting bubble, extractive industries have been scouring the earth for every last drop of oil and whiff of gas to be found, from the Arctic (with vast reserves ironically being unearthed by global warming) to the Falkland Islands (do we really need another war, especially an '80s retread?). Michael Klare has termed this "the race for what's left" - and increasingly it appears to be a race with no winners and a lost planet in the process. While it may indeed yield a short-term glut of available resources - no doubt utilized to prop up even further levels of centralized control, with a bit of trickle-down consumerism thrown in for good measure - such temporary expansion is going to come at the longer-term expense of the stability of the biosphere and its capacity to continue supporting human life.

Still, the so-called Cornucopians will be gloating over the glut. These economic optimists are the yang to the neo-Malthusians' yin, emphasizing humanity's inherent inventiveness, the promise of technological innovation, and the capacity of markets to adapt and self-regulate. This is the neoliberal alternative to the neo-conservatism of the scarcity crowd, emphasizing abundance and a "growth is good" perspective that fits squarely within the narrative of corporate globalization and its penchant for development-oriented schemes as a pathway to security and sustainability. It all sounds quite enticing, aside from the inconvenient realization that its premises are false and its promises illusory, as each techno-fix yields new problems and requires even deeper incursions to manage the ones created by the last wave of hubristic profiteering.

The cases in point are rapidly mounting. Shall we geoengineer the atmosphere to try and reverse climate change? Drag and drop near-earth asteroids into stable orbits so that they can be siphoned and mined? Mitigate the human costs of war by deploying robotic soldiers? Solve hunger by mass-producing nutritionally dubious non-foods for widespread consumption? Squeeze oil from sand and dangerously transport it across continents? The gap between science fiction and hard facts is closing, as we come to grips with realizing that our problems are more about quality than quantity and about how the resources are distributed. A global system in which half the world consumes and the other half is consumed is perverse, unjust, immoral, and ultimately unsustainable.

This is the paradox of "national security" and its increasing equation with energy security as a function of resource control. Indeed, the very notion of national security is misplaced in an interconnected world, and the version of it being plied by powerful interests merely leads to deeper forms of environmental insecurity for the system as a whole. The quest for control generates greater destabilization, and is thus self-defeating. It is an age of ironies, to be sure, and it is becoming clearer by the minute that we cannot continue to trade short-term gains for overall stability and sustainability if the human experiment is to continue. At the end of the day, we come to recognize that in an interlinked planetary system, no one is secure unless everyone is secure.

We simply have been pursuing the wrong ends all along; profit and power will be meaningless if the habitability of the biosphere is decimated. A rising tide swamps all coasts eventually, and there won't be any higher ground sufficient to surmount ocean acidification, ozone depletion, loss of arable lands, diminution of biodiversity, and endemic pollution (not to mention deficits of nitrogen and phosphorous). While elites dally with an economic sequester, what we really need is carbon sequestration. The surest way to accomplish this would be to leave it in the ground, in light of credible estimates indicating that if we burn more than a quarter of the fossil fuels extant it will be "game over" for the climate and its irreversible thresholds.

I know it sounds counterintuitive to argue for humans NOT to exploit the earth. We seem to have a predilection toward "die hard" scenarios in which we heroically save the day against crises of our own creation - which today is a veritable slippery slope composed of melting ice caps and oil-slicked waterways. The myth of human superiority is palpable, even as our time here pales in relation to that of the fossils in our fuel. Will we someday be those fossils for someone else's fuel? Only time will tell, but it would be foolhardy to continue courting extinction by violating the first rule of getting out of a hole: stop digging. We are not going to drill our way to salvation; "the pump don't work" because we are pointlessly vandalizing the planet that sustains us.

A growing contingent of humankind is clamoring for another way of being in the world. It starts with dispelling the fiction, once and for all, that we can continue despoiling the environment without destroying ourselves in the process.
(c) 2013 Randall Amster J.D., Ph.D., teaches peace studies at Prescott College and serves as the executive director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. Amonsg his most recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and the co=edited volume "Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action" (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Our Heating Earth - It Ain't Natural!
By James Donahue

While perhaps not as loud as they once were speaking out, the "global warming nay-sayers" are still out there, doing their best to assure an anxious world that the extreme run of severe storms and wild weather patterns is nothing to be worried about.

We watch with forboding sorrow as residents along the Northeast Coast, so battered by Hurricane Sandy and a string of severe winter gales to follow, struggle to hang onto the property they once occupied, knowing that even worse storms are coming along with even higher ocean tides.

The best scientific studies, some only now being published, are reinforcing what researchers have been warning us about for warming, alias climate change is real. It is going for the extreme in ways humanity has never imagined, and life as we have known it is basically over.

Climatologist Shaun Marcott, who worked on one of the new studies, said in a CNN report that the Earth's climate has been propelled from one of its coldest decades to one of its hottest in just the past 100 years. He said a heat spike like this has never happened in the 11,300 years that global temperatures have been studied.

Marcott's study, published in a recent edition of the journal Science, noted that researchers used various temperature indicators in the fossil record to chart global warming and cooling trends. The team concluded that while world temperatures have not yet exceeded the steamiest periods that happened thousands of years ago, but they are getting alarmingly close.

"By the year 2100 we will be beyond anything human society has ever experienced," Marcott warned.

Marcott and his team from Harvard University collected data from 73 sites around the world, both on land and under the sea. They went beyond the usual study of tree rings, which limit the study to the life of trees. The study used ice cores from Greenland, stalagmites in Borneo, fossilized pollen in Scandinavia and even shells of ancient acquatic microbes dug from up to 50 feet under the ocean floor.

The objective was to gather data covering the Holocene, the geological epoch that began at the end of the Pleistocene (about 12,000 years ago) and encompasses what is believed the impact of the human species throughout the world.

And no matter how they cut it, the blame for the sudden rise in world temperatures, the melting ice caps and the drastic extremes in weather is still pointing to human behavior. We are burning more and more fossil fuels and the atmosphere is heavy with carbon emissions.

If we don't stop, we are driving ourselves into a disaster beyond all comprehension.
(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

Time For A 'Right To Vote' Constitutional Amendment
By John Nichols

  President Obama earned one of the loudest rounds of applause during his fourth State of the Union address when he declared, "We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights of a democracy: the right to vote." He then appointed a commission to "fix" the problem of long lines at the polls. That might be a sufficient response to the one specific concern the president has chosen to focus on. But it's an insufficient response to the structural crisis of American democracy. While Obama assures us that our right to vote is "God-given" and "fundamental," that right is neither defined in nor guaranteed by the Constitution.

