Please visit our sponsor!

Bookmark and Share
In This Edition

Glenn Greenwald says, "NSA Blows Its Own Top Secret Program In Order To Propagandize."

Uri Avnery is all for, "Changing The Flag."

Glen Ford reports, "'U.S. Deploys More Special Forces In Search of Kony, Africa's Stand-In For Osama bin Laden.'"

Pepe Escobar explains, "Why The EU Can't 'Isolate' Russia."

Jim Hightower compares and contrasts, "School Lunches Vs. Fat Cat Dinners."

David Swanson warns, "Lies About Rwanda Mean More Wars If Not Corrected."

James Donahue wonders, "Is Monsanto Behind The Gluten Intolerance Issue?"

John Nichols tells, "How To Vote Against The Koch Brothers."

Chris Hedges is, "Fighting The Militarized State."

David Sirota finds, "As Traditional Journalism Models Collapse, Billionaires Grab The Medium And The Message."

Paul Krugman considers, "Jobs And Skills And Zombies."

Bernie Sanders examines, "Democracy vs. Oligarchy."

Amy Goodman explores, "Climate Science's Dire Warning: Humans Are Baking The Planet."

Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden wins this week's coveted, "Vidkun Quisling Award!"

Robert Reich plays, "The Distributional Games."

Michael Moore totals up, "The Price Of Human Life, According To GM."

And finally in the 'Parting Shots' department The Onion reports, "4 Senators Mauled During Congressional Tiger Show" but first, Uncle Ernie foresees, "A Climate Catastrophe."

This week we spotlight the cartoons of Bob Gorrell, with additional cartoons, photos and videos from Brian McFadden, Lee Horsey, Phil McAndrew, Mike Burley, Justin Norman, Norman Rockwell, Daniel Scally, Polyp.Org, Flickr, A.P., Shutterstock, The Onion, General Motors, The Intercept, 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."

Bookmark and Share

A Climate Catastrophe
By Ernest Stewart

"Some risks of climate change are considerable at 1 or 2 degrees celsius above preindustrial level. Global climate change risks are high to very high with global mean temperature increase of 4 degree celsius or more ... and include severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security" ~~~ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

"[t]he Government provides no reason to believe that many state parties would willingly participate in a scheme to funnel money to another State's candidates." ~~~ Chief Justice John (the enforcer) Roberts

"Child protection laws are there to safeguard children, and adults who knowingly harm children should be punished. Our prisons should be more rehabilitative environments, but the prison system's inadequacies are not a justification for letting a child molester off the hook." ~~~ Kendall Marlowe, executive director of the National Association for Counsel for Children

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?
Help me, help me, help me, ooo
Help ~~~ The Beatles

I seldom ever disagree with Senator Bernie Sanders. However Bernie said he thinks the most important issues facing America today is that of the income disparity between the 1% and the rest of us. (See Bernie's article below) While, I too, feel that this is important, it hardly is more important than our out of control global warming. While the 1% has the power to make our lives a living hell and even kill some of us off, climate change has the power to kill us all off! The second report (of three) by the UN climate scientists panel [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has just come out and it paints a very grim picture of what's ahead for us all! Even though those paid climate deniers are beginning to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis and millions of fence sitters are beginning to see the light, it is already to late to stop what is coming. Even if we all get together we can only modify somewhat the things to come but for the most part the damage has been done and those chickens are winging their way home, to roost!

Here is a brief synopsis of the UN report, you can read the complete report through a link at the bottom of this section!
1. "Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts. . . Climate change has negatively affected wheat and maize yields for many regions and in the global aggregate..."

2. "Impacts from recent climate - related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability. Impacts of such climate-related extremes include alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, morbidity and mortality, and consequences for mental health and human well - being. For countries at all levels of development, these impacts are consistent with a significant lack of preparedness for current climate variability in some sectors."

3. "Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty. Climate-related hazards affect poor people's lives directly through impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields, or destruction of homes and indirectly through, for example, increased food prices and food insecurity."

4. "Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change. Large-scale violent conflict harms assets that facilitate adaptation, including infrastructure, institutions, natural resources, social capital, and livelihood opportunities."

"The key risks that follow, span sectors and regions. . .

i. Risk of death, injury, ill - health, or disrupted livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.

Risk of severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods for large urban populations due to inland flooding in some regions.

Systemic risks due to extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructure networks and critical services such as electricity, water supply, and health and emergency services.

Risk of mortality and morbidity during periods of extreme heat, particularly for vulnerable urban populations and those working outdoors in urban or rural areas.

Risk of food insecurity and the breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes, particularly for poorer populations in urban and rural settings.

Risk of loss of rural livelihoods and income due to insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity, particularly for farmers and pastoralists with minimal capital in semi-arid regions.

Risk of loss of marine and coastal ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services they provide for coastal livelihoods, especially for fishing communities in the tropics and the Arctic.

Risk of loss of terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, biodiversity, and the ecosystem goods, functions, and services the y provide for livelihoods.
This is just the tip of the iceberg folks. To read the complete report go here. Most all of us are just a couple of weeks away from starving and the end of civilization that will quickly follow. If not in our life times than certainly for our children's if we continue to ignore those obvious signs laid out by the UN!

In Other News

It was Chief Justice John (the enforcer) Roberts who began his opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC with a flourish: "There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders." He then proceeds to spend the next forty pages explaining why that participation includes the right of rich people to buy elections. Thanks to this decision Roberts and his four fellow conservative justices handed down, (although Clarence (slappy) Thomas did not join Roberts' opinion, he wrote a more radical opinion calling for all limits on campaign donations to be removed,) the hen house has been turned over to the tender mercies of the guardian foxes! The one per cent now have broad new powers to buy races and political candidates thanks to the "Gang of Five."

What McCutcheon invalidates are aggregate limits on the total amount of money that donors may give to all federal candidates ($48,600) and to all political committees ($74,600). Before Wednesday, donors could spend as much as $123,200 seeking to influence the 2014 election cycle now they can spend as much as they want, millions if they want to. How do you think that will change the outcome of elections?

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer lays out what some of these schemes could look like. The Democratic or Republican Party, in one example, may set up a "Joint Party Committee consisting of all three of their national party committees and a state party committee from each of the 50 states. Under McCutcheon, a single donor may now give as much as $1.2 million to this joint committee, which would then be distributed to the various smaller party organizations."

Once the money is distributed, however, it can legally be redistributed to the races where it is likely to have the most impact. For example, the Republican Party committees in safe red states like Idaho, Utah or Mississippi, where large infusions of money aren't exactly needed to win elections, can redistribute their funds to battleground states like Ohio or Florida.

Similarly, the same wealthy donor might decide to write a maximum dollar donation to every single Republican House and Senate candidate in the country, by writing a single $2.4 million check to the same "Joint Party Committee" which then distributes the funds. Once this money is distributed, candidates in safe seats can then redistribute at least some of it to candidates in disputed seats and the rest can frequently be used to benefit candidates in tough races through "coordinated expenditures."

Roberts denies that these money laundering schemes will actually arise, but many of the arguments he raises to defend this point betray his own naivete of how modern elections work. The Chief Justice argues, "...that for these money laundering schemes to work a donor would have to engage in 'illegal earmarking.' Federal law prohibits a donor from "directing funds 'through an intermediary or conduit' to a particular candidate." But a wealthy donor does not need to earmark his donations for these money laundering schemes to work. All that he needs to do is say "give the money to the candidate that needs it the most."

This is just another nail in America's coffin, brought to you by the Extreme Court!

And Finally

This week's Vidkun Quisling winner is a real piece of work. We've seem a lot of judges betray the people in various ways from the Extreme Court on down so I'm not surprised by the actions of Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden. But I think you'll agree that her ruling pretty much takes the cake. Here's the lowdown...

Judge Jurden sentence a heir of the Du Pont fortune Robert H. Richards to probation for constantly raping his three year old daughter and her baby brother too! I'm going to repeat that again for those of you on drugs...

He walks after raping babies because he's rich!

Jan explain it in her order as "he will not fare well in Level 5 prison!" I should certainly hope not! The boys in there know what to do with baby rapers! Jurden suspended Richards 8 year sentence for treatment. Jurden ordered Richards to "participate in a sex offenders" treatment program after his lawyer provided her with an evaluation from a clinic in Massachusetts. Her order stipulated that he undergo inpatient treatment followed by outpatient treatment. The judge also ordered him to have no contact with children under 16 and prohibited him from possessing pornography. Yes, that would certainly keep him from raping the next child he comes in contact with, won't it?

So you know what I did, don't you. I dropped judge Jan this little note...
Hey Jan,

I see where you let a one per center off for repeatedly raping his daughter and his son; with therapy, instead of him doing life without parole in the deepest, darkest, sh*t hole in Delaware. I guess money talks in your court, huh, Jan?

Just one question for my many readers, Jan. What will you say to the next parents and to the child or children after he rapes them. We'd really like to know what your reply will be to them, so Jan, do tell!
Ernest Stewart
Issues & Alibis Magazine
PS. Congratulations Jan, you've just won this week's Vidkun Quisling Award!
If you have any thoughts that you'd like to share with Jan, do so at:

Judge Jan Jurden c/o
New Castle County Courthouse
500 North King Street
Wilmington, DE 19801

Or call her at: 302.255.0800
Or fax her at: 302.255.2273

Tell her, Uncle Ernie sent you!

Keepin' On

I'm having a deja vu all over again, so until things change I'll just run this...

As far as fundraising goes, this year is turning out to be a disaster! Fundraising in the first quarter has always been slow going at best; but even more so this year. In a "normal" year we would have raised about 17% to 18% of our yearly operating costs, this year, it's barely 2%. Needless to say, if this trend continues we'll be gone come June's first group of bills, not to mention July's group and October's bills.

Thanks to our sponsorships I'll be able to continue by writing weekly essays instead of editorials; but most of the rest of the magazine will be gone; and if my sponsors want more than just me, then I'll be gone too, except in various other magazines scattered through out the blogosphere.

Ergo, if you enjoy your weekly Issues & Alibis and would hate to see it disappear as so many other liberal sites have done, then please send us whatever you can, as often as you can and we'll continue to fight the forces of darkness for you!


08-10-1939 ~ 03-30-2014
Thanks for the film!

12-04-1923 ~ 03-31-2014
Burn baby Burn!


