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In This Edition

Matt Taibbi wonders, "Will J.P. Morgan Chase Be Torn A New One?"

Uri Avnery explains, "To the Victor, The Spoils."

Glen Ford goes, "From Detroit To Cyprus, Banksters In Search Of Prey."

Glenn Greenwald recalls, "David Frum, The Iraq War And Oil."

Jim Hightower is, "Standing Up For A Senator Who Took A Stand."

Mary Elizabeth Williams explores why, "It's A Hard Time To Be A Homophobe."

James Donahue asks, "Is The Moon An Artificial Orbiter?"

John Nichols says it's, "Not Just Hillary Clinton."

Bernie Sanders warns, "The Grand Bargain Could Be Grand Sellout."

Robert Reich reports the Demoncrats are, "Selling The Store."

Paul Krugman remembers, "Marches Of Folly."

David Sirota studies the, "United Nations' Pot Hypocrisy."

David Swanson demands we, "Teach the Children War."

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Chris Hedges tells, "The Shame Of America's Gulag."

Adam Keller examines, "A Government With A Civil Agenda."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department Andy Borowitz with an exclusive, "Unsuccessful Pope Candidate Blames Media" but first Uncle Ernie sings, "We Had Guns And Drums And Drums And Guns."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Taylor Jones, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Ruben Bolling, Mr. Fish, Mark Leffingwell, Tom Tomorrow, Jacquelyn Martin, Carol Hartsell, Zhang Jun, M.F. Hiatt, David Furst, Jim Watson, AFP, Getty Images, Xinhua/Zuma, Wattan TV, Reuters, The New Yorker, MGM, Black Agenda Report, You Tube.Com and Issues & Alibis.Org.

Plus we have all of your favorite Departments...

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

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

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We Had Guns And Drums And Drums And Guns
Hurroo! Hurroo!
By Ernest Stewart

We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns
The enemy never slew ya
Oh, Johnny I hardly knew ya
Traditional ~~~ Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya

"I want to begin right now, by answering a question that is sometimes asked about our relationship -- why? Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel? And the answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story -- patriots determined to be a free people in our land, pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies." ~~~ President Barack Obama

"There truly is no rest for the wicked, and Monsanto is at war once again against health conscious consumers with the latest 'Monsanto Protection Act', managing to sneak wording into the latest Senate legislation that would give them blanket immunity from any USDA action regarding the potential dangers of their genetically modified creations while under review. The USDA would be unable to act against any and all new GMO crops that were suspected to be wreaking havoc on either human health or the environment." ~~~ Anthony Gucciardi ~ Natural Society

"Round up the usual suspects." ~~~ Captain Renault

How time flies when you're having fun, huh, America? It was just ten years ago last Wednesday that the Crime Family Bush and their puppets in Congress committed a vast war crime against the people of Iraq and surrounding countries! We had already invaded another sovereign state: Afghanistan in "Operation: Secure the Pipeline" -- a Dick Cheney operation -- when the oil companies and their puppet Dubya began Operation: Steal the Oil with this announcement from the Oval Office:
"The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder."

Now, most folks thought Bush was talking about himself and his Junta when he mentioned "outlaw regime;" and that they were all going to fall upon their swords in an attempt to regain their honor; but, unfortunately, that wasn't to be the case at all. He opened with an "Awe Shocks" laser-guided bomb show; and he wasn't playing Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, either!

Ten years later, millions of Iraqis are dead or missing. Millions more wounded, millions forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind, just so that our oil companies could pump billions of unmetered barrels of oil for the biggest corpo-rat profits in the history of the world! Did they even pass on the savings to us -- the US tax payers who were picking up the tab for their abilities? Hell, no! They tripled the price of gasoline and diesel fuel, instead!

Our human costs included the almost 5,000 official US casualties, while the real number is around 25,000; because if you didn't die on the soil of Iraq, but onboard the airplane lifting you out or in the hospitals in Germany, or at home, you weren't counted as having been killed in Iraq. Were you wondering why they wouldn't allow the homecoming bodies to be filmed? It had nothing to do with respect, and everything to do with a correct US body count. Tens of thousands of our kids, seriously wounded, in body, or mind, or both. We destroyed a trillion dollars worth of Iraqi infrastructure, as well as ringing up a couple of trillion dollars in US debt -- which Barry and his Rethuglican pals hope to steal from Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, etc. And let's not forget that those war-related cost will continue to rise for years to come -- even as the those bullshit wars wind down.

Of course, the real damage came to our rights and laws back home -- in these here United Snakes. Between George and Barry, our "sacred" Bill of Rights has been shredded. We no longer have a right to a trial by a jury of our peers, in a court of law, with actual evidence and a defense counselor. Now, anyone can be seized by the Army in America and disappeared -- tortured and killed at the whim of a politician. If the bullshit that Dubya said about them hating us for our freedoms were true, then they should feel sorry for us now. Meanwhile, the rest of the world looks at us like we're Nazi Germany; and we are -- except on a much larger scale! Where once, when they thought of us, they thought of "care packages" and the Peace Corp, now when they think of us, they think of torturers and murderers! Of course, America has always been but a 'grand illusion' and soon the curtain will fall on us and rise on some new empire. One might say, "Quis goes circa venit circa!" Or, "C'est la guerre ya'll!"

In Other News

I was going to report about our war criminals trip to the Middle East to meet with his Israeli war criminal friends. I was going to talk about Barry bending over and begging Netanyahu not to shove it up too far; but then I thought, that's not news. That's just par for the course; and why waste time and effort reporting about a staged event all about Barry telling Netanyahu that the war is on come early next October, and how it will go down, and to get his act together.

Again, nothing newsworthy; that's old news. Barry made no mention of Israel's slaves, the Palestinians, or how he must feel like a hypo-twit being a black man embracing fascism, while ignoring our history, by keeping it alive in the Palestinian ghettos. No, Barry was a good little lap dog, as you can tell by the smile on Netanyahu's face.

I had a piece that I was going to run having to do with a chat I'm having with the USDA and the FDA; but it's not over yet, so I'm waiting on it to go one way or the other. You are hip to the GMO groups wanting to put various poisons in children's milk without listing their poisons on the carton, right? Well, it's to do with that; and I'm waiting to see if they approve it, which should be within the week or so.

I thought about how the Rethuglicans are starting to come out of their closets as far as Gay Marriage is concerned. Rethuglican voters across-the-board are coming out for gay marriage. I think the Log Cabin Rethuglicans have finally gotten their troglodyte brothers and sisters to listen to reason and reality. I'm sure some of them are thinking: if they could make it so that only rich gay folks could marry, they'd go over the top, so it may not happen this year; but it will happen, and happen soon, with Foggy Bottom leading the way -- imagine that. While interesting, talk is cheap; and until I see some positive results, I'll keep it on file.

Then there was Eric Holder, who gave it all away the other day, when admitting before Congress that the banksters are indeed too big to prosecute. Yes, Virginia, there are two sets of laws in America: one for the uber-rich, and the other for everyone else -- right from the lips of the top cop in America. You would've thought the Rethuglicans would have taken this opportunity to get rid of Eric for that statement, instead of agreeing with him.

So, as you can see, there's plenty to write about -- if you have the will and determination to do so. No real surprises, though -- just the same ole, same ole sh*t!

And Finally

I see where some biotech lobbyists succeeded in slipping the dangerous biotech rider (Sec. 735) into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill in an effort to strip federal courts of their authority to halt the sale and planting of any illegally, potentially hazardous GMO crop. Their point stooge in the Senate is Barbara Mikulski (Bubbie to her friends) (D-MD) who introduced the rider which gives a blank check to Monsanto and other corpo-rat poisoners to plant illegal genetically-engineered crops, these crops are so bad that even the FDA won't approve them, so an end run is needed!

The so-called Monsanto Protection Act would do amongst other things...
* Violate the constitutional precedent of separation of powers by interfering with the process of judicial review.

Eliminate federal agency oversight to protect farmers, consumers and the environment from potential harms caused by unapproved biotech crops.

Allow Monsanto and biotech seed and chemical companies to profit by overriding the rule of law and plant their untested GMO crops despite no proof of their safety for the public and environment.
Ergo, the Monsanto Protection Act is a very bad thing to add to our laws; I think you and most others will agree? So the bio-tech lobbyists bought and paid for Barbara and she slipped the rider (Sec. 735) into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. This is an obvious attempt to strip the courts of their current authority "to halt the sale and planting of any illegally, potentially hazardous GMO crops." You may recall that this is the same song-and-dance we covered for you last summer when it was shot down -- as it will no doubt be this time, as well. Still, such effort should be rewarded, should it not? Hence, we're giving Barbara, this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!

Keepin' On

Yippie tie-one-on! Richard, from New York, sent in a nice check; and is the first to do so at our new address. Our PO Box #1 is no longer a virgin -- thanks to Richard -- and I won't tell the Mrs. if you don't! Richard is one of, "The Usual Suspects," a group of our most diehard supporters. They, too, understand what's at stake here, and do what they can, whenever they can, in support of our goals; and we put it all into an account to pay our bills when they come due. None of the staff, the editorial board, or even yours truly make a cent at this. In most cases, we do it because we have to.

I'm beginning to think that 2013 might be one of those "Victory Garden" years as I think the food supply might implode or explode, depending what happens first. Will Ryan and the tea baggers succeed in bringing the economy to its knees, triggering a new Great Depression that will make the first one look like a "Swiss Picnic" by comparison? With Barry trying to give the 1% a grand bargain, where we trash the support for the poor, elderly, hungry, and sick and give it to the aforementioned bastards -- one way or the other, it's about to hit the fan.

With that in mind, wouldn't it be handy to get the real lowdown on what's really happening and what's really important to you and yours? Not only are we a news service, but we have a rather large "How To" section in the "Archives" from how to cheaply make electricity to how to make clean water! We taught you how to build a shelter, how to plant a garden, how to kill, clean and prepare wild game -- all taught by experts in their field; so it might be to your advantage to keep us on the net, fighting for you, huh? If so, please go to our donations page and follow the instructions, and who knows, maybe someday you'll be one of The Usual Suspects, with all their secret rights and privileges! I'll even tell you where the key to the 'honor bar' is kept!


01-15-1921 ~ 03-16-2013
Thanks for the laughs!

04-10-1921 ~ 03-16-2013
Thanks for the music!

08-27-1947 ~ 03-19-2013
Thanks for the instructions!


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.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, testifies before the US Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Will J.P. Morgan Chase Be Torn A New One?
By Matt Taibbi

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. Friday, I'm going to be live-blogging a hearing held by Senator Carl Levin's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations - the best crew of high-end detectives this side of The Wire, in my opinion - who will be grilling J.P. Morgan Chase executives and high-ranking federal regulators in a get-together entitled, "J.P. Morgan Chase "Whale" Trades: A Case History Of Derivatives Risks And Abuses." This follows this afternoon's release of a brutal 301-page report commissioned by Levin and Republican John McCain by the same name.

The Subcommittee investigators, largely the same crew who unraveled financial scandals surrounding infamous Goldman Sachs trades like Abacus and Timberwolf, and also took on HSBC's trans-global money-laundering activities in an extraordinarily detailed report issued last summer, have now taken aim at the heart of the Too-Big-To-Fail issue through its examination of the much-publicized catastrophic derivative trades made by its amusingly-nicknamed "London Whale" trader, Bruno Iksil, last year.