"We talk about a right to vote, and I think the vast majority of Americans believe that right exists. But the evidence of election after election, in state after state, is that the right is not protected; it's under steady assault," says John Bonifaz, the legal director of the national nonprofit Voter Action. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner puts it another way, arguing that American history is "not just a story of expanding the right to vote. It has expanded and contracted."

The current US electoral process is not what democracy looks like. At least not if we go by the standard embraced by the vast majority of democratic nations. As Representative Keith Ellison notes, "Democracies around the world-old democracies, new democracies-have in their constitutions an affirmative right to vote. It's remarkable to me that the United States does not have that guarantee in our Constitution. I think a lot of our problems come back to this issue."

So Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is doing something about it. With Representative Mark Pocan, a newly elected Wisconsin Democrat, he is preparing to introduce a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. This is not the first time such an amendment has been proposed, and there will naturally be skepticism about the difficult prospects of revising the Constitution. But in a series of interviews with The Nation in which they detailed their plans, Ellison and Pocan displayed a passion for renewing and extending this essential democratic initiative at a time when Americans, they argue, are ready for constitutional clarity on voting rights.

Both congressmen have a track record on these issues: Ellison sponsored measures in the previous Congress addressing voter suppression, and Pocan led fights in the Wisconsin legislature against restrictive voter-ID laws and attempts to restrict Election Day registration. Those fights underpin their decision to seek a "Right to Vote" amendment, which they plan to introduce soon in the current Congress. "At a certain point, you realize there's a need for something concrete, an absolute guarantee," says Pocan. "We can't leave it to chance anymore."

Voting rights have too frequently been left to chance in the United States. Even as the franchise has been extended through constitutional and other federal initiatives, the administration of elections has been left to states with radically different standards. This makes no sense, considering the history of voting rights struggles. At the nation's founding, the franchise was so rigidly restricted that historians estimate only about 6 percent of Americans-white male property owners of a certain age-could cast ballots. Over time, amendments have removed barriers to voting by African-American men (the Fifteenth Amendment, in 1870); women (the Nineteenth, in 1920); residents of the nation's capital who seek to participate in presidential elections (the Twenty-third, in 1961); and 18- to 20-year-olds (the Twenty-sixth, in 1971). A substantial body of case law, as Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe notes, has been established on the side of voting rights, including the 1965 Voting Rights Act. But voting rights are now under assault in the courts and in Congress (and that includes the VRA itself, which is being challenged in a high-profile Supreme Court case that could gut its most vital provision; see Ari Berman in this issue. So, too, are many of the other advances that for a time had convinced most Americans that the fight for democracy had been won.

Even when the system melted down in 2000-when the Supreme Court intervened to halt the ballot recount in Florida, which could have determined a different winner in that year's presidential race-most Democrats and Republicans shied away from talk of fundamental reform. But just as concerns about disenfranchisement because of the hours-long lines at polling places in the Sunshine State led to Obama's creation of a nonpartisan commission after the 2012 race, so the dispute-plagued election of 2000 led to the creation of a blue-ribbon panel charged with fixing the system.

The National Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, did come up with proposals, some of which were implemented in the Help America Vote Act of 2002. But before the 2004 election, Carter had to admit that "many of the act's key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes." He also acknowledged that his election-monitoring teams could not observe voting in Florida because "basic international requirements for a fair election are missing." That was damning then, and it is even more so now, with each election cycle accompanied by new evidence of the vulnerability of our voting processes. As Foner puts it, there is continuing tension in America between the idea of "voting as a right and voting as something that only the right people should do."

That tension was highlighted by Justice Antonin Scalia during the Bush v. Gore arguments in December 2000, when he went out of his way to observe that there is no federal constitutional guarantee of a right to vote for president. Scalia's interventions, and the Court's decision in that case, inspired American University law professor Jamie Raskin to argue in 2001 that "it is time for American progressives to engage in serious constitutional politics on behalf of the right to vote." A constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, Raskin explained, would provide citizens and civil rights groups with standing to make demands on the system for consistent national rules, adequate funding of election operations, and even an end to the gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts.

Several members of Congress, including the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, and former Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., responded at the time by sponsoring a Right to Vote amendment that declared, "All citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, shall have the right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides." The proposed amendment established universal Election Day registration and required states to administer elections according to standards established and regularly updated by Congress.

It was a sound proposal, very much in sync with the fact that, as Raskin argued, "at least 135 nations-including our fellow North American countries, Canada and Mexico-explicitly guarantee citizens the right to vote and to be represented at all levels of government." But it wasn't in sync with the moment in Washington. Less than a year after the 2000 election, the 9/11 terrorist attacks sent President George W. Bush's approval rating up to 90 percent. Republicans were not about to entertain discussions on whether a dysfunctional election system had played a role in making Bush president, and Democrats were not inclined to pick any fights. The amendment proposal, introduced in each new Congress through the 2000s, would eventually attract more than fifty co-sponsors. But it never gained real traction or more than cursory attention. The solution was there, but few seemed to notice it.

As the years passed, Democratic politicians and more than a few activists became very good at diagnosing, and sometimes even addressing, symptoms of democratic decay. But they never got to the heart of the matter. Now, Bonifaz argues, Americans are more than ready to accept that we lack a coherent and consistent set of standards for registering voters, casting ballots, counting ballots and (if necessary) recounting them.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides on the Voting Rights Act, it is vital to remember that the VRA covers only some states. Its protections extend to Alabama, for example, but they've never covered neighboring Tennessee. Some counties in North Carolina are included; others are not. Two townships in Michigan must get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before they can tinker with "any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting," but none of the state's urban centers face such a requirement. And that's just the beginning of the inconsistencies. Different states have different rules for voter registration and for casting and counting votes. With thousands of jurisdictions taking charge of separate aspects of the voting process, and with partisans looking for every opportunity to game the rules to the advantage of their party or candidates, little about a US election is as fixed or certain as most citizens imagine. It should come as no surprise, then, that every cycle brings a new flood of irregularities, and with them doubts about the validity of the process.

"None of this is consistent with 'equality for all, democracy for all,'" says Bonifaz, who was honored with a MacArthur Foundation fellowship for his pioneering work with the National Voting Rights Institute. "It cannot be that our answer to Americans who face long lines at the polls is that you just have to accept these barriers because you don't live in the right state. It cannot be our answer to Americans who face voter-ID restrictions and registration challenges that they are out of luck because of where they live."

Bitter experience is leading those who cherish democracy to recognize that wrangling over piecemeal reforms will not solve the deeper problem. We have not made the great leap forward on this issue because we haven't demanded it loudly and aggressively enough. How many election cycles are we going to go through before we accept the necessity of constitutional repair? How many fights about long lines at the polls? How many struggles to maintain early voting? How many disputes over same-day registration? How many battles will have to be fought merely to assure that the promise of the franchise is made real for every American? The sense that America must do something more is what makes Ellison and Pocan think it's time to introduce a new Right to Vote amendment-one based on the proposal of a decade ago, but tweaked to respond to new concerns and a new sense of urgency.