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


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

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

NSA Blows Its Own Top Secret Program In Order To Propagandize
By Glenn Greenwald

Over the last 40 years, the U.S. government has relied on extreme fear-mongering to demonize transparency. In sum, every time an unwanted whistleblower steps forward, we are treated to the same messaging: You're all going to die because of these leakers and the journalists who publish their disclosures! Lest you think that's hyperbole, consider this headline from last week based on an interview with outgoing NSA chief Keith Alexander:

The NSA engages in this fear-mongering not only publicly but also privately. As part of its efforts to persuade news organizations not to publish newsworthy stories from Snowden materials, its representatives constantly say the same thing: If you publish what we're doing, it will endanger lives, including NSA personnel, by making people angry about what we're doing in their countries and want to attack us.

But whenever it suits the agency to do so-meaning when it wants to propagandize on its own behalf-the NSA casually discloses even its most top secret activities in the very countries where such retaliation is most likely. Anonymous ex-officials boasted to the Washington Post last July in detail about the role the agency plays in helping kill people by drones. The Post dutifully headlined its story: "NSA Growth Fueled by Need to Target Terrorists."

And now, Keith Alexander's long-time deputy just fed one of the most pro-NSA reporters in the country, the Los Angeles Times' Ken Dilanian, some extraordinarily sensitive, top secret information about NSA activities in Iraq, which the Times published in an article that reads exactly like an NSA commercial:

FT. MEADE, Md. - In nearly nine years as head of the nation's largest intelligence agency, Gen. Keith Alexander presided over a vast expansion of digital spying, acquiring information in a volume his predecessors would have found unimaginable.

In Iraq, for example, the National Security Agency went from intercepting only about half of enemy signals and taking hours to process them to being able to collect, sort and make available every Iraqi email, text message and phone-location signal in real time, said John "Chris" Inglis, who recently retired as the NSA's top civilian.

The overhaul, which Alexander ordered shortly after taking leadership of the agency in August 2005, enabled U.S. ground commanders to find out when an insurgent leader had turned on his cellphone, where he was and whom he was calling.

"Absolutely invaluable," retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, said in an interview as he described the NSA's efforts, which led to the dismantling of networks devoted to burying roadside bombs.

John "Chris" Inglis just revealed to the world that the NSA was-is?-intercepting every single email, text message, and phone-location signal in real time for the entire country of Iraq. Obviously, the fact that the NSA has this capability, and used it, is Top Secret. What authority did Chris Inglis have to disclose this? Should a Department of Justice leak investigation be commenced? The Post, last July, described Alexander's "collect-it-all" mission in Iraq which then morphed into his approach on U.S. soil ("For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to 'collect it all,' observers say"), but did not confirm the full-scale collection capabilities the NSA had actually developed.

What makes this morning's disclosure most remarkable is what happened with last week's Washington Post report on the MYSTIC program, which, said the Post, provides "comprehensive metadata access and content" for entire countries where it is used. The agency "has built a surveillance system capable of recording '100 percent' of a foreign country's telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place," reported the Post.

The program, noted the Post, has been in use in one country since 2011, and "planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere." Specifically, the fiscal year 2013 intelligence budget identified "five more countries" in which the agency planned to implement the system.

The Post did not report the names of any of those five countries, nor did it name the one where MYSTIC is already operational. Instead, "at the request of U.S. officials, the Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned." The paper posted a short excerpt from the budget document's discussion of MYSTIC but withheld and redacted the passages that revealed the names of these countries.

A primary argument NSA typically makes in such cases is that disclosure would endanger the lives of NSA personnel by inviting retaliation from people in those countries who might become angry when learning that their calls are being intercepted en masse. From the Post article: "NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, in an e-mailed statement, said that 'continuous and selective reporting of specific techniques and tools used for legitimate U.S. foreign intelligence activities is highly detrimental to the national security of the United States and of our allies, and places at risk those we are sworn to protect.'"

Leave aside how corrupted this rationale is: It would mean that no bad acts of the U.S. government should ever be reported, lest those disclosures make people angry and want to attack government agents. Indeed, that is the rationale that the Obama administration used to protect evidence of Bush-era torture from disclosure (to disclose torture photos, Obama said, "would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger").

What is so extraordinary is that the NSA-at exactly the same time it is telling news organizations that disclosing its collect-it-all activities will endanger its personnel-runs to its favorite L.A. Times reporter and does exactly that, for no reason other than to make itself look good and to justify these activities. ("'Absolutely invaluable,' retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, said.")

This demonstrates how brazenly the NSA manipulates and exploits the consultation process in which media outlets are forced (mostly by legal considerations) to engage prior to publication of Top Secret documents: They'll claim with no evidence that a story they don't want published will "endanger lives," but then go and disclose something even more sensitive if they think doing so scores them a propaganda coup. It also highlights how cynical and frivolous are their claims that whistleblowers and journalists Endanger National Security™ by reporting incriminating information about their activities which they have hidden, given how casually and frequently they disclose Top Secret information for no reason other than to advance their own PR interests. It's the dynamic whereby the same administration that has prosecuted more leakers than all prior administrations combined freely leaks classified information to make Obama look tough or to help produce a pre-election hagiography film.

Thus, writes the L.A. Times: Thanks to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, the world came to know many of the agency's most carefully guarded secrets. Actually, in this case, the NSA's "most carefully guarded secrets" were spilled thanks to Chris Inglis and the paper's own Ken Dilanian. But because the purpose was to serve the NSA's interests and to propagandize the public, none of the people who pretend to object to leaks-when they shine light on the bad acts of the most powerful officials-will utter a peep of protest. That's because, as always, secrecy designations and condemnations of leaks are about shielding those officials from scrutiny and embarrassment, not any legitimate considerations of national security or any of the other ostensible purposes.
(c) 2014 Glenn Greenwald. is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth book, No Place to Hide, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world, will be released in April 2014. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn's column was featured at Guardian US and Salon. His most recent book is, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book"How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic Legacy," examines the Bush legacy. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism.

Changing The Flag
By Uri Avnery

NEW ZEALAND HAS decided to change its flag. This was only briefly mentioned in the media here. But it is a significant example for us.

The old flag is based on the British one, the Union Jack, which signifies the union of England, Scotland and Ireland. The three different crosses are integrated in an intricate design.

But what does this flag mean for today's New Zealanders? Very little. Sure, they are close to the United Kingdom and to the Anglo-Saxon civilization, but they are a new nation, a separate nation, with a separate history, geopolitical orientation and national character.

A national flag should unite all the citizens of a country, evoke their loyalty and strengthen their patriotism. It certainly should not leave out significant portions of the population.

Therefore the government of the southern island-state has decided to discard the flag that has a meaning only for a part of the population and adopt a new one, which will be meaningful to all. A competition for a new design is under way.

This belatedly follows the example of Canada, another former British "dominion", which discarded a similar flag and adopted a new one, in a wise effort to create a symbol which would appeal both to the English-speaking and the French-speaking Canadians, as well as to the Innuit and other indigenous peoples.

THE PROBLEM with our flag is very much the same. Adopted by one of the first Zionist congresses, it is based on the Jewish prayer shawl and the ancient Shield of David. It was designed for a world-wide political movement whose aim was to create a secure homeland for the Jewish people. With the establishment of the State of Israel it became its national flag.

It serves today as the flag of the state, the flag of the international Zionist movement, and, in the eyes of some, the flag of all Jews.

It is not, however, the flag of all of Israel's citizens. For the Arab citizens it means nothing except discrimination and exclusion. It reminds them, everywhere and at all times, that they are at best second-class citizens, present but no quite belonging.

From the first day of the state, I have advocated the adoption of a new, inclusive flag. Like today's New Zealanders I felt that with all due respect to our origin, history and cultural background, we Israelis live in a different reality. A large number of our co-citizens are not Jewish, and the symbols of our state should reflect this.

Frankly, I also think that it is not a very good flag. Flags should be seen from a distance. Originally, flags were used to mark the place of the king in a battle, so that every soldier knew where his commander was. It should stand out.

The colors of our flag - white and light blue - are aesthetic, but ineffective. Against the background of the blue sky and the white clouds, it almost disappears. Raise together a dozen white-and-blue and a single red flag, and your eyes will be drawn to the red one.

BUT THE main argument against the flag is less aesthetic than political.

Long before Binyamin Netanyahu came up with the ploy of demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the "Nation-State of the Jewish people", our flag already reflected this pretense.

It is much more than the flag of an ordinary state. It embodies the claim of the state to represent all the Jews around the world.

Have the Jews been asked whether they want to be represented by the government of Israel?

Curiously enough, this question is never raised. Not by the Palestinians, not by the Americans, not even by the Israelis themselves.,p> Before our government demands that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel as the Nation-State etc, should not the Jews in Los Angeles, Moscow and Johannesburg be asked?

Without a world-wide referendum of the Jewish Diaspora and the affirmative answer of a large majority, the Israeli claim is baseless. Indeed, it is a form of imperialism, an effort to impose by force a kind of sovereignty on a subject people.

Before such a referendum can take place, several questions must be answered: Who is a Jew? A son or daughter of a Jewish mother? What about a Jewish father? People converted to the Jewish religion? By whom? Only by an Orthodox rabbi? What about converts accepted by "reform" or "conservative" rabbis? What about atheists, can they become Jews represented by Israel?

About all these questions there is no agreement among the Israelis themselves. So what meaning does the demand for recognition have, except as a ploy to sabotage peace negotiations?

THE QESTION of a referendum also arose this week in a different context.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is restless again. True, his entire ministry is on strike. The main office and all the Israeli embassies in the world are shut. But Lieberman does not rest.

This week he announced that he had instructed the legal advisor of the ministry to submit a legal opinion about his proposal for territorial exchanges. According to his plan, a large area of sovereign Israeli territory inhabited by Arab citizens would be transferred to the future Palestinian state, together with its population, in return for Palestinian areas inhabited by the settlers.

The undisguised purpose of the swap would be to reduce the number of Arab citizens, making the Jewish state more Jewish.

On the face of it, this may be seen as a fair proposal.

First of all, it means that Lieberman is for the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel. For an extreme rightist, that by itself is remarkable.

All Israeli ultra-nationalists are facing a dilemma: what is more important, geography or demography? The Jewishness of the entire land which was promised to us by God, or the Jewishness of the population of the Jewish state?

The bulk of the rightist movements prefer the land to the people. They want to keep all the country "from the sea to the river," even if it means that the Palestinians will be a majority of the population. For them, an eternal occupation would be a good solution, an apartheid state is also acceptable.

Another wing of the rightist camp believes that it is more important to have a state in which the number of non-Jews would be negligible, guaranteeing that the Jewish state would remain Jewish forever. The Lieberman solution is designed to achieve this.