Most ordinary people dimly remember the London Whale episode now, and even at the time struggled to understand even the vaguest contours of the story while mainstream reporters (including people like myself) were trying with all their might to make sense of it from afar. What most people got out of that story was that J.P. Morgan Chase somehow lost buttloads of money through some sort of impossibly complex derivative trade - billions, though nobody could ever settle on an exact number - and that this was somehow a very bad thing that required the attention of the federal government, although even that part of it was a bit of a mystery to most ordinary people.

Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail Why should we care if a private bank, or more to the point a private banker like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, loses a few billion here and there? What business is it of ours? And why did we have to have congressional hearings about it last year? The whole thing certainly seemed a big mystery to Dimon himself, who dragged himself to Washington and spent the entire time rolling his eyes and snorting at Senators' questions, clearly put out that he even had to be there.

This new report by the Permanent Subcommittee answers the question of why the public needed to be involved in that episode. What the report describes is an epic breakdown in the supervision of so-called "Too Big to Fail" banks. The report confirms everyone's worst fears about what goes on behind closed doors at such companies, in the various financial sausage-factories that comprise their profit-making operations.

If the information in the report is correct, Chase followed the behavioral model of every corrupt/failing hedge fund this side of Bernie Madoff and Sam Israel, only it did it on a much more enormous scale and did it with federally-insured deposits. The fund used (in part) federally-insured money to create, in essence, a kind of super high-risk hedge fund that gambled on credit derivatives, and just like Sam Israel did with his Bayou fund, when it got in trouble, it resorted to fudging its numbers in order to disguise the fact that it was losing money hand over fist.

Chase for years hid the very existence of this operation from banking regulators and lied about the purpose of the fund (saying it was purely a hedging operation when it stopped being a hedge and instead became a wild directional gamble), and it also changed the way it calculated the fund's value once it started to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. Even worse, the bank's own internal auditors signed off on the phoney-baloney accounting of this Synthetic Credit Portfolio (SCP), at one point allowing it to claim $719 million in losses when the real number was closer to $1.2 billion.

How did they do this? In the years leading up to January of 2012, Chase used a standard, plain-vanilla method to price the derivative instruments in its portfolio. The method was known as "mid-market pricing": if on any given day you had a range of offers for a certain instrument - the "bid-ask" range - "mid-market pricing" just meant splitting the difference and calling the value the numerical middle in that range.

But in the beginning of 2012, Chase started to lose lots of money on the derivatives in its SCP, and just decided to change its valuations, that they weren't in the business of doing "mids" anymore. One executive thought the "market was irrational." As the Subcommittee concluded:

By the end of January, the CIO had stopped valuing two sets of credit index instruments on the SCP's books, the CDX IG9 7-year and the CDX IG9 10-year, near the midpoint price and had substituted instead noticeably more favorable prices.

If you can fight through the jargon, what this basically means is that Chase decided to go into the fiction business and invent a new way to value its crazy-ass derivative bets, using, among other things, a computerized model the company designed itself called "P&L predict" which subjectively calculated the value of the entire fund toward the end of every business day.

If this all sounds familiar, it's because it's the same story we've heard over and over again in the financial-scandal era, from Enron to WorldCom to Lehman Brothers - when the going gets tough, and huge companies start to lose money, they change their own accounting methodologies to hide their screw-ups, passing the buck over and over again until the mess explodes into the public's lap. The difference is that Chase is a much bigger and more dangerous company to be engaging in this kind of behavior.

An even scarier section of the report regards the reaction of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, or OCC, the primary government regulator of Chase. The report exposes two huge problems here. One, Chase consistently hid crucial information from the OCC, including the sort of massive increases in risk the OCC was created precisely to monitor. Two, even when the bank didn't hide stuff, the OCC was either too slow or too disinterested to take notice of potential problems. From the report:

During 2011, for example, the notional size of the SCP grew tenfold from about $4 billion to $51 billion, but the bank never informed the OCC of the increase. At the same time, the bank did file risk reports

with the OCC disclosing that the CIO repeatedly breached the its stress limits in the first half of 2011, triggering them eight times, on occasion for weeks at a stretch, but the OCC failed to follow up with the bank.

In other words, Chase added nearly $50 billion in risk and failed to mention the fact to the OCC - but the OCC also failed to bat an eyelid when Chase breached its stress limits eight times in a space of six months, often for weeks at a time. Do you feel safer now?

This episode proves what everyone already implicitly understands about these gigantic banking institutions: that their accounting is often little more than a monstrous black box within which any sort of mischief can and probably is being hidden from shareholders, counterparties, and the public, which has a direct interest in the health of these banks because (a) their enormous size makes them systemically important, i.e. we'd all be screwed if any of them collapsed, and (b) they are the supposedly cautious and conservative guardians of billions in federally-insured deposits.

The Senate investigators highlighted a frightening metaphor to explain what they found out about Chase's response to its burgeoning accounting disaster last winter and spring:

The head of the CIO's London office, Achilles Macris, once compared managing the Synthetic Credit Portfolio, with its massive, complex, moving parts, to flying an airplane. The OCC Examiner-in-Charge at JPMorgan Chase told the Subcommittee that if the Synthetic Credit Portfolio were an airplane, then the risk metrics were the flight instruments. In the first quarter of 2012, those flight instruments began flashing red and sounding alarms, but rather than change course, JPMorgan Chase personnel disregarded, discounted, or questioned the accuracy of the instruments instead.

Investigators took note of this and then, sensibly, wondered if Chase was the only bank ignoring all those flashy lights:

The bank's actions not only exposed the many risk management deficiencies at JPMorgan Chase, but also raise systemic concerns about how many other financial institutions may be disregarding risk indicators and manipulating models to artificially lower risk results and capital requirements.

Anyway, officials from Chase and the OCC are being dragged in tomorrow to answer some heavy questions about all of this. Expect a lot of double-talk, sweaty foreheads, pompous "You just don't understand because you don't make enough money" excuses, and other sordid behaviors. Tune in here for updates.

In the meantime, kudos to Senator Levin and to his Republican partner in this investigation, John McCain, for taking on this topic. Increasingly, key voices in the upper chamber like these two, plus Ohio's Sherrod Brown, Iowa's Chuck Grassley, Oregon's Jeff Merkley, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and others are starting to act genuinely worried about the Too Big to Fail issue. Their determination to keep it in the public eye is, to me, a signal that a consensus is forming behind the scenes on the Hill.
(c) 2013 Matt Taibbi

To the Victor, The Spoils
By Uri Avnery

IN THE days following the recent Israeli elections, Ya'ir Lapid, the major winner, let it be known that he wanted to be the next Foreign Minister.

No wonder. It's the hell of a job. You can't lose, because the Foreign Minister is responsible for nothing. Serious foreign fiascos are always laid at the door of the Prime Minister, who determines foreign policy anyway. The Foreign Minister travels around the world, stays in luxury hotels with gourmet cuisine, has his picture taken in the company of royalty and presidents, appears almost daily on TV. Sheer paradise. For someone who declares publicly that he wants to become Prime Minister soon, perhaps in a year and a half, this post is very advantageous. People see you among the world's great. You look "prime ministerial."

Moreover, no experience is needed. For Lapid, who entered politics less than a year ago, this is ideal. He has all a Foreign Minister needs: good looks and a photogenic quality. After all, he made his career on TV.

So why did he not become Foreign Minister? Why has he let himself be pushed into the Finance Ministry - a far more strenuous job, which can make or break a politician?

Simply because the Foreign Ministry has a big sign on its door: Occupied.

THE LAST Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was, probably, the least suitable person for the job in the whole country. He is no Apollo. He has an air of brutality, shifty eyes and spare vocabulary. He is unpopular everywhere in the world except Russia and its satellites. He has been avoided throughout by most of his international colleagues. Many of them consider him an outright fascist.

But Netanyahu is afraid of Lieberman. Without Lieberman's parliamentary storm troopers, Likud has only 20 seats - just one more than Lapid. And within the joint party, Lieberman may well replace Netanyahu in the not too distant future.

Lieberman has been forced out of the Foreign Office by the law that forbids an indicted person to serve in the government. For many years now, a dark judicial cloud has been hanging over his head. Investigations followed suspicions of huge bribes. In the end, the Attorney General decided to content himself with an indictment for fraud and breach of trust: a minor diplomat turned over to Lieberman a secret police dossier concerning his investigation and was awarded an ambassadorship.

Netanyahu's fear of Lieberman induced him to promise that the Foreign Minister's post would remain empty until the final judgment in Lieberman's case. If acquitted, his lofty position will be waiting for him.

This may be a unique arrangement. After barring Lapid's ambition to succeed him, Lieberman declared this week triumphantly: "Everyone knows that the Foreign Office belongs to the Israel Beitenu party!"

THAT IS an interesting statement. It may be worthwhile pondering its implications.

How can any government office "belong" to a party?

In feudal times, the King awarded his nobles hereditary fiefs. Each nobleman was a minor king in his domain, in theory owing allegiance to the sovereign but in practice often almost independent. Are modern ministries such fiefs "belonging" to the party chiefs?

This is a question of principle. Ministers are supposed to serve the country and its citizens. In theory, the best man or woman suited for the job should be appointed. Party affiliation, of course, does play a role. The Prime Minister must construct a working coalition. But the uppermost consideration, even in a multi-party democratic republic, should be the suitability of the candidate for the particular office.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Though no elected Prime Minister should go to the length of Ehud Barak, who displayed an almost sadistic delight in placing each of his colleagues in the ministry he was most unsuitable for. Shlomo Ben-Ami, a gentle history professor, was put into the Ministry of Police (a.k.a. Interior Security), where he was responsible for an incident in which several Arab citizens were shot. Yossi Beilin, a genius bubbling with original political ideas, was sent to the Ministry of Justice. And so on.

I remember meeting several of the new ministers at a diplomatic reception soon after. They were all deeply embittered and their comments were of course unprintable.

But that was not the point. The point was that by appointing ministers quite unsuitable to the tasks entrusted to them, Barak did great damage to the interests of the state. You don't entrust your body to a surgeon who is really a lawyer, nor do you entrust your money to a banker who is really a biologist.

YET THE idea of political entitlement was hovering over the whole process of forming the cabinet. The awarding of the ministries more closely resembles a dispute among thieves over the spoils than a responsible process of manning or womanning the ministries which will be responsible for the security and well-being of the nation.

The quarrel that held up the formation of the new government for several crucial days was over the Ministry of Education. Lapid wanted it for his No. 2, an orthodox (though moderate) rabbi. The incumbent, Gideon Sa'ar, desperately clung to it, organizing petitions in his favor among teachers, mayors and what not.

This could have been a legitimate fight if it had been about questions of education. For example, Sa'ar, a fanatical Likud man, has sent the pupils to religious and nationalistic sites in Greater Eretz Israel, to imbue them with proper patriotic fervor. He is also more intent on his pupils winning international capability tests than on education as such.

But nobody spoke about these subjects. It was a simple fight over entitlement. In medieval times, it might have been fought out with lances in a tournament. In these civilized days, both sides use political blackmail. Lapid won.

I AM not a great admirer of Tzipi Livni and her air of a spoilt brat. But I am happy about her appointment to the Ministry of Justice.

Her last two predecessors were intent on destroying the Supreme Court and putting an end to "judicial activism". (This seems to be a problem in many countries nowadays. Governments want to abolish the court's power to annul anti-democratic laws.) Tzipi can be relied on to buttress the Supreme Court, seen by many as "the last bastion of Israeli democracy".

Much more problematical is the appointment of Moshe Ya'alon as Minister of Defense. He inherited the job because there is just nobody around who could be appointed instead. Israelis take their defense seriously, and you cannot appoint, say, a gynecologist to this job.