A Right to Vote amendment won't solve all our voting problems. (Bonifaz is a leading advocate for another amendment, one that would restore the ability of Congress to regulate corporate spending on political campaigns, which was gutted by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling.) And it certainly won't be easy to garner approval for such an amendment from the Republican-controlled House or from states where legislators are still busy enacting voter-ID laws. But the campaign will focus attention on the fundamental threat to voting rights-and if strong coalitions of civil rights, community and labor groups are formed to fight for the amendment, and if the volume is turned up to the right level, the battle can be waged from a position of strength. "A constitutional amendment becomes an organizing tool, a way to rally people around an idea. This is an idea that is well worth rallying around at a point when there is a full frontal assault on the right to vote," Ellison tells me.

He's not alone in that view. Organizations like FairVote have long supported a Right to Vote amendment. Now they're ramping up their advocacy with a new "Promote Our Vote" campaign that encourages grassroots organizing to pass local, state and national resolutions "with the ultimate goal of enshrining an affirmative right to vote in the US Constitution." Progressive Democrats of America, a group closely aligned with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is working with Ellison and Pocan to make the amendment fight an important part of new organizing projects. And it won't stop there. With civil rights groups now focusing on voter disenfranchisement, and unions like the Communications Workers of America committing resources to democracy fights, Ellison says he sees the amendment as part of a broader push for voting rights.

Just as conservatives have used the campaign for a balanced-budget amendment to focus attention on fiscal issues, and just as feminists capitalized on the movement to enact the Equal Rights Amendment to pass an array of initiatives beneficial to women and girls, so a Right to Vote amendment, even if it is never enacted, can highlight the need for-and strengthen the chance of passing-stronger and more consistent voting rights protections at the local, state and national levels.

"People have been through these fights on voter ID, long lines; we have seen what's at stake. I think people are waking up to the fact that this thing we thought was so settled is not settled," Ellison says. "It's obvious we've got to play some offense here. As bold as they are to deny the right to vote, we have to be just as bold for the right to vote."

Ari Berman writes that the Voting Rights Act is as necessary today as it was in 1965, when Alabama state troopers beat freedom marchers in Selma.
(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.

Which Members Of Congress Are Standing Up For Economic Decency - And Which "Progressives" Aren't
By Norman Solomon

Now we know.

Every member of Congress has chosen whether to sign a letter making a crucial commitment: "We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need."

The Democratic Party hierarchy doesn't like the letter. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has said that cutting Social Security would "strengthen" it, and President Obama's spokespeople keep emphasizing his eagerness to cut Social Security's cost of living adjustments. The fact that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit is beside the austerity point.

Since mid-February, across the country, many thousands of people have sent personal notes, submitted petitions and made phone calls imploring members of Congress to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano.

Twenty-eight members of the House of Representatives have signed the letter.

Here are their names: Brown, Cartwright, Castor, Clay, Conyers, D. Davis, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Grayson, G. Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, A. Hastings, Honda, Kaptur, Lee, Lynch, C. Maloney, Markey, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.

If you don't see the name of your Congress member on that list, you live in a House district without a representative standing up for economic decency.

Especially noteworthy are 49 members of the House who belong to the Congressional Progressive Caucus but have refused to sign the Grayson-Takano letter. In most cases, they represent districts with a largely progressive electorate. In effect, their message is: We like to call ourselves "progressive" but we refuse to clearly stand up to an Obama White House that's pushing to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits. To see the names of those 49 members of Congress, click here.

A case in point: As a freshman Congressman, Jared Huffman represents California's North Coast district, stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. On the 2012 campaign trail, I often heard Huffman assuring voters that he opposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. (As a candidate, I finished second to him among Democrats in the primary election last June.) When he got to Washington, Huffman joined the Progressive Caucus.

Now, refusing to sign the Grayson-Takano letter, Congressman Huffman publicly touts his disdain for "outside groups." Days ago, deriding the pressure from organizations urging him to sign the letter, Huffman boasted on his public Facebook page: "I won't be bullied from the left or the right into signing Norquistian vote pledges to outside groups."

The pejorative word "Norquistian" is proving to be very handy for some Democratic politicians-eager to equate progressive pledges not to cut vital social programs with right-wing pledges not to increase any taxes-as if standing up for economically vulnerable people is somehow comparable to the ideological rigidity of Grover Norquist. This amounts to old-wine corporate centrism poured into a new rhetorical bottle. Subtext: basic progressive principles aren't important enough to warrant a wiggle-proof promise.

As battles over key issues of economic fairness intensify on Capitol Hill, we're very likely to see a lot of Democrats-led by President Obama-preening themselves as virtuously non-dogmatic while they rebuff the minimal humanistic demands of progressive constituencies. The Grayson-Takano letter, for example, has been endorsed by dozens of progressive groups such as National Nurses United, Credo Action, Civic Action, Bold Progressives, Democracy for America,, Social Security Works, Progressive Democrats of America, the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Rebuild the Dream, Progressives United, Color of Change, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Community Change, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

In the real politics of the emerging struggle over Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, there's a very big difference between expressing opposition to benefit cuts and promising not to vote for them. It's only when members of Congress make a firm public commitment that Obama White House strategists may feel a need to recalibrate their deal-making calculus with Republicans.

Even firm commitments have eroded all too often on Capitol Hill, but at least the Grayson-Takano letter is a solid starting point. And as we look to the next election season, we should be searching for alternatives to the members of Congress who call themselves "progressive" but refuse to risk the wrath of an austerity-crazed Obama White House.
(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."

Ryan's Regressiveness Redux
By Robert Reich

Republicans lost the election but they still shape what's debated in Washington - the federal budget deficit and so-called "fiscal responsibility."

The White House's and the Democrat's continuing failure to reshape that debate has lead directly and logically to Paul Ryan's budget plan this week, which is a more regressive version of the same plan American voters resoundingly rejected last November.

Sadly, the President is playing into the GOP's hands with a new round of negotiations over a "grand bargain."

Despite February's encouraging job numbers, the major challenge is still jobs, wages, growth, and widening inequality - not deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility.

We'd need numbers like February's every month for the next four years to get anywhere close to the level of unemployment we had before the Great Recession. But we won't get there because of the austerity policies the nation has embarked on, and the continuing erosion of the middle class.

Austerity economics - of which Ryan's upcoming budget is the most extreme version - is a cruel hoax. Cruel because it hurts most those who are already hurting; a hoax because it doesn't work.