For this purpose, Lieberman is prepared to change the geography of Israel in such a way that the "narrow waist" would become even narrower. Between Netanya on the sea and Palestinian Tulkarem, the state is now only 14 km wide. Lieberman would narrow this even more. Since the narrowness of the state is often quoted as the reason for annexing the West Bank, this by itself is quite remarkable.

THE LEGAL advisor took his task seriously and produced a long and well-reasoned report. He dealt mainly with the question whether such a solution would be compatible with international law. Nor surprisingly, considering his situation, his answer was yes.

No population would be removed. No property expropriated. The Palestinians living there would be able to retain their Israeli citizenship, if they desire it, as well as their Israeli social security rights. They would just cease being inhabitants of the State of Israel and become inhabitants of the State of Palestine.

A fair, even benevolent solution. Except for one little point: the Palestinian inhabitants would not be asked.

After a thorough study of precedents, the legal advisor concluded that international law does not demand a plebiscite. And indeed, Lieberman strongly objects to any such consultation.

Why? Because the people concerned have already made it absolutely clear that they would refuse such a transfer.

That is a great compliment for Israel. In spite of all the discrimination, in spite of all the justified complaints, the Arab citizens of Israel wish to remain a part of the state, rather than become a part of the future Palestinian state.

Their second-class status is obvious. The news reminds us of it almost daily. What is less obvious, but not less real, is that the Arab population is deeply rooted in Israeli reality, economic and political.

The other side of the coin is that Israel derives large benefits from this population. They work in the Israeli economy. They pay taxes. The argument that they do not pay their share is a myth - one cannot live in Israel without paying taxes, both direct and indirect (unless one is very rich).

MANY COUNTRIES in history have learned that expelling a population is often extremely harmful for the economy. When France expelled the protestant Huguenots, it became a poorer country. Prussia, which invited them in, became rich and powerful. This is even more true for the expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain and Portugal. Both countries deteriorated, while the Ottoman Empire, which embraced the Jews, profited.

The Arab citizens of Israel are a great asset for the state. Far from getting rid of them, we should do everything possible to make them feel at home.

Changing the flag would be a symbolic part of that effort.
(c) 2014 Uri Avnery ~~~ Gush Shalom

U.S. Deploys More Special Forces In Search of Kony, Africa's Stand-In For Osama bin Laden
By Glen Ford

The tempo of U.S. military occupation of Africa quickens by the day. Seizing every real and manufactured crisis as an opportunity, Washington has created a continental infrastructure that has already reduced most African armies to appendages of U.S. foreign policy, dependencies of the Pentagon. American armed forces operate across the length and breadth of Africa and exercise effective control over the armies of nearly all of the continent's constituent states.

According to a study by Nick Turse, AFRICOM, the U.S. military command, last year carried out "activities" in every country on the continent except Western Sahara, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Somalia. Somalia doesn't show up in AFRICOM's 2013 mission schedule because the country is nominally under the auspices of African Union "peacekeeping" forces. However, the U.S. and Europe pay for every African soldier and weapon engaged in the occupation of Somalia, while the overall operation is run by the CIA. (Egypt is considered part of the Middle East, for U.S. military purposes.)

Especially in recent years, the U.S. often acts in concert with France, whose national ideology is white supremacy - no matter whether socialists or conservatives control the government - and which has never accepted decolonization in principle or practice. The Tuareg and, later, jihadist rebellion in Mali, and the destabilization of the Central African Republic - both French semi-colonies - brought France and AFRICOM into intimate operational contact, with the U.S. acting as airlift for French forces in Africa.

Born in the last year of George W. Bush's presidency but thoroughly a creature of the Obama administration, AFRICOM has molded its public persona around the bogus doctrine of humanitarian military intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P). AFRICOM has usurped much of the U.S. State Department's food aid distribution duties on the continent, and provides medical care to hundreds of thousands of African military families, thus cementing a bond between the Pentagon and virtually all the continent's armies - none of which can move effectively through Africa's undeveloped terrain without U.S. logistical support. The African Union seeks legitimacy through "peacekeeping" missions that it is wholly incapable of executing without financing, equipment, training and every other conceivable support from AFRICOM or the U.S. clandestine services.

President Obama orchestrated the Joseph Kony hysteria of 2011 as an excuse to send at least 100 U.S. Special Forces troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic and the new state of South Sudan. Kony had been in hiding for years, maybe dead, his Lord's Resistance Army decimated and no danger to Uganda, which has felt safe enough to send many thousands of its troops on (well-paid) "peacekeeping" missions around the continent, at U.S. request. The Green Berets have not yet found the elusive Kony-monster - although they have been busy dealing with South Sudan's civil war between U.S.-allied generals.

Late last month, Obama used the failure to find Kony as the rationale for sending a unit of Osprey troop-carrying aircraft to Uganda, including 150 Air Force Special Operations troops to service and guard them. No matter what the Pentagon calls it, the deployment constitutes a Special Operations base, and no doubt a precursor to other bases throughout the region. (U.S. military doctrine requires such air mobility between bases.) Uganda says the Osprey deployment is temporary. However, it appears that Joseph Kony has a few more good years left as Africa's bin Laden, the search for whom requires the movement of mountains of men, machines, money and weapons - all, of course, to save little children from capture by the boogeyman of central Africa. A humanitarian military intervention.

The Ospreys and Special Forces troops are a small part of AFRICOM's continental theater of war. The largest U.S. unit on permanent duty in Africa, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, "carried out 128 separate 'activities' in 28 African countries" during 2013, according to Nick Turse. Those nations include Niger, Uganda, Ghana, Malawi, Burundi, Mauritania, Niger, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Chad, Togo, Cameroon, SAo TomE and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Cameroon. In previous military exercises, up to 36 African nations have participated - all of them outfitted with U.S. command-and-control communications equipment, requiring American trainers and maintenance.

To the extent that AFRICOM ensnares the militaries of the continent in dependence on the Pentagon, African sovereignty becomes a very bad joke. Many millions are at risk from the very presence of a military command whose reason-for-being is instability and war - and which must create such conditions to ensure its continued existence on the continent. Six million have already died in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the eastern regions of which were militarily seized by AFRICOM's most reliable partners, Rwanda and Uganda. More than a million have died in Somalia, and who knows how many in the Somali-populated Ogaden region of Ethiopia, since the U.S.-backed 2006 Ethiopian invasion, the aftermath of which has made the Horn of Africa a bastion of AFRICOM and its proxies. AFRICOM brass are most proud of their role in the 2011 bombing and regime change in Libya, a disaster that has destabilized not only Libya but the entire tier of the continent to the south - justifying renewed French intervention and the ensuing Franco-American alliance as "humanitarian" co-protectors of Africa.

As BAR editors Ajamu Baraka and Margaret Kimberley both point out in this issue, imperialism in fatal decline manufactures a quickening cascade of global confrontation and wars in an attempt to impose a military brake on the system's unraveling. AFRICOM's mission is to lock the continent in a cage of steel, to imprison it in the imperial orbit, and to patrol the continental prison with dependent African armies. The scenario is well-advanced, and obvious to anyone whose vision is not deformed by a white supremacist worldview - a deformity that is not limited to people of European descent.
(c) 2014 Glen Ford is the Black Agenda Report executive editor. He can be contacted at

Why The EU Can't 'Isolate' Russia
By Pepe Escobar

German Chancellor Angela Merkel could teach US President Barack Obama one or two things about how to establish a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As if Obama would listen. He'd rather boost his constitutional law professor self, and pompously lecture an elite eurocrat audience in the glittering Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, like he did this Wednesday, on how Putin is the greatest threat to the US-administered global order since World War II. Well, it didn't go that well; most eurocrats were busy taking selfies or twittering.

Putin, meanwhile, met with the CEO of German engineering and electrical conglomerate Siemens, Joe Kaeser, at his official residence outside Moscow. Siemens invested more than US$1.1 billion in Russia over the past two years, and that, Kaeser said, is bound to continue. Angela was certainly taking notes.

Obama couldn't behave otherwise. The constitutional law expert knows nothing about Russia, in his (meager) political career never had to understand how Russia works, and may even fear Russia - surrounded as he is by a coterie of spectacularly mediocre aids. His Brussels rhetorical tour de force yielded absolutely nothing - apart from the threat that if Putin persisted in his "aggression" against eastern Ukraine or even NATO members-countries the president of the United States would unroll a much stiffer sanction package.

What else is new, considering this by supreme CIA asset and former Pentagon head in the first Obama administration, Bob Gates, is what passes for political analysis in the US.

The $1 trillion game-changer

Demonized 24/7 by the sprawling Western propaganda machine as a ruthless aggressor, Putin and his Kremlin advisers just need to play Sun Tzu. The regime changers in Kiev are already mired in a vicious catfight. And even Ukraine's acting Prime Minister Arseniy Petrovych "Yats" Yatsenyuk has identified the gloomy times ahead, stressing that the signature of the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU has been postponed - so there will be no "negative consequences" for industrialized eastern Ukraine.

Translation: he knows this will be the kiss of death for Ukrainian industry, on top of it coupled with an imminent structural adjustment by the International Monetary Fund linked to the EU (maybe) bailing out a bankrupt Ukraine.

Asia Times Online's Spengler coined a formulation: "A specter is haunting Europe, and that is the specter of a Russian-Chinese alliance at the expense of Europe." The alliance is already on - manifested in the G-20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. There are military technology synergies on the horizon - the ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense system is to be unveiled by Moscow, and Beijing would absolutely love to have it. But for the real fireworks, just wait a few weeks, when Putin visits Beijing in May.

That's when he will sign the famous $1 trillion gas deal according to which Gazprom will supply China's CNPC with 3.75 billion cubic feet of gas a day for 30 years, starting in 2018 (China's current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet).

Gazprom may still collect most of its profits from Europe, but Asia is its privileged future. On the competition front, the hyper-hyped US shale "revolution" is a myth - as much as the notion the US will be suddenly increasing exports of gas to the rest of the world any time soon.

Gazprom will use this mega-deal to boost investment in eastern Siberia - which sooner rather than later will be configured as the privileged hub for gas shipments to both Japan and South Korea. That's the ultimate (substantial) reason why Asia won't "isolate" Russia. ( See Asia will not 'isolate' Russia, Asia Times Online, March 25, 2014.)

Not to mention the much-anticipated "thermonuclear" (for the petrodollar) possibility that Russia and China will agree payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal may be in yuan or rubles. That will be the dawn of a basket of currencies as the new international reserve currency - a key BRICS objective and the ultimate, incendiary, new (economic) fact on the ground.