"Bogy", as everybody calls him, is a former Chief of Staff of the Army, and a very undistinguished one. Indeed, when he finished the standard three years on the job, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to grant him the almost automatic fourth year. Bogy was bitter and complained that he always had to wear high boots, because of the many snakes in the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. He may need them again now.

His many detractors call him a "bock" - German and Yiddish for a goat, symbolizing a lack of intelligence. He is an extreme militarist, who sees all problems through the sights of a gun. He can be sure of the allegiance of Israel's vast army of ex-generals (or "degenerals"' as I call them).

THE MOST problematical appointment of all is the choice of Uri Ariel for the crucial post of Minister of Housing.

Uri Ariel is the arch-settler. He was the founder of a settlement, a leader of the settlers' organization, the Ministry of Defense official responsible for the settlements. He was also a director of the Keren Kayemet - Jewish National Fund - a major arm of the settlement enterprise. He entered the Knesset when Rehavam Ze'evi, the leader of the extreme-extreme Right, was assassinated by a Palestinian hit squad.

Turning this Ministry over to such a person means that most of its resources will go to a frantic expansion of the settlements, each of which is a nail in the coffin of peace. Yet Lapid supported this appointment with all his new-found political clout, as part of his "brotherhood" bond with Naftali Bennett, who is now the godfather of the settler movement.

Bennet's party also gained the all-important Knesset finance committee, which is needed to funnel the funds to the settlements. It means that the settlers have gained complete control of the state.

Lapid's big election victory may yet be revealed as the biggest disaster for Israel.

The brotherhood pact between Lapid and Bennett made it possible for them to blackmail poor Netanyahu and get (almost) everything they longed for. Except the Foreign Ministry.

How will Lapid turn out as Minister of Finance? Difficult to say. Since he is totally innocent of any economic knowledge or experience, he will have to depend on the Prime Minister above and the ministry bureaucracy below. Treasury officials are a tough lot, with a thoroughly neo-liberal outlook. Lapid himself also adheres to this creed, which is called by many Israelis "swinish capitalism" - a term invented by Shimon Peres.

ONE of Lapid's main election promises was to put an end to the Old Politics, held responsible for all the ills and ugliness of our political life until now. Instead, he said, there will be the New Politics, an age of shining honesty and transparency, embodied by selfless and patriotic leaders, such as the members of his new party.

Not for nothing did he call his party There Is A Future.

Well, the Future has arrived, and it looks suspiciously like the Past. Indeed, the New Politics look very much like the Old Politics.

Very, very old. Even the ancient Romans are supposed to have said "To the victor, the spoils!" But then, Ya'ir Lapid doesn't know Latin.
(c) 2013 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

From Detroit To Cyprus, Banksters In Search Of Prey
By Glen Ford

From Nicosia, Cyprus, to Detroit, Michigan, the global financial octopus is squeezing the life out of society, stripping away public and individual assets in a vain attempt to fend off its own, inevitable collapse. The bankers "troika" that effectively rules Europe prepares to reach into the individual accounts of ordinary depositors on the island nation of Cyprus to fund the bailout of their local banking brethren. Across the Atlantic, a corporate henchman makes arrangements to seize the assets and abolish the political rights of a Black metropolis. The local colorations may vary, but the crisis is the same: massed capital is devouring its social and natural environment. Either we liquidate the banksters, or Wall Street will liquidate us.

The proposed seizure of a big chunk of every ordinary Cypriot depositors' accounts, in the guise of a one-time "tax," was shocking even by the standards of the Euro Zone's overlords: the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission. The original diktat to finance new lines of credit for Cyprus's over-extended banks called for snatching 6.75 percent of the cash of customers with balances below 100,000 euros ($129,500), and 9.9 percent above that threshold. When the public went berserk, it was proposed that depositors with 20,000 euros or less be spared - but Cypriot lawmakers balked. The banks are now closed, to prevent people from withdrawing their money. But Europe's ruling triumvirate at the bankers' lair in Brussels continues to demand that the public-at-large pay to keep the global criminal financial enterprise humming, or be starved out. "In the absence of this measure, Cyprus would have faced scenarios that would have left deposit-holders significantly worse off," they said - disaster banksterism.

A rapscallion Black lawyer for the notorious corporate law firm Jones Day delivered the bankers' ultimatum to Detroit. Emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr, anointed by Michigan's Republican governor, is a bankruptcy specialist whose mission is to liquidate the assets of the 82 percent Black city, especially the revenue-producing Water and Sewerage Department. Orr's firm's clients - which, according to their website, include "more than half of the Fortune 500 companies" - have plenty of experience at liquidating in Detroit. Butch Hollowell, general counsel for the local NAACP, says Wells Fargo has "done more foreclosures in Detroit and the state of Michigan than any other firm," and is Detroit's number one property tax scofflaw. Jones Day also represents Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and CitiGroup.

"These are firms that not only got billions in TARP bailouts, but they're also the same ones that defrauded people into signing these predatory leases which cause the crash of the housing market," said Hollowell. "Detroit has been hit harder than anyplace in the country on that score" - hugely aggravating the city's money problems. Financial manager Kevyn Orr's job is to extract more booty from Detroit for the bankers' vaults.

To facilitate the theft of the city's property, its citizens must first be stripped of their political and civil rights, through the neutering of their elected officials. Orr looks forward to the project. "While I understand there's a lot of concern and emotion behind the concept that I'm depriving people of certain rights," he said, "actually it's very consistent with both the history of this country and specifically in this state." What he's about to do "is democracy in action."

This corporate concept of democracy has already devalued the franchise of the 49 percent of Michigan's Black population that live in municipalities and school districts under the thumb of outside financial managers, a violation of both the Voting Rights Act and the one man-one vote rule embodied in the 14th Amendment, says the NAACP's Hollowell.

Black Baptist pastors and the AFSCME and UAW unions will join the NAACP's planned legal action against the "hostile takeover" of Detroit - which is fine, as a civil rights response. But this is a much bigger battle.

Detroit and the people of Cyprus share the same enemy, a class that is beyond the reach of simple civil rights suits. The Lords of Capital on Wall Street and the City of London and the Federal Reserve in Washington and in the "troika" at Brussels confront their own existential crisis, which compels them to liquidate the public sector so that it can eventually be transferred to their own balance sheets. There are many ways to accomplish this, through privatization of existing public institutions, or by simply blowing a hole in public services and allowing privateers to fill the void, subsidized by public funds. However, nothing can save the banksters from inevitable, and increasingly imminent, collapse. Ever-increasing profit margins must be achieved, somehow, or the system implodes. Hundreds of trillions of notional dollars in derivatives must be serviced and fed by a class that makes nothing and can only survive by chicanery and coercion by governments under their control.

In Cyprus, they are prepared to brazenly snatch euros directly from working and retired people's accounts to fund a bank bailout, without even bothering to construct a convoluted pathway from the victims' accounts to their own. They have reached the point of outright confiscation, and will not stop until they have stripped society of the potential to save itself from the ruins.

We have no choice but to confiscate them - to destroy them utterly as a class.
(c) 2013 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

George Bush, pictured here with US marines in Anbar province.

David Frum, The Iraq War And Oil
The former Bush speechwriter confirms what has long been the most ridiculed claim about a key reason the US attacked Iraq
By Glenn Greenwald

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, author of the infamous "Axis of Evil" claim in Bush's 2002 State of the Union address, has a column this morning announcing that "all of us who advocated for the [Iraq] war have had to do some reckoning." His column is an attempt to provide such a reckoning, and contains numerous revealing assertions.

He begins with this melodramatic decree, designed to make you sympathetic of the stressful and scary environment in which Bush officials were operating: "My youngest daughter was born in December 2001: a war baby." To justify this characterization, he says that "when my wife nursed little Beatrice in the middle of the night, she'd hear F-16s patrolling the Washington skies," and that "a few weeks before, a sniper had terrorized the Washington suburbs. Anthrax attacks had killed five people and infected 17 others. What would come next?" (In actuality, the anthrax attacks came from a US Army lab; the Washington sniper attacks were in 2002, not 2001, and were perpetrated by two Americans; and hearing some F-16s patrolling the sky is hardly the stuff of extreme war trauma, particularly when compared to what people in actual war zones regularly experience). Frum is right that the fear levels were extremely high in this time period, but that was due to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by the administration in which he served.

Frum's most interesting revelation comes from his discussion of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile whom many neocons intended to install as leader of that country after the US took over. Frum says that "the first time [he] met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens's apartment." He then details the specific goals Chalabi and Dick Cheney discussed when planning the war:

"I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those 'others' was Vice President Cheney, it didn't matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to US dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia."

Wars rarely have one clear and singular purpose, and the Iraq War in particular was driven by different agendas prioritized by different factions. To say it was fought exclusively due to oil is an oversimplification. But the fact that oil is a major factor in every Western military action in the Middle East is so self-evident that it's astonishing that it's even considered debatable, let alone some fringe and edgy idea.

Yet few claims were more stigmatized in the run-up to the Iraq War, and after, than the view that oil was a substantial factor. In 2006, George Bush instructed us that there was a "responsible" way to criticize the US war effort in Iraq, and an "irresponsible" way to do so, and he helpfully defined the boundaries:

"Yet we must remember there is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate - and it's even more important to conduct this debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas.

"The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right."

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, nothing produced faster or more vicious attacks on war opponents than the claim that oil was playing a substantial role in the desire to invade. On February 23, 2003, then-Cogressman Dennis Kucinich appeared on Meet the Press and argued that oil was a primary reason for the US to want to invade Iraq, and in response, Richard Perle (Frum's co-author in their 2004 "An End to Evil") replied: "It is a lie, Congressman. It is an out and out lie." That exchange led the Washington Post's liberal columnist Richard Cohen to write this:

"'Liar' is a word rarely used in Washington . . . So it was particularly shocking, not to mention refreshing, to hear Richard Perle on Sunday call Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) a liar to his face . . .

"Kucinich himself seemed only momentarily fazed by Perle's sharp right to his integrity and went on, indomitable demagogue that he seems to be, to maintain that the coming war with Iraq will be fought to control that nation's oil . . . How did this fool get on 'Meet the Press'?"

There are countless other examples of people having their reputations viciously maligned for suggesting that oil was a significant factor in the US and its allies wanting to invade Iraq.

In order to minimize the role he played in helping bring about this war, Frum writes:

"People often ask me whether I have regrets. It seems absurdly presumptuous to answer the question. I could have set myself on fire in protest on the White House lawn and the war would have proceeded without me."

As Jonathan Schwarz replied: "Yeah, there's no way that somebody like Frum could have changed anything if he'd revealed Cheney's deep interest in Iraqi oil. Poor David was utterly powerless." At exactly the time that virtually all of official Washington was mocking and scorning anyone who suggested that oil was a significant factor in Washington's designs on Iraq, Cheney and Chalabi were spending "long hours" together, "contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq" as "an additional source of oil, an alternative to US dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia."

Ongoing deceit

In a separate post, Schwarz documents that war advocates like Frum still can't tell basic truths about Iraq even as they adopt the posture of contemplation and remorse. In particular, Frum's claim that Saddam maintained a nuclear weapons program until 1996 is indisputably false. Unfortunately, Americans are quite good at regretting their past wars but quite poor at applying the lessons to newly proposed ones.


Talk about self-serving revisionism: to distance himself from neocon designs on Iraq, Frum claims that he "was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration." But, as Ruben Bolling just reminded me, Frum wrote a long and angry defense of Chalabi in 2004 at National Review, hailing him as "one of the very few genuine liberal democrats to be found at the head of any substantial political organization anywhere in the Arab world," and ended with this proclamation: "Compared to anybody [sic] other possible leader of Iraq - compared to just about every other political leader in the Arab world - the imperfect Ahmed Chalabi is nonetheless a James bleeping Madison." James bleeping Madison. Whatever attributes characterized David Frum back in 2003 and 2004, a skeptic of Ahmed Chalabi was not one of them, his present-day suggestions notwithstanding.
(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.