The entire framework is based on the false analogy that the federal budget is akin to a family's budget.

Families do have to balance their budgets. But that's precisely why the federal government has to be the spender of last resort when consumer spending falls short of boosting the economy toward full employment.

And as long as income and wealth continue to concentrate at the very top, the broad middle class and those aspiring to join it won't have the purchasing power to boost the economy.

So why even try for a "grand bargain" that won't deal with these fundamentals but only further legitimize the GOP mythology and further mislead the public about what's really at stake?
(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.

Dwindling Deficit Disorder
By Paul Krugman

For three years and more, policy debate in Washington has been dominated by warnings about the dangers of budget deficits. A few lonely economists have tried from the beginning to point out that this fixation is all wrong, that deficit spending is actually appropriate in a depressed economy. But even though the deficit scolds have been wrong about everything so far - where are the soaring interest rates we were promised? - protests that we are having the wrong conversation have consistently fallen on deaf ears.

What's really remarkable at this point, however, is the persistence of the deficit fixation in the face of rapidly changing facts. People still talk as if the deficit were exploding, as if the United States budget were on an unsustainable path; in fact, the deficit is falling more rapidly than it has for generations, it is already down to sustainable levels, and it is too small given the state of the economy.

Start with the raw numbers. America's budget deficit soared after the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that went with it, as revenue plunged and spending on unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs rose. And this rise in the deficit was a good thing! Federal spending helped sustain the economy at a time when the private sector was in panicked retreat; arguably, the stabilizing role of a large government was the main reason the Great Recession didn't turn into a full replay of the Great Depression.

But after peaking in 2009 at $1.4 trillion, the deficit began coming down. The Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit for fiscal 2013 (which began in October and is almost half over) to be $845 billion. That may still sound like a big number, but given the state of the economy it really isn't.

Bear in mind that the budget doesn't have to be balanced to put us on a fiscally sustainable path; all we need is a deficit small enough that debt grows more slowly than the economy. To take the classic example, America never did pay off the debt from World War II - in fact, our debt doubled in the 30 years that followed the war. But debt as a percentage of G.D.P. fell by three-quarters over the same period.

Right now, a sustainable deficit would be around $460 billion. The actual deficit is bigger than that. But according to new estimates by the budget office, half of our current deficit reflects the effects of a still-depressed economy. The "cyclically adjusted" deficit - what the deficit would be if we were near full employment - is only about $423 billion, which puts it in the sustainable range; next year the budget office expects that number to fall to just $172 billion. And that's why budget office projections show the nation's debt position more or less stable over the next decade.

So we do not, repeat do not, face any kind of deficit crisis either now or for years to come.

There are, of course, longer-term fiscal issues: rising health costs and an aging population will put the budget under growing pressure over the course of the 2020s. But I have yet to see any coherent explanation of why these longer-run concerns should determine budget policy right now. And as I said, given the needs of the economy, the deficit is currently too small.

Put it this way: Smart fiscal policy involves having the government spend when the private sector won't, supporting the economy when it is weak and reducing debt only when it is strong. Yet the cyclically adjusted deficit as a share of G.D.P. is currently about what it was in 2006, at the height of the housing boom - and it is headed down.

Yes, we'll want to reduce deficits once the economy recovers, and there are gratifying signs that a solid recovery is finally under way. But unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, is still unacceptably high. "The boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity," John Maynard Keynes declared many years ago. He was right - all you have to do is look at Europe to see the disastrous effects of austerity on weak economies. And this is still nothing like a boom.

Now, I'm aware that the facts about our dwindling deficit are unwelcome in many quarters. Fiscal fearmongering is a major industry inside the Beltway, especially among those looking for excuses to do what they really want, namely dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. People whose careers are heavily invested in the deficit-scold industry don't want to let evidence undermine their scare tactics; as the deficit dwindles, we're sure to encounter a blizzard of bogus numbers purporting to show that we're still in some kind of fiscal crisis.