Time to invest in Pipelineistan

Even though its centrality pales compared to Asia, Europe, of course, is not "expendable" for Russia. There have been rumbles in Brussels by some poodles about canceling the South Stream pipeline - pumping Russian gas underneath the Black Sea (and bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Austria. The Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister, Dragomir Stoynev, said no way. Same for the Czech Republic, because it badly needs Russian investment, and Hungary, which recently signed a nuclear energy deal with Moscow.

The only other possibility for the EU would be Caspian gas, from Azerbaijan - following on the trail of the Zbig Brzezinski-negotiated Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which was conceived expressly to bypass both Russia and Iran. As if the EU would have the will, the speed and funds to spend billions of dollars to build yet another pipeline virtually tomorrow, and assuming Azerbaijan had enough supply capacity (it doesn't; other actors, like Kazakhstan or ultra-unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, would have to be part of the picture).

Well, nobody ever lost money betting on the cluelessness of Brussels eurocrats. South Stream and other energy projects will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most troubled EU nations. Extra sanctions? No less than 91% of Poland's energy, and 86% of Hungary's, come from Russia. Over 20% of the foreign lending of French banks is to Russian companies. No less than 68 Russian companies trade at the London Stock Exchange. For the Club Med nations, Russian tourism is now a lifeline (1 million went to Italy last year, for instance.)

US Think Tankland is trying to fool American public opinion into believing what the Obama administration should be applying is a replay of the "containment" policy of 1945-1989 to "limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power". The "recipe": weaponize everybody and his neighbor, from the Baltic nations to Azerbaijan, to "contain" Russia. The New Cold War is on because, from the point of view of US so-called "elites", it never really left.

Meanwhile, Gazprom's stock price is up. Buy now. You won't regret it.
(c) 2014 Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is "Obama Does Globalistan." He may be reached at

School Lunches Vs. Fat Cat Dinners

Ah, progress! In the 2012 elections, Republicans cast themselves as budget balancers by promising to whack welfare programs for the poor, snarling that such people are "takers" and "moochers."

Such vindictive sourness didn't play too well with voters, and Republicans now seem to have learned their lesson. Oh, they're still going after food stamps, school lunches, etc. with a vengeance - but this time, with a gentle, even loving tone.

The GOP's official message massagers now have their members saying that they want to "help the poor" by eliminating those programs, referring to them as soulless giveaways that sap their initiative and tether them to the cold, uncaring hand of government. The message is: We're doing this for the poor people's own good. Their chief budgeteer, Rep. Paul Ryan, trotted this theme out at a recent right-wing rally, condemning school lunches as unloving "Obamafare" plopped on plates by unsmiling cafeteria personnel: "What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul," he oozed.

If that doesn't make you gag, try another subsidized lunch program that tender-hearted GOP budget whackers never mention, much less demand that it be eliminated. It's the tax subsidy for corporate meals, drinks, and entertainment. Multimillionaire CEOs can go wining and dining on your and my dime, writing off their high-dollar lunches, cocktails, dinners, and club hopping as a business expense. And expensive it is for us taxpayers - this subsidy adds up to more than $12 billion a year. And that doesn't count the human cost of executive initiative that is sapped by this giveaway and the lack of love a CEO feels from being dependent on unsmiling taxpayers.

We ought to be subsidizing healthy meals for poor people, but not a dime for fat cat CEOs dining out at Chez Gourmand.
(c) 2014 Jim Hightower's latest book, "If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates," is available in a fully revised and updated paperback edition.

Lies About Rwanda Mean More Wars If Not Corrected
By David Swanson

Urge the ending of war these days and you'll very quickly hear two words: "Hitler" and "Rwanda." While World War II killed some 70 million people, it's the killing of some 6 to 10 million (depending on who's included) that carries the name Holocaust. Never mind that the United States and its allies refused to help those people before the war or to halt the war to save them or to prioritize helping them when the war ended -- or even to refrain from letting the Pentagon hire some of their killers. Never mind that saving the Jews didn't become a purpose for WWII until long after the war was over. Propose eliminating war from the world and your ears will ring with the name that Hillary Clinton calls Vladimir Putin and that John Kerry calls Bashar al Assad.

Get past Hitler, and shouts of "We must prevent another Rwanda!" will stop you in your tracks, unless your education has overcome a nearly universal myth that runs as follows. In 1994, a bunch of irrational Africans in Rwanda developed a plan to eliminate a tribal minority and carried out their plan to the extent of slaughtering over a million people from that tribe -- for purely irrational motivations of tribal hatred. The U.S. government had been busy doing good deeds elsewhere and not paying enough attention until it was too late. The United Nations knew what was happening but refused to act, due to its being a large bureaucracy inhabited by weak-willed non-Americans. But, thanks to U.S. efforts, the criminals were prosecuted, refugees were allowed to return, and democracy and European enlightenment were brought belatedly to the dark valleys of Rwanda.<> Something like this myth is in the minds of those who shout for attacks on Libya or Syria or the Ukraine under the banner of "Not another Rwanda!" The thinking would be hopelessly sloppy even if based on facts. The idea that SOMETHING was needed in Rwanda morphs into the idea that heavy bombing was needed in Rwanda which slides effortlessly into the idea that heavy bombing is needed in Libya. The result is the destruction of Libya. But the argument is not for those who pay attention to what was happening in and around Rwanda before or since 1994. It's a momentary argument meant to apply only to a moment. Never mind why Gadaffi was transformed from a Western ally into a Western enemy, and never mind what the war left behind. Pay no attention to how World War I was ended and how many wise observers predicted World War II at that time. The point is that a Rwanda was going to happen in Libya (unless you look at the facts too closely) and it did not happen. Case closed. Next victim.

Edward Herman highly recommends a book by Robin Philpot called Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction, and so do I. Philpot opens with U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's comment that "the genocide in Rwanda was one hundred percent the responsibility of the Americans!" How could that be? Americans are not to blame for how things are in backward parts of the world prior to their "interventions." Surely Mr. double Boutros has got his chronology wrong. Too much time spent in those U.N. offices with foreign bureaucrats no doubt. And yet, the facts -- not disputed claims but universally agreed upon facts that are simply deemphasized by many -- say otherwise.

The United States backed an invasion of Rwanda on October 1, 1990, by a Ugandan army led by U.S.-trained killers, and supported their attack on Rwanda for three-and-a-half years. The Rwandan government, in response, did not follow the model of the U.S. internment of Japanese during World War II, or of U.S. treatment of Muslims for the past 12 years. Nor did it fabricate the idea of traitors in its midst, as the invading army in fact had 36 active cells of collaborators in Rwanda. But the Rwandan government did arrest 8,000 people and hold them for a few days to six-months. Africa Watch (later Human Rights Watch/Africa) declared this a serious violation of human rights, but had nothing to say about the invasion and war. Alison Des Forges of Africa Watch explained that good human rights groups "do not examine the issue of who makes war. We see war as an evil and we try to prevent the existence of war from being an excuse for massive human rights violations."

The war killed many people, whether or not those killings qualified as human rights violations. People fled the invaders, creating a huge refugee crisis, ruined agriculture, wrecked economy, and shattered society. The United States and the West armed the warmakers and applied additional pressure through the World Bank, IMF, and USAID. And among the results of the war was increased hostility between Hutus and Tutsis. Eventually the government would topple. First would come the mass slaughter known as the Rwandan Genocide. And before that would come the murder of two presidents. At that point, in April 1994, Rwanda was in chaos almost on the level of post-liberation Iraq or Libya.

One way to have prevented the slaughter would have been to not support the war. Another way to have prevented the slaughter would have been to not support the assassination of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on April 6, 1994. The evidence points strongly to the U.S.-backed and U.S.-trained war-maker Paul Kagame -- now president of Rwanda -- as the guilty party. While there is no dispute that the presidents' plane was shot down, human rights groups and international bodies have simply referred in passing to a "plane crash" and refused to investigate.

A third way to have prevented the slaughter, which began immediately upon news of the presidents' assassinations, might have been to send in U.N. peacekeepers (not the same thing as Hellfire missiles, be it noted), but that was not what Washington wanted, and the U.S. government worked against it. What the Clinton administration was after was putting Kagame in power. Thus the resistance to calling the slaughter a "genocide" (and sending in the U.N.) until blaming that crime on the Hutu-dominated government became seen as useful. The evidence assembled by Philpot suggests that the "genocide" was not so much planned as erupted following the shooting down of the plane, was politically motivated rather than simply ethnic, and was not nearly as one-sided as generally assumed. Moreover, the killing of civilians in Rwanda has continued ever since, although the killing has been much more heavy in neighboring Congo, where Kagame's government took the war -- with U.S. aid and weapons and troops -- and bombed refugee camps killing some million people. The excuse for going into the Congo has been the hunt for Rwandan war criminals. The real motivation has been Western control and profits. War in the Congo has continued to this day, leaving some 6 million dead -- the worst killing since the 70 million of WWII. And yet nobody ever says "We must prevent another Congo!"
(c) 2014 David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie."

Is Monsanto Behind The Gluten Intolerance Issue?
By James Donahue

Bread has been a main staple for people all over the world for as long as humans have known how to grind grains into flour. So why is it only in recent years that we have been hearing about the problem of gluten intolerance? Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley and rye.

Recently there has been a growing demand for "gluten free" foods because a lot of people are suffering from a variety of reactions to baked bread and other starch products made from wheat flour. These problems include chronic fatigue, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression, neurological disorders and nutrient deficiencies.

Medical people have been scratching their heads over this growing problem. It is estimated that one in over 130 people now suffer from some form of gluten sensitivity. Theories range from damaged immune systems and damaged gut flora from antibiotic use to feeding infants grains before they are able to properly digest them and diets deficient in vitamin A.

Author and nutritionist Kristen Michaelis recently stated in a personal report that she believes a rise in damaged gut flora may be the cause of this relatively new food dilemma. She suggests that the cause of this may be our over consumption of sugar, alcohol, antibiotics and environmental toxins like the introduction of GMOs into our food supply in the last 15 years.

A published paper by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff in Toxicology, titled "Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance," points to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup as "the most important causal factor in this epidemic."

Samsel and Seneff wrote: "Glyphosate residues in wheat and other crops are likely increasing recently due to the growing practice of crop desiccation just prior to harvest. We argue that the practice of 'ripening' sugar cane with glyphosate may explain the recent surge in kidney failure among agricultural workers in Central America."