Standing Up For A Senator Who Took A Stand

In a recent senatorial dust-up, Sen. John McCain dubbed his Republican colleague Rand Paul one of "the wacko birds" in Congress.

McCain (who sometimes appears not too tightly wrapped himself) was giving Sen. Paul a tongue-lashing for having mounted a 13-hour, old-fashioned, stand-alone filibuster over the possibility that murderous drones could be used for targeted assassinations of Americans right here at home. McCain said that the Kentucky senator's talkathon had veered into the "realm of the ridiculous," adding that, "I don't think [it] is helpful to the American people."

I hate to interrupt when one Republican solon is hammering another, but I'm siding with Rand Paul. While plenty of the tea party senator's extreme right-wing stands are wacko, this isn't one of them. Unfortunately for America, powerful corporate interests are eager to reap billions in profit from the spread of drones across our land, and police agencies at all levels are drooling at the prospect of adding weaponized fleets of drones to their arsenals. Indeed, what's ridiculous is that other congress critters have not been paying attention, speaking out, and taking action.

Call it grandstanding if you want, but at least Paul took an actual stand. And, contrary to McCain's opinion, it was quite helpful to the American people. Thanks to Paul's attention-getting combination of principle, ego, and chutzpa, the great majority of Americans heard for the first time that these inherently-invasive, liberty-busting, and potentially-deadly drones are on the verge of being deployed domestically.

That's why the Congressional Progressive Caucus and such alert Democrats as Sen. Ron Wyden have joined in sounding the alarm and demanding a full public debate. As Sen. Paul says: "At least we need to know what are the rules," on the cost to our democracy before we let profiteers unleash this technology on Americans.

Sen. Rand Paul is not the only speed bump slowing down the push by government contractors, police authorities and politicians of both parties to litter our nation's airspace with up to 30,000 of these surreptitious unmanned aircraft by year 2020. Inevitably, many of these will be used to spy on, invade the Constitutional rights of and even fire on American citizens.

While the senator's outrage raised the drone issue to a new level of public awareness, opposition had already been percolating across the country, uniting such diverse constituencies as the ACLU and the Tea Party. Indeed, from city halls to Congress, many officials are working to ban or at least restrict drone deployment in our Land of the Free.

Clearly, the drone-industrial complex has a growing political problem. But, hey, in Corporate America, where there's a way, there's plenty of will. We're talking extremely big dollars here.

As reported by The New Republic, drone pushers at an industry confab (ominously titled "The Reapers Come Home") decided that theirs is merely an image problem, starting with the off-putting d-word itself.

"That term 'drone' kills us every time," moaned a police official who's been advocating the proliferation of the devices in police departments from coast to coast. Another pusher suggested to conferees that the menacing black color of the weapons is the problem. He noted that Seattle's police chief tried to get city officials there to OK drone use by making them appear less threatening. He had a black Dragon Flyer X6 repainted and rechristened it as "Soft Kitty 2000."

That didn't work in Seattle, but still, the droner-complex can be expected to launch a PR campaign that'll make you want to hug one of their machines. Already, the peddlers are describing a sky full of drones over your city as "a nice safety blanket." Good luck living under that.
(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.

It's A Hard Time To Be A Homophobe
What happens when you say "God hates fags"? Westboro Baptist Church and Michelle Shocked learn the hard way
By Mary Elizabeth Williams

If you want to be a bigmouthed bigot, hey, it's a free country. Just take a few lessons from what's happened to your fellow homophobes this week. Intolerance just isn't as tolerated as it once was.

Let's say, for example, you're a folk singer with a once-strong lesbian following who peaked in the late '80s. Let's say you went all "born-again, sanctified, saved-in-the-blood Christian" a few years back. Then let's say you show up for a gig in San Francisco, a town that is known for being, oh, on the gay-friendly side, at a gay-owned club called Yoshi's. And you reportedly start talking about how you're afraid that the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry, and cap it off by telling the audience "You can go on Twitter and say 'Michelle Shocked says God hates fags.'"

Perhaps you were being a little cheeky there. After all, anyone who calls herself Shocked must have a talent for pushing buttons. The whole "God hates fags" thing isn't always a crowd-pleaser, though. What happened next was immediate and unambiguous. Because the audience members did indeed take your advice to heart. Most of them walked out on the spot, and word of your tirade got around pretty quickly after that. Yoshi's patron Matt Penfield told Yahoo this week that to watch your performance in San Francisco was to be in the presence of "someone who is clearly having a breakdown," an unfortunate update for a person who's spoken in the past of her mental health battles. And yet, you clearly thought you could just go on with the show. Were you surprised, then, when the club cut off your microphone and turned out the lights? Did you guess that being the self-appointed "world's greatest homophobe" would cause such a swift change in your travel plans? On Tuesday, Billboard confirmed that 10 out of your next 11 tour dates have been canceled. When Meander's Kitchen in Seattle 86′ed your scheduled show there next month, it specifically referenced your "homophobic performance in San Francisco last night." You're still booked for Madison's Harmony Bar, but a source from the club says the owner is out of town, so you may not want to get your heart set on seeing the wonders of Wisconsin any time soon there, either.

Maybe the time off will be good for your spirit, if not your bank account. But if you're looking to rest somewhere in the bosom of God Hates Fags ground zero, you might want to reconsider taking a room with a view in Topeka, Kan. This week, activist Aaron Jackson and a group of volunteers descended on the town to paint a house Jackson purchased a few months ago. They covered the siding in gay pride rainbow stripes and christened the building Equality House. It's located across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters. Jackson told Gawker this week, "Right now we are standing up to bigotry and promoting equality." Inventively, he's doing it one Benjamin Moore color at a time.

That's how it's done. It's about letting the bigots know that there are plenty of us out there who don't approve of your message. It's about not just sitting back and quietly shrugging it off when you spew your vitriol. It's about taking a stand. It's about meeting hate head on, confronting it and calling it out. And while maybe a slew of canceled concert dates or a rainbow-colored house across the street won't open your heart or change your mind or heal whatever is going on inside you, it accomplishes something else. It tells the world just how ugly, just how irrelevant, just how sad and strange your frightened views are. It says that whenever you say that God Hates Fags, we're listening to you, loud and clear. And this is our answer.
(c) 2013 Mary Elizabeth Williams is the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Is The Moon An Artificial Orbiter?
By James Donahue

Even though we have sent men to explore its surface, and to examine it from all directions in space, the Moon appears to remain as much a mystery to us today as it has always been.

At least now we know that globe that glows in the night sky is not made of green cheese, and we think it may be impossible for a man to be living inside of it . . . or do we? Is it really a rock in space, or is it something more?

If anything, our missions to the Moon generated more questions than answers. For example, nearly all of the moon rocks returned from those missions are found by analysis to be much older than rocks found on Earth. The oldest rocks on Earth are 3.7 billion years old, while the moon rocks were calculated from 4.3 to 5.3 billion years old. Thus the Moon appears to be much older than the Earth.

This little piece of information alone seems to knock holes in the theories that the Moon was formed in a massive cloud of space dust at the same time of Earth, or that it was formed from a large piece of Earth following a cataclysmic collision with another large and drifting planet. If either theory were true, the rocks should test out to be about the same age.

Then there is what one writer called "The Idiot Theory," that the Earth's gravity captured the Moon as it was passing by and pulled it into orbit. Scientists have done computer testing of this idea and found that rather than go into orbit, an object the size of the Moon would have crashed into the Earth if it wasn't far enough away to just stay on its course and pass on by.

Thus, we really have no logical explanation of how the Moon got there. All we know is that it exists, and that its presence as an orbiter of our planet acts like a stabilizer, making it possible for life to exist on Earth.

In space, everything is weightless, but everything also has mass. Large bodies of mass, like both the Earth and the Moon, create gravity. Since the Earth is larger than the Moon, it is the dominant force, thus making the Moon its satellite. Yet the Moon's existence acts something like a gyroscope on ships at sea, and aircraft in storms; it prevents the planet from wobbling too far off its course.

The Moon's gravitational pull causes ocean tides making it possible for sea life to spawn in active, ever moving currents. It creates a natural life cycle for humans, bringing forth seasons, putting a natural hormonal clock to work in women, and doing a lot of other mysterious stuff that seems to assist us in our daily lives.

As one writer put it: "Earth life needs the Moon to function, and likewise the Moon needs the Earth to orbit. Therefore, these two bodies are essentially in a symbiotic state. To my mind, it's quite difficult to grasp the entire celestial engineering that was required for our solar system's stability."

It would seem that if a creator was going to make a perfect world on which to put mankind, it would have to have a Moon to make everything tick. Thus the Moon is there by perfect design. Yet if our creator is the Mother Earth, and our progenitor is possibly an alien visitor that picked this planet on which to place his children, then how do we explain the Moon? Its existence then appears to establish a strong argument for the existence of a Creator force that put together a perfect environment for life.

The Moon acts suspiciously like an artificial machine rather than a natural body of space rock. It circles the Earth in a perfect circular orbit, always keeping one face turned toward the Earth, something the planets and other moons around them rarely do. Only Lapetus, one of the moons circling Saturn, shows similar characteristics.

Because it doesn't whirl, people of Earth never get to see what has been traditionally called "The Dark Side of the Moon." The only pictures ever taken of the other side came from the Apollo Space missions. And of course, conspiracy theories about "whats really there" have been around. People like space writer and lecturer Richard Hoagland are suggesting that the astronauts found glass buildings and other interesting structures on the back of the Moon, and that our government is keeping it a secret.

There is a piece by writer Jim Ostrowski circling the web suggesting strongly that the moon is an artificial ball that may even have a hollow core. He argues that the physics of landing an unmanned space probe on any object in space involves a calculation of its gravitational pull, and that pull is based upon the size of the target. Early efforts by both the United States and Russia to land a probe on the Moon, however, ended in failure. Ostrowski believes this may be because the calculations were off. If the Moon is hollow, instead of a solid object, its gravitational pull would be dramatically altered

Ostrowski also points to the discovery of something he calls "mascons," or Mass Concentrations of Gravity that are found in certain places within the lunar globe. He wrote that the mascons were discovered by the Lunar Orbiter missions in the late 1960s.

"NASA reported that the gravitational pull caused by these mascons was so pronounced that the spacecraft dipped slightly and accelerated when flitting by the circular lunar plains. This showed that there must be some hidden structures of some kind of dense, heavy matter centered like a bulls eye under the circular maria," Ostrowski said.

Yet another unnamed writer reported that the astronauts found the surface of the Moon so hard, just under the loose dust layer, that they could not drill into it. "When the discarded descent stages of the space crafts fell on the Moon, NASA noted that the moon rang like a gong or bell for up to four hours after impact."

This information could not be confirmed.
(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

Gay rights activists march on Washington, October 11, 2009.

Not Just Hillary Clinton
Why So Many Republicans Are Embracing Marriage Equality
By John Nichols

Hillary Clinton, who was the first lady of the United States when President Bill Clinton signed the "Defense of Marriage Act," has recorded a warm and thoughtful endorsement of marriage equality. With the release Monday of her statement, the Democratic Party is completing an evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage. Never again will a serious contender for the party's presidential nomination-whether Clinton runs in 2016 or not-oppose the right of lesbian couples and gay couples to marry.