But we aren't. The deficit is indeed dwindling, and the case for making the deficit a central policy concern, which was never very strong given low borrowing costs and high unemployment, has now completely vanished.
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"A group of PEOPLE came from as far as America with tanks, machine guns & jets, killing innocent people in our villages. Yet they claim we are terrorist."
~~~ Abed Rahmani

Liberals Should Proudly Cheer On Rand Paul
If he's right on principle, progressives should back him up -- even if he's wrong on everything else. Here's why...
By David Sirota

Addie Stan's latest piece at Alternet is a must-read summary of one of the most insidious trends in American progressive politics: the trend toward seeing anything and everything as a purely partisan endeavor, regardless of possible outcomes.

Reporting on Rand Paul's heroic filibuster against President Obama's drone war, Stan makes the case that progressives shouldn't support such a filibuster because Paul is a Big Bad Republican. She says it is "horrifying to see" principled progressives cheer on Paul's attempt to force the Obama administration to answer basic questions about civil liberties - horrifying not because Paul is wrong on that issue, but because he's wrong on other, totally unrelated issues and represents an evil "paranoid base that dares to fear a government that might soon be launching drones against them."

Setting aside the snide disregard ("paranoid") for those who don't like the idea of a violent police state, Stan's larger argument is a guilt-by-association non sequitur - but it is a powerful and pervasive one. As Stan says, the idea is that "to stand with Rand means to lend support" to everything he supports in totality. As any quick perusal of Twitter yesterday showed, this kind of thinking is ubiquitous among Democratic Party operatives and activists who never want to think of themselves as anything but 100 percent pure haters of every single thing a Big Bad Republican stands for.

There are two pernicious problems with this kind of psychology.

First and foremost, it is embarrassingly hypocritical. Many of the same Democratic partisans have argued (or at least remained silent in the face of such arguments) that President Obama has an obligation to try to work with Big Bad Republicans on ending the sequester and enacting Simpson-Bowles-style cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Somehow for Democratic partisans, this is perfectly acceptable - even laudable! - for a sitting Democratic president to wine and dine these Big Bad Republicans as he's putting forward a budget proposal that tilts hard to the right. And when that happens, nobody in their right mind insists that Obama working with those like John Boehner or Mitch McConnell "means (he is) lend(ing) support" to their entire agenda.

Yet, when liberals support or propose to work constructively with Big Bad Republicans on actual liberal priorities that challenge a Democratic president - like, say, ending the drone war and protecting civil liberties - that is somehow portrayed as unacceptable or "horrifying." Worse, it is portrayed as endorsing the entire agenda of the Big Bad Republicans whom liberals find a momentary point of common ground with.

The double standard is appalling - and inane. By its twisted logic, liberal Sen. Paul Wellstone was "lend(ing) support" to the overall awful record of Sen. Pete Domenici when he worked with the New Mexico Republican to pass mental health parity legislation. By this same logic, progressive champion Sen. Bernie Sanders was "lend(ing) support" to the entire awful record of Sen. Tom Coburn when they worked together as House members on drug reimportation legislation. And by the same logic, liberal civil libertarians are "lend(ing) support" to the entire awful record of Sen. Rand Paul. Such criticism might be valid, of course, if these liberals were fully endorsing every aspect of their Republican colleague's record, but that's not what was happening, which makes the logic utterly absurd.

Yet, as absurd as it is, why do so many Democratic partisans nonetheless instinctively embrace it? That gets to the second problem that pervades so much of the left: prioritizing partisanship over everything else.

In a political system that depicts every issue in red-versus-blue terms, much of the left has come to accept and internalize those terms as the only ones that are valid. Thus, Obama working with the GOP to pass a conservative budget proposal is seen by many in the Democrat-worshiping left-of-center coalition as a good thing irrespective of its real-world policy ramifications. Why? Because it promises to the Democratic Party's president a partisan political victory over the Big Bad Republicans. By contrast, liberals working with the GOP to stop a war is seen as a bad thing irrespective of its real-world impact. That's because it might embarrass the Democratic Party's president and deliver him a partisan political defeat.

This is the difference between partisan hackery and movement activism. The former is all about defending a party, regardless of what that party happens to be doing, and attacking that party's opponents even if they happen to be doing something good. In that psychology, principles are viewed as situational, and they are secondary to partisan political goals. By contrast, movement activism (or, really, just honest citizenship) is about defending a set of principles, regardless of how doing so may inconvenience either party. In that case, party politics are situational - and secondary to principles and legislative outcomes.

The crisis for progressives, then, is that the psychology of partisan hackery too often wins the day on the left. Whether activists or lawmakers, the principled liberals who try to fight the good fight on everything from war to healthcare to bank bailouts are pressured by the left to subvert their principles in the name of a Democratic Party victory, regardless of whether that victory tramples progressive priorities. Similarly, as in the case of Paul, progressives looking to form transpartisan left-right coalitions on liberal causes like protecting civil liberties or drug policy reform are lambasted as traitors when such coalitions dare to go up against a Democratic Party's president.

Ultimately, the whole dynamic too often ends up delivering just what you'd expect. You get Democrats getting a political win by passing a healthcare bill that the party itself acknowledges is a concoction of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. You get Rand Paul's filibuster thwarted and a Democratic White House triumph, while the drone war expands. In short, you get an oxymoron: Democratic Party "wins" that are actually conservative policy victories.
(c) 2013 David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at David Sirota is a former spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee. Follow him on Twitter @davidsirota .


Maryland: A Government Of, By, And For Lockheed Martin
By David Swanson

What's the world's biggest war profiteer to do if it already owns the federal government but is having trouble kicking around the local government of Montgomery County, Maryland, where it's headquartered? Why, hire the state of Maryland to step in, of course.

Lockheed Martin lives by killing, although nobody ever gives it a background check before allowing it another weapon. Such a background check would reveal Lockheed Martin to be the number one top offender among U.S. government contractors. When Congress was defunding ACORN for imaginary crimes alleged by a fraudster who is now having to compensate his victims, one Congresswoman proposed a bill to defund government contractors actually guilty of crimes. Passing such a bill would strip Lockheed Martin of some 80% of its income.

The list of abuses by Lockheed Martin includes contract fraud, unfair business practices, kickbacks, mischarges, inflated costs, defective pricing, improper pricing, unlicensed exporting to foreign nations (Lockheed Martin sells weapons to governments of all sorts around the world), air and water pollution, fraud, bribery, federal election law violations, overbilling, radiation exposure, age discrimination, illegal transfer of information to China, falsification of testing records, embezzlement, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, bid-rigging, and much more.

Why, one might ask, does the federal government give such a company a dime, much less $40 billion per year? Why is it intent on dumping over a trillion dollars into Lockheed Martin for the most expensive and least functioning airplane in history, the F-35? Lockheed not only funds Republicans and Democrats alike with over $3 million per election cycle, lobbies officials for another $30 million, hires former officials, and shapes corporate news, but Lockheed Martin also creates local panics by threatening to notify every one of its employees that they might be fired if U.S. war preparations spending doesn't continue to grow.

The pseudo-debate of recent years between those who want to cut healthcare and retirement spending and those who oppose all cuts is a debate that any news outlet interested in selling advertising to Lockheed Martin can accept without hesitation. A debate over what we actually should cut and what we should instead invest in more heavily would be a different matter.

Of course, we can all send emails to Congress. Lockheed Martin can too. But Lockheed Martin, unlike the rest of us, also owns the email system through which Congress receives our communications.

Lockheed Martin is based in suburban Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County, Md. For years, Lockheed Martin and its friends at the Washington Post have been trying to get the local government to excuse the patrons of Lockheed Martin's luxury hotel from paying taxes. Montgomery County is home to terrific peace activists who can, of course, get virtually nowhere with Congress, but who can make their voices heard locally. This has frustrated Lockheed Martin no end. I recommend reading this article by Jean Athey from a year ago, describing the work she and others have done. An excerpt:

"Let's put this tax exemption proposal in perspective by taking a quick look at Lockheed Martin's finances. In 2010 the company took home $3.9 billion in profits from the portion of its business that is paid directly by taxpayers (84 percent). Lockheed Martin's CEO, Robert Stevens, received $21.9 million in compensation in 2011. So this company is doing quite well for itself, thanks to the taxpayers, and our largesse will continue into the future. . . . When Lockheed Martin's own employees stay at the CLE, according to the Post, the corporation passes on the costs of the hotel tax to the appropriate federal contract. In other words, Lockheed Martin is already compensated by the federal government for any lodging costs the company incurs, and given federal procurement regulations, the company can charge indirect costs on top of the local taxes it pays. This means that Lockheed Martin gets its money back, with interest, on its employee lodging costs. Even if Lockheed Martin didn't get that money back, it would still make no sense to exempt this extremely wealthy company from paying a tax on employee lodging costs. The company also invites contractors and vendors to stay at the hotel. Why should these people not be required to pay a tax that they would pay if they instead chose to stay at the Marriott? In reality, Lockheed Martin rents rooms to more than its employees, contractors and vendors. It uses its world-class conference center for . . . conferences. . . . It is extraordinary that the company would make an issue of this tax. Although the amount of money-$450,000 per year-is significant to Montgomery County, it is essentially a rounding error for Lockheed Martin. There's more: not only are Lockheed Martin and The Washington Post furious at the county council for questioning the wisdom of a special million-dollar gift to Lockheed Martin to compensate it for having to pay the tax. They are also still irate that in 2011 the council briefly considered a non-binding resolution asking Congress to support the needs of local communities and cut military spending. Lockheed Martin suddenly had a job for a few of its 91 lobbyists: kill the resolution, which they did."

Here's Jean Athey, speaking this Saturday about the latest developments:

"Lockheed Martin lost the battle in 2011 to convince Montgomery County's council to change the definition of 'hotel' so as to exempt guests at the company's luxury hotel from being subject to a 7% hotel tax that everyone else has to pay. Now, Maryland's state government is considering a bill to force the county to do so, and it looks very likely to pass. This is an unbelievable and outrageous example of corporate welfare, designed for one of the wealthiest companies in the nation. The bill is also an egregious example of state interference in a local issue and so further diminishes democracy."

This latest outrage has passed a state senate committee, and a companion bill is being considered by the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates. Here's the Washington Post. This bill (PDF) would force Montgomery County to exempt Lockheed Martin's conference hotel from the county's hotel tax. In addition, it requires the County to reimburse Lockheed Martin $1.4 million for taxes it has paid the County to date for hotel taxes.

The state legislature, in introducing this bill, did not go through the county delegation prior to presenting it, even though the bill will only affect Montgomery County. Senator Jamie Raskin, for example, only found out about the bill Saturday morning. He opposes it.

He should oppose it. We all should. There is still a glimmer of representative government in some of our localities. People are able to get involved in local issues, have some influence, and see majority opinion rule the day. This is, of course, why people concerned about national and international issues take resolutions to local governments. Unlike Congress, local governments sometimes listen. But sometimes when they listen too much, state governments or the federal government will step in and overrule them.

This is an assault on democracy, not just on the budget of Montgomery County and the balance of wealth in a nation that has created a Wall-Street-and-War-Making aristocracy. When I worked for ACORN we used to pass restrictions on predatory lending or increases in minimum wages at the local level. Then the banks or the hotels and restaurants would go to the state level and preempt them. This was an outrage, but what did ACORN members really count for after all? Some of them were probably on welfare!

Well, what should we call a tax break for one of the most profitable corporations in the nation, a tax break on expenses it's going to bill to the government anyway? I'd call it welfare for the undeserving rich, except that it's not really about their welfare. It's about their insatiable greed.

If you live in Maryland or even if you don't, please contact the legislature to oppose Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 815. Lockheed Martin is using national resources (ours, in fact, courtesy of the Pentagon and NASA) to turn the state of Maryland against the people of Maryland. Why shouldn't those of us who care speak up, too, and ask everyone we know in Maryland to do the same?
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Unterfuhrer Grassley,

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 bill to remove teaching about voting from high school civics classes, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iran and those many other profitable oil wars to come would have been impossible! With the help of our mutual friends, the other "Rethuglican whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Iron Cross 1st class, 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 Grassley, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

Tomas Young at his home in Kansas City, Mo.

The Crucifixion Of Tomas Young
By Chris Hedges

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-I flew to Kansas City last week to see Tomas Young. Young was paralyzed in Iraq in 2004. He is now receiving hospice care at his home. I knew him by reputation and the movie documentary "Body of War." He was one of the first veterans to publicly oppose the war in Iraq. He fought as long and as hard as he could against the war that crippled him, until his physical deterioration caught up with him.

"I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I had become helpless," he told me in his small house on the Kansas City outskirts where he intends to die. "I couldn't dress myself. People have to help me with the most rudimentary of things. I decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration. ..."

He stopped abruptly and called his wife. "Claudia, can I get some water?" She opened a bottle of water, took a swig so it would not spill when he sipped and handed it to him.

"I felt at the end of my rope," the 33-year-old Army veteran went on. "I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away. This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note. After the anoxic brain injury in 2008 [a complication that Young suffered] I lost a lot of dexterity and strength in my upper body. So I wouldn't be able to shoot myself or even open the pill bottle to give myself an overdose. The only way I could think of doing it was to have Claudia open the pill bottle for me, but I didn't want her implicated."

"After you made that decision how did you feel?" I asked.

"I felt relieved," he answered. "I finally saw an end to this four-and-a-half-year fight. If I were in the same condition I was in during the filming of 'Body of War,' in a manual chair, able to feed and dress myself and transfer from my bed to the wheelchair, you and I would not be having this discussion. I can't even watch the movie anymore because it makes me sad to see how I was, compared to how I am. ... Viewing the deterioration, I decided it was best to go out now rather than regress more."

Young will die for our sins. He will die for a war that should never have been fought. He will die for the lies of politicians. He will die for war profiteers. He will die for the careers of generals. He will die for a cheerleader press. He will die for a complacent public that made war possible. He bore all this upon his body. He was crucified. And there are hundreds of thousands of other crucified bodies like his in Baghdad and Kandahar and Peshawar and Walter Reed medical center. Mangled bodies and corpses, broken dreams, unending grief, betrayal, corporate profit, these are the true products of war. Tomas Young is the face of war they do not want you to see.

On April 4, 2004, Young was crammed into the back of a two-and-a-half-ton Army truck with 20 other soldiers in Sadr City, Iraq. Insurgents opened fire on the truck from above. "It was like shooting ducks in a barrel," he said. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spinal column. A second bullet shattered his knee. At first he did not know he had been shot. He felt woozy. He tried to pick up his M16. He couldn't lift his rifle from the truck bed. That was when he knew something was terribly wrong.

"I tried to say 'I'm going to be paralyzed, someone shoot me right now,' but there was only a hoarse whisper that came out because my lungs had collapsed," he said. "I knew the damage. I wanted to be taken out of my misery."

His squad leader, Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger, bent over and told him he would be all right. A few years later Young would see a clip of Miltenberger weeping as he recounted the story of how he had lied to Young.

"I tried to contact him," said Young, whose long red hair and flowing beard make him look like a biblical prophet. "I can't find him. I want to tell him it is OK."

Young had been in Iraq five days. It was his first deployment. After being wounded he was sent to an Army hospital in Kuwait, and although his legs, now useless, lay straight in front of him he felt as if he was still sitting cross-legged on the floor of the truck. That sensation lasted for about three weeks. It was an odd and painful initiation into his life as a paraplegic. His body, from then on, would play tricks on him.

He was transferred from Kuwait to the U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, and then to Walter Reed, in Washington, D.C. He asked if he could meet Ralph Nader, and Nader visited him in the hospital with Phil Donahue. Donahue, who had been fired by MSNBC a year earlier for speaking out against the war, would go on, with Ellen Spiro, to make the 2007 film "Body of War," a brutally honest account of Young's daily struggle with his physical and emotional scars of war. In the documentary, he suffers dizzy spells that force him to lower his head into his hands. He wears frozen gel inserts in a cooling jacket because he cannot control his body temperature. He struggles to find a solution to his erectile dysfunction. He downs fistfuls of medications-carbamazepine, for nerve pain; coumadin, a blood thinner; tizanidine, an anti-spasm medication; gabapentin, another nerve pain medication, bupropion, an antidepressant; omeprazole, for morning nausea; and morphine. His mother has to insert a catheter into his penis. He joins Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, to protest with Iraq Veterans Against the War. His first wife leaves him.

"You know, you see a guy who's paralyzed and in a wheelchair and you think he's just in a wheelchair," he says in "Body of War." "You don't think about the, you know, the stuff inside that's paralyzed. I can't cough because my stomach muscles are paralyzed, so I can't work up the full coughing energy. I'm more susceptible to urinary tract infections, and there's a great big erection sidebar to this whole story."

In early March 2008 a blood clot in his right arm-the arm that bears a color tattoo of a character from Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are"-caused his arm to swell. He was taken to the Kansas City Veterans Affairs hospital, where he was given the blood thinner coumadin before being released. One month later, the VA took him off coumadin and soon afterward the clot migrated to one of his lungs. He suffered a massive pulmonary embolism and fell into a coma. When he awoke from the coma in the hospital he could barely speak. He had lost most of his upper-body mobility and short-term memory, and his speech was slurred significantly.