The paper links exposure to glyphosate with celiac disease, which in turn is linked in imbalances in gut bacteria. The authors say this herbicide is found to cause deficiencies in natural amino acids, iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other minerals, cause an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cause infertility, miscarriages and birth defects.

Since it has only been in recent years that gluten intolerance has developed into a growing problem for people that consume wheat starch products, we must agree with researchers who suggest it stems from an environmental factor. Sugar and alcohol are not new to the diet of consumers. Thus the addition of glyphosate from farm products is a strong suspect.

We agree that more research in this area is urgently needed. That Monsanto, the producer of Roundup herbicide is a large and international corporation with the proven financial capability of influencing political actions and court decisions, makes this corporation a difficult factor to deal with. Thus the road to solving the gluten problem and other medical problems possibly linked to GMO food products appears to be a difficult one to travel.
(c) 2014 James L. Donahue is a retired newspaper reporter, editor and columnist with more than 40 years of experience in professional writing. He is the published author of five books, all dealing with Michigan history, and several magazine articles. He currently produces daily articles for this web site.

Charles G. Koch

How To Vote Against The Koch Brothers
By John Nichols

The Koch Brothers don't actually run for office-at least not since David Koch's amusingly ambitious 1980 bid for the vice presidency on a Libertarian Party ticket that proposed the gutting of corporate taxes, the minimum wage, occupational health and safety oversight, environmental protections and Social Security.

That project, while exceptionally well-funded for a third-party campaign, secured just 1.06 percent of the vote. The Kochs determined it would be easier to fund conservative campaigns than to pitch the program openly. Initially, the project was hampered by what passed for campaign-finance rules and regulations, to the frustration of David Koch, who once told The New Yorker, "We'd like to abolish the Federal Elections Commission and all the limits on campaign spending anyway."

The FEC still exists. But the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v FEC and the general diminution of campaign finance rules and regulations has cleared the way for David Koch and his brother Charles to play politics as they choose. And they are playing hard-especially in Wisconsin, a state where they have made supporting and sustaining the governorship of Scott Walker a personal priority.

Two years ago, David Koch said of Walker: "We're helping him, as we should. We've gotten pretty good at this over the years. We've spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We're going to spend more." The Palm Beach Post interview in which that quote appeared explained, "By 'we' he says he means Americans for Prosperity," the group the Kochs have used as one of their prime vehicles for political engagement in the states.

AFP and its affiliates are expanding their reach this year, entering into fights at the local level where their big money can go far-and where the Koch Brothers can influence the process from the ground up.

As Walker prepares to seek a second term. AFP is clearing the way in supposedly nonpartisan county board and school board races that will occur Tuesday.

Consider the case of Iron County. Elections in the northern Wisconsin county have always been down-home affairs: an ad in the Iron County Miner newspaper, some leaflets dropped at the door, maybe a hand-painted yard sign.

This year, however, that's changed. Determined to promote a controversial mining project-and, presumably, to advance Walker's agenda-AFP has waded into Tuesday's competition for control of the Iron County Board.

With dubious "facts" and over-the-top charges, the Wisconsin chapter of the Koch Brothers-backed group is pouring money into the county-where voter turnout in spring elections rarely tops 1,500-for one of the nastiest campaigns the region has ever seen. Small-business owners, farmers and retirees who have asked sensible questions about the impact of major developments on pristine lakes, rivers, waterfalls and tourism are being attacked as "anti-mining radicals" who "just want to shut the mines down, no matter what."

Iron County is debating whether to allow new mining, not whether to shut mines down. And many of the candidates that AFP is ripping into have simply said they want to hear from all sides.

But those details don't matter in the new world of Big Money politics ushered in by US Supreme Court rulings that have cleared the way for billionaires and corporations to buy elections.

Most of the attention to money in politics focuses on national and state races. But the best bargains for billionaires are found at the local level-where expenditures in the thousands can overwhelm the pocket-change campaigns of citizens who run for county boards, city councils and school boards out of a genuine desire to serve and protect their community.

That's why it is important to pay attention to Tuesday's voting in Iron County-and in communities such as Kenosha, where the group has waded into local school board races. The Kenosha contest goes to the core issues of recent struggles over collective-bargaining rights in Wisconsin, pitting candidates who are willing to work with teachers and their union in a historically pro-labor town versus contenders who are being aided by the Koch Brothers contingent in Wisconsin.

But it is equally important to pay attention to the efforts by citizens, working at the local level, to upend the big money and to restore politics of, by and for the people.

The month of March started with a grassroots rebellion in New Hampshire, where dozens of towns called on their elected representatives to work to enact a constitutional amendment to overturn the high court's Citizens United decision.

On Tuesday, the same day the Kochs are meddling in local elections in the state, communities across the state will vote to get money out of politics.

Clean-politics advisory referendums are on ballots across Wisconsin. Belleville, DeForest, Delavan, Edgerton, Elkhorn, Lake Mills, Shorewood, Waterloo, Waukesha, Waunakee, Wauwatosa, Whitefish Bay and Windsor will have an opportunity to urge their elected representatives to support an amendment to restore the authority of local, state and national officials to establish campaign finance rules ensuring that votes matter more than dollars. The initiative is backed by groups like Move to Amend and United Wisconsin. "The unlimited election spending by special-interest groups, allowed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, has drowned out the voices of ordinary people," says United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck. "Urgent action is needed to restore our democracy to the hands of the people."

That urgency is especially real in rural communities-places like Iron County. That's why the Wisconsin Farmers Union is calling for a "yes" vote. "Citizens of all political stripes-Republicans, Democrats and independents-agree that we need to curb the corrupting influence of money in politics," says WFU Executive Director Tom Quinn. "Voting yes...will send a clear message that we the people are ready to take back our democracy."
(c) 2014 John Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. His new book on protests and politics, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, has just been published by Nation Books. Follow John Nichols on Twitter @NicholsUprising.

Fighting The Militarized State
By Chris Hedges

The Barack Obama administration, determined to thwart the attempt by other plaintiffs and myself to have the courts void a law that permits the military to arrest U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and indefinitely detain them, has filed a detailed brief with the Supreme Court asking the justices to refuse to accept our petition to hear our appeal. We will respond within 10 days.

"The administration's unstated goal appears to be to get court to agree that [the administration] has the authority to use the military to detain U.S. citizens," Bruce Afran, one of two attorneys handling the case, said when I spoke with him Sunday. "It appears to be asking the court to go against nearly 150 years of repeated decisions in which the court has refused to give the military such power. No court in U.S. history has ever recognized the right of the government to use the military to detain citizens. It would be very easy for the government to state in the brief that citizens and permanent residents are not within the scope of this law. But once again, it will not do this. It says the opposite. It argues that the activities of the plaintiffs do not fall within the scope of the law, but it clearly is reserving for itself the right to use the statute to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely."

The lawsuit, Hedges v. Obama, challenges Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It was signed into law the last day of 2011. Afran and fellow attorney Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O'Brien, Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla.

U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York, in a rare act of courage on the American bench today, declared Section 1021(b)(2) unconstitutional. The Obama administration immediately asked Forrest to lift her injunction and thereby put the law back into effect until it could appeal her decision. She rebuffed the government's request. The government went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to ask it to stay the district court's injunction until the government's appeal could be heard. The 2nd Circuit consented to the request. The law went back on the books.

Afran, Mayer and I expected the Obama administration to appeal, but we did not expect the government to mount such an aggressive response to Judge Forrest's ruling. The law had to be restored because, our attorneys and I suspect, the administration well might be holding U.S. citizens who are dual nationals in some of our black sites. If Forrest's ruling was allowed to stand, the administration would be in contempt of court if it was detaining U.S. citizens under the statute. This suspicion was buttressed during the trial. Government attorneys, when asked by the judge, refused to say whether or not the government was already using the law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned Forrest's ruling last July. It cited the Supreme Court ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International, another case in which I was a plaintiff. The Clapper v. Amnesty International case challenged the secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Supreme Court in Clapper v. Amnesty International ruled that our concern about government surveillance was "speculation." It said we were required to prove to the court that the FISA Act would be used to monitor those we interviewed. But we could never offer the court proof of anyone being monitored because the government does not disclose whom it is targeting. It was only later, because of Edward Snowden, that we discovered that not only were those we interviewed being monitored but so was everyone else, including ourselves. The 2nd Circuit relied on the spurious Supreme Court ruling to say that because we could not show the indefinite-detention law was about to be used against us we could not challenge it.

After the Obama administration won its appeal in the 2nd Circuit we petitioned the Supreme Court in what is known as a certiorari, or cert, to hear our appeal. The Supreme Court takes between 80 and 100 cases a year from about 8,000 requests. The court is likely to make a decision in a few months.

The government, whose open defiance of the Constitution is brazen, has tacked back and forth before the courts as to why we have no right to bring the suit. It has, throughout the case, contradicted itself. In its current brief, for example, it claims that we as plaintiffs have nothing to fear from the indefinite-detention law. This assertion is at odds with the refusal by the government attorneys in the Southern District Court of New York to provide assurances that my co-plaintiffs and I would not be affected by the law. The government brief charges that because none of us has been threatened with imminent arrest we have no credible fear and no right to bring the case. But anyone arrested under this law would disappear into a black hole. A seized person would not have access to a lawyer or the courts. By the time you were detained under this provision all avenues of judicial appeal would be closed.

The brief also says that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Act (AUMF) already gives the president power to take such actions. This is a gross misinterpretation of the limited powers authorized under the AUMF. It also raises the question of why, if that statute does give the state this power, as the lawyers claim, the government would need to pass a new law as it did when it approved the AUMF.

The brief argues that journalists are already protected under Article 79 of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. This protocol calls for journalists to be treated as civilians. But this last assurance has no legal weight. The United States never ratified Additional Protocol I. Finally, the government attorneys selectively use the case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, which permits the detention of a U.S. citizen only if he or she is an enemy combatant engaged in an active armed conflict with U.S. forces. They cite the Hamdi case to argue that the government has the legal authority to order the military to detain U.S. citizens who "substantially support" a terrorist group.

The government in the brief makes it plain that all of us can be subject to this law:

Petitioners further assert that at the initial hearing in the district court, the government declined to offer assurances that they would not be detained under any circumstances. Pet. 14, 34-38. But no legal principle requires the government to provide litigants with such advance assurances or otherwise to delineate the bounds of its authority-particularly in the context of armed conflict-in response to speculative fears of harm asserted in litigation.
"The brief argues that the government reserves the right to use the military to detain and indefinitely hold journalists under this law, although the 2nd Circuit stated that the law did not apply to U.S. citizens," Mayer told me Sunday. "We have already seen journalists such as [you] and Laura Poitras detained and denied access to a lawyer and due process. This law will make legal any such detentions. It will permit the military, on American soil, to throw journalists and activists in a military prison without trial or due process."