But the Democratic Party is not alone in evolving.

Republicans are moving more slowly on the issue. But they are moving. And in many senses this movement provides the most dramatic evidence of the rapid progress being made by proponents of LGBT rights.

When Ohio Senator Rob Portman announced last week that he is now a supporter of marriage equality, he became the latest prominent Republican to abandon the official position of a party that just a few years ago was rigidly-and almost universally-opposed to same-sex marriage.

"I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn't deny them the opportunity to get married," said the Ohio senator, who was high on Mitt Romney's list of vice presidential prospects.

The senator was inspired to abandon his embrace of discrimination at least in part because his son is gay. Other Republicans have been influenced by family connections and friendships. And still others are shifting their stances because they know the Republican Party needs to change. The Grand Old Party is in a process of transformation that is notable in its scope and character. Less than a decade ago, when states were voting to amend constitutions to formally bar same-sex couples from marrying, leading Republicans were overwhelmingly supportive of discrimination. Now, a growing number of leading Republicans are explicitly rejecting discrimination and taking the position that a new Washington Post/ABC News Poll says 58 percent of all Americans now embrace: "It should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married."

A 2012 presidential contender who was among the top finishers in the New Hampshire primary, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, says:

"There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love."

Huntsman is sometimes accused of harboring moderate tendencies. But no one would dare call former Vice President Dick Cheney anything but a conservative, and Cheney says: "I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish." Cheney has reportedly joined former Republican National Committeeman Ken Mehlman in lobbying Republican legislators around the country to support marriage-equality measures such as the one that was enacted in 2012 in Maryland.

It is true that Cheney's daughter is an out lesbian, and that Mehlman's an out gay man. But Americans of all partisan and ideological backgrounds have come to support LGBT rights because of personal connections and experiences. That does not detract from the significance of their commitment to marriage equality. As Cheney says with his regard to his support for same-sex unions: "Freedom means freedom for everyone." There are plenty of Republicans, plenty of conservative Republicans, who are coming out for marriage equality on principle. Republicans like former United Nations ambassador John Bolton and former Solicitor General Ted Olson. "We're talking about an effect upon millions of people and the way they live their everyday life and the way they're treated in their neighborhood, in their schools, in their jobs," says Olson. "If you are a conservative, how could you be against a relationship in which people who love one another want to publicly state their vows... and engage in a household in which they are committed to one another and become part of the community and accepted like other people?"

Olson is one of the lawyers aiding the suit that seeks to overturn California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, along with discriminatory laws in other states.

More than eighty prominent conservatives-including former GOP cabinet members and presidential aides, ex-governors and sitting members of Congress-have signed a legal brief arguing that lesbians and gays have a constitutional right to marry.

Of course, there are still throwbacks in the GOP. At the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, Florida Senator Marco Rubio drew cheers when he declared to the cardinals, "Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot."

Rubio may genuinely reject the argument that his support for discriminatory laws makes him a bigot. But his stance, while it mirrors that of many older Republicans, is not in tune with the young men and women who will shape the party's future. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under the age of 50, the Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that 52 percent favor marriage equality.

A recognition of that reality underpins at least some of the rethinking within the GOP. "The die is cast on this issue when you look at the percentage of younger voters who support gay marriage," says Steve Schmidt, who served as a senior adviser to Arizona Senator John McCain's Republican presidential run.

Schmidt signed the legal brief on behalf of marriage equality.

"I believe Republicans should re-examine the extent to which we are being defined by positions on issues that I don't believe are among our core values, and that put us at odds with what I expect will become over time, if not a consensus view, then the view of a substantial majority of voters," Schmidt has been arguing for some time now.

The veteran Republican strategist argues that "denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence-liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force."

That's an old-school Republican position, one that Schmidt explains is rooted in "the national creed, what Lincoln called the inestimable jewel of American history." This, says Schmidt, is why he and so many other conservatives have decided to urge fellow Republicans "to respect every human being's rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness as much as they cherish their own."

Schmidt and his fellow Republican supporters of marriage equality are making a big leap away from the right-wing social conservatism that has defined the Republican Party in recent decades. But groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans argue that the move reconnects Republicans with a part of their past. More and more, those who would move the party away from rigid social conservatism argue, Republicans are coming to recognize that the party's first president was right when he wrote in 1859: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."

The Republican Party remains almost completely at odds with its original values on economic issues and a host of other concerns. It is far from the "Party of Lincoln" that it once was. But just as it has been proper to note the Republican devolution away from the best of its historic values, so it is reasonable to note any evidence of an evolution back toward the party's former self-not merely because of what that suggests about the party's progress but because of what it says about the broader and better shifting of our national politics.
(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.

The Grand Bargain Could Be Grand Sellout
By Bernie Sanders

The media appear fixated about when and if a so-called "grand bargain" on our economy will be reached. Wrong question! The question we should be asking is: What should be in a "grand bargain" that works for the average American?

At a time when the middle class is disappearing, 46 million Americans are living in poverty and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, we need a "grand bargain" that protects struggling working families, not billionaires.

With corporate profits at record-breaking levels while the effective corporate tax is at its lowest level since 1972, and 1 out of 4 profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes, we need a grand bargain that ends corporate loopholes and demands that corporate America starts helping us with deficit reduction. We must not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. We must not cut Social Security, disabled veterans' benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, education and other programs that provide opportunity and dignity to millions of struggling American families.

Before we pass a grand bargain, we have got to take a hard and sober look at what's happening economically in our country today. In doing so, we must acknowledge that the United States has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth and that inequality is worse today than at any time since the late 1920s. Today, the wealthiest 400 individuals in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America - 150 million Americans. The top 1 percent owns 38 percent of all financial wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns just 2.3 percent. Incredibly, the Federal Reserve reported last year that median net worth for middle-class families dropped by nearly 40 percent from 2007-2010. That's the equivalent of wiping out 18 years of savings for the average middle-class family.

The distribution of income is even worse. If you can believe it, the last study on the subject showed that all of the new income gained from 2009-2011 went to the top 1 percent. ALL of the new income!

In America today, the average middle-class family has seen its income go down by nearly $5,000 since 1999, adjusting for inflation. Real unemployment is not 7.7 percent, it is 14.3 percent, counting those workers who have given up looking for work or who are working part time when they want to be working full time. While youth unemployment is exceptionally high, millions of young people are struggling with student loans they can't afford to pay back. While we talk about the need to strengthen the middle class, we have to understand that more than half of the new jobs that have been created since 2010 are low-wage jobs paying people between $7.80 and $13.80 an hour.

That's the economic reality facing a large majority of our people, and that's what has to be taken into consideration when we discuss deficit reduction and a "grand bargain."

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, here are my priorities:

We need a budget that puts millions of Americans back to work in decent-paying jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and transforming our energy sector away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy and energy efficiency.

We need a budget that keeps the promises we have made to our seniors, veterans and the most vulnerable by protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

We need a budget that makes sure that the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We must end corporate loopholes that allow Wall Street banks, large corporations and the wealthy to avoid more than $100 billion a year in federal taxes by stashing their profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

A federal budget is not just a set of numbers. It is a value statement of what we, as a nation, stand for. We must fight for a grand bargain that stands for justice, opportunity and the needs of our middle class. We must reject any approach that continues the economic assault on working families.
(c) 2013 Bernie Sanders (I=Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at=large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week she's willing to consider cuts to
Social Security as part of a sweeping deficit-reduction package, the so-called 'Grand Bargain.'

Selling The Store
Why Democrats Shouldn't Put Social Security and Medicare on the Table
By Robert Reich

Prominent Democrats - including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation. This is even before they've started budget negotiations with Republicans - who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers' "carried interest"), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions.

It's not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise.

For over thirty years Republicans have pitted the middle class against the poor, preying on the frustrations and racial biases of average working people who can't get ahead no matter how hard they try. In the Republican narrative, government takes from the hard-working middle and gives to the undeserving and dependent needy.

In reality, average working people have been stymied because almost all the economic gains of the last three decades have gone to the very top. The middle has lost bargaining power as unions have shriveled. American politics has been flooded with campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy, which have used their clout to reduce marginal tax rates, widen loopholes, loosen regulations, gain subsidies, and obtain government bailouts when their bets turn sour.

Now five years after the worst downturn since the Great Depression and the biggest bailout in history, the stock market has recouped its losses and corporate profits constitute the largest share of the economy since 1929. Yet the real median wage continues to fall - wages now claim the lowest share of the economy on record - and inequality is still widening. All the economic gains since the trough of the recession have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans; the bottom 90 percent continue to lose ground.

What looks like the start of a more buoyant recovery is a sham because the vast majority of Americans have neither the pay nor access to credit that allows them to buy enough to boost the economy. Housing prices and starts are being fueled by investors with easy money rather than would-be home buyers with mortgages. The Fed's low interest rates have pushed other investors into stocks by default, creating an artificial bull market.

If there was ever a time for the Democratic Party to champion working Americans and reverse these troubling trends, it is now - forging an alliance between the frustrated middle and the working poor. This need not be "class warfare" because a healthy economy is in everyone's interest. The rich would do far better with a smaller share of a rapidly-growing economy than a ballooning share of one that's growing at a snail's pace and a stock market that's turning into a bubble.

But the modern Democratic Party can't bring itself to do this. It's too dependent on the short-term, insular demands of Wall Street, corporate executives, and the wealthy.

It was Bill Clinton, after all, who pushed for repeal of Glass-Steagall, championed the North American Free Trade Act and the World Trade Organization without adequate safeguards for American jobs, and rented out the Lincoln Bedroom to a steady stream of rich executives.

And it was Barack Obama who continued George W. Bush's Wall Street bailout with no strings attached; pushed a watered-down "Volcker Rule" (still delayed) rather than renew Glass-Steagall; failed to prosecute a single Wall Street executive or bank because, according to his Attorney General, Wall Street is just too big to jail; and permanently enshrined the Bush tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent.

Meanwhile, over the last several decades Democrats have allowed Social Security taxes to grow and its revenue stream to become almost as important a source of overall government funding as income taxes; turned their backs on organized labor and labor-law reforms that would have made it easier to form unions; and then, even as they bailed out Wall Street, neglected the burdens of middle-class homeowners who found themselves underwater and their homes worth less than what they paid for them because of the Street's excesses.

In fairness, it could have been worse. Clinton did stand up to Gingrich. Obama did get the Affordable Care Act. Congressional Democrats have scored tactical victories against social conservatives and Tea Party radicals. But Democrats haven't responded in any bold or meaningful way to the increasingly concentrated wealth and power, the steady demise of the middle class, and further impoverishment of the nation's poor. The Party failed to become a movement to reclaim the economy and our democracy.

And now come their pre-concessions on Social Security and Medicare. Technically, a "chained CPI" might be justifiable if seniors routinely substitute lower-cost alternatives as prices rise, as most other Americans do. But in reality, seniors pay 20 to 40 percent of their incomes for healthcare, including pharmaceuticals - the prices of which are rising much faster than inflation. So there's no practical justification for reducing Social Security benefits on the assumption inflation isn't really eating away at those benefits as much as the current cost-of-living adjustment allows. Likewise, although a case can be made for reducing the Medicare benefits of higher-income beneficiaries, as a practical matter their savings are almost as vulnerable to rising healthcare costs as are the more modest savings of middle-income retirees. "Means-testing" Medicare also runs the risk of transforming it into a program for the "less fortunate," which can undermine its political support.

In short, Medicare isn't the problem. The underlying problem is the sky-rocketing costs of health care. Because Medicare's administrative costs are a fraction of those of private health insurance, Medicare might be part of the solution. Medicare for all, or even a public option for Medicare, would give the program enough clout to demand health providers move from a fee-for-service system to one that paid instead for healthy outcomes.