It was then that he began to experience debilitating pain in his abdomen. The hospital would not give him narcotics because such drugs slow digestion, making it harder for the bowels to function. Young could digest only soup and Jell-O. In November, in a desperate bid to halt the pain, he had his colon removed. He was fitted with a colostomy bag. The pain disappeared for a few days and then came roaring back. He could not hold down food, even pureed food, because his stomach opening had shrunk. The doctors dilated his stomach. He could eat only soup and oatmeal. Three weeks ago he had his stomach stretched again. And that was enough.

"I will go off the feeding [tube] after me and my wife's anniversary," April 20, the date on which he married Claudia in 2012. "I was married once before. It didn't end well. It was a non-amicable divorce. At first I thought I would [just] wait for my brother and his wife, my niece and my grandparents to visit me, but the one thing I will miss most in my life is my wife. I want to spend a little more time with her. I want to spend a full year with someone without the problems that plagued my previous [marriage]. I don't know how long it will take when I stop eating. If it takes too long I may take steps to quicken my departure. I have saved a bottle of liquid morphine. I can down that at one time with all my sleeping medication."

Young's room is painted a midnight blue and has a large cutout of Batman on one wall. He loved the superhero as a child because "he was a regular person who had a horrible thing happen to him and wanted to save society."

Young joined the Army immediately after 9/11 to go to Afghanistan and hunt down the people behind the attacks. He did not oppose the Afghanistan war. "In fact, if I had been injured in Afghanistan, there would be no 'Body of War' movie to begin with," he said. But he never understood the call to invade Iraq. "When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor we didn't invade China just because they looked the same," he said.

He became increasingly depressed about his impending deployment to Iraq when he was in basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. He asked the battalion doctor for antidepressants. The doctor said he had to meet first with the unit's chaplain, who told him, "I think you will be happier when you get over to Iraq and start killing Iraqis."

"I was dumbstruck by his response," Young said.

He has not decided what will be done with his ashes. He flirted with the idea of having them plowed into ground where marijuana would be planted but then wondered if anyone would want to smoke the crop. He knows there will be no clergy at the memorial service held after his death. "It will just be people reminiscing over my life," he said.

"I spend a lot of time sitting here in my bedroom, watching TV or sleeping," he said. "I have found-I don't know if it is the result of my decision or not-[it is] equally hard to be alone or to be around people. This includes my wife. I am rarely happy. Maybe it is because when I am alone all I have with me are my thoughts, and my mind is a very hazardous place to go. When I am around people I feel as if I have to put on a facade of being the happy little soldier."

He listens, when he is well enough, to audiobooks with Claudia. Among them have been Al Franken's satirical book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" and Michael Moore's "The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader." He was a voracious reader but can no longer turn the pages of a book. He finds some solace in the French film "The Intouchables," about a paraplegic and his caregiver, and "The Sessions," a film based on an essay by the paralyzed poet Mark O'Brien.

Young, when he was in a wheelchair, found that many people behaved as if he was mentally disabled, or not even there. When he was being fitted for a tuxedo for a friend's wedding the salesman turned to his mother and asked her in front of him whether he could wear the company's shoes.

"I look at the TV through the lens of his eyes and can see he is invisible," said Claudia, standing in the living room as her husband rested in the bedroom. An array of books on death, the afterlife and dying are spread out around her. "No one is sick [on television]. No one is disabled. No one faces death. Dying in America is a very lonely business."

"If I had known then what I know now," Young said, "I would not have gone into the military. But I was 22, working various menial jobs, waiting tables, [working] in the copy department of an OfficeMax. My life was going nowhere. Sept. 11 happened. I saw us being attacked. I wanted to respond. I signed up two days later. I wanted to be a combat journalist. I thought the military would help me out of my financial rut. I thought I could use the GI Bill to go to school."

Young is not the first young man to be lured into war by the false sirens of glory and honor and then callously discarded by the war makers. His story has been told many times. It is the story of Hector in "The Iliad." It is the story of Joe Bonham, the protagonist in Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel "Johnny Got His Gun," whose arms, legs and face are blown away by an artillery shell, leaving him trapped in the inert remains of his body.

Bonham ruminates in the novel: "Inside me I'm screaming, nobody pays any attention. If I had arms, I could kill myself. If I had legs, I could run away. If I had a voice, I could talk and be some kind of company for myself. I could yell for help, but nobody would help me."

For Young, the war, the wound, the paralysis, the wheelchair, the anti-war demonstrations, the wife who left him and the one who didn't, the embolism, the loss of motor control, the slurred speech, the colostomy, the IV line for narcotics implanted in his chest, the open bed sores that expose his bones, the despair-the crushing despair-the decision to die, have come down to a girl. Aleksus, his only niece. She will not remember her uncle. But he lies in his dimly lit room, painkillers flowing into his broken body, and he thinks of her. He does not know exactly when he will die. But it must be before her second birthday, in June. He will not mar that day with his death.

And though he is an atheist, though he believes that there is nothing after death-that, as he says, "the body is like a toy that runs out of batteries, only there are no replacements"-his final act honors the promise of Aleksus' life. As he spoke to me softly of this child-it hurts, even now, he said, to know she will grow up without him-I wondered, sitting next to him on his bed, if he saw it, the glory of it, his final bow not before the specter of his death but the sanctity of her life.
(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."

Rachel's Tears
By Adam Keller

One of the most touching stories in the Bible is the death of Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife, while giving birth to their youngest son Benjamin, and her burial on the side of the road where she died. At the time when the story was composed and written down, and for a very long time afterwards, maternal mortality was an ever present danger hovering over the heads of women and married couples.

Did such a woman ever live in reality? And if she did, did she really die and get buried at that point north of the city of Bethlehem (now well within the city)? Jews - as well Christians and Muslims - have gone on pilgrimage there for at least thousand and five hundred year. Whatever the reality, so many years of tradition have a power of their own. The figure of an ideal mother, full of boundless compassion and understanding and having great influence in Heaven, sitting there inside the grave and listening carefully to all suppliants.

"Bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children” (Jeremiah 31, 14) is one of the Biblical verses very central to the Jewish religion.

For centuries the structure of Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem was chosen to appear on the postage stamps of Mandatory Palestine. That small and modest structure no longer exists. In 1995, at the time of Oslo, the Ultra-Orthodox rabbis cried out that "Mother Rachel" must be retained under the control of the State of Israel, and Prime Minister Rabin gave in to that pressure. The outcome was to cut off the tomb from the city of Bethlehem, make it an armed enclave under Israeli control, and build around it huge concrete walls, a veritable fortification at the heart of the Palestinian city. Ever since, it is the focus of conflicts and incidents, with Palestinian protesters marching toward the walls and Israeli soldiers shooting tear gas and sometimes live ammunition as well, while behind the soldiers Jewish pilgrims arrive in armored vehicles. Childless Muslim women, who traditionally also used to come there and ask for Rachel's help, must now turn elsewhere for help.

Two weeks ago, colorful booklets have been distributed throughout the country, bearing the solemn news that "On Purim Day, a special Salvation Tikkun will take place at Rachel's Tomb. The greatest Kabbalists and Righteous Sages will gather there, right next to Mother Rachel!” The booklet made an offer which cannot be refused - for a suitable financial contribution, the Kabbalists and Righteous Sages would take care to drop in Mother Rachel's ears also the name of the donor: "This day is your day, the day of the Purim Salvation Tikkun at Rachel's Tomb - make the most of it. Don't miss this date' let your name come before Mother Rachel! What do you wish for? Health? Contentment? Happiness? Success? A good livelihood? Sons? Anything you can want, anything you can want!!! "(Three exclamation marks in the original).

And so it was. On Monday this week the Kabbalists and Righteous Sages came under military protecttion to the Tomb, and energetically embarked on the Salvation Tikkun. A few meters away, across the thick and high concrete walls, hundreds of young Palestinians were holding a stormy demonstration. The soldiers who were stationed at the top of the wall, so as to facilitate the Kabbalists and Righteous Sages in holding their ritual, did not content themselves with the intense firing of tear gas.

A sniper stationed at the pillbox position just in front of Rachel' Tomb asked and got permission to use live ammunition and shoot metal bullets of 0.22-inch diameter, nicknamed “Two-Two Bullets”. Even though years ago, after several fatal cases, the military authorities forbade the use of such bullets in the dispersal of demonstrations.

The sniper raised his rifle and fired. Odai Sarhan, a 12 year old boy from Aida Refugee camp in Bethlehem, was hit by a bullet directly to the head and fell down. For some time the soldiers prevented first aid teams from approaching. When they finally reached him, they feared that it was too late. Thank God, medical teams at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem managed to stabilize his condition. Maybe Rachel was crying for him, too...
(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
~~~ David Horsey ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