If Section 1021(b)(2) is not struck down by the Supreme Court it will effectively overturn nearly 150 years of case law that repeatedly holds that the military has no jurisdiction over civilians. A U.S. citizen charged by the government with "substantially supporting" al-Qaida, the Taliban or those in the nebulous category of "associated forces" will be lawfully subject to extraordinary rendition on U.S. soil. Arrested citizens will languish in military jails, in the language of Section 1021(b)(2), until "the end of hostilities."

This obliteration of the right to due process and a fair hearing in a court of law, along with the mass surveillance that has abolished our right to privacy, will be the legal foundation of our militarized, corporate state. Judge Forrest warned in her 112-page opinion that whole categories of Americans could, under this law, be subject to seizure by the military. She drew parallels between Section 1021(b)(2) and Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 Supreme Court ruling that supported the government's use of the military to detain 110,00 Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Our case offers the court an opportunity, as several lawyers have pointed out, to not only protect almost 150 years of domestic law that forbids the military to carry out domestic policing but to repudiate the shameful Korematsu decision.

Once arbitrary and indefinite detention by the military is lawful, the government will use it. If we do not win this case, all those deemed to be hostile or critical of the state, including some Muslims, journalists, dissidents and activists, will find themselves under threat.

I spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent, 15 of them with The New York Times. I interviewed numerous individuals deemed by the U.S. government to be terrorists and traveled with armed groups, including units of al-Qaida, labeled as terrorist organizations. When I reported the statements and activities of these individuals and groups, U.S. officialdom often made little distinction between them and me. This was true during the wars in Central America. It was true in the Middle East. And it was true when I covered global terrorism. There was no law at the time that permitted the government, because of my work as a reporter, to order the military to seize and detain me. Now there is. This law, if it is not struck down, will essentially replace our civilian judiciary with a military one. Those targeted under this law will not be warned beforehand that they will be arrested. They will not have a chance to get a lawyer. They will not see the inside of a courtroom. They will simply vanish.
(c) 2014 Chris Hedges, the former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times, spent seven years in the Middle East. He was part of the paper's team of reporters who won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of global terrorism. He is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His latest book is, ""Death Of The Liberal Class."

As Traditional Journalism Models Collapse, Billionaires Grab The Medium And The Message
By David Sirota

Journalism, as you learn in your first J-school class, is all about the inverted pyramid. It is the shape that haunts you as a writer and guides you as an editor. And now, as evidenced by Pew's new report on the state of the news, it is a shape that increasingly defines the media industry's business model. It also explains why we're suddenly seeing a raft of new Citizen Kanes' investing in media and journalism.

Most of the coverage of the report focused on the rise of online and/or digital-native news operations. In all, Pew reports, such outlets have to date created 5,000 jobs.

This may seem like a sign that all is finally becoming well in the news business after the Great Internet Disruption that famously laid waste to print publications' century-long dominance of the media. Yet, in a cautionary note, Pew points out that "the vast majority of bodies producing original reporting still comes from the newspaper industry," which is still shrinking.

Making matters worse, many of the top digital media employers listed in Pew's report are not necessarily outlets that primarily produce what you could accurately call original journalism. Yes, places like the Huffington Post certainly do some original reporting (for which they even won a Pulitzer), but a huge chunk of their work is in aggregation, curation, listicles, and other kinds of non-original (or at least derivative) content.

Taken together, online media outlets could be proliferating, but original journalism may still be contracting, or at least not growing in any measurable way.

Hence, the inverted pyramid. At the top of the new inverted pyramid of journalism are the many aggregators and curators who do not produce any original work at all (think Drudge and similar sites); in the middle, narrower levels are the outlets that mix aggregation and curation with some original journalism (HuffPost); and at the bottom, are the ever-smaller number of places that mostly do the expensive time-sucking work of original reporting.

In this system, the outlets in the wider layers at the top of the inverted pyramid largely rely on the content coming from the narrower bottom layers of the pyramid. They rely on that content for aggregation and curation. They also rely on it for all the riffing and remixing that masquerades as original content - from block-quote-based blog posts, to columnizing to video sampling to the so-called "explanatory journalism" projects being built by those who have not primarily done original journalism, but instead have mostly synthesized others' work.

How many media outlets can dance on the head of a pin?

Teetering on ever-fewer journalism outlets to feed ever-more curation/aggregation outlets, this model is inherently unstable in the same way a financialized economy is.

In that kind of economy, the bottom is where assets are actually made, and as you go up the system there are profit-skimming ventures based on selling derivatives and securities based on the core asset. When too many resources go into the derivative/speculative industries at the top and not enough go into building the underlying asset at the bottom, you get an inverted pyramid, and the whole system can fall over.

For example, when the value of the actual houses at the bottom of the economy's inverted pyramid dropped, that rippled up through the derivative industries that sold mortgages, mortgage backed securities, and insurance on mortgage backed securities, and it also wreaked havoc on institutional investors who had put their cash in such investments. Ultimately, we got the financial crisis of 2008. Similarly, if we, say, run out of oil at the bottom of the financialized economy's inverted pyramid, the many oil speculation industries and instruments at the top of the inverted pyramid will be worth nothing, and there would likely be another financial panic.

It is potentially the same dynamic for journalism. If there's too little original quality journalism being produced - if, metaphorically speaking, the bottom of the pyramid becomes as narrow as a head of a pin - then profit-taking aggregators/curators like Upworthy at the top of the inverted pyramid can have the greatest algorithms ever created and get glowing magazine profiles, but they will have less and less "worthy" content to put up. And because they can't very well curate curation or aggregate aggregation, it will likely mean relying on non-journalism content (sideboob, anybody?), begging for lower quality non-professional content, or facing total collapse.

The huge opportunity for new Citizen Kanes

In my Harper's magazine investigation of this inverted pyramid in 2012, I noted that trends in newspapers, radio and television combined with trends in online news had together created the image of more news outlets, even though there may be less original news than ever. This is perhaps most easy to see on your TV screen - there are more and more cheap-to-produce chat shows featuring pundits and hosts pontificating about news, yet fewer and fewer TV journalists actually doing the unglamorous work of reporting original news. Using newspapers as a euphemism for all original journalism outlets, I reported in Harpers:

Even as millions of readers abandon newspapers for blogs and websites such as the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, these online enterprises still rely on aggregation for much of their content. And since such aggregation is largely made up of borrowing or stealing from those very newspapers, the Internet has expanded newspapers' ability to frame events and shape the terms of our political conversation, while simultaneously killing off such money-spinning franchises as the classified ad.

For you, the news consumer, this means that the Ron Burgundy on your local evening news program, or the radio announcer you listen to each morning during your commute, is relying more than ever on the old "rip and read" trick - tearing out stories from the monopoly newspaper and reading them as original news. As an investment, then, monopoly broadsheets and tabloids remain a jackpot for a particular kind of buyer: the industrialist or politico who wants to control the core commodity on which most other news products rely.

In other words, as unstable and unsustainable as the news business's inverted pyramid is, and as bad as a decrease in original jorunalism is for democracy, it does present a huge opportunity to aspiring Citizen Kanes who value profit and political power, and who understand how the two are symbiotic.

These new Medicis, as Reuters Jack Shafer calls them, know that in the media business, there are two places to make money and gain power: distribution and content production. They know that the business of pure distribution - ie. curation, aggregation etc. - is prone to saturation because the Internet makes distribution a relatively inexpensive endeavor (in fact, it is downright cheap compared to earlier epochs when distribution required capital investments in printing presses, TV studios, radio facilities, etc.). They also know that that distribution isn't necessarily where the most power is any more than oil futures rather than oil hold the energy economy's true value.

In short, they know that for all the aggregation, curation and other euphemisms used to describe the act of monetizing others' online content for oneself, the most politically valuable input in the media economy is original journalism at the bottom of the inverted pyramid. Own that, and you control the core message that's being promoted via others' distribution conduits higher up on the inverted pyramid.

Thus, understanding that their comparative advantage over competitors is their money, the oligarchs are investing in the place on the inverted pyramid that can't be occupied on the cheap - they are investing in original journalism at the bottom. As the pyramid becomes ever more narrow down there and wider at the top, that may destabilize the whole media economy and be terrible for society, but it makes the few oligarchs who own the tiny bottom of the pyramid that much more able to control the content that fuels the whole system.

Appreciating this raw power dynamic suddenly makes billionaires' recent investments in original journalism seem brilliantly shrewd, rather than altruistic, whimsical, or hobby-ish. Sure, there may be some earnest principle at work, but these are indeed opportunistic moves - the kind that are taking advantage of the fact that publicly traded companies are getting out of the business.

Public companies have to answer to shareholders and Wall Street, meaning they have to prioritize short-term quarterly profits over everything else. Since short-term profits (as distinct from long term ones) are increasingly difficult to generate in journalism, those companies have been selling off their journalism properties at cut-rate prices.

Not surprisingly, into the vacuum has rushed a rogues gallery of politically active billionaires who don't have to answer to short-term-focused shareholders and whose version of overall "value" differs from that of institutional investors.

For instance, a Washington Post that, say, loses Jeff Bezos a bit of his money may still be a huge net value gain for him if he can use that property to boost his other holdings (Amazon), protect his government contracts (CIA cloud computing contracts) or generally frame the national news debate to serve his empire's political aspirations. And the San Diego Union-Tribune may unto itself not make Douglas Manchester lots of money, but if it helps him promote his larger business interests, that's a net gain for him.

Similarly, a PBS series doing original reporting on pensions may not make Enron mogul John Arnold money, but if Arnold's money skews the coverage to demonize pensions in the same way his concurrent political campaign does, then that's a return on investment for him. A major newspaper chain may not represent a huge part of the Koch Brothers portfolio, but it could be a value proposition for them if the content of its reporting shills for Koch Industries' priorities. Meanwhile, the Richmond Standard may not generate lots of money for its owner, Chevron, but that oil company clearly benefits from its wholly owned newspaper defending its environmental record in the city that hosts one of its key refinery.

As the San Francisco Chronicle says in its report on the latter example, it all "harkens back to an era of journalism when business magnates often owned newspapers to promote their personal financial or political agendas." That kind of trend is not a harbinger of a "revolution" in journalism, as many of today's new media triumphalists insist. If anything, it seems more like a sign of reversion, only with different names atop the mastheads.