With healthcare costs under better control, retirees wouldn't be paying a large and growing portion of their incomes for healthcare - which would alleviate pressure on Social Security. I'm still not convinced a "chained CPI" is necessary, though. A preferable alternative would be to raise the ceiling on the portion of income subject to Social Security taxes (now $113,600).

Besides, Social Security and Medicare are the most popular programs ever devised by the federal government, which is why Republicans hate them so much. If average Americans have trusted the Democratic Party to do one thing it has been to guard these programs from the depredations of the GOP.

Putting these two programs "on the table" is also tantamount to accepting the most insidious and dishonest of all Republican claims: That for too long most Americans have been living beyond their means; that we are rapidly approaching a day of reckoning when we can no longer afford these generous "entitlements;" and that prudence and responsibility dictate that we must now begin to live within our means and cut back these projected expenditures, particularly if we are to have any money left to invest in the young and the disadvantaged.

The truth is the opposite: That for three decades the means of most Americans have been stagnant even though the overall economy has more than doubled in size; that because almost all the gains from growth have gone to the top, most Americans haven't been able to save enough for retirement or the rising costs of healthcare; and that because of this, Social Security and Medicare are barely adequate as is.

Paul Ryan's House Republican budget takes on Medicare, but leaves Social Security alone. Why should Democrats lead the charge on either?

The Republicans are already slashing help for the young and the disadvantaged. Democrats shouldn't succumb the lie that the elderly and young are in competition for a portion of a shrinking pie, when in fact the pie is larger than ever. It's just that those who have the largest and fastest-growing portions refuse to share it.

We are the richest nation in the history of the world - richer now than we've ever been. But an increasing share of that wealth is held by a smaller and smaller share of the population, who have, in effect, bribed legislators to reduce their taxes and provide loopholes so they pay even less.

The budget deficit "crisis" has been manufactured by them to distract our attention from this overriding fact, and to pit the rest of us against each other for a smaller and smaller share of what remains. Democrats should not conspire.

Needy children should be getting far more help, better pre-school care, better nutrition. Seniors need better healthcare coverage and more Social Security. All Americans need better schools and improved infrastructure.

The richest nation in the history of the world should be able to respond to the legitimate needs of all its citizens.
(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.

Marches Of Folly
By Paul Krugman

Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.

Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake - that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.

There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war - having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war's boosters predicted - left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn't look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that "everyone" thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents - but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

CNN's Howard Kurtz, who was at The Washington Post at the time, recently wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. "Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,"he wrote, "were frequently buried, minimized or spiked."

Closely associated with this taking of sides was an exaggerated and inappropriate reverence for authority. Only people in positions of power were considered worthy of respect. Mr. Kurtz tells us, for example, that The Post killed a piece on war doubts by its own senior defense reporter on the grounds that it relied on retired military officials and outside experts - "in other words, those with sufficient independence to question the rationale for war."

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it's a lesson that doesn't seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don't want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn't the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn't been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don't operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a "debt crisis," even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

In fact, in some ways the line between news and opinion has been even more blurred on fiscal issues than it was in the march to war. As The Post's Ezra Klein noted last month, it seems that "the rules of reportorial neutrality don't apply when it comes to the deficit." What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that "everyone" supports a policy, whether it's a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether "everyone" has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. And policy arguments should be evaluated on the merits, not by who expresses them; remember when Colin Powell assured us about those Iraqi W.M.D.'s?