The Bright Side Of Extreme Maturity
By Will Durst

Some fancy-dancy public-policy think- tank just released a brand new study that speculates the legion of aging Baby Boomers will permanently redefine retirement. Mainly because so few of us will be able to afford to retire. "Uh, lady, you want lids on these?" Fast food break rooms equipped with CPR paddles. A forest of tennis ball-footed walkers leaning against the brooms and mops by the back door. Intragenerational minimum wage squabbles: "Hey you punks, get your greasy hot apple pie holes off my oxygen tank."

One of the optimum ways our demographic bulge can beneficently alter old age is by changing what we call it. Getting rid of some of the odious appellations for senior citizenry would take a huge amount of the quease out of approaching antiquity. What we need is a calamari for the squid. Everybody loves extreme, how bout from now we refer to the ever-encroaching condition as Extreme Maturity?

No sense belaboring the negative aspects of the path. We are all too cognizant of its passage being one way and ever darkening. Just as easy to focus on the upside. We are not old. We are vintage. Classic. Enduring. Established. Persistent. Time-tested. Seasoned. Steadfast. Stable. Durable. Reputable. Reliable. Rare. Repositories of uber experience. Acute ambulatory aggregates of accomplishment. And laughing in the face of it all, we adamantly continue to buy green bananas and timeshares.

Our motor skills may have declined through oxidation and perhaps we're not as quick to dodge trouble as we once were; but on the other hand, we've gained the hard-won ability to recognize trouble's approach and can most times, steer clear of it well in advance. And since we're on a mini roll here, what say we trot out a couple more examples of the BRIGHTSIDES OF EXTREME MATURITY.

Can always claim the batteries in your hearing aid are shorting out. Even when you're not wearing a hearing aid.
Those creaks in your bones tend to keep you alert while driving.
You don't really EVER expect anybody to tell you the actual truth anymore.
Much less peer pressure. And it diminishes every day.
On spy missions, those liver spots provide perfect cover to hide microdots.
Just saying "irritable bowel syndrome" annoys young people so much that they go away. With alacrity.
Who on earth wouldn't want to have their living assisted?
Only need nine books in your library. Read them in order alphabetically then start over.
Pretty much any cane you wield can be set on "stun."
Getting up to pee three times a night turns out to be a very effective means of home security.
ObamaCare totally covers Alzheimer's, dude.
Always at least one ear hair so long and thick you can cut cheese with it.
Still doing drugs only now there's a co-pay.
When properly positioned, chronic flatulence can be used as a booster rocket to rectify inertia.
Much easier to dress for funerals than for weddings. And they're usually shorter too.
The mantra "Don't trust anybody over 30" still applies and now includes your kids.
ObamaCare totally covers Alzheimer's, dude.
And finally, a last example of one of the Bright sides of Extreme Maturity: in a pinch, those nipple rings can double as belt loops!
(c) 2013 Will Durst's, e-book "Elect to Laugh!" published by Hyperink, is now available at, Amazon and many other fine virtual book retailers near you. Go to for more info.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 10 (c) 03/15/2013

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