* * * * *

This isn't to argue that all is lost. Quite the contrary, in fact. After all, if sustainability looks more like an inverted trapezoid or a square than an inverted pyramid, there are certainly models which suggest a shape-shift is possible.

For example, outlets like Buzzfeed, Vice, and, yes, Pando have developed solid businesses mixing serious original journalism with differing amounts of aggregation, curation, synthesis and live events, and they/we have done so without relying on single billionaire Citizen Kane-esque owners.

Investors still may try to exert influence on such models, but these outlets' portfolio model of ownership/investment means it is much more difficult for one investor to exert too much control, especially when walls are put in place to keep them away from the newsroom (this, by the way, is why for all their problems, publicly traded media companies' newspapers were more likely to produce reasonably objective coverage in comparison to newspapers owned by the original Citizen Kanes).

That said, the fundamental problem still persists: original journalism is expensive and time consuming, meaning for it to be a sustainable business, it needs to recapture as much revenue as possible when its reporting is published. When instead the pure curators and pure aggregators monetize that original journalism for themselves, those skimmed profits are not plowed back into original journalism. Over time, that's a net loss for journalism, making the inverted pyramid that much more narrow at the bottom.

That dynamic might serve those aggregators and curators in the short term (at least before there's no original objective journalism left for them to monetize) - but it most definitely benefits the new Citizen Kanes in the long term. Soon they will be the only ones left to fund any original journalism at all - exactly as they hope.
(c) 2014
David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist, a staff writer at PandoDaily 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.

Jobs And Skills And Zombies
By Paul Krugman

A few months ago, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and Marlene Seltzer, the chief executive of Jobs for the Future, published an article in Politico titled "Closing the Skills Gap." They began portentously: "Today, nearly 11 million Americans are unemployed. Yet, at the same time, 4 million jobs sit unfilled" - supposedly demonstrating "the gulf between the skills job seekers currently have and the skills employers need."

Actually, in an ever-changing economy there are always some positions unfilled even while some workers are unemployed, and the current ratio of vacancies to unemployed workers is far below normal. Meanwhile, multiple careful studies have found no support for claims that inadequate worker skills explain high unemployment.

But the belief that America suffers from a severe "skills gap" is one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it's true. It's a prime example of a zombie idea - an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.

And it does a lot of harm. Before we get there, however, what do we actually know about skills and jobs?

Think about what we would expect to find if there really were a skills shortage. Above all, we should see workers with the right skills doing well, while only those without those skills are doing badly. We don't.

Yes, workers with a lot of formal education have lower unemployment than those with less, but that's always true, in good times and bad. The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.

Some employers do complain that they're finding it hard to find workers with the skills they need. But show us the money: If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills. In reality, however, it's very hard to find groups of workers getting big wage increases, and the cases you can find don't fit the conventional wisdom at all. It's good, for example, that workers who know how to operate a sewing machine are seeing significant raises in wages, but I very much doubt that these are the skills people who make a lot of noise about the alleged gap have in mind.

And it's not just the evidence on unemployment and wages that refutes the skills-gap story. Careful surveys of employers - like those recently conducted by researchers at both M.I.T. and the Boston Consulting Group - similarly find, as the consulting group declared, that "worries of a skills gap crisis are overblown."

The one piece of evidence you might cite in favor of the skills-gap story is the sharp rise in long-term unemployment, which could be evidence that many workers don't have what employers want. But it isn't. At this point, we know a lot about the long-term unemployed, and they're pretty much indistinguishable in skills from laid-off workers who quickly find new jobs. So what's their problem? It's the very fact of being out of work, which makes employers unwilling even to look at their qualifications.

So how does the myth of a skills shortage not only persist, but remain part of what "everyone knows"? Well, there was a nice illustration of the process last fall, when some news media reported that 92 percent of top executives said that there was, indeed, a skills gap. The basis for this claim? A telephone survey in which executives were asked, "Which of the following do you feel best describes the 'gap' in the U.S. workforce skills gap?" followed by a list of alternatives. Given the loaded question, it's actually amazing that 8 percent of the respondents were willing to declare that there was no gap.

The point is that influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story - or, better yet, writing about skill gaps in media outlets like Politico - is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity. And the zombie shambles on.

Unfortunately, the skills myth - like the myth of a looming debt crisis - is having dire effects on real-world policy. Instead of focusing on the way disastrously wrongheaded fiscal policy and inadequate action by the Federal Reserve have crippled the economy and demanding action, important people piously wring their hands about the failings of American workers.

Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much.

So we need to kill this zombie, if we can, and stop making excuses for an economy that punishes workers.
(c) 2014 Paul Krugman --- The New York Times

The Quotable Quote...