Unfortunately, as I said, we don't seem to have learned those lessons. Will we ever?
(c) 2013 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws."
~~~ Tacitus ~ Roman senator and historian (C.E. 56 - 115)

A crowd of people all exhale marijuana simultaneously at the University of Colorado in Boulder on April 20, 2010.

United Nations' Pot Hypocrisy
Science says marijuana is safer than alcohol. So why is the U.N. trying to stop legalization laws?
By David Sirota

The notion of alcohol consumers piously demanding that others stop using pot probably makes you think of the beer-swilling World War II generation berating weed-smoking hippies during the 1960s. Now, thanks to the United Nations, that caricature gets an update, and the hypocrisy is at once amusing and depressing.

You may have read the headline-grabbing news that in advance of its conference on drug policy this week, the U.N. issued a report urging the United States government to block Colorado and Washington state from moving forward with voter-approved laws that allow adult citizens to use marijuana as a less harmful alternative to alcohol. What you may not have heard is that on the very same day the U.N. released that report, U.S. ambassador Joseph Torsella slammed his U.N. colleagues for drinking too much on the job. Apparently, binging at the U.N. is so commonplace and excessive that it is hindering the organization from conducting its most basic work.

As hypocrisy humor goes, this is pretty funny. An international body immersed in one drug (alcohol) yet telling governments to outlaw an objectively less harmful drug (marijuana) is biting comedy. It hilariously exemplifies the double standards and contradictions that still define many global leaders' views of drugs.

Yet before you laugh too hard, remember that it is actually a tragedy for members of the U.N. to be simultaneously drinking too much alcohol and too much anti-pot Kool-Aid. It is a tragedy because the blatant hypocrisy saps the organization's credibility on the drug issue at a time when the world needs it to be supporting the international political momentum generated by Colorado and Washington state. That reform momentum is now building as lawmakers in Mexico, Uruguay and Chile are citing the states' votes as reason for their nations to consider legislation to legalize marijuana. Likewise, according to the Associated Press, presidents of Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica called "for the Organization of American States to study the impact of the Colorado and Washington votes and said the United Nations' General Assembly should hold a special session" to debate the continued prohibition of marijuana.

Their rationale is simple: Having seen their nations torn apart by the militarized fight against the drug cartels that rely on prohibition and its attendant black market, Latin American leaders see the Colorado and Washington victories as a way to finally start deescalating the blood-soaked war on marijuana.

"Everyone is asking, 'What sense does it make to keep up such an intense confrontation, which has cost Mexico so much, by trying to keep this substance from going to a country where it's already regulated and permitted?'" one Mexican lawmaker told Time magazine in describing a bill he is pushing that is modeled off the Washington state measure.

The flip side, of course, is that legalization could deal a serious blow to the cartels. That's because, according to Mexico's Institute for Competitiveness, up to a third of the cartels' revenues come from the black-market marijuana trade - a trade that would be curtailed if cannabis was legalized and brought into the regulated economy. Meanwhile, if more American states follow Colorado and Washington, the cartels could "lose 24 percent of their gross export revenues," says Alejandro Hope, a former top intelligence official in Mexico.

Put it all together - thousands dead in a failed drug war, a massive black market for marijuana, and science that says pot is safer than alcohol - and the U.N. should be using its pivotal position to help the world move away from destructive prohibitionist policies and toward legalization and strict regulation.

In order for it to play such a constructive role, though, the U.N. clearly needs to sober up - both literally and politically.
(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 .


Teach the Children War
By David Swanson

The National Museum of American History, and a billionaire who has funded a new exhibit there, would like you to know that we're going to need more wars if we want to have freedom. Never mind that we seem to lose so many freedoms whenever we have wars. Never mind that so many nations have created more freedoms than we enjoy and done so without wars. In our case, war is the price of freedom. Hence the new exhibit: "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War."

The exhibit opens with these words: "Americans have gone to war to win their independence, expand their national boundaries, define their freedoms, and defend their interests around the globe." Those foolish, foolish Canadians: why, oh, why did they win their independence without a war? Think of all the people they might have killed! The exhibit is surprisingly, if minimally, honest about imperialism, at least in the early wars. The aim of conquering Canada is included, along with bogus excuses, as one of the motivations for the War of 1812.

The most outrageous part of the opening lines of the exhibition, however, may be the second half: ". . . define their freedoms, and defend their interests around the globe." The exhibition, to the extent that I've surveyed it online, provides absolutely no indication of what in the world can be meant by a war being launched in order to "define our freedoms." And, needless to say, it is the U.S. government, not "Americans," that imagines it has "interests around the globe" that can and should be "defended" by launching wars.

The exhibit is an extravaganza of lies and deceptions. The U.S. Civil War is presented as "America's bloodiest conflict." Really? Because Filipinos don't bleed? Vietnamese don't bleed? Iraqis don't bleed? We should not imagine that our children don't learn exactly that lesson. The Spanish American War is presented as an effort to "free Cuba," and so forth. But overwhelmingly the lying is done in this exhibit by omission. Bad past excuses for wars are ignored, the death and destruction is ignored or falsely reduced. Wars that are too recent for many of us to swallow too much B.S. about are quickly passed over. The exhibit helpfully provides a teacher's manual (PDF), and its entire coverage of the past 12 years of warmaking (which has involved the killing of some 1.4 million people in Iraq alone) consists of the events of 9/11/2001, beginning with this:

"September 11 was a modern-day tragedy of immense proportions. The devastating attacks by al Qaeda terrorists inside the United States killed some 3,000 people and sparked an American-led war on terrorism. The repercussions of that day will impact domestic and international political decisions for many years to come. At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, a passenger jet flew into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Fire and rescue crews rushed to the scene. As live TV coverage began, horrified viewers watched as a second plane slammed into the south tower at 9:03 a.m. Thirty-five minutes later a third airliner crashed into the Pentagon. Another jet bound for Washington, D.C., crashed in Pennsylvania after its passengers challenged the hijackers. The nation reeled. But Americans resolved to fight back, inspired by the words of a passenger who helped foil the last attack: 'Are you guys ready? Let's roll.'"

If you talk to non-sociopathic teachers, you discover that the sort of "teaching" engaged in by our museums has a horrible impact on students' understanding. A new book called Teaching About the Wars is a great place to start. It's written by teachers who try to present their students with a more complete and honest understanding of war than what's expected by common text books, many of which are far worse than the museum exhibit described above. These teachers / authors argue that when a teacher pretends to have no point of view, he or she teaches their students moral apathy. Pretending not to care about the world teaches children not to care about the world. Teachers should have a point of view but teach more than one, teach critical thinking and analysis, teach skepticism, and teach respect for the opinions of others.

Students should not be taught, these teachers suggest, to reject all public claims as falsehoods and the truth as absolutely unknowable. Rather, they should be taught to critically evaluate claims and develop informed opinions. Jessica Klonsky writes:

"One of the most successful media-related lessons involved an exercise comparing two media viewpoints. First I showed the first 20 minutes of Control Room, a documentary about Al Jazeera, the international Arabic-language television network headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Students were shocked by the dead bodies and destruction shown on Al Jazeera. For many it was the first time they realized that it wasn't just soldiers who died in war."

U.S. soldiers were 0.3% of the dead in the 2003-2011 war on Iraq. These students had been unaware of the other 99.7% of the dead. Learning what war really looks like is perhaps the most important lesson missing from our usual education system.

Another important lesson is who engages in war and why. Bill Bigelow presents a model lesson through which teachers can present students with true situations, but with the names of the nations changed. They can discuss what the nations ought to have done, before learning that one of the nations was their own, and before learning what it actually did. Then they can discuss that reality. Bigelow also begins his teaching about the "war on terrorism" by asking students to work on defining "terrorism" (and not by attacking each other, which is presumably how the National Museum of American History would recommend "defining" such a term).

One teacher ends such a lesson by asking "What difference do you think it would make if students all over the country were having the discussion we're having today?" Clearly, that question moves students toward becoming potential teachers wanting to share their knowledge to a far greater extent than, say, teaching them the dates of battles and suggesting they try to impress others with their memorization.

Can good teaching compete with the Lockheed Martin-sponsored Air and Space Museum, the U.S. Army's video games, Argo, Zero Dark 30, the slick lies of the recruiters, the Vietnam Commemoration Project, the flag waving of the television networks, the fascistic pledges of allegiance every morning, and the lack of good alternative life prospects? Sometime, yes. And more often the more it spreads and the better it is done.

One chapter in Teaching About the Wars describes a project that connects students in the United States with students in Western Asia via live video discussions. That experience should be required in any young person's education. I guarantee you that our government employs drone "pilots" to connect with foreign countries via live video in a more destructive manner who never spoke with foreign children when they were growing up.
(c) 2013 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Uberfuhrer Mikulski,

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

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-25-2013. We salute you Frau Mikulski, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Shame Of America's Gulag
By Chris Hedges

If, as Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" then we are a nation of barbarians. Our vast network of federal and state prisons, with some 2.3 million inmates, rivals the gulags of totalitarian states. Once you disappear behind prison walls you become prey. Rape. Torture. Beatings. Prolonged isolation. Sensory deprivation. Racial profiling. Chain gangs. Forced labor. Rancid food. Children imprisoned as adults. Prisoners forced to take medications to induce lethargy. Inadequate heating and ventilation. Poor health care. Draconian sentences for nonviolent crimes. Endemic violence.

Bonnie Kerness and Ojore Lutalo, both of whom I met in Newark, N.J., a few days ago at the office of American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch, have fought longer and harder than perhaps any others in the country against the expanding abuse of prisoners, especially the use of solitary confinement. Lutalo, once a member of the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panthers, first wrote Kerness in 1986 while he was a prisoner at Trenton State Prison, now called New Jersey State Prison. He described to her the bleak and degrading world of solitary confinement, the world of the prisoners like him held in the so-called management control unit, which he called "a prison within a prison." Before being released in 2009, Lutalo was in the management control unit for 22 of the 28 years he served for the second of two convictions-the first for a bank robbery and the second for a gun battle with a drug dealer. He kept his sanity, he told me, by following a strict regime of exercising in his tiny cell, writing, meditating and tearing up newspapers to make collages that portrayed his prison conditions.

"The guards in riot gear would suddenly wake you up at 1 a.m., force you to strip and make you grab all your things and move you to another cell just to harass you," he said when we spoke in Newark. "They had attack dogs with them that were trained to go for your genitals. You spent 24 hours alone one day in your cell and 22 the next. If you do not have a strong sense of purpose you don't survive psychologically. Isolation is designed to defeat prisoners mentally, and I saw a lot of prisoners defeated."

Lutalo's letter was Kerness' first indication that the U.S. prison system was creating something new-special detention facilities that under international law are a form of torture. He wrote to her: "How does one go about articulating desperation to another who is not desperate? How does one go about articulating the psychological stress of knowing that people are waiting for me to self-destruct?"

The techniques of sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation were pioneered by the Central Intelligence Agency to break prisoners during the Cold War. Alfred McCoy, the author of "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror," wrote in his book that "interrogators had found that mere physical pain, no matter how extreme, often produced heightened resistance." So the intelligence agency turned to the more effective mechanisms of "sensory disorientation" and "self-inflicted pain," McCoy noted. [One example of causing self-inflicted pain is to force a prisoner to stand without moving or to hold some other stressful bodily position for a long period.] The combination, government psychologists argued, would cause victims to feel responsible for their own suffering and accelerate psychological disintegration. Sensory disorientation combines extreme sensory overload with extreme sensory deprivation. Prolonged isolation is followed by intense interrogation. Extreme heat is followed by extreme cold. Glaring light is followed by total darkness. Loud and sustained noise is followed by silence. "The fusion of these two techniques, sensory disorientation and self-inflicted pain, creates a synergy of physical and psychological trauma whose sum is a hammer-blow to the existential platforms of personal identity," McCoy wrote.

After hearing from Lutalo, Kerness became a fierce advocate for him and other prisoners held in isolation units. She published through her office a survivor's manual for those held in isolation as well as a booklet titled "Torture in United States Prisons." And she began to collect the stories of prisoners held in isolation.

"My food trays have been sprayed with mace or cleaning agents, ... human feces and urine put into them by guards who deliver trays to my breakfast, lunch, and dinner... ," a prisoner in isolation in the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility at Carlisle, Ind., was quoted as saying in "Torture in United States Prisons." "I have witnessed sane men of character become self-mutilators, suffer paranoia, panic attacks, hostile fantasies about revenge. One prisoner would swallow packs of AA batteries, and stick a pencil in his penis. They would cut on themselves to gain contact with staff nurses or just to draw attention to themselves. These men made slinging human feces 'body waste' daily like it was a recognized sport. Some would eat it or rub it all over themselves as if it was body lotion. ... Prisoncrats use a form of restraint, a bed crafted to strap men in four point Velcro straps. Both hands to the wrist and both feet to the ankles and secured. Prisoners have been kept like this for 3-6 hours at a time. Most times they would remove all their clothes. The Special Confinement Unit used [water hoses] on these men also. ... When prisons become overcrowded, prisoncrats will do forced double bunking. Over-crowding issues present an assortment of problems many of which results in violence. ... Prisoncrats will purposely house a 'sex offender' in a cell with prisoners with sole intentions of having him beaten up or even killed."

In 1913 Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, discontinued its isolation cages. Prisoners within the U.S. prison system would not be held in isolation again in large numbers until the turmoil of the 1960s and the rise of the anti-war and civil rights movements along with the emergence of radical groups such as the Black Panthers. Trenton State Prison established a management control unit, or isolation unit, in 1975 for political prisoners, mostly black radicals such as Lutalo whom the state wanted to segregate from the wider prison population. Those held in the isolation unit were rarely there because they had violated prison rules; they were there because of their revolutionary beliefs-beliefs the prison authorities feared might resonate with other prisoners. In 1983 the federal prison in Marion, Ill., instituted a permanent lockdown, creating, in essence, a prisonwide "control unit." By 1994 the Federal Bureau of Prisons, using the Marion model, built its maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo. The use of prolonged isolation and sensory deprivation exploded. "Special housing units" were formed for the mentally ill. "Security threat group management units" were formed for those accused of gang activity. "Communications management units" were formed to isolate Muslims labeled as terrorists. Voluntary and involuntary protective custody units were formed. Administrative segregation punishment units were formed to isolate prisoners said to be psychologically troubled. All were established in open violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the U.N.'s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Kerness calls it "the war at home." And she says it is only the latest variation of the long assault on the poor, especially people of color.

"There are no former Jim Crow systems," Kerness said. "The transition from slavery to Black Codes to convict leasing to the Jim Crow laws to the wars on poverty, veterans, youth and political activism in the 1960s has been a seamless evolution of political and social incapacitation of poor people of color. The sophisticated fascism of the practices of stop and frisk, charging people in inner cities with 'wandering,' driving and walking while black, ZIP code racism-these and many other de facto practices all serve to keep our prisons full. In a system where 60 percent of those who are imprisoned are people of color, where students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, where 58 percent of African [American] youth ... are sent to adult prisons, where women of color are 69 percent more likely to be imprisoned and where offenders of color receive longer sentences, the concept of colorblindness doesn't exist. The racism around me is palpable."

"The 1960s, when the last of the Jim Crow laws were reversed, this whole new set of practices accepted by law enforcement was designed to continue to feed the money-generating prison system, which has neo-slavery at its core," she said. "Until we deeply recognize that the system's bottom line is social control and creating a business from bodies of color and the poor, nothing can change." She noted that more than half of those in the prison system have never physically harmed another person but that "just about all of these people have been harmed themselves." And not only does the criminal justice sweep up the poor and people of color, but slavery within the prison system is permitted by the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. ..."

This, Kerness said, "is at the core how the labor of slaves was transformed into what people in prison call neo-slavery." Neo-slavery is an integral part of the prison industrial complex, in which hundreds of thousands of the nation's prisoners, primarily people of color, are forced to work at involuntary labor for a dollar or less an hour. "If you call the New Jersey Bureau of Tourism you are most likely talking to a prisoner at the Edna Mahan Correctional Institution for Women who is earning 23 cents an hour who has no ability to negotiate working hours or working conditions," she said.

The bodies of poor, unemployed youths are worth little on the streets but become valuable commodities once they are behind bars.

"People have said to me that the criminal justice system doesn't work," Kerness said. "I've come to believe exactly the opposite-that it works perfectly, just as slavery did, as a matter of economic and political policy. How is it that a 15-year-old in Newark who the country labels worthless to the economy, who has no hope of getting a job or affording college, can suddenly generate 20,000 to 30,000 dollars a year once trapped in the criminal justice system? The expansion of prisons, parole, probation, the court and police systems has resulted in an enormous bureaucracy which has been a boon to everyone from architects to food vendors-all with one thing in common, a paycheck earned by keeping human beings in cages. The criminalization of poverty is a lucrative business, and we have replaced the social safety net with a dragnet."

Prisons are at once hugely expensive-the country has spent some $300 billion on them since 1980-and, as Kerness pointed out, hugely profitable. Prisons function in the same way the military-industrial complex functions. The money is public and the profits are private. "Privatization in the prison industrial complex includes companies, which run prisons for profit while at the same time gleaning profits from forced labor," she said. "In the state of New Jersey, food and medical services are provided by corporations, which have a profit motive. One recent explosion of private industry is the partnering of Corrections Corporation of America with the federal government to detain close to 1 million undocumented people. Using public monies to enrich private citizens is the history of capitalism at its most exploitive."

Those released from prison are woefully unprepared for re-entry. They carry with them the years of trauma they endured. They often suffer from the endemic health problems that come with long incarceration, including hepatitis C, tuberculosis and HIV. They often do not have access to medications upon release to treat their physical and mental illnesses. Finding work is difficult. They feel alienated and are often estranged from friends and family. More than 60 percent end up back in prison.

"How do you teach someone to rid themselves of degradation?" Kerness asked. "How long does it take to teach people to feel safe, a sense of empowerment in a world where they often come home emotionally and physically damaged and unemployable? There are many reasons that ex-prisoners do not make it-paramount among them is that they are not supposed to succeed."

Kerness has long been a crusader. In 1961 at the age of 19 she left New York to work for a decade in Tennessee in the civil rights struggle, including a year at Tennessee's Highlander Research and Education Center, where Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. trained. By the 1970s she was involved in housing campaigns for the poor in New Jersey. She kept running into families that included incarcerated members. This led her to found Prison Watch.

The letters that pour into her office are disturbing. Female prisoners routinely complain of being sexually abused by guards. One prisoner wrote to her office: "That was not part of my sentence to perform oral sex with officers." Other prisoners write on behalf of the mentally ill who have been left to deteriorate in the prison system. One California prisoner told of a mentally ill man spreading feces over himself and the guards then dumping him into a scalding bath that took skin off 30 percent of his body.

Kerness said the letters she receives from prisoners collectively present a litany of "inhumane conditions including cold, filth, callous medical care, extended isolation often lasting years, use of devices of torture, harassment, brutality and racism." Prisoners send her drawings of "four- and five-point restraints, restraint hoods, restraint belts, restraint beds, stun grenades, stun guns, stun belts, spit hoods, tethers, and waist and leg chains." But the worst torment, prisoners tell her, is the psychological pain caused by "no touch torture" that included "humiliation, sleep deprivation, sensory disorientation, extreme light or dark, extreme cold or heat" and "extended solitary confinement." These techniques, she said, are consciously designed to carry out "a systematic attack on all human stimuli."

The use of sensory deprivation was applied by the government to imprisoned radicals in the 1960s including members of the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, the Puerto Rican independence movement and the American Indian Movement, along with environmentalists, anti-imperialists and civil rights activists. It is now used extensively against Islamic militants, jailhouse lawyers and political prisoners. Many of those political prisoners were part of radical black underground movements in the 1960s that advocated violence. A few, such as Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal, are well known, but most have little public visibility-among them Sundiata Acoli, Mutulu Shakur, Imam Jamil Al-Amin (known as H. Rap Brown when in the 1960s he was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Jalil Bottom, Sekou Odinga, Abdul Majid, Tom Manning and Bill Dunne.

Those within the system who attempt to resist the abuse and mistreatment are dealt with severely. Prisoners in the overcrowded Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Lucasville, Ohio, staged a revolt in 1993 after years of routine beatings, degrading rituals of public humiliation and the alleged murders of prisoners by guards. The some 450 prisoners, who were able to unite antagonistic prison factions including the Aryan Brotherhood and the black Gangster Disciples, held out for 11 days. It was one of the longest prison rebellions in U.S. history. Nine prisoners and a guard were killed by the prisoners during the revolt. The state responded with characteristic fury. It singled out some 40 prisoners and eventually shipped them to Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP), a supermax facility outside Youngstown that was constructed in 1998. There prisoners are held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in 7-by-11-foot cells. Prisoners at OSP almost never see the sun or have human contact. Those charged with participating in the uprising have, in some cases, been held in these punitive conditions at OSP or other facilities since the 1993 revolt. Five prisoners-Bomani Shakur, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes and Namir Abdul Mateen-involved in the uprising were charged with murder. They are being held in isolation on death row.

Kerness says the for-profit prison companies have created an entrepreneurial class like that of the Southern slaveholders, one "dependent on the poor, and on bodies of color as a source for income," and she describes federal and state departments of corrections as "a state of mind." This state of mind, she said in the interview, "led to Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo and what is going on in U.S. prisons right this moment."

As long as profit remains an incentive to incarcerate human beings and our corporate state abounds in surplus, redundant labor, there is little chance that the prison system will be reformed. It is making our corporate overlords wealthy. Our prisons serve the engine of corporate capitalism, transferring state money to private corporations. These corporations will continue to stymie rational prison reform because the system, however inhumane and unjust, feeds corporate bank accounts. At its bottom the problem is not race-although race plays a huge part in incarceration rates-nor is it finally poverty; it is the predatory nature of corporate capitalism itself. And until we slay the beast of corporate capitalism, until we wrest power back from corporations, until we build social institutions and a system of governance designed not to profit the few but foster the common good, our prison industry and the horror it perpetuates will only expand.
(c) 2013 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

A Government With A Civil Agenda
By Adam Keller

After all the grueling and long-lasting negotiations it seems that we have a new government. A government with a civil agenda, focusing on domestic matters - particularly on hitting out at the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community.

And what about the occupation? The Palestinians are supposed to wait for another government.

And if they don't wait?

On Tuesday morning the newspaper headlines had proclaimed the mighty achievement of Yair Lapid, who forced Netanyahu to agree that the next government will have only 21 ministers, rather than the 30 in the outgoing cabinet. Just at the time when these headlines appeared on the newsstands throughout the State of Israel, a security guard came out of the "Abigail" settler outpost in the South Hebron Hills - and attacked the shepherd Na'al Abu Aram from Susya village. The security guard - whose name we do not know - beat, punched, kicked and shoved the shepherd, then ran after the flock of sheep, to scare them and scatter them in all directions. Then the security guard went back to the outpost. Who knows, maybe he sat there drinking coffee and keeping track of the negotiations to form a new government. By the way, the Avigail outpost is considered illegal, also under Israeli law. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, before he fell into a coma, promised to dismantle it. Nobody took care to keep that promise. Nor is the new government, to be established by Lapid and Bennett and Netanyahu likely to do it.

On the evening of that same day, Tuesday night, a last minute crisis developed in the negotiations. Conflict got to a very pitch over the issue of who would get the Education portfolio. Indeed, who is better fitted to stand in the vanguard of educating the children of Israel? Should it be Gideon Saar, who sent school kids on educational tours of Hebron, so as to make them aware that this is the Land of Our Fathers and therefore ours forever? Or is it better to entrust the job to Rabbi Shai Piron who ten years ago expressed his considered Halachic opinion that Jews should not rent apartments to Arabs, but who since changed his mind completely and became a moderate, liberal and staunchly anti-racist rabbi. At this same time when this great crisis developed in the government coalition talks, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces - young men who only a few years ago graduated from the Israeli education system - broke into the Fawwar Refugee Camp near Hebron. The soldiers clashed with camp youths and opened fire and shot and killed Mahmoud Al-Titi and wounded several of his fellows. Mahmoud Al-Titi had been twenty-two years old. Two of the years of his life he had spent behind bars in the Israeli occupation's prisons, and after being released he had studied Media and Journalism at the Polytechnic Institute in Arroub. He will not get to hear the speech of President Barack Obama who is due to arrive here this week, and will never form an opinion on whether or not Obama's visit would give Palestinians any measure of hope of breaking free of the Israeli occupation. But probably Al-Titi, like many young Palestinians, did not have any shred of hope from this visit. Certainly not with the new government about to be formed in Israel.

Wednesday morning the media was filled with reports of the escalating coaltion talks crisis and the severe threats hurled and ultimatums set by the leaders of the various parties to each other. It was exactly at that same time that an army detachment reached the tiny and faraway village of Maghayer el Abeed in the South Hebron Hills, and ordered the villagers to themselves demolish at once the solar power system in their village, erected by the Comet - ME foundation. Comet-ME is an Israeli-Palestinian non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable rural electrification - i.e. "providing renewable energy services to off-grid Palestinian communities using sustainable methods" - an aim which the military government considers utterly illegal. As far as the Israeli military government is concerned, the entire village of Maghayer el Abeed should not be there. Like several other small villagers nearby it should be destroyed and disappear, making place for "Fire Zone 918" which is needed as training area of the Israel Defense Forces as well as for the expansion of several settlements in this area. Most of these settlers had voted in the recent elections for Naftali Bennett who pledged that "something new is beginning". But his talking about "new things" certainly did not refer to providing a solar power system to a Palestinian village not linked to the extensive power grid serving the flourishing and expanding settlements all around.

In the afternoon of the same day, just at the time when Naftali Bennett embarked on the task of mediation to end the crisis in the government coalition talks, there was held in the Fawwar Refugee Camp the funeral of Mahmoud Al-Titi. Almost all residents of the camp attended, and waved Palestinian flags and chanted angry slogans. The Israeli TV crew covering the funeral did not forget to remind viewers at home that the young people they were seeing had been incited and that was why they were crying out such nasty things. Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett succeeded in his mission, and a compromise was agreed upon whereby Lapid's party will win the Ministry of Education for Rabbi Piron and while Sa'ar of Netanyahu's party will get the Ministry of Interior. And for his own Bennett got a handsome mediator's fee in the form of the Chairmanship of the key Knesset Finance Committee - which is considered as the main faucet through which state funds flow, and Bennett will of course divert a considerable part of them to his settler constituents. Not that this would really be something new; previous governments have already pumped quite a lot of money to settlements and gave many benefits to Israeli citizens who went to live in them.

Among other things, it was the benefit granted by previous governments which convinced a woman called Adva Biton to move to a settlement called Yakir and raise her children there and win the many benefits offered by the government. On Thursday afternoon, when formation of the next government of Israel was assured, only minor details left to hammer out, Adva Biton went out on a routine trip with her daughters on the Trans-Samaria Highway, a modern multi-lane throughway built for the benefit of settlers. Her car was in a long string of cars which passed near the village of Kifl Haris, where young villagers hurled stones at settler cars traveling on the road which had been erected on their village lands. A stone struck the truck which was before her car. The truck driver was not hurt, but he abruptly slowed down, and Adva Biton's car collided with the truck, and her little daughter was injured and taken to hospital in a severe condition. And because it was an Israeli girl the case made the headlines in the Israeli press. The other incident which happened at exactly the same time, when soldiers opened fire for the second time in two days, seriously injuring a Palestinian boy, was set aside. Regardless of all that, the negotiations for formation of the new government progressed successfully and overcame the last minor sticking points.

And just when the party leaders heaved a sigh of relief and prepared to sign the finally completed coalition agreements, the Head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, rose to speak at the Herzliya Conference and talked of the current situation on the West Bank. As he remarked, "we can all see the bubbling and hubbub on the Palestinian streets in recent months." He then added that "The economic situation is the primary motive of this phenomenon, along with the issue of prisoners which is fueling discontent. The settlers' 'price tag' [retaliatory raids on Palestinian villages] and the stagnation in the political and diplomatic process contribute to the boiling and ferment." However, the General reassured his listeners that this ferment on the Palestinian streets is of "a limited magnitude" and certainly does not constitute a Third Intifada. So there is no real reason to worry.

Israel gets a new government, just as the Catholic Church gets a new Pope. Upon his entry into his new job, the new Pope chose a new name, a name indicating his aspirations and intentions. He chose Francis, the first Pope to ever use that name.

Francis of Assisi was one of the important Saints in the history of the Catholic Church, and well-known also outside the church. Among the things told of him was his unique personal peace initiative. At the very midst of the Crusades, when Christians and Muslims communicated with each other mainly by the sword, St. Francis of Assisi went alone, unarmed, to meet the Muslim King of Egypt, and was very honorably received.

No reason to worry. This is a source of inspiration for the new Pope in Rome, not for the new government in Jerusalem.
(c) 2013 Adam Keller is an Israeli peace activist who was among the founders of Gush Shalom.

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Unsuccessful Pope Candidate Blames Media
By Andy Borowitz

VATICAN CITY (The Borowitz Report)-This wasn't how it was supposed to play out. For Cardinal Bonifacius Steuer, last night was supposed to be a time of celebration, when the Dutchman who had dreamed of being Pope ever since his boyhood days in Rotterdam would finally stand on the balcony at the Vatican, basking in the cheers of thousands of the euphoric faithful.

There are no cheers for Bonifacius Steuer today. Only empty silence, and time to reflect on what might have been.

"Look, I'm not going to lie to you," Cardinal Steuer said, in his first interview since his bruising defeat. "It kills me not to be there, not to be in the Vatican doing what needs to be done."

While Steuer said that he is "not going to get into that whole blame-game thing," he sounded bitter when he spoke about the mainstream media. "People weren't allowed to see me for who I was," he said. "They made me look like I'm some rich, rich guy, when you know that I'm as poor as a church mouse."

But what closed the deal for Pope Francis, Steuer believes, was his outreach to the poor, which the Dutchman calls a "failed policy of the past."

"Look, if you go around saying, 'the poor this, the poor that,' you're going to get a lot of support from people who want free stuff," he said. >I>"Francis's campaign, if you will, focussed on giving targeted groups a big gift."

Reflecting on the two-day conclave that chose someone else, Steuer was philosophical: "We were on a roller coaster, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends. And then you get off. And it's not like, oh, can't we be on a roller coaster the rest of our life? It's like, no, the ride's over."

Steuer said it's "too early" to talk about his future plans, but that he first intends to sit down with his closest advisers to reflect on what went wrong this time around. "I'm going to meet with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and I'm going to be like, 'Come on, guys, don't hold back,'" he said.

But even as he sounded an aggrieved note as he spoke about "the hand I was dealt," Steuer seemed to reserve his harshest criticism for one person: himself.

"Look, at the end of the day, this is on me," he said. "This was all about getting enough Catholic votes, and I didn't get it done."
(c) 2013 Andy Borowitz

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