"If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves."
~~~ Howard Zinn

"Freedom Of Speech ~~~ Norman Rockwell

Democracy vs. Oligarchy
By Bernie Sanders

In his 1943 painting "Freedom of Speech," Norman Rockwell illustrated American democracy in action by depicting a man speaking up at a town meeting. A framed poster of Rockwell's painting hangs proudly on a wall in my Senate office in Burlington, Vt.

Since 1990, when I was first elected to Congress, I have held hundreds of town meetings in almost every community in Vermont. Just this past Sunday I held a town meeting in Middlebury, Vt., with a video connection to meetings in three other towns. At these town meetings I listen to what my constituents have to say, answer questions and give a rundown of what I'm working on and what's going on in Washington.

This process - an elected official meeting with ordinary citizens - is called "democracy."

Ironically, at the same time as I was holding town meetings in Vermont, a handful of prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie and Scott Walker) trekked to Las Vegas to audition for the support of Sheldon Adelson, the multi-billionaire casino tycoon who spent at least $93 million underwriting conservative candidates in the last election cycle. Those candidates were in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of attempting to win hundreds of millions from him for their presidential campaigns.

The disastrous 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United threw out campaign funding laws that limited what wealthy individuals and corporations could spend on elections. Since that ruling, campaign spending by Adelson, the Koch brothers and a handful of other billionaire families has fundamentally undermined American democracy. If present trends continue, elections will not be decided by one-person, one-vote, but by a small number of very wealthy families who spend huge amounts of money supporting right-wing candidates who protect their interests.

This process - a handful of the wealthiest people in our country controlling the political process - is called "oligarchy."

The great political struggle we now face is whether the United States retains its democratic heritage or whether we move toward an oligarchic form of society where the real political power rests with a handful of billionaires, not ordinary Americans.

Clearly, if we are to retain the fundamentals of American democracy, we need to overturn the Supreme Court decision. The fact that more than 500 communities and 16 states have expressed support for overturning Citizens United is a good step forward, but much more needs to be done.

Overturning Citizens United, however, is not enough. If we are serious about elections being fought over ideas, we must move toward public funding of elections.

(c) 2014 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.

Climate Science's Dire Warning: Humans Are Baking The Planet
By Amy Goodman

The majority of the world is convinced that humans are changing the climate, for the worse. Now, evidence is mounting that paints just how grim a future we are making for ourselves and the planet. We will experience more extreme weather events, including hurricanes and droughts, mass extinctions and severe food shortages globally. The world's leading group of climate-change experts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has issued its most recent report after a five-day meeting last week in Yokohama, Japan. The IPCC, over 1,800 scientists from around the world, collects, analyzes and synthesizes the best, solid science on climate and related fields. The prognosis is not good.

At the news conference announcing the report, IPCC chairperson Rajendra Pachauri warned, "If the world doesn't do anything about mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases and the extent of climate change continues to increase, then the very social stability of human systems could be at stake." Pachauri speaks with the discipline of a scientist and the reserve of a diplomat. The latest report, though, states clearly: "Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence." It stresses how the world food supply, already experiencing stress, will be impacted, and those who are most vulnerable will be the first to go hungry. But the problem is even larger.

The IPCC's previous comprehensive report came out in 2007. Since that time, the amount of scientific findings has doubled, making human-induced climate change an irrefutable fact. But there are still powerful deniers, funded by the fossil-fuel industry. Oxfam, a global anti-hunger campaign organization, also is challenging the deniers with a report released last week called "Hot and hungry—how to stop climate change derailing the fight against hunger." Oxfam's Tim Gore says that "corporations like Exxon, the powerful economic interests that are currently profiting from our high-carbon economic model ... stand to lose the most from a transition to a low-carbon, fair alternative." Undaunted, ExxonMobil issued its own report following the IPCC's this week, asserting that climate policies are "highly unlikely" to stop it from producing and selling fossil fuels in the near future.

Fossil-fuel corporations like ExxonMobil exert enormous influence over climate-change policy, especially in the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed a measure that would effectively force the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and related bodies to ignore climate change, focusing instead on forecasting severe weather, but not its likely causes. Meanwhile, at the state level, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill banning investment in certain forms of public transit. According to ThinkProgress, the measure received critical funding from the billionaire Republican oil barons Charles and David Koch. The political influence of people like the Kochs will likely become more direct, with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to eliminate personal contribution caps to candidates in its ruling in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

One of the IPCC report authors, Bangladeshi climate scientist Saleemul Huq, put it this way on the "Democracy Now!" news hour: "Fossil-fuel companies ... are the drug suppliers to the rest of the world who are junkies and are hooked on fossil fuels. But we don't have to remain hooked on fossil fuels. We are going to have to cut ourselves off from them if we want to see a real transition and prevent temperature rises up to 4 degrees Celsius [7.2 degrees Fahrenheit]."

That is the crux of the crisis: The major polluting nations are obstructing a binding global agreement to combat climate change. They have agreed, in principle, with the rest of the world, at the United Nations climate negotiations, to limit greenhouse-gas emissions to levels that would allow a global temperature increase of only 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit]. But the science says that goal is quickly slipping away, and that we are facing a 4-degree increase.

Princeton professor Michael Oppenheimer, another IPCC report co-author, told me: "It's not just a problem for the rest of the world ... think about Hurricane Sandy. Think about how hard it was to deal with that storm. That's today's storms. Think about what happens over the next 10, 20, 30 years, when sea level goes up and the storms get worse."

"America is addicted to oil," President George W. Bush, himself a failed oilman, famously said at his State of the Union address in 2006. The U.S. political establishment is swimming in fossil-fuel money, which is drowning democracy. Change will come from grass-roots organizing, from movements like students pushing their university endowments to divest from fossil-fuel corporations, from local communities fighting against fracking, and from the growing nonviolent direct-action campaign to block the Keystone XL pipeline.
(c) 2014 Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now,!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of "Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times," recently released in paperback and "Breaking The Sound Barrier."

The Dead Letter Office...

Heil Obama,

Dear Richter des Hoheren Gerichtshofs Jurden,

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 policy of letting the one per-centers off with a slap on the wrist, 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 "judicial whores" you have made it possible for all of us to goose-step off to a brave new bank account!

Along with this award you will be given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds presented by our glorious Fuhrer, Herr Obama at a gala celebration at "der Fuhrer Bunker," formally the "White House," on 05-24-2014. We salute you Frau Jurden, Sieg Heil!

Signed by,
Vice Fuhrer Biden

Heil Obama

The Distributional Games
By Robert Reich

Every year I ask my class on "Wealth and Poverty" to play a simple game. I have them split up into pairs, and imagine I'm giving one of them $1,000. They can keep some of the money only on condition they reach a deal with their partner on how it's to be divided up between them. I explain they're strangers who will never see one other again, can only make one offer and respond with one acceptance (or decline), and can only communicate by the initial recipient writing on a piece of paper how much he'll share with the other, who must then either accept (writing "deal" on the paper) or decline ("no deal").

You might think many initial recipients of the imaginary $1,000 would offer $1 or even less, which their partner would gladly accept. After all, even one dollar is better than ending up with nothing at all.

But that's not what happens. Most of the $1,000 recipients are far more generous, offering their partners at least $250. And most of partners decline any offer under $250, even though "no deal" means neither of them will get to keep anything.

This game, or variations of it, have been played by social scientists thousands of times with different groups and pairings, with surprisingly similar results.

A far bigger version of the game is now being played on the national stage. But it's for real - as a relative handful of Americans receive ever bigger slices of the total national income while most average Americans, working harder than ever, receive smaller ones. And just as in the simulations, the losers are starting to say "no deal."

According to polls, they've said no deal to the pending Trans Pacific Trade Agreement, for example, and Congress is on the way to killing it.

It's true that history and policy point to overall benefits from expanded trade because all of us gain access to cheaper goods and services. But in recent years the biggest gains from trade have gone to investors and executives while the burdens have fallen disproportionately on those in the middle and below who have lost good-paying jobs.

By the same token, most Americans are saying "no deal" to further tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. In fact, some are now voting to raise taxes on the rich in order to pay for such things as better schools, as evidenced by the election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York.

Conservatives say higher taxes on the rich will slow economic growth. But even if this argument contains a grain of truth, it's a non-starter as long as 95 percent of the gains from growth continue to go to the top 1 percent - as they have since the start of the recovery in 2009.

Why would people turn down a deal that made them better off simply because it made someone else far, far better off?

Some might call this attitude envy or spite. That's the conclusion of Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, in a recent oped column for the New York Times. But he's dead wrong.

It's true that people sometimes feel worse off when others do better. There's an old Russian story about a suffering peasant whose neighbor is rich and well-connected. In time, the rich neighbor obtains a cow, something the peasant could never afford. The peasant prays to God for help. When God asks the peasant what he wants God to do, the peasant replies, "Kill the cow."

But Americans have never been prone to "kill the cow" type envy. When our neighbor gets the equivalent of new cow (or new car), we want one, too.

Yet we are sensitive to perceived unfairness. When I ask those of my students who refuse to accept even $200 in the distribution game why they did so, they rarely mention feelings of envy or spite. They talk instead about unfairness. "Why should she get so much?" they ask. "It's unfair."

Remember, I gave out the $1,000 arbitrarily. The initial recipients didn't have to work for it or be outstanding in any way.

When a game seems rigged, losers may be willing to sacrifice some gains in order to prevent winners from walking away with far more - a result that might feel fundamentally unfair.

To many Americans, the U.S. economy of recent years has become a vast casino in which too many decks are stacked and too many dice are loaded. I hear it all the time: The titans of Wall Street made unfathomable amounts gambling with our money, and when their bets went bad in 2008 we had to bail them out. Yet although millions of Americans are still underwater and many remain unemployed, not a single top Wall Street banker has been indicted. In fact, they're making more money now than ever before.

Top hedge-fund managers pocketed more than a billion dollars each last year, and the stock market is higher than it was before the crash. But the typical American home is worth less than before, and most Americans can't save a thing. CEOs are now earning more than 300 times the pay of the typical worker yet the most workers are earning less, and many are barely holding on.

In 2001, a Gallup poll found 76 percent of Americans satisfied with opportunities to get ahead by working hard, and only 22 percent were dissatisfied. But since then, the apparent arbitrariness and unfairness of the economy have taken a toll. Satisfaction has steadily declined and dissatisfaction increased. Only 54 percent are now satisfied, 45 percent dissatisfied.

According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who feel most people who want to get ahead can do so through hard work has dropped by 14 points since about 2000.

Another related explanation I get from students who refuse $200 or more in the distribution game: They worry that if the other guy ends up with most of the money, he'll also end up with most of the power. That will rig the game even more. So they're willing to sacrifice some gain in order to avoid a steadily more lopsided and ever more corrupt politics.

Here again, the evidence is all around us. Big money had already started inundating our democracy before "Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission" opened the sluice gates, but now our democracy is drowning. Only the terminally naive would believe this money is intended to foster the public interest.

What to do? Improving our schools is critically important. Making work pay by raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit would also be helpful.

But these are only a start. In order to ensure that future productivity gains don't go overwhelmingly to a small sliver at the top, we'll need a mechanism to give the middle class and the poor a share in future growth.

One possibility: A trust fund for every child at birth, composed of an index of stocks and bonds whose value is inversely related to family income, which becomes available to them when they turn eighteen. Through the magic of compounded interest, this could be a considerable sum. The funds would be financed by a small surtax on capital gains and a tax on all financial transactions.

We must also get big money out of politics - reversing "Citizens United" by constitutional amendment if necessary, financing campaigns by matching the contributions of small donors with public dollars, and requiring full disclosure of everyone and every corporation contributing to (or against) a candidate.

If America's distributional game continues to create a few big winners and many who consider themselves losers by comparison, the losers will try to stop the game - not out of envy but out of a deep-seated sense of unfairness and a fear of unchecked power and privilege. Then we all lose.
(c) 2014 Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, "Beyond Outrage," is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, "Inequality for All," will be out September 27.

The Price Of Human Life, According To GM
By Michael Moore

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested and made to pay for their pre-meditated decision to take human lives for a lousy ten bucks. The executives at GM knew for 13 years that their cars had a defective ignition switch that would, well, kill people. But they did a "cost-benefit analysis" and concluded that paying off the deceased's relatives was going to be cheaper than having to install a $10 part per car. They then covered up their findings and continued to let millions drive around with the defective part in their cars. There would be no recalls. There would only be parents and the decapitated body parts of their dead children. See the USA in your Chevrolet. In 2007 a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official recommended a formal investigation but was overruled by others in Bush's "business-friendly" Transportation Department.

Only now, under the newly-configured GM -- owned, essentially, by you and me from 2009 through last year -- has the truth come out. And my guess is that it has to do with the fact that a mother now runs General Motors. A few months ago, Marry Barra, a former resident of Flint, the daughter of GM union autoworker, was named its CEO. And it looks like she isn't one of the good ol' boys. She stepped forward, announced the truth of what GM did, ordered one massive recall after another, and now is showing up to face Congress in a few hours.

The Washington Post, in an otherwise good article, blames the whole sad affair on the "corporate culture" at GM. What a user-friendly term! To even have to read the words "culture" and "General Motors" in the same sentence is enough to make anyone gag. No, the cause of this tragedy is an economic system that places profit above everything else, including -- and especially -- human life. GM has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to make the biggest profits that it can. And if their top people crunch the numbers and can show that they will save more money by NOT fixing or replacing the part, then that is what they are going to goddam well do. F*ck you, f*ck me, and f*ck everybody they sent to their deaths. That pretty much sums up their "culture". They knew they wouldn't get caught, and if they did, no one would ever serve any time.

I hope someone in the Obama administration will get out the handcuffs, the SWAT teams, or the U.S. army if need be, march into GM headquarters in downtown Detroit and haul away anyone who is there who had anything to do with this. And if they already left town, hunt them down and bring them in to face justice.
(c) 2014 Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker. See more of his work at his website

The Cartoon Corner...

This edition we're proud to showcase the cartoons of
~~~ Bob Gorrell ~~~

To End On A Happy Note...

Have You Seen This...

Parting Shots...

4 Senators Mauled During Congressional Tiger Show

WASHINGTON-Four United States senators are reportedly recovering in Washington-area hospitals today following a shocking and grisly incident Thursday night, when a 480-pound male tiger brutally mauled the elected officials in front of a full audience at the nightly Congressional Exotic Live Tiger Show held in the senate chamber. "At the time of the incident, [Sen.] Dianne [Feinstein (D-CA)] and I were performing a routine flaming ring jump-a trick we've done hundreds of times during the show's nine-year run-when Marduk, one of our white Bengal tigers, swatted her to the ground and then proceeded to clench her in his teeth and toss her around on the podium for several seconds," said chief congressional tiger-master and two-term Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss, appearing deeply shaken as he explained how the tiger then leapt into the crowd and attacked Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Pat Roberts (R-KS), dragging the latter by the neck out to the Capitol rotunda. "I still have no idea what went wrong. Marduk had been completely docile and compliant from the beginning of the show when I commanded him and [Siberian tiger] Georgina to stand up on their hind legs at the start of the Pledge of Allegiance, to when Mitch [McConnell] led him through his choreographed leaps across all 100 senate desks. It's just a terrible tragedy."

In the wake of the incident, all upcoming live tiger shows have been canceled indefinitely, though congressional sources confirmed The Magic Of McCain Illusion Extravaganza would continue its twice-nightly performances as scheduled.
(c) 2014 The Onion

The Gross National Debt

Iraq Deaths Estimator

The Animal Rescue Site

View my page on

Issues & Alibis Vol 14 # 13 (c) 04/04/2014

Issues & Alibis is published in America every Friday. We are not affiliated with, nor do we accept funds from any political party. We are a non-profit group that is dedicated to the restoration of the American Republic. All views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of Issues & Alibis.Org.

In regards to copying anything from this site remember that everything here is copyrighted. Issues & Alibis has been given permission to publish everything on this site. When this isn't possible we rely on the "Fair Use" copyright law provisions. If you copy anything from this site to reprint make sure that you do too. We ask that you get our permission to reprint anything from this site and that you provide a link back to us. Here is the "Fair Use" provision.

"Